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Explain The Rise In Significance Of Political Islam Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5510 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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During the past 20 years, the rise in significant of the political Islam had a huge interest in the media and the academic societies. Despite that it was previously named differently such as the Islamic fundamentalism or radical Islam, it all pointed to the reality of a specific direction of the Islamic movement and the increasing concern in the political and security matters in the international aspect. Hoogvelt (1997) stated in her famous book ‘Globalization and the Postcolonial World: The New Political Economy of Development’, that the significant moment in this direction was the revolution of the Shah’s [1] pro-Western dominion in Iran in year 1979 and the first theocratic Islamic Republic institution. [2] 

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Since then, the world has witnessed a various group of modern Political Islam in different areas of the world such as Hizballah [3] in Lebanon, Hamas [4] in Palestine, Front Islamique de Salut or the Islamic Salvation Front [5] in Algeria, Taliban [6] in Afghanistan, and National Islamic Front [7] in Sudan. Alongside the mentioned groups, there were the moderate Islamic groups such as the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt that has been escalating their impact throughout peaceful legitimate movement methods.

Samuel Huntington (1993: 22) in his book ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ defines this movement by indicating that the Islamic renaissance is a mainstream and not radical, prevalent and not isolated. He claims that in the approaching years “the great division among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. The principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilization will dominate global politics”. He also forecasts that this burgeoning Islam will be the main complement of the so called ‘Civilization Clash’ with the West. Political Islam seems to be particularly attached with terror in the Western countries and therefore is considered a serious threat for the safety of people. [8] 

The rise in significant of the political Islam can be attributed to many economic, social and political aspects in the national and international level. So, the main point of the research is to have a close overview on the aspects of the rise of the political Islam and analyze the main aspects to the appearance, to what can be referred to as a phenomenon, and also describe some disputes that aroused from the rise of the political Islam in the Middle East.

Political Islam Origin and Doctrines in the Middle East Society:

The Quran, Sunna [9] and Hadith [10] are the original foundations of Islam to which has little to talk about how to establish a state or even operate a government and manage institutes. Despite that, the political Islam phenomena has appeared and seemed that politics and religion cannot be separated in the Sharia and Islam and should be functioned by force, if applicable, in the entire state’s aspects such as economic, social, etc… Furthermore, the Quran is deliberated to be the structure of this phenomenon with the slogan of ‘Islam is the solution’. This is exactly reflected in what Ayubi (1991: 42) stated “for if Islam is not a particularly ‘political’ religion, this does not mean that it is a private, ‘individualistic’ religion. Very much the contrary: it is about public ethics and collective morals and hence Islam’s apparently ‘political’ character in the eyes of many people”. [11] 

Ayubi (1991: 171) indicated in his book that most of the Islamic movements were initiated from graduated students of engineering and contemporary science – not from the religion and humanity science – as well as from the immigrants to the city and who gained support, the under-employed intelligentsia [12] and the civil servants. The political Islam is a metropolitan phenomenon that exists in the city and is most likely to be felt where the state presents. Furthermore, it was the place of enjoyment and pride for the nationalist and secular leaders and then turned to be a field for an authority challenges between the Islamists and the government. Therefore, the Islamic ideology had a lot of support from the poor and medium classes in the metropolitan areas. Also, teachers, students and intellectuals were first to protest against the Shah system during the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. [13] 

Conclusively, the Islamist got a huge support from the society’s younger segment because they are considered more radical and desirable to start revolutionary actions than the elders. This can obviously be reflected to what is currently happening in the Middle East such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Libya. In the recent years, the Middle East’s Islamic movements has been suffering from a long struggle to set up Islamic states on the basis of the Sharia law [14] and were facing challenges with the government and the political systems, especially those who receive a huge support from the societies that became Islamic.

Since the start, the Islam was the religion of politics. Prophet Mohammed discoursed some threatening messages to the attentiveness for establishing Mecca. The prophet had setup a religion community after going through a sacred war with the ruling aristocracy. The Prophet was also the political leader rather than a religious one, and so all his Caliphs took the same positions in the Islamic society. Therefore, Islam by its core is a religion combining between the political and religious architecture.

