This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in Contemporary South Asia © Taylor & Francis; see publisher's version and entry in my publication list. The book itself is here.

Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jama'at: history, belief, practice, by Simon Ross Valentine, London, Hurst, 2008, xvi + 263 pp., ISBN 978-1-85065-916-7

'To provide an account of the history, beliefs and purpose of the Ahmadiyya Jama'at' (xvi), a disowned splinter group of Sunni Islam, the Methodist preacher and scholar of religion Simon Ross Valentine settled in Bradford/UK and later traveled to Rabwah/Pakistan and Qadian/India. This setup is not without irony, given that Mirza Gulam Ahmad initiated his movement in the 19th century to counter Christian theology; as a self-proclaimed prophet, he challenged many a British missionary in public debating contests about the relative merits of Islam. Against this backdrop, but devoid of missionary zeal, 'Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jama'at' wants to be an exercise in 'objective' description of about every aspect of Ahmad's movement. The Methodist Valentine is driven by 'the need to present "real Islam", the need to move away from media stereotypes and, the need to let the world know of the persecution faced by the Ahmadi at the hands of their co-religionists' (63).

This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in Contemporary South Asia © Taylor & Francis; see publisher's version and entry in my publication list. The book itself is here

Islamism and democracy in India: the transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, by Irfan Ahmad, Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 2009, xx + 306 pp., ISBN 978-0-691-13920-3

How did the secular and democratic polity in India change the politics and policies of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a party founded to oppose both principles? This question inspired Irfan Ahmad to close the gap between Nasr's 'The vanguard of the Islamic revolution' (on Pakistan; London: IB Tauris, 1994) and Kabir's 'The politics and development of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh' (New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 2006) with a comprehensive monograph on 'Islamism and democracy in India'. He detects a 'remarkable transformation of Islamism' and highlights 'the conflicts that accompanied that transformation' (p. xi): while the Jamaat itself turned towards secular democracy, the turmoil of mandir, mandal and market (Hindu nationalism, reservation policies and liberalization) later radicalized its split-off, the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Since he further argues that the former transformation 'is deeply ideological' (p. 2) rather than a tactical guise, his research suggests nothing less than a solid appropriation of secular democracy by India's Islamists (pp. 8-9).

The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 117 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

R. Michael Feener, Terenjit Sevea (Hg.): Islamic Connections: Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia

Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009, 245 S., USD 39,90

Seit einigen Jahren wächst das Interesse an subregionalen Vergleichen zwischen Südasien und Südostasien sowie an transnationalen Netzwerken rund um den indischen Ozean. Der vorliegende Sammelband fasst in diesem Kontext erste Ergebnisse des "Islamic Connections Project" zusammen, das seit 2007 am ISEAS in Singapur angesiedelt ist. Die Herausgeber, beide Historiker und Islamwissenschaftler, wollen dabei nicht nur die vermeintliche Dominanz des Nahen Osten als zentralem normativem Bezugspunkt muslimischer Gesellschaften hinterfragen. In 12 Kapiteln versuchen die verschiedenen Autoren darüber hinaus, das noch grundlegendere Narrativ einer Islamisierung von West nach Ost - also von der arabischen Halbinsel nach Indien nach Südostasien - durch ein dezentrales Netzwerk-Modell zu ersetzen.

The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 118 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

T. Benedikter: Language Policy and Linguistic Minorities in India: An appraisal of the linguistic rights of minorities in India

Münster: LIT Verlag, 2009, 232 S., EUR 29,90