Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Tahir Gora


Don't Confuse Islam With Islamism

Posted: 05/26/2013 3:31 pm

It's hard for many to understand the difference between Islam and Islamism. Traditional Muslim scholars don't agree with the term Islamism. They argue that Islam should be the only version of Muslims. The critics of Islam, however, consider the whole body of Islam as Islamism and Muslims as Islamists.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, a renowned scholar on matters of extremist Islam and the founder of Middle East Forum, doesn't agree with either of above two types, traditional Islamic scholars and harsh critics of Islam. He clearly distinguishes Islamism from Islam. He did so recently in Mississauga while addressing a group of people in a Muslim Committee against Antisemitism through the Canadian Thinkers' Forum, a think tank founded by progressive Muslims.

Pipes repeated the notion that Islam is a religion like any religion that may have controversial literalist outlines as well as spiritual aspects. But, unfortunately, when groups of Muslims want to follow and impose those controversial literalist outlines over the spiritual aspects, the religion of Islam takes a turn toward Islamism and the adherents of that ideology become Islamists.

He is right.

For instance, Abul A'la Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-i-Islami in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South East Asia (a home to over 700 million Muslims), is the classic example of an Islamist. He exhibits his Islamism in such words: "Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the Earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam.... Islam requires the Earth -- not just a portion, but the whole planet .... the objective of the Islamic ' jihād' is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system".

The legacy of Maududi's extremist ideas is not confined to Jamaat-i-Islami only. One can witness thousands and thousands of internet sites and social media websites that exhibit Islamism in our modern times day and night. There's even a Facebook site called "Convert Facebook into Islamic Book." This may sound funny, but for Islamists, who are followers of Islamism, it is a serious wish.

A further example: Another so-called modern Islamic Imam from Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Assim Al-Hakeem, answers questions on his website. One of the questions he received was about how Muslims should treat non-Muslims maids.

The question was: "I have a christian filipino maid in my house..wanted to ask two questions...firstly, are we allowed to keep a non-muslim maid in the house and secondly, should i make her cover her head in front of my husband since she is a christian??"

The Sheikh answered: "1- It is permissible to have a non-Muslim in the house though it is not recommended. 2- Yes, she must cover."

Such examples clearly reveal how much Islamism has penetrated the Muslim Diaspora around the globe.

A question arises in the given scenario: Are there enough moderate Muslims on the other side in order to counter Islamism and Islamists?

The answer is: Not yet.

"But this is the only solution to [the] political movement of Islamism," Dr. Pipes said. "As the members of Muslim community have stood up by themselves in order to combat Antisemitism, this is how Islamism could be defeated."

He is right again.

More and more progressive moderate Muslims need to come to the fore in order to defeat Islamism and make Islam separate from the politics.

Loading Slideshow...
  • 610

    Muhammad experiences a vision in a cave, which he and his followers will attribute to divine intervention. The communications from God, which continue for two more decades, are thought to delineate a path toward salvation -- "the sharia." (Photo: A Muslim pilgrim prays at the Hiraa cave on Noor mountain late on Nov. 13, 2010 as some 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims descend on the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj or pilgrimage. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while praying in the cave.)

  • 632

    Muhammad's death sets off a succession crisis. The dispute will eventually widen into a full-blown schism between groups known as Sunnis and Shiites. (Photo: A Muslim woman prays in the courtyard of the Prophet Muhammad Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Medina on Nov. 13, 2009. Muhammad is buried in Medina's landmark mosque, which is Islam's second holiest shrine after Mecca.)

  • 632-51

    The revelations voiced by Muhammad are systematically written down for the first time. Several supposedly aberrant versions of the Quran are then incinerated on the orders of Caliph Uthman. (Photo: A Pakistani girl reads verses from the Quran while attending her daily madrassa, or Islamic school, set up in a local mosque on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, April 11, 2012.)

  • 750-62

    Revolutionaries overthrow the dynasty that has come to control the Muslim world, in the hope of restoring perfect Islamic justice on earth. Another dynasty assumes power instead. The caliphate's center of gravity shifts from Damascus to a purpose-built capital known as 'the City of Peace' - or Baghdad. (Photo: Iraqi worshippers perform their Friday prayers in a mosque in Baghdad's Shiite suburb of Sadr City on May 4, 2012.)

  • 760s-800s

    Caliphs in search of political legitimacy encourage scholars based around Medina and Baghdad to develop legal principles to supplement the Quran's very limited number of rules. The scholars oblige, drawing on sources ranging from Arab tradition and Persian custom to Greek philosophy. (Photo: An Indonesian Muslim student reads from an academic religious book in an Islamic course at Al-Azhar mosque in the old city of Cairo on Dec. 4, 2011. Al-Azhar mosque, which was developed into one of the oldest Islamic universities, pays special attention to the Quranic sciences and traditions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and all the modern fields of science.)

  • 840s-900s

    Iraqi scholars attempt for the first time to establish and document precisely which oral traditions about Muhammad (<em>hadiths</em>) are authentic. Jurists use the resulting compilations to re-interpret the sharia. (Photo: Tilings of a hadith on a wall in Nishapur, Iran.)

  • 1000s -1100s

    Five distinct bodies of legal thought become dominant, and alternative ways of understanding the sharia are sidelined. (Photo: A masked and hooded person canes Indonesian food seller Murni Amris for violating Islamic sharia law outside a mosque in Jantho, Aceh province, on Oct. 1, 2010. Two women were caned in Indonesia's staunchly Muslim Aceh province for selling food during the fasting hour of Ramadan, an official said.)

  • 1218-58

    An army led by Genghis Khan invades the Muslim world through what is now northern Pakistan, and one of his grandsons renews the onslaught four decades later. Baghdad falls into Mongol hands, and the city's last caliph is rolled into a carpet and trampled to death. Despair and chaos ensue.

  • Early 1300s

    In response to the ongoing Mongol threat, new ideas about the sharia proliferate. Some are defensive and others are aggressive, but most concern themselves more with the mystical search for God than with questions of compulsion and force. (Photo: Mongol army.)

  • 1453

    The Ottomans capture Constantinople. Successive sultans assert control over their expanding empire by trying to summarize God's law in statutory form - an innovation that early Muslims would have considered heretical. (Photo: Mehmed II entering Constantinople.)

  • 1857-8

    The British suppress a major rebellion against their rule over India, intensifying the imperialist ambitions of several European powers. In response, Muslims increasingly associate the sharia with self-determination, as national and religious identities fuse. (Photo: Captain William Hodson captured the King of Delhi during the "Indian Mutiny" or First war of Indian Independence.)

  • 1920s

    A clan known as the Saudis seize control of the Arabian peninsula after a brutal civil war. Its leaders allow religious scholars to enforce a particularly harsh brand of Islamic law. (Photo: Saudi women stand outside a gift shop on Feb. 14, 2012 in the capital Riyadh, where open celebration of Valentine's Day is officially banned along with the desert kingdom's strict Islamic laws.)

  • 1970s

    Colonel Gaddafi becomes the first ruler since Ottoman times to enact statutes authorizing the punishment of Islamic crimes. A coup in Pakistan, a revolution in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan kick off an era of radicalization that will mean he is not the last. (Photo: President Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt (right) with the Leader of the Libyan Revolution, Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1969.)

  • 1981

    Extremists assassinate Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. They object to his willingness to make peace with Israel, and justify the killing by citing 14th century legal opinions about the Mongol invasions. (Photo: An undated picture shows late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (L) waving to a crowd as Vice-President Hosni Mubarak (R) laughs beside him standing in a convertible vehicle. Mubarak came to office as Egypts fourth president after late President Anwar Sadat was slained by a group of military Islamist fundamentalists with allegiance to the Al-Jihad during a military parade Oct. 6, 1981.)

  • 1983

    A year on from an Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Shiite fighters kill hundreds of foreign soldiers with the first ever suicide bomb. Some scholars formulate new legal theories to validate the tactic retrospectively. (Photo: Hezbollah fighters parade during a ceremony organized by the militant Shiite Muslim group on the occasion of Martyr's Day in the southern suburbs of Beirut Nov. 11, 2009.)

  • 1989

    Ayatollah Khomeini demands that "The Satanic Verses" author Salman Rushdie be killed for blasphemy -- a sin for which the Quran itself mandates no penalty. (Photo: A veiled Iranian woman walks past a mural depicting Iranian late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, painted on the wall of the former US Embassy, in Tehran, Iran, where Iranian militant students seized in November 1979.)

  • Today

    In the aftermath of 9/11, hardliners continue to insist that Islamic jurisprudence is timeless. History continues to prove them wrong. (Photo: In this Friday, May 25, 2012 photo, Muslim hardliners of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) hold banners during a protest against Lady Gaga in Jakarta, Indonesia. As the U.S. pop star canceled her sold out concert in Jakarta over security concerns after Muslim hardliners threatened to use violence against her, many started to question the extremists' double standard towards the raunchy <em>dangdut</em> shows performed almost every night by young Indonesian women who turn up everywhere from smokey bars and ritzy nightclubs to weddings and even circumcisions. Dangdut is the most popular music among lower class people in Indonesia.)


Follow Tahir Gora on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TahirGora