As France and Austria crack down on Islamism, and as European Islamists undermine those efforts through accusations of "Islamophobia," Manea's book alerts readers to the dangers of nonviolent Islamism and its various political tactics. Formerly deputy chief editor of the Arabic service of Swissinfo, Manea describes how nonviolent Islamism infiltrates Western societies, from the Swedish Muslim Brotherhood to the British Deobandis, and the ideological features it shares with jihadist movements.
To shed light on radicalization, Manea first draws on her own experience as a teenager in Yemen seduced by the appeal of Muslim Brotherhood circles. She then refers to a number of additional case studies of radicalized Islamists from different backgrounds. She also discusses the more abstract, and conflicting, theories on radicalization developed by French academics Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy.
Manea delves into the politics and Islamist activities in various European countries where Islamist movements are thriving, thanks in part to the misguided benevolence of non-Muslim intellectuals, lawmakers, and activists whom Manea rightfully denounces for their mistaken view of Islamists as the most authentic Muslims.
While Perils covers many aspects of Islamism in barely over two hundred pages, Manea avoids intellectual shortcuts in her description of Islamism as an ideology that can neither be completely separated from the religion of Islam nor seen as the most legitimate manifestation of it.
But some important elements are missing. For example, Manea's fascinating analysis of growing Islamist influence in the education system of several European countries ignores the most obvious counter-example: France's strictly secular public schools, in which religious symbols are banned. And while Manea often notes that Islamists discriminate extensively against women, she does not explore the inconvenient fact that many women enthusiastically join Islamist movements and sometimes exert significant influence in them.
In the final chapter, Manea exhorts her readers to join the struggle against Islamism. However, she seems only dimly aware that her suggestion to establish "well-designed theological programs" to train imams risks inadvertently reinforcing Islamist influence rather than curtailing it. Nevertheless, Perils offers an excellent overview of nonviolent Islamist ideology as well as its Western manifestations and ends with a call to take action against the pink elephant in the room.