Islam and Politics from the Iranian Revolution to ISIS and Beyond

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Government
  • Application code SS-IR205
  • Starting TBC
  • Short course: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

Please note: This course will not be running as part of the 2021 programme. However, you may be interested in our confirmed courses.

Since the turn of the 21st century, we have come to take for granted that Islam is a major force in world politics. But this state of affairs is of recent vintage and its origins and prospects for the future remain in question.

Today there is still much more oversimplification and exaggeration than serious understanding and systematic analysis of when, where, how, and with what consequences Islam has become politicized and politics has become Islamicized across different parts of the world.

Against this backdrop, this course covers key questions, arguments, and debates concerning the intersection of Islam and politics today. Overall, the goal of the course is to help students to strengthen their knowledge and analytical tools to understand and explain the diverse ways in which Islam has operated as a force in politics in different parts of the world.

The course focuses on a number of key questions:

  • How can we explain the emergence of Islam as a major force in world politics in the late 20th century?
  • How can we explain the trajectory of Islam in world politics since the turn of the 21st century?
  • How can we explain the varying political strength and significance of Islam in different parts of the world?

Session: TBC
Dates: TBC
Lecturer:  Professor John Sidel


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 200 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One examination and one essay

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional

**You will need to check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment


At least one introductory course in either a social science (e.g. political science, international relations, sociology, economics), or history or law. No prior specialist knowledge of Islam is required.

Programme structure

The course begins by raising questions about the distinctiveness of Islam as a world religion in the public sphere and the political realm, and then briefly uses the Hajj as an example and source of insight for suggesting important continuities and changes within the faith in recent history. Subsequent lectures then chronicle the shifting position of Islam in world politics over key periods and developments in recent global history:

  • The Age of Empire and World War I
  • The Interwar Era and the Making of New Nation-States
  • The Cold War, the Rise of Islamist Movements and the Iranian Revolution

Thereafter, the course focuses on the period stretching from the end of the Cold War to the present day. A series of lectures provides a broad context and examines alternative perspectives on – and explanations for – the rise of Islam in world politics:

  • The Iranian Revolution, Saudi-Sponsored Salafism, and Sunni-Shi’a Conflict
  • The End of the Cold War, Globalization, and Democratization

The remainder of the course focuses on the diverse intersections of Islam and politics in different parts of the world:

  • The rise, transformation, and decline of Al Qa’ida
  • The rise, fall, and resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • The emergence and expansion of the ‘Islamic State’
  • Islam and Warlordism in the Context of Failed States
  • Islam, Israel, and the Struggle for Palestine
  • Islam and Secessionist Movements for New Muslim Nation-States
  • Islamist Parties, Parliamentarization, and Democracy
  • Islam, Communal Violence, and Local Experiments with Islamic Law
  • Islam, Immigration, Multiculturalism, and Gender Politics in Europe

Course outcomes

  • A solid and sophisticated understanding of major developments and trends in the role of Islam in world politics today
  • A solid and sophisticated grounding in the historical and sociological foundations of Islam as a force in politics across the world today
  • A close familiarity with the role and trajectory of Islam as a force in politics in a variety of different settings across the breadth of the Muslim world
  • A well-developed facility for critical and comparative analysis of the diverse manifestations, developments, and trends of Islam as a force in politics
  • Ample familiarity with key arguments, authors, and texts in the specialist scholarly literature on Islam and politics


LSE’s Department of Government is home to some of the most internationally respected experts in politics and government, producing influential research that has a global impact on policy. The Department has always been able to take advantage of its prominent position within the London School of Economics and Political Science, the largest and most important European institution specialising solely in the social sciences. The Department has a strongly cosmopolitan character and alumni can be found in the world's leading political science departments, as well as in journalism, commerce, central and local government, and non-governmental organisations globally.

The 2014 Research Assessment Exercise ranked the LSE Government and International Relations Departments' joint submission first in the UK for the percentage of its research graded world leading or internationally excellent (88%). LSE also came top in the Politics and International Studies REF panel in terms of the most research publications graded “world leading” (4*); the absolute number of top-rated research outputs. LSE’s Department of Government ranked 5th in the world in the 2018 QS World University ranking for Politics and International Studies.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE’s government faculty.

Reading materials

Reinhard Schulze, A Modern History of the Islamic World (New York University Press, 2002)

Dale F. Eickelman and James Piscatori, Muslim Politics (Princeton University Press, 2004)

Olivier Roy, Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (C.Hurst, 2004)

Akbar Ahmed, The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (Brookings Institution Press, 2013)

Fawaz A. Gerges, ISIS: A History (Princeton University Press, 2016).

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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