Islamic Revivalism in Syria: The Rise and Fall of Ba'thist Secularism (Hardback) book cover

Islamic Revivalism in Syria

The Rise and Fall of Ba'thist Secularism

By Line Khatib

© 2011 – Routledge

262 pages

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Contemporary studies on Syria assume that the country’s Ba’thist regime has been effective in subduing its Islamic opposition, placing Syria at odds with the Middle East’s larger trends of rising Islamic activism and the eclipse of secular ideologies as the primary source of political activism. Yet this assumption founders when confronted with the clear resurgence in Islamic militantism in the country since 2004.

This book examines Syria’s current political reality as regards its Islamic movement, describing the country’s present day Islamic groups – particularly their social profile and ideology – and offering an explanation of their resurgence. The analysis focuses on:

  • Who are today’s Syrian Islamic groups?
  • Why and how are they re-emerging after 22 years of relative silence as an important socio-economic and political force?
  • How is the Syrian state dealing with their re-emergence in light of Syria’s secularism and ideologically diverse society?

Bridging area studies, Islamic studies, and political science, this book will be an important reference for those working within the fields of Comparative Politics, Political Economy, and Middle Eastern Studies.


'Line Khatib’s book is an excellent overview of the Syrian Ba’th regime’s relations with Islam and especially of Syria’s creeping Islamization under Bashar al-Asad’s first decade. She shows how the regime’s attempt to foster a moderate Islam to counter secularists and radical Islamists inadvertently undermined secularism, leading to the Islamization of the anti-regime opposition after the Syrian Uprising.'

Raymond Hinnebusch, University of St Andrews, UK.

'In this remarkably prescient book, Line Khatib examines the erosion of Ba’thist secularism in the decade prior to the current civil war. Under Bashar al-Asad, she argues, the regime had sought to stabilize its position by reaching an accommodation with Islamist groups—thereby creating the political space for their growth and proliferation. Her analysis accurately predicts both the fragility of the regime and the foundations for Islamic radicalization since 2011, and is unquestionably important reading for anyone interested in contemporary Syrian politics.'

Rex Brynen, McGill University, Canada.

'Dr. Line Khatib has written a fascinating book, predicting and making clear in various ways what is going on in Syria today. Her in-depth study fills a (huge) gap in our knowledge of why Islam went through such a strong revival and became a potential political power threatening the regime of Bashar al-Asad. She convincingly explains how the regime itself gave a lot of space to the Islamic movements to the detriment of secularism.'

Nikolaos van Dam, author of The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society in Syria and the Ba'th Party (Routledge).

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the Subject of Secularism and Islamic Revivalism in Syria Part 1: The Origins of the Conflict 2. The Rise of a Secular Party to Power 3. The Rise and Fall of Political Islam in Syria Part 2: Hafez al-Asad's Era and the Conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood: Muting of Ba'thist Secularism in Syria 4. Conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood 5. Resurgence of Neo-fundamentalism and Decline of Political Islam as a Model for Change (1982-2000) Part 3: Bashar al-Asad's Era: Fundamentalist and Islamist Revivalism 6. Bashar al-Asad Following in his Father’s Footsteps: the Promotion of Moderate Islam from Above in the Name of De-Radicalization 7. Islamization from Below: Islamic Revivalism as a Model for Social Change and the Erosion of Ba´thist Secularism 8. Re-emergence of Political Islam: Syria’s Islamist Groups 9. Islamic Activism and Secularism in Syria 10. Conclusion

About the Author

Line Khatib is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the American University of Sharjah. She earned a PhD in Islamic Studies from McGill University, MA in Political Science from University of Montreal and a BA in Political Science from McGill University. She is a senior research fellow at ICAMES (the Inter-University Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies), McGill University, and a fellow at the Center for Syrian Studies, University of St Andrews. She is the author of a number of works including "Islamic Revivalism in Syria: the Rise and Fall of Ba´thist Secularism" (Routledge, 2011), and "Islamic Renewal and the Promotion of Moderate Islam from Above" (the University of St Andrews, 2012). Her research and teaching interests lie within the fields of comparative politics, religion and politics, and authoritarianism and democratization in the Arab World, with a particular focus on Islamic groups as social and political movements.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Political Islam

This series provides a forum for the latest research on all aspects of political Islam. It includes a range of approaches and studies on individuals, movements, theory and practice.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Islam / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies