Islamism (Islam+ism; Arabic: al-'islāmiyya) a set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system; that modern Islam must return to their roots of their religion, and unite politically.
Islamism is a controversial term and definitions of it sometimes vary. Leading Islamist thinkers emphasized the desire to apply many aspects of sharia (Islamic law) to modern society; of pan-Islamic political unity; and of the elimination of non-Muslims, particularly western, military, economic, political, social, or cultural influences in the Muslim world, which they believe to be incompatible with Islam.
Some observers suggest Islamism's tenets are less strict and can be defined as a form of identity politics or "support for [Muslim] identity, authenticity, broader regionalism, revivalism, [and] revitalization of the community". Still others define it as "an Islamic militant, anti-democratic movement, bearing a holistic vision of Islam whose final aim is the restoration of the caliphate". Attributes of sharia law supported by many Islamists include "enforcement of Islamic punishments, including prohibitions on charging interest on loans, playing music, showing television", and enforcing traditional dress and prayer attendance.
Some labeled "Islamists" by others oppose use of the term, maintaining that they are simply Muslims, and that their political convictions are an expression of their religious belief in the Islamic way of life. Similarly, some scholars favour the term "activist Islam" instead or "political Islam".
Islamism has been defined as:
Islamism takes several forms and spans a wide range of strategies and tactics, and thus is not a united movement. Moderate reformists who accept and work within the democratic process include the Justice and Development Party of Turkey and Tunisian author and reformer Rashid Al-Ghannouchi. The Islamist group Hezbollah in Lebanon participates in both elections and armed attacks, seeking to abolish the state of Israel. Groups such as the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan and the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood favored a top-down road to power by military coup d'état. The radical Islamists al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad reject democracy and moderate, self-proclaimed Muslims entirely, and preach violent jihad, urging and conducting attacks on a religious basis. Another major division within Islamism is between the fundamentalist "guardians of the tradition" of the Salafism or Wahhabi movement, and the "vanguard of change" centered on the Muslim Brotherhood. Different Islamist groups have come to blows in places such as present day Iraq.
The term Islamism is considered to have first begun to acquire its contemporary connotations in the late 1980s, in French academia. From French, it migrated to the English language in the mid-1980s, where, in recent years, it has largely displaced the term Islamic fundamentalism in academic circles. The use of the term Islamism was at first "a marker for scholars more likely to sympathize" with new Islamic movements; however, as the term gained popularity it became more specifically associated with political groups such as the Taliban or the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, as well as with highly publicized acts of violence.
An article in Middle East Quarterly in 2003 states, "In summation, the term Islamism enjoyed its first run, lasting from Voltaire to the First World War, as a synonym for Islam. Enlightened scholars and writers generally preferred it to Mohammedanism. Eventually both terms yielded to Islam, the Arabic name of the faith, and a word free of either pejorative or comparative associations. There was no need for any other term, until the rise of an ideological and political interpretation of Islam challenged scholars and commentators to come up with an alternative, to distinguish Islam as modern ideology from Islam as a faith."
The concept Islamism is controversial, not just because it posits a political role for Islam, but also because Islamists believe their views merely reflect Islam, and the idea that Islam is, or can be, apolitical is an error. Scholars and observers who do not believe that Islam is a political ideology include Fred Halliday and John Esposito.
Islamists ask the question, "If Islam is a way of life, how can we say that those who want to live by its principles in legal, social, political, economic, and political spheres of life are not Muslims, but Islamists and believe in Islamism, not [just] Islam?
On the other hand, Muslim-owned and run media have used the terms "Islamist" and "Islamism" - as distinguished from Muslim and Islam - to distinguish groups such as the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria or Jamaa Islamiya in Egypt, which actively seeking to implement Islamic law, from other Muslim groups.
Another source distinguishes Islamist from Islamic "by the fact that the latter refers to a religion and culture in existence over a millennium, whereas the first is a political/religious phenomenon linked to the great events of the 20th century". Islamists have, at least at times, defined themselves as "Islamiyyoun/Islamists" to differentiate themselves from "Muslimun/Muslims".
There are in particular two political traditions, one of which might be called quietist, the other activist. The arguments in favor of both are based, as are most early Islamic arguments, on the Holy Book and on the actions and sayings of the Prophet. The quietist tradition obviously rests on the Prophet as sovereign, as judge and statesman. But before the Prophet became a head of state, he was a rebel. Before he traveled from Mecca to Medina, where he became sovereign, he was an opponent of the existing order. He led an opposition against the pagan oligarchy of Mecca and at a certain point went into exile and formed what in modern language might be called a "government in exile," with which finally he was able to return in triumph to his birthplace and establish the Islamic state in Mecca...The Prophet as rebel has provided a sort of paradigm of revolution—opposition and rejection, withdrawal and departure, exile and return. Time and time again movements of opposition in Islamic history tried to repeat this pattern.
The International Crisis Group's (ICG) report makes the point:
"…the conception of 'political Islam' inherent in this dichotomy is unhistorical as well as self-serving. The term 'political Islam' is an American coinage which came into circulation in the wake of the Iranian revolution. It implied or presupposed that an 'apolitical Islam' had been the norm until Khomeini turned things upside down. In fact, Islam had been a highly politicised religion for generations before 1979. It only appeared to have become apolitical in the historically specific and shortlived heyday of secular Arab nationalism between 1945 and 1970."
The strength of Islamism draws from the strength of religiosity in general in the Muslim world. Compared to Western, Latin, or Asian cultures, "[w]hat is striking about the Islamic world is that ... it seems to have been the least penetrated by irreligion". Where other peoples may look to the physical or social sciences for answers in areas which their ancestors regarded as best left to scripture, in the Muslim world, religion has become more encompassing, not less, as "in the last few decades, it has been the fundamentalists who have increasingly represented the cutting edge of the culture".
In Egypt and the rest of the Muslim world "the word secular, a label proudly worn 30 years ago, is shunned" and "used to besmirch" political foes. The small secular opposition parties "cannot compare" with Islamists in terms of "doggedness, courage," "risk-taking" or "organizational skills".
In the Middle East and Pakistan, religious discourse dominates societies, the airwaves, and thinking about the world. Radical mosques have proliferated throughout Egypt. Bookstores are dominated by works with religious themes ... The demand for sharia, the belief that their governments are unfaithful to Islam and that Islam is the answer to all problems, and the certainty that the West has declared war on Islam; these are the themes that dominate public discussion. Islamists may not control parliaments or government palaces, but they have occupied the popular imagination.
Moderate Islamism has proven successful locally. In Morocco, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) supported King Muhammad VI's "Mudawana," a startlingly progressive family law which grants women the right to a divorce, raises the minimum age for marriage to 18, and, in the event of separation, stipulates equal distribution of property. Muslim Brothers in Jordan condemned the Iraq War, while their comrades in Iraq sat in the Iraqi government.
As a result of a flexible pragmatism, Islamists are rising to become the only serious opposition. In Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood officially banned, it puts forward only independent candidates during election. Pundits have estiammted it would receive at least thirty percent of the votes in free elections, and even more with a lower turnout at the polls, because of the ability to mobilize adherents at any time.
Socialists, liberals, and nationalists have long been marginalized in certain Islamic countries with apaprent dictatorship. The fact that many regimes use a threatening theocracy as a pretext to deal with the secular opposition at the same time only plays into the hands of the Islamists.
As countries like Egypt and Tunisia have demonstrated, the price of suppressing Islamism in the name of freedom is the undermining of democracy. Today Islamists are among the most passionate advocates of freedom of speech, fair elections, and pluralism – genuinely Western values posing a dilemma for the west, much as the Palestinian legislative elections showed.
Outside Islamdom, Christian missionaries from Europe usually succeeded in making converts. Whether for spiritual reasons or for material ones, substantial numbers of American Indians, Africans, Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucians accepted the Gospels. But Muslims did not.
For almost a thousand years, from the first Moorish landing in Spain to the second Turkish siege of Vienna, Europe was under constant threat from Islam. In the early centuries it was a double threat – not only of invasion and conquest, but also of conversion and assimilation. All but the easternmost provinces of the Islamic realm had been taken from Christian rulers, and the vast majority of the first Muslims west of Iran and Arabia were converts from Christianity ... Their loss was sorely felt and it heightened the fear that a similar fate was in store for Europe.
are the perpetual teachers; we, the perpetual students. Generation after generation, this asymmetry has generated an inferiority complex, forever exacerbated by the fact that their innovations progress at a faster pace than we can absorb them. ... The best tool to reverse the inferiority complex to a superiority complex ... Islam would give the whole culture a sense of dignity.
by the end of World War I, there was scarcely such a thing left as a Muslim state not dominated by the Christian West. How could this happen? Only two answers were possible. Either the claims of Islam were false and the Christian or post-Christian West had finally come up with another system that was superior, or Islam had failed through not being true to itself.
Obviously, a redoubling of faith and devotion by Muslims was called for to reverse this tide.
The interpretation of Islam promoted by this funding was the strict, conservative Saudi-based Wahhabism or Salafism which taught that Muslims should reject absolutely any non-Muslim ideas and practices, including political ones. In its harshest form it preached that Muslims should not only "always oppose" infidels "in every way," but "hate them for their religion ... for Allah's sake," that democracy "is responsible for all the horrible wars of the 20th century," that Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslims were infidels, etc. While this effort has by no means converted all, or even most, Muslims to the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam, it has done much to overwhelm more moderate local interpretations, and has set the Saudi-interpretation of Islam as the "gold standard" of religion in Muslims' minds. Furthermore, the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca, Islam's holiest shrine, was a catalyst for the Saudi leadership to give in to the demands of the religious leaders.
Instead of prompting a backlash against the movement from which the attackers originated, however, Saudi Arabia, already very conservative, responded by shoring up its fundamentalist credentials with even more Islamic restrictions. Crackdowns followed on everything from shopkeepers who did not close for salah and newspapers that showed photos of women, to the selling of dolls, teddy bears (images of animate objects are considered haraam), and dog food (dogs are considered unclean).
In other Muslim countries, blame for and wrath against the seizure was directed not against fundamentalists, but against Islamic fundamentalism's foremost geopolitical enemy – the United States. Ayatollah Khomeini sparked attacks on American embassies when he announced:
It is not beyond guessing that this is the work of criminal American imperialism and international Zionismdespite the fact that the object of the fundamentalists' revolt was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, America's major ally in the region. Anti-American demonstrations followed in the Philippines, Turkey, Bangladesh, India, the UAE, Pakistan, and Kuwait. The US Embassy in Libya was burned by protestors chanting pro-Khomeini slogans and the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan was burned to the ground.
Some Islamic militant or revivalist movements and leaders pre-dating Islamism include
After the failure of the Indian Mutiny some of Shah Waliullah's followers turned to more peaceful methods of preserving the Islamic heritage and founded the Dar al-Ulum seminary in 1867 in the town of Deoband. From the school developed the Deobandi movement which became the largest philosophical movement of traditional Islamic thought in the subcontinent and led to the establishment of thousands of madrasahs throughout modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Today, Deobandism is represented in Pakistan by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam organization/political party and its splinter groups.
The end of the 19th century saw the slow disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, a time of religious and cultural decline. The empire was financially and militarily dependent on European powers, including Britain, France, and Germany (however this is questioned as is the decline narrative by recent research). In this context, the publications of Jamal ad-din al-Afghani (1837–97), Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905) and Rashid Rida (1865–1935) became popular among small groups of followers who considered their messages important and thought about indigenous alternatives to the political, economic, and cultural decline of the empire. Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida formed the beginning of the Salafist movement as well as the Islamic modernist/secularist movement (inspiring l-Raziq, Hanafi and Khalid et al).
Their ideas included the rejection of any changes to Islam after 855 AD, and in their purist form this even included the Islamic schools of fiqh (Madh'hab) since they were considered to be post-Salaf innovations from Islam. They believed that society should return to the true messages of Islam, remove the wrong interpretations and additions of the past centuries, and create a truly Islamic society under sharia law. Unlike some later Islamists, Salafists strongly emphasized the restoration of the Caliphate.
Maududi founded the Jamaat-e-Islami party in 1941 and remained its leader until 1972. Although Maududi was educated at Deobandi institution(s) his party is a long-time rival of the Deobandi party/group Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
Maududi had much more impact through his writing than through his political organizing. His extremely influential book, Towards Understanding Islam (Risalat Diniyat in Arabic), placed Islam in a modern context and influenced not only conservative ulema but liberal modernizers such as al-Faruqi, whose "Islamization of Knowledge" carried forward some of Maududi's key principles.
Maududi believed that Islam was all emcompassing "Everything in the universe is 'Muslim' for it obeys God by submission to His laws... The man who denies God is called Kafir (concealer) because he conceals by his disbelief what is inherent in his nature and embalmed in his own soul."
Maududi also believed that Muslim society could not be Islamic without Sharia, and Islam required the establishment of an Islamic state. This state should be a "theo-democracy, based on the principles of: tawhid (unity of God), risala (prophethood) and khilafa (caliphate).
Because Islam is all-encompassing, Maududi believed that the Islamic state should not be limited to just the "homeland of Islam", it is for all the world:
Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme, ... the objective of Islamic 'Jihad' is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system
Although Maududi talked about Islamic revolution, he was both less revolutionary and less politically/economically populist than later Islamists like Qutb.
Roughly contemporaneous with Maududi was the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Ismailiyah, Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al Banna. His was arguably the first, largest and most influential modern Islamic political/religious organization. Under the motto "the Qur'an is our constitution, it sought Islamic revival through preaching and also by providing basic community services including schools, mosques, and workshops. Like Maududi, Al Banna believed in the necessity of government rule based on Shariah law implemented gradually and by persuasion, and of eliminating all non-Muslim imperialist influence in the Muslim world. Jihad was declared against European colonial powers.
Some elements of the Brotherhood, though perhaps against orders, did engage in violence against the government, and its founder Al-Banna was assassinated in 1949 in retaliation for the assassination of Egypt's premier Mahmud Fami Naqrashi three months earlier. The Brotherhood has suffered periodic repression in Egypt and has been banned several times, in 1948 and several years later following confrontations with Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser, who jailed thousands of members for several years. In recent years its status has usually been described as "semi-legal. Despite periodic repression, the Brotherhood has become one of the most influential movements in the Islamic world, particularly in the Arab world. Along with being the only opposition group in Egypt able to field candidates during elections, it has fostered several offshoot organizations in many other countries.
Maududi's political ideas influenced Sayyid Qutb, one of the key philosophers of Islamism, and a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Qutb believed things had reached such a state that the Muslim community had literally ceased to exist. It "has been extinct for a few centuries, having reverted to Godless ignorance (Jahiliyya).
To eliminate jahiliyya, Qutb argued Sharia, or Islamic law, must be established. Sharia law was not only accessible to humans and essential to the existence of Islam, but also all-encompassing, precluding "evil and corrupt" non-Islamic ideologies like socialism, nationalism, or liberal democracy. Qutb preached that Muslims must engage in a two-pronged attack of converting individuals while also waging jihad to forcibly eliminate the "structures" of Jahiliyya – not only from the Islamic homeland but from the face of the earth.
Qutb was both the most famous member of the brotherhood and enormously influential in the Muslim world at large. Qutb is considered by some to be "the founding father and leading theoretician" of modern jihadis, such as Osama bin Laden. Ironically, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in Europe has not embraced his vision of armed jihad, something for which they have been denounced by more radical Islamists.
The first Modern Islamic state (with the possible exception of Zia's Pakistan) was established among the Shia of Iran. In a major shock to the rest of the world, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to overthrow the oil-rich, well-armed, Westernized and pro-American secular monarchy ruled by Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi.
Khomeini's beliefs were similar to Sunni Islamic thinkers like Mawdudi and Qutb: He believed that imitation of the early Muslims and the restoration of Sharia law were essential to Islam, that secular, Westernizing Muslims were actually agents of the West serving Western interests, and that the "plundering" of Muslim lands was part of a long-term conspiracy against Islam by the Christian West.
But they also differed:
While initial enthusiasm for the revolution in the Muslim world was intense, it has waned as "purges, executions, and atrocities tarnished its image".
As a model for potential Islamic states, the Islamic Republic has not been notably successful in achieving many of its goals:raising standards of living; ridding Iran of corruption, poverty, political oppression and Westernization, or even protecting Sharia from innovation. Internally, it has been modestly successful in increasing literacy and health care.
It has also maintained its hold on power in Iran in spite of the US economic sanctions, and has created or assisted like-minded Shia Islamist groups in Iraq (SCIRI) and Lebanon (Hezbollah), (two Muslim countries that also have large Shiite populations). During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, the Iranian government enjoyed something of a resurgence in popularity amongst the predominantly Sunni "Arab street, due to its support for Hezbollah and to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vehement opposition to the United States and his call for the annihilation of Israel.
The Lebanese Civil War gave radical Shia movements in that country a new power and prominence after 1975. Expatriate Iranian cleric Musa al-Sadr founded the Amal movement well before his native country's own revolution (see below), heading a combination of political party and militia. After his disappearance in 1978 his organization survived, but the opportunity arose for other factions to mobilize potential support from the same social base. The most successful such movement is Hezbollah. Founded in 1985 by Lebanese Shia aided by Iranian Shia Islamists, the movement is dedicated to the expulsion of Western "colonialist entities" from Lebanon and to the destruction of Israel, which it sees as an illegal state that is usurping Islamic territory. Hezbollah was instrumental in driving the Israeli military from Lebanon in 2000, which heightened its popularity in Lebanon even among non-Shia. In 2006, an Israeli attempt to crush Hezbollah by attacking its strongholds in south Lebanon sustained serious casualties and was considered by many observers to be a failure for Israel.
In July 1977 General Zia-ul-Haq overthrew Prime Minister Ali Bhutto's regime in Pakistan. Ali Bhutto, a leftist in political competition with Islamists, had banned alcohol, horse-racing, and nightclubs, and announced that the "sharia would be fully applied" within six months, shortly before he was overthrown. Ul-Haq was much more committed to Islamism, and "Islamization" or implementation of Islamic law, (aka sharia) became a cornerstone of his eleven-year military dictatorship and Islamism became his "official state ideology." An admirer of Mawdudi, Mawdudi's party Jamaat-e-Islami became the "regime's ideological arm," and its members prospered under ul-Haq.
In Pakistan this Islamization from above was "probably" more complete "than under any other regime except those in Iran and Sudan," but Ul-Haq was also criticized by some Islamists for imposing "symbols" rather than substance, and using Islamization to legitimize his means of seizing power. The program was a dramatic reversal of the traditional secularism of Pakistan's founding Muslim League and its leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah, but unlike neighboring Iran, ul-Haq's policies were intended to "avoid revolutionary excess", and not to strain relations with his American and Gulf state allies.
Ul-Haq was killed in 1988 but Islamization is still proceeding in Pakistan.
When the Soviet Union abandoned the Marxist Najibullah regime and withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 (the regime finally fell in 1992), the victory was seen by many Muslims as the triumph of Islamic faith over superior military power and technology that could be duplicated elsewhere.
The jihadists gained legitimacy and prestige from their triumph both within the militant community and among ordinary Muslims, as well as the confidence to carry their jihad to other countries where they believed Muslims required assistance.
The collapse of the Soviet Union itself in 1991, was seen by many Islamists, including Bin Laden, as the defeat of a superpower at the hands of Islam, the $6 billion in aid given by the US to the mujahideen having nothing to do with the victory. As bin Laden opined: "[T]he US has no mentionable role" in "the collapse of the Soviet Union ... rather the credit goes to God and the mujahidin" of Afghanistan.
These attacks resonated with conservative Muslims and the problem did not go away with Saddam's defeat either, since American troops remained stationed in the kingdom, and a defacto cooperation with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process developed. Saudi Arabia attempted to compensate for its loss of prestige among these groups by repressing those domestic Islamists who attacked it (bin Laden being a prime example), and increasing aid to Islamic groups (Islamist madrassas around the world and even aiding some violent Islamist groups) that did not, but its pre-war influence on behalf of moderation was greatly reduced. One result of this was a campaign of attacks on government officials and tourists in Egypt, a bloody civil war in Algeria and Osama bin Laden's terror attacks climaxing in 9/11 attack.
While Qutb's ideas became increasingly radical during his imprisonment prior to his execution in 1966, the leadership of the Brotherhood, led by Hasan al-Hudaybi, remained moderate and interested in political negotiation and activism. Fringe or splinter movements inspired by the final writings of Qutb in the mid-1960s (particularly the manifesto "Milestones," aka Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq) did, however, develop and they pursued a more radical direction. By the 1970s, the Brotherhood had renounced violence as a means of achieving its goals.
The path of violence and military struggle was then taken up by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization responsible for the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Unlike earlier anti-colonial movements, Egyptian Islamic Jihad directed its attacks against "apostate" leaders of Muslim states, or those leaders who held secular leanings or who had introduced or promoted Western/foreign ideas and practices into Islamic societies. Its views were outlined in a pamphlet written by Muhammad Abd al-Salaam Farag, in which he states:
…there is no doubt that the first battlefield for jihad is the extermination of these infidel leaders and to replace them by a complete Islamic Order…
Islamists in Egypt, especially al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group), sometimes employed violence in their struggle for Islamic order. Victims of this campaign against the Egyptian state in the 1990s included the head of the counter-terrorism police (Major General Raouf Khayrat), a parliamentary speaker (Rifaat al-Mahgoub), dozens of European tourists and Egyptian bystanders, and over 100 Egyptian police. Ultimately the campaign to overthrow the government was unsuccessful, and the major jihadi group, Jamaa Islamiya (or al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya), renounced violence in 2003.
For many years Sudan had an Islamist regime under the leadership of Hassan al-Turabi. His National Islamic Front first gained influence when strongman General Gaafar al-Nimeiry invited members to serve in his government in 1979. Turabi built a powerful economic base with money from foreign Islamist banking systems, especially those linked with Saudi Arabia. He also recruited and built a cadre of influential loyalists by placing sympathetic students in the university and military academy while serving as minister of education.
After al-Nimeiry was overthrown in 1985 the party did poorly in national elections but in 1989 it was able to overthrow the elected post-al-Nimeiry government with the help of the military. Turabi was noted for his commitment to the democratic process and a liberal government before coming to power, but strict application of sharia law, and an intensification of the long-running war in southern Sudan, human rights abuses, once in power. The NIF regime also harbored Osama bin Laden for a time (before 9/11), and worked to unify Islamist opposition to the American attack on Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.
After Sudanese intelligence services were implicated in an assassination attempt on the President of Egypt, UN economic sanctions were imposed on Sudan, a very poor country, and Turabi fell from favor. He was imprisoned for a time in 2004-5. Some of the NIF policies, such as the war with the non-Muslim south, have been reversed, though the National Islamic Front (now named the National Congress Party) still holds considerable power in the Sudanese government.
An Islamist movement influenced by Salafism and the jihad in Afghanistan, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, was the FIS or Front Islamique de Salut (the Islamic Salvation Front) in Algeria. Founded as a broad Islamist coalition in 1989 it was led by Abbassi Madani, and a charismatic radical young preacher, Ali Belhadj. Taking advantage of liberalization by the unpopular ruling leftist/nationalist FLN regime, it used its preaching to advocate the establishment of a legal system following Sharia law, education in Arabic rather than French, and gender segregation, with women staying home to alleviate the high rate of unemployment among young Algerian men. The FIS won sweeping victories in local elections and it was going to win national elections in 1991 when voting was canceled by a military coup d'état.
As Islamists took up arms to overthrow the regime, the FIS's leaders were arrested and it became overshadowed by Islamist guerilla groups particularly the Islamic Salvation Army, MIA and Armed Islamic Group (or GIA). A bloody and devastating civil war ensued in which between 150,000 and 200,000 people were killed over the next decade. Civilians – including foreigners, University academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists, and medical doctors – were targeted by Islamist extremists. although government forces were also accused of killing civilians and of manipulating the brutal takfiri GIA
The civil war was not a victory for Islamism. By 2002 the main guerrilla groups had either been destroyed or had surrendered. The popularity of Islamist parties has declined to the point that "the Islamist candidate, Abdallah Jaballah, came a distant third with 5% of the vote" in the 2004 presidential election.
In Afghanistan the mujahideen's victory did not lead to justice and prosperity but to a vicious and destructive civil war between warlords, making Afghanistan one of the poorest countries on earth. In 1996, a new movement known as the Taliban, rose to power, defeated most of the warlords and took over roughly 80% of Afghanistan.
The Taliban differed from other Islamist movements to the point where they might be more properly described as Islamic fundamentalist or neofundamentalist, interested in spreading "an idealized and systematized version of village customs to an entire country. Despite Afghanistan's great poverty, they had little interest in social, economic and technological development – at one time explaining that "we Muslims believe God the Almighty will feed everybody one way or another. Their ideology was also described as being influenced by Pashtunwali tribal law, Wahhabism, and the jihadism pan-Islamism of their guest Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban considered "politics" to be against Sharia and thus did not hold elections. They were led by Mullah Muhammad Omar who was given the title "Amir al-Mu'minin" or Commander of the Faithful, and a pledge of loyalty by several hundred Taliban-selected Pashtun clergy in April 1996. Like most Islamists, the Taliban enforced strict prohibitions on women, but these were so severe – for example effectively forbidding most employment and schooling – that they created an international outcry. The Taliban were also famous for other activities they banned – music, TV, videos, photographs, pigeons, kite-flying, beard-trimming, etc. – and for the energy and the resources which they used to enforce the bans, including hundreds perhaps thousands of religious police officers armed with "whips, long sticks and Kalashnikovs.
The Taliban also opposed Shi'ism and have been accused by human rights groups of indiscriminately killing thousands of Shia. They were also overwhelmingly Pashtun and were accused of not sharing power with the approximately 60% of Afghanis who belonged to other ethnic groups. (see: Taliban#Ideology)
The Taliban's hosting of Osama bin Laden, despite the attacks he organized against the United States, led to an American-organized attack against which drove them from power following the 9/11 attacks. Taliban are still very much alive and fighting a vigorous insurgency from bases in the frontier regions of Pakistan with suicide bombings being launched against NATO, Afghan government targets and civilians.
Some Islamist groups call for and/or engage in attacks on not only police/military enemies, but non-combatants as well. These groups include several mentioned above: al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) of Egypt, Islamist groups in Algeria, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine/Israel, and perhaps most famously Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda group. Both Muslims and non-Muslims have been among the targets and victims. Some of the groups have proudly proclaimed the attacks, others been silent or denied involvement.
Justification for attacks on Muslims often comes as takfir, an implicit death threat, as punishment for apostasy in Islam is death under traditional Sharia law. Justification for attacks on non-Muslims is often the allegation that the targets had "waged war against God," are occupiers of Musilm land, or tourists unwelcome on Muslim land. Suicide or "martyrdom operations" are a lethal technique among radical Islamists, sometimes motivated by the much disputed explanation that "God will give" those who kill themselves in the path of jihad 70 or 72 female "virgins" and "everlasting happiness.
Religious or sectarian attacks in situations were Islamists are active have been particularly serious following 2004. In Iraq, 8,262 people were killed in terror attacks in 2005 and 13,340 in 2006, although not all of theses casualties came from attacks by Islamist groups. Islamist or fundamentalist attacks are also on the increase in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, were hundreds have been killed in 2006 and 2007, although in both countries not all of the attacks have been on civilians.
HT does not engage in armed jihad or vote-getting, but works to take power through "ideological struggle" to change Muslim public opinion, and in particular through elites who will "facilitate" a "change of the government," i.e. launch a bloodless coup. It allegedly attempted and failed such coups in 1968 and 1969 in Jordan, and in 1974 in Egypt, and is now banned in both countries.
The party is sometimes described as "Leninist" and "rigidly controlled by its central leadership," with its estimated one million members required to spend "at least two years studying party literature under the guidance of mentors (Murshid)" before taking "the party oath." HT is particularly active in the ex-soviet republics of Central Asia and in Europe. In the UK its rallies have drawn thousands of Muslims, and the party is said to have outpaced the Muslim Brotherhood in both membership and radicalism.
Something of an anomaly among Islamist movements and parties is the Justice and Development Party (Turkey) (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) (AKP) of Turkey headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The successor to earlier Islamist parties of Necmettin Erbakan – National Order Party (Milli Nizam Partisi), National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi), Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) – AKP was the first Islamist party in history to win a free national election and form a government. In July 2007 it won 46% of the vote, (a landslide in Turkey's multiparty political landscape).
Since its victory in 2002 elections, the tensions between the AKP and those claiming secularism - the bureacracy (particularly the judiciary), the Armed Forces, and an important fraction of society, including the heterodox Alevi sect - have been on the boil. In 2008, Turkey's chief prosecutor filed a case asking that the AKP be banned for "anti-secular activities". The Constitutional Court accepted the case but decided against a ban. Instead the court ruled that the party's public financing be cut in half, as well as issue a “serious warning” that it was steering the country in too Islamic a direction.
Despite the aggressive opposition in Turkey, the AKP has been praised in the west for policies supporting "integration into the global economy, and membership in the EU," rather than aligning with Islamic countries.. On the other hand, the AKP has also been criticised in the west for its alleged hidden agenda of transforming Turkey into an Islamic state and its procrastination in improving human rights, democracy, and freedom of speech in Turkey.
Islamism has been criticised for: repression of free expression, rigidity, hypocrisy, lack of true understanding of Islam, misinterpreting the Quran and Sunna, and for innovations to Islam (bid‘ah), notwithstanding Islamists' proclaimed opposition to any such innovation. Respondants have questioned the academic validity of much of the critique, the theological incoherency of modernists and have highlighted the political dimensions often involved. Despite this, Islamism remains very popular.
“…the issues and grievances which have been grist to the mill of Sunni jihadism across the Muslim world have not been resolved or even appreciably attenuated since 2001, but, on the contrary, aggravated and intensified. The failure to address the Palestinian question and, above all, the decision to make war on Iraq and the even more extraordinary mishandling of the post-war situation there have unquestionably motivated and encouraged jihadi activism across the Muslim world. Unsophisticated Western understanding and rhetoric that tends to discredit all forms of political Islamism, coupled with the lumping together of the internal, irredentist and global jihadis...”
A considerable effort has been made to fight against Western targets, especially the United States. The United States, in particular, was made a target of Islamist fire because of its support for Israel, its presence on Saudi Arabian soil, what Islamists regard as its aggression against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because of its support of the regimes that Islamists oppose. In addition, some Islamists have concentrated their activity against Israel, and nearly all Islamists view Israel with hostility. Osama bin Laden, at least, believes that this is of necessity due to the historical conflict between Muslims and Jews, and believes that there is a Jewish/American alliance against Islam.
On the other extreme (i.e. the moderate end) of the Islamist movement, the Muhammadiyah movement in Indonesia has stated that it is concerned with "far more important issues than the application of Sharia," namely strengthening the education, health, economy and society of that Muslim nation, a task they maintain represents "the greater Shari'a" or path of God.
Other moderate Islamist groups include the the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) in Morocco which supports King Muhammad VI's "Mudawana," a progressive family law which grants women the right to a divorce, raises the minimum age for marriage to 18, and, in the event of separation, stipulates equal distribution of property. Muslim Brothers in Jordan condemned the Iraq War, while their comrades in Iraq sat in the Iraqi government.
There is some debate as to how influential Islamist movements remain. Some scholars assert that Islamism is a fringe movement which is dying, following the clear failures of Islamist regimes like the regime in Sudan, the Habitué's Saudi regime and the Deobandi Taliban to improve the lot of Muslims. However, others (such as Ahmed Rashid and Graham E. Fuller) feel that the Islamists still command considerable support and cite the fact that Islamists in Pakistan and Egypt regularly win 10 to 30 percent in electoral polls, despite the fact that they are prosecuted and that many believe the polls are rigged against them.
|Country or scope||Movement or movements|
|International||Al-Qaida Muslim Brotherhood Hizb ut-Tahrir||Afghanistan||Taliban||Algeria||Groupe Islamique Armé Islamic Salvation Front Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat||Bahrain||Al Wefaq Al Asalah||Egypt||Gama'at Islamiya||Lebanon||Hizballah||Iraqi Kurdistan||Islamic Movement in Kurdistan Islamic Group of Kurdistan Islamic Union of Kurdistan||Iranian Kurdistan||Khabat||Palestinian territories||Hamas||Somalia||Islamic Courts Union||South Asia||Jamaat-e-Islami Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen|