Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim
extremists (e.g. the Taliban
and Osama bin Laden
It is considered to be a distortion of Islam
. Many Islamists engage in terrorism
in pursuit of their goals.
Islamism is an ideology that demands man's complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam and rejects as much as possible outside influence, with some exceptions (such as access to military and medical technology). It is imbued with a deep antagonism towards non-Muslims and has a particular hostility towards the West. It amounts to an effort to turn Islam, a religion and civilization, into an ideology.
Islam (a religion) is not the problem, but Islamism (a totalitarian ideology) is. Islamism is not so much a distortion of Islam, but a radically new interpretation. It politicises the religion, turning it into a blueprint for establishing a coerced utopia. In many ways, its programme resembles those of fascism and Marxism/Leninism.
I approach the religion of Islam in a neutral fashion, neither praising it nor attacking it but in a spirit of inquiry. Neither apologist nor booster, neither spokesman nor critic, I consider myself a student of this subject. I ask such questions as: What is the nature of Islam's principles, customs, and implications? How does the Shari`a affect Muslim societies? Are there elements common to Muslim life from West Africa to Southeast Asia, yet absent elsewhere?
Though neutral on Islam, I take a strong stand on Islamism, which I see as very different. Islam is the religion of the Qur'an and the Sunna; Islamism is the political path of Hasan al-Banna, Abu'l-A`la al-Mawdudi, and Ayatollah Khomeini. The former is (in the Muslim view) eternal or (in the non-Muslim view) fourteen centuries old; the latter is a twentieth-century phenomenon. The one is a faith, the other an ideology. Whereas the closest parallels to Islam are Judaism and Christianity, those closest to Islamism are other radical utopian "isms," namely fascism and Marxism-Leninism.
Islamism is a global affliction whose victims count peoples of all religions. Non-Muslims are losing their lives to it in such countries as Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, and the Philippines. Muslims are the main casualties in Algeria, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. Islamism is perhaps the most vibrant and coherent ideological movement in the world today; it threatens us all. Moderate Muslims and non-Muslims must cooperate to battle this scourge.
[Islamism:] Group of ideologies in Islam
that want to use the Sharia
to its full extent, meaning that secular forms of governments and institutions are considered foreign to a true Muslim society.
Islamists have in many cases been involved in violent acts. The reason for resorting to such means appears to be the same over and over again: First, the Islamists try to change the rulers and men of power through intellectual means, but as this seldom leads to anything and as there seldom are any democratic channels to used, violence have been the last resort.
, Entry in the Encylopedia of the Orient
Of all the forms of intolerance and xenophobia
abroad in the world today, none is as violent, oppressive, and widespread as radical Islamism. Islamist persecution is in the news almost daily.
It is important to emphasize: Islamism is not
Islam. On the contrary, it is a perversion of Islam. The traditional religion practiced by most Muslims is tolerant and moderate, an ancient faith with a rich tradition of scholarship. Islam places great emphasis on virtue, charity, and living according to God's will; it is not at all incompatible with political democracy or religious pluralism.
Islamism, by contrast, is a power-obsessed ideology. Like other 20th century ''isms'' - Communism, fascism, totalitarianism - it is radical, repressive, cruel, contemptuous of human rights, and deeply hostile to outsiders. Countries ruled by Islamists, such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan, are among the most unfree places on earth. They strangle basic freedoms, oppress women, incubate terrorism, and persecute religious minorities.
Islamist xenophobia and violence has many faces. In Sudan, the regime uses chattel slavery, forcible conversion, and mass murder as weapons in its ''jihad''
- holy war - against black Africans in the south. Islamist gangs in Egypt carry out deadly pogroms against Coptic Christians. This summer, Afghanistan's Taliban
demolished ancient Buddhist works of art, then ordered every Hindu in the country to wear yellow identification badges. Terrorist networks like Osama bin Laden
's and Islamic Jihad place a premium on killing and wounding Americans. Death sentences are pronounced against authors - like Salman Rushdie or, more recently, the American Khalid Duran - who write books the Islamists don't approve of. The litany is grim, the victims are many, and the threat is global.
Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism
(Contra) Lecture by Daniel Pipes, Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 20, 1998
American Policy toward Islam
(Contra) Speech by Daniel Pipes, given at Georgetown University, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
, September 23, 1999
, Entry in the (neutral) Encylopedia of the Orient
Islam and Islamism - Faith and Ideology
(Contra) Lecture Daniel Pipes, The National Interest, Spring 2000
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