The question here is how come we state the reappearance of political Islam? The answer is clearly because of the contemporary history of the Islamic world which is characterized by Western effects and Muslim reactions. The Turkish Republic, which appeared in 1924 had officially eradicated the Caliphate and embraced the secularism policy. Moreover, the Ottoman Empire was a state of a global Islamic world at the time but was demised in the aftermath of the WWI against the Western alliance. Nevertheless, most of the leaders of the Middle East, emerging in the territory of the former Ottoman Empire, tried to reform their countries’ tradition to become similar to the Western countries. Furthermore, they also tried to follow the secular model of the state and also to detain and narrow Islam in the religious sphere.

This is the framework that the latest Islamic movements brought of the political feature which leads to the appearance of the political Islam. In the current days, the political Islam groups challenge their government’s secularization rules and advocate reinstating the wholesome shape from the Islamic governance. These groups criticize the ruling leaders by describing them as deviants from the Islam as well as pointing to the efforts of modernization as marionette played by the Western colonialism. Furthermore, they also see that these efforts are like putting the foundation of economic and social deterioration that hinder the Muslim states.

In our days and in different countries in the Middle East, the entire political Islam groups share more or less alike basic notions despite that their expressions of those notions does not reflect so. These basic notions are derivative from the notions of some familiar Islamic characters in the contemporary age such as Hasan Al-Banna [15] , Sayyid Qutb [16] and Abu Al-A’la Mawdudi. [17] Despite the differences between Al-Banna and Mawdudi, they still shared the same ideological worldview which would motivate and appraise the struggle of later Islamic movements to which can be summarized as:

Islam institutes the whole ideology about the individual and collective life for the society and the state (Esposito, 2003: 16). [18] 

The Quran, God’s inspiration and the Sunna are the foundation of the Muslim life (ibid: 17).

The Islamic law (Sharia) is based on the Quran and the typical Prophet comportment, which is the sacred scheme of the Muslim life (ibid).

The re-establishment of the Muslim pride and authority (the glory of the ancient Islamic empire and culture) requires the return to Islam and re-implement God’s rule and direction for both, the society and the state (ibid).

Technology and science should be used in the Islamic oriented framework to avoid Westernization of the Muslim society (ibid).

Islam is the only solution and democracy amounted to perfidy to Islam (ibid).

Jihad is the means to bring a positive and fruitful Islamization in both the society and the world either by struggle in both personally and community as well as in notions and actions to execute Islamic reform and uprising (ibid).

Whereas, Sayyid Qutub indicated that:

Devotion to the Muslim’s inclination to recreate God’s authority through the implementation of the Sharia would bring success and power to the Islamic society aside of the perpetual reward in the next (Khatab, 2006: 73). [19] 

The dishonesty of the Muslims who have drifted from God’s divinely route and trailed behind the secular, acquisitive principles and the West-capitalism and Marxism beliefs, has caused weakness in the Muslim societies (ibid: 80). [20] 

Zhang Xiaodong (1995) indicated in his book ‘Re-understanding Islamic Fundamentalism’ that the political Islam movement can be assembled into three groups in the contemporary period. First are the radical fundamentalists that launched a strong war against the authority that was established by terror means such as kidnapping, shelling, and assassination. Their target did not limit to the government but also included foreign travellers, diplomats and journalists. The political Islam had no reason to differentiate between the Western countries and their country because their impacts were backing-up the political Islam government. Secondly are the moderate fundamentalists that prefer to fill the streets and retrograde villages with Mosques. Additionally, these groups founded charitable societies, schools, hospitals and other community constructions to restore the Islamic spirit and morals. In practical, this group has shown some successes reflected by the replacement of some governmental tasks. Thirdly are the legal fundamentalists that hope to reach the parliament and the local government in term of the legal aspects and achieve social reform and an ultimate Islam in the frame of a founded system. The Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria might have been in the place of power if the elections in 1992 have not been cancelled while Hizballah has achieved a huge success in the parliament elections in 1992 in Lebanon. [21] 

The political Islam movements are well shown in this grouping. Despite that, not each group takes a specific methodology. Slightly, all these groups take the three methodologies together to respond to the changes in the circumstances they are in. Even the Hamas movement in Palestine, which had a bad reputation of being a terrorist movement, acknowledges a temporary truce with the enemies while still won’t give up their sacred war with them.

