Salim Mansur, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, has written an article titled “Islam and Islamism” which further emphasizes the critical distinction between Islam, as a set of religious beliefs, and Islamism, the 20th century political ideology based on what scholar Bassam Tibi calls “an invented tradition.” The article begins:
July 23, 2013Islam, a religion, cannot be turned into a handmaiden of politics; when this occurs, Islam is turned into Islamism. Its defining characteristic is its intolerance of others, including Muslims, and glorification of violence against all who disagree. The conflict inside the Muslim world might be characterized as one between tyranny and freedom, even if that tyranny is packaged in God’s name. The strategically right thing to do is provide moral and material assistance to Muslims struggling against Islamists.
Since 9/11 the West has been confounded with the question whether Islam and Islamism are one and same, or if there is a critical distinction to be drawn between the two. How this question is answered has profound implications for understanding and explaining the immense convulsion seizing the Muslim world, and on how best to frame a proper response without undermining or eroding the secular and liberal democratic culture of the West.
Islamism is — from the perspective of someone born and raised within the mainstream majority Sunni Islam — an ideology fascistic and totalitarian in impulse and action, masquerading as religion. The proponents, advocates, activists and apologists of Islamism, irrespective of whatever guise these Islamists assume in public, are engaged in the sort of radical politics the West became acquainted with in the early decades of the twentieth century with the rise of Communism, Fascism and Nazism.
Islamism is about power: Islamists are obsessed with power to the extent that such obsession becomes pathology. The political mission of Islamists is to establish a Shari-based state, idealized as the only true and genuine expression of Islam. Abul A’la Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-i-Islami in South Asia, was blunt about his Islamism. Maududi insisted that Islam was a fully formed and coherent political system best described as ‘kingdom of God’ or ‘theo-democracy’ — entirely unrelated to the idea of democracy as understood in the West. The plain-spoken purpose of the Jamaat is to train and prepare a cadre of Islamist Muslims to acquire or seize political power and establish a totalitarian state. ‘In such a state,’ Maududi writes, ‘no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic State bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states.’
The Arab counterpart to the Jamaat is the Muslim Brotherhood; its founder, Hasan al-Banna, and its leading theorist, Syed Qutb, similarly described the mission of their movement as jihad, or the struggle to establish by force a Sharia-based state. Such a state, in being consistent with their ideological presuppositions, would be by necessity totalitarian. For Maududi, al-Banna, Syed Qutb and their followers, political sovereignty belongs to God, the Quran is their constitution, and political authority is legitimated by religious scholars, the ulema. In the streets of the Muslim world, the popular motto of the Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin) ? ‘Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Quran is our law. Jihad is our way.’ — expresses the program, the activism and the goal of political mobilization, which are uniformly directed towards securing control of total power.
As made clear in our FAQ, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch was created as part of an ongoing effort to track and an analyze the activities of the Global Muslim Brotherhood that we define as “global network of individuals and organizations that developed as Muslim Brotherhood members dispersed to other countries while fleeing the periodic crackdowns on the organization in Egypt.” The GMBDW considers the Muslim Brotherhood, in all its manifestations, to be both the wellspring as well the most important ongoing influence on Islamism in the world today. Therefore, in line with what Dr. Mansur and others have written, we want to reassert that the GMBDW also makes the distinction between Islam the religion and Islamism which we would characterize as even a greater threat to Muslim-majority nations than it is in the West.
Other works on Islamism that we have recommended include: