Ranked the #1 new release in Islamic History by Amazon.com in Spring 2015


"Amidst daft rhetoric and media hysteria, the relationship between contemporary politics and the religion of Islam is hotly debated. Political Islam and the Invention of Tradition provides timely, unique and informed insight into the phenomenon of "political Islam" by tracing its historical development in the context of the modern world historical theme of the asymmetric development and modernization of different societies. 

The author demonstrates how many of the leading intellectuals associated with the movement of Political Islam have made innovative and dynamic contributions to the relationship between Islam and democracy. He demonstrates that Political Islam is not some sort of religious project aimed at returning Muslim society to a barbaric past; rather, it is a creative and positive approach to dealing with the failure of Western-style secular governments in many Muslim states. The epitome of Islamist contributions to the democratic discourse in Muslim societies is the invented tradition of an "Islamic state." This is a state founded upon an indigenously Islamic notion of a social contract between rulers and ruled. 

Political Islam and the Invention of Tradition encourages fresh, dynamic thinking on the role religious activism has played in the politics of democratization in the Middle East, and makes the case that it will play an important and very much needed role in the future."


“This study provides both an important and necessary historical contextualization and a clear analysis of the political alternatives in the Middle East and Muslim world in the 21st century. The second decade of the 21st century is emerging as a time of significant change in political and societal institutions in the region. People are speculating about the end of the political order that was created at the end of World War I, and Roberts's analysis provides readers with a good guide to understanding important dimensions of these transformations.”

—John O. Voll, Professor Emeritus of Islamic History, Georgetown University

“Roberts's work is a refreshing contribution to the discourse on Islam and politics. At a time when some societies are plagued by Islamophobia (all over the world – including Muslim societies), the book reveals and uncovers through academic analysis a rich history. This contribution is one of very few that have a solid grounding in both traditions: Western liberal democracy, and Islamic political thought. The author does a remarkable job of simplifying in Islamic traditions concepts that were tackled by other authors in the field, but never so lucidly.”

—Deina Abdelkader, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell

“The importance and value of history tends to elude most Americans. With prescience and clarity, Political Islam and the Invention of Tradition reminds policy makers, analysts, and students of why the study of history is so important for understanding current events, especially in a complicated region such as the Middle East. This book is unique among academic monographs in that, although scholarly in scope, tone, and source material, it has practical, applicable value for those working on issues of foreign policy and public affairs in the Middle East.“

—F. William Smullen, III, Maxwell Senior Fellow in National Security Studies, Syracuse University. Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of State

“Mr. Roberts's book provides policy makers with a useful guide for understanding the historical development of Political Islam. Most importantly, it encourages dynamic thinking about this phenomenon and the role it could play in U.S. foreign policy in the future. A must read for policy makers, military, and foreign service officers."

—Donald L. Kerrick, Lt. General, United States Army, (Retired). Former Deputy National Security Advisor to President William J. Clinton

"Belying the Human Web: Western Prescriptions of Islam in International Affairs" in Islam and International Affairs: Politics and Paradigms. Edited by Deina Abdelkader, Nassef Manabilang Adiong, and Rafaela Mauriello. Routledge: Forthcoming 2017. 

 A major theme of modern world history is how the West has manufactured and prescribed religions for the peoples it has sought to conquer and convert. In this chapter, I trace how Islam has been prescribed as a cultural other that is essentially not secular and not peaceful. I demonstrate how this prescribed identity fails to properly understand Islam as a community of discourse, or as a mosaic of islams. Emphasizing the shared “human web” of world history, I demonstrate how current phenomena, such as ISIS, can only be understood by transcending superficial labels such as “radical Islam.” This chapter was prepared for the Co-IRIS international working group. 

"Reconsidering Terror and Terrorism: The Case for Hamas"

Exclusive Analysis for Middle East Monitor Online

May 10, 2014

From the editor

Hamas can no longer be regarded by the United States simply as a terrorist organisation. Any attempts at solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, or broader conflicts in the region, will continue to fail as long as Hamas is excluded from peace-making processes. The following analyses should not be taken as deriving from sympathy for the Gazan people. Rather, these analyses demonstrate that the United States has directly contributed to an environment in Palestine and perceptions in the Middle East that will continue to plague its interests there for generations. Mr. Roberts's argument intersects directly with US interests in the Middle East as a democratic and stable region. Achieving these interests will continue to falter so long as the United States is hypocritical regarding its own stated principles. The United States must accept democratically elected governments as legitimate representatives of the people who choose them, regardless of whether the elected government is not whom the US wished for.

"Tribal Sheikh or Mafia Don?"

Op-ed for Middle East Monitor

May 10, 2014

The misuse of the “tribal” label by analysts and policy makers when describing conflict in the Middle East demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of events there and failure to grasp important concepts regarding the changing relationship between identity-based movements and politics.