Political Islam: Between Thought and Reality

Political Islam: Between Thought and Reality

  • 14 May 2014

Many newspapers and political analyses talk about a phenomenon termed ‘political Islam.’ What is this movement? What are its distinguishing features? When did it appear in the modern Arab world? How has it evolved since the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt, to the present day? Some researchers assert that political Islam groups are “those which do not differentiate in their perceptions and practices between religion and politics, and in doing so they politicize religion and ‘religionize’ politics.” Political Islamic groups in