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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: June 2012

26 - The globalisation of Islam

from Part 3 - The new agenda: globalisation and global governance



This chapter presents an examination of the place of Islam in international relations today. It begins by offering a brief account of Islam's growth and evolving identity. It then outlines Islamic militancy's destabilising effects before discussing Islamist globalism, Muslims in the West and efforts to counter Western hegemony.

Islam in the world today

There are in excess of 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. The great bulk of this population lives in South and Southeast Asia, where Muslims constitute the largest religious group. States with Muslim population majorities are often called Muslim states, regardless of the system of government and political system. But there are also significant Muslim populations in other states. Population movement in the second half of the twentieth century has led to the growth of Muslim communities in Europe, the US and Australia. Muslim migration to Europe seems to have closely reflected colonial links, so that the biggest Muslim community in the UK is from South Asia where the British Empire held sway, while Muslims from Algeria constitute a significant community in France. This picture, however, is fast evolving and Muslim minority groups in non-Muslim states are becoming increasingly heterogeneous in ethnic background and creed.

The demographic spread of Muslims has led to some key questions about identity, community and citizenship. Islam emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, but was not tied to that geography.

Further reading
Kepel, Gilles 2003, Jihad: the trail of political Islam, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Provocative argument that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, rather than demonstrating the growing power of militant Islam, demonstrate its decline.
Roy, Olivier 2004, Globalized Islam: the search for a new ummah, New York: Columbia University Press. A broad-ranging and informative account of the globalisation of Islam.
Saikal, Amin 2003, Islam and the West: conflict or cooperation, New York: Palgrave. A good examination of the relationship between Islam and the West by an Australian scholar.