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|Turning towards Mecca|
“”...there’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It’s a political talking point; it's not a strategy. And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and al Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people; that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda. That's how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion -- then we’re doing the terrorists' work for them.
|—President Barack Obama, speaking after a counter-ISIL meeting|
Islamism is a set of ideologies rooted in the concept of Islam as a political system as well as a religion; in short, that government should be based around Islamic teachings. The term first appeared in French in the mid-eighteenth century, as a name for Islam, rather than in its modern political sense. The term itself is controversial, as it is not a term used by adherents of Islam or Islamism, but applied without convention (and without accepted definition) to various social-political groups within Islam. Almost universally, Islamists are Islamic Fundamentalists - the reverse is not necessarily the case.
The term is used by the media and many western governments to apply specifically to individuals and groups who practice or advocate violence including sexual assault, in their version of an Islamic world.
Individuals schooled in certain facets of sharia may consider any unveiled female as fair game for sexual assault. Organized groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Daesh and the Taliban are four of the more (in)famous Islamist groups, though arguably the latter 3 have origins in the former.
Cause of the rise of Islamism
Islamists view themselves as under assault by Western social, political, and cultural influences. Debates can range from women wearing bluejeans and lipstick[note 1] to the use of MSG in processed foods. There are several currents within the Islamist movement, most notably a re-born form of Salafism composed of three strains of thought: Islamic purists, so-called "politicos", and the violent jihadi movement.
Islamists refer to themselves as a "resistance movement", borrowing a well-worn phrase from the struggles against totalitarianism in the 20th century. Resistance can be passive or violent.
Fundamentalism vs Authoritarianism vs Islamism
Fundamentalism seeks religious purity. Authoritarianism seeks control over people. To some extent, Islamism is the combination of both, because it seeks to legislate religious purity.
Islamism vs Extremism/Jihadism
Writer Reza Aslan draws a distinction between Islamism and Jihadism: "By the end of the millennium, Islamism and Jihadism, once cousins, had effectively split into two opposing, rival movements... Islamism remains a nationalist ideology, whereas most Jihadists want to erase all borders, to eradicate all nationalities, and to return to an idealized past of religious communalism".
- Saudi Arabia Backgrounder: Who are the Islamists?, Middle East Report N°3121, International Crisis Group, Sep 2004.
- A Taliban leader remarking on the $500 shoes Michelle Obama wore on Inauguration Day claimed Muslims keep women at home to protect them "like a precious pearl" whereas President Obama was pimping his wife to sell shoes.
- Full Transcript
- Coming to Terms: Fundamentalists or Islamists?
- International outrage over use of pork enzyme in halal food escalates, 9 January 2001.
- Anatomy of the Salafi Movement, Quintan Wiktorowitcz, Talylor Francis Group, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29:207–239, 2006.
- Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War, p.29