Factors of the Rise in Significant of Political Islam in the Middle East:

There have been lots of efforts to identify the aspects that verify the rise in significant of the political Islam. For example, Lewis (1988: 71) claimed the existence of natural behavior in the militant hostility in Islam and there have been many scholars who tried to relate the reappearance of the political Islam with this behavior. It seems to be true that this tradition has been inherited from the past and is surely offering some essential perceptions in framing the political Islam thoughts at this very day. Such perception is the jihad (sacred war) and the promotion to pure Islam that expand its justification from the religious and historical traditions. Nonetheless, the political Islam nowadays takes a totally different approach of the economic, social and political perspective. It can be said that it is a direct consequent for the latest historical evolution rather than the distant past. [22] Even in this context, Nikki (1988: 10) pinpointed that there is no relationship between the Islamic movements before the colonization and todays’ militant groups. [23] 

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There are many scholars that are pointing to the reality of the latest trends in the political and economic world despite the failure of the Muslim countries in the economic, social, political and cultural development to contribute in making an Islamic nurtured environment. Hoogvelt (1997) reflected this point by indicating that the failure of the national development strategies in the modern colonial period, aside from the current globalization, pushes the modern Islamic crescent. Islamic reappearance is best comprehended as an identity politics generated from a reaction to exclusion rather than being a subordinated integration. [24] Khashan (1997: 5) opposes that the Islamic fundamentalism are resulted from the cultural and rational cease, the secular nationalist form of government failure and the Western colonialism. He also describes that the inability of the Arab ruling elites to modernize their nations formed an institutional gap and allowed the radicals to introduce themselves as being a powerful candidates for political authority. [25] Furthermore, Xiaodong (1995) states that the appearance of the Islamic fundamentalism is a direct response to the external and internal pressure for the Islamic society crisis and the change designates that the crisis and pressures are becoming even stronger than before. Somehow, it can be seen as a social movement of meditation and self-salvation. [26] 

Therefore, the key, according to those scholars, is the failure of the ruling elites in the Islamic world in modernization and specific economic and world politics trends, for which all contributed in a reflective impact on the Islamic world. This observation seems to justify the rise in the political Islam movements more suitably than referring to the ingrained militant nature of the Islam.

Litvak (1998) stated that after half a century since the end of the formal colonialism, there was an obvious failure of the Islamic ruling elites in modernizing their countries in almost all the political, social and economic aspects. Most of the Muslim countries are still facing bad economic and political situation under the dictatorial rule. Worse than that, after the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, the Arab lost big losses in confronting Israel, which left them humiliation and depression. This is clearly reflected in what Khashan (1997: 11) summarized:

“The Arabs’ ineffective handling of the conflict with Israel jolted the masses who expected the use of a forthright military approach to recover Palestine. Instead of concentrating on Israel, Arab elites focused attention on other issues that included eliminating domestic opposition, violating the basic human rights of their populations, and involvement in inter-Arab disputes. The Arab leaders’ record on the developmental front was equally dismal. Some regimes toyed with socialism and adopted the single-party apparatus to propel modernization. Others, such as the Gulf rentier states, adopted the welfare state approach. In the second, apparently more successful, approach, only a veneer of modernity was accomplished. Resources were squandered on weapons and grandiose projects of little economic utility. Corruption and nepotism prevailed, and the concept of the state, never fully understood in the modern Middle East as a guardian and representative of individual and community interests, soon lost its lustre.” [27] 

As a conclusion, the emergence of the radical Islamic group emerged from the failure ideological and developmental atmosphere that pursued to alter the poorly political systems into their own formation. [28] 

Roy (1994: 85), a French political scientist, illustrated how those intellectuals can join the radical Islamic groups to which he pointed to them as the ‘lumpen intelligentsia’. [29] These intellectuals are with school and university degrees that are unable to find certain jobs that qualify with their expectations either on the governmental or industry sector. [30] Thus, it is clear that Oliver appears to under-evaluate the group’s motivations. Nonetheless, in spite of this simplification, Roy’s exploration yet provides a perception to comprehend a vital feature of political Islam.

According to Khashan (1997: 9), there are many authors on the international level that indicate these factors. Among them, there is the impact of the Gulf war, triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which was considered by the majority of the Muslims as a clash of Arab Muslims with the imperialist West. Also, there are many Arab states, including Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council states that stood aside the Western alliance; this move reflected the Arab ruling elites’ degradation to the Arab mass and their part as being the Western imperialists’ agencies. The Bosnia-Herzegovina war impact showed the pathetical aspects of the political Islam. The Muslim’s ethnic cleansing and Serb massacres does not seem to motivate the Western governments to take enough decisions to prevent the increasing Serb’s hostile. As a result, there is a deep-rooted belief that the West is irreconcilably aggressive against the Muslims in the world received a great enhancement between Arab Muslims. Therefore, fighting them is not to be endured but also to be urged. [31] 

As can be observed, Hoogvelt (1997) tries to explain the factors in the context of colonization and globalization aside from the psychological factors despite that her explanation is not clear yet. Nonetheless, it seems obvious that the latest globalization and regionalization trend in the global economy and the comparative marginalization for the Middle Eastern countries is formed from this trend and promotes the rise in significant of the political Islam. [32] 

According to Khashan (1997: 14), he also seems to give a significant idea about the rise of political Islam in the Middle East. He indicates that the funding and weapons’ sources are also considered significant factors for the rise of the political Islam and it materially backs them up. [33] He also added that Iran and Sudan, also referred to as “state sponsors’, are slightly limited as being often pointed to by the Western media. Sunni Muslims doubtfully observed the substantial financial assistance of the Shiite leadership in Iran. Iran had a little impact on radicals in the Arab East except for Hamas and Jihad in Palestine and Hizballah in Lebanon. Iran’s ability to impact these groups extends its legitimacy as much as it focused on the promotion of resistance procedures against Israel. [34] Furthermore, Khashan assures that the radical Islamic groups receive limited logistic funding from few countries in the Middle East. He further pointed to the propensity to expand the unjustifiably implications of the assistance and funding of those countries on the violence in the region. Then he follows a contrary view by indicating that foreign assistance to the Middle East has more power on the procession of Islamic radicalism. [35] Khashan mentioned that the American Central Intelligence Agency delivered different aids to the Islamic militants in Afghanistan during the Cold War with the Soviets. [36] Furthermore, the Islamic groups receive many assistance from the Westerns to which there are no less than fifty radical Islamic leaders who are seeking to political asylum in Europe and twelve in England only. He also indicates that the essential sources of weapons for the Islamic militants are most likely domestic. [37] 

Consequences of the Continuous Rise of Political Islam:

The return of the political Islam has proposed important issues on the local and international level. First, it creates a dangerous political threat for the West and their governments as well through a combination of publicity and violent processes for which security and terrorism issues are measured in this framework. Furthermore, some Western scholars such as Samuel Huntington consider it as an introduction to a huge clash of civilization with the West. Secondly, these groups cause dangerous national social and cultural suppression according to their understanding of their religion and violence against their enemies.

Political Islam totally rejects the West as well as their government’s legitimacy. The militant groups’ violent attacks do not target only governments, but also expands to reach civilian facilities. In an effort of deafening these militant groups, the West and the Islamic countries are cooperating together to achieve this goal. There are some Western scholars, such as William Pfaff and Samuel Huntington, who observe this problem in a more serious context. Huntington presented the rising of Islam as an indicator for “Civilization Clashes” to which Pfaff, in his book ‘The Wrath of Nations: Civilization and the Furies of Nationalism’ published in 1993, also agrees on Huntington’s view by indicating that “there are a good many people who think that the war between Communism and the West is about to be replaced by a war between the West and Muslims.” [38] 

Huntington (1996: 217) has a more radical and entrenched observation in history. He stated in his book that “the underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” He also assured that the historical fourteen hundred years proves his saying. He also added that Islam has been the only civilization that kept the West’s doubt. Therefore, according to Huntington, the West should contain the Islam itself and not the Islamic fundamentalism. [39] 

There are some opponents, such as Xiaodong Zhang, who criticized Huntington’s serious notion that could cause global clashes that are not necessary in the globalization stage by stating:

“Anyway, the Islamic threat is exaggerated unlimitedly. On the one hand, most rulers in the Middle Eastern states have been trying to utilize the Islamic threat for asking the financial and military aids from the West, and controlling the power and society. On the other hand, some people in the West want to find a new enemy to replace the former Soviet Union and communism, and to provide the basis for their own domestic and diplomatic policies.”

Zhang points to the fact that the power of the militant Islamic groups is actually very weak to face the West even though he confesses that the Islamic fundamentalism threatens the Middle East countries in general. He further added that these groups do not have a unified state neither shared programs, but nonetheless, they are in a mutual clash and accusation. In addition to this point, Khashan (1997: 21) adds that:

“Apart from regional realities, differences in religious interpretation and involvement in local politics impede the ability of transnational fundamentalist groups to work closely together. The bloody confrontations among Afghanistan’s fundamentalist groups illustrate the point.” [40] 

Shifting to another different aspect of the “Civilization Clashes” is what Zhang focused on by indicating that a civilization can be considered as a threat to another by either forcing one culture to another or by ethnocentrism. As an overall, the Islamic world centers on the protection and not offence against other civilizations.

Huntington (1996) specifically focuses on the meaning of ‘terrorism’ to which he attempts to convince that terrorism is an important tool for the Islamic world to fight the West and is not only a bypassing phenomenon. He adds that after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Islamic world had a “quasi war” against the West in which he stated that it is still a war by pointing to the huge number of people killed in the West compared to those killed in a real war in the Gulf. [41] 

A concept of a “state-sponsored terrorism” is shaped by Samuel Huntington’s in the sense that each Islamic world wages a quasi-war against the West based on this concept. Nonetheless, these waged attacks are most probably caused by its extremist fundamental groups who are not greeted even in their states. On the contrary, the question still remains under argument ‘are these groups sponsored by specific states?’. Hence, Samuel’s idea of quasi-war seems to be overstated in the meaning of ‘terrorism’.

Najjar (1998: 139) in his book ‘Islamic Fundamentalism and the Intellectuals: The Case of Naguib Mahfouz’ elaborate a live example of the socio-cultural suppression impersonated by the militant Islamic groups actions. The incident reflects this aspect with the incident of stabbing the Novel winner, the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, on the 14th of October 1994 right outside his house for an excuse of being apostasy and blasphemy. Afterward, a march was launched by Egyptian intellectuals to protest against those Muslims due to security fears. [42] Furthermore, Najjar examines and evaluates Mahfouz’s approach toward Islam through different studies that were conducted by Mahfouz showing that there aren’t many infidels as described and indicted by the radical Islamists. [43] Najjar then adds that Mahfouz’s outlook toward religion is elusive and vague because of his oblique style and described his novels to be imagery and parable. Finally, he describes Mahfouz “as a Muslim, raised in a religiously-oriented family and society, he certainly identifies with his own culture”. [44] 

However, most Muslims have no argument toward this outlook. Also, he adds that Islamic extremists go further away in applying the Islamic law, hence, leading to threating the intellectual integrity and creativity. [45] Additionally, he points to the serious problem of retreat from a vigorous civil society to which he defines this sort of socio-cultural threat in the following sentence:

“In recent years, Egypt and the rest of the Muslim world have been deluged with a large number of religious booklets and tapes, containing extremist fundamentalist ideas and teachings, dealing with restrictions on women, rejection of Western civilization, and the denunciation of the arts as products of infidelity. The woman is to stay at home. Her face is a blemish (‘awra) even in a picture or on a TV screen, and her voice is also a blemish, even if she is reciting the Quran. The cinema, TV, theatre and the camera are haram. All arts are haram: music is from the devil, and singing is a kind of effeminacy (takhannuth), acting, painting and photography are acts of kufr. The booklets are magnificently produced, and are distributed free or for a nominal price. They are written by authors who have no claim to religious knowledge; they are mediocrities, compared with men of religious learning.”  Share this: Facebook Facebook logo Twitter Twitter logo Reddit Reddit logo LinkedIn LinkedIn logo WhatsApp WhatsApp logo  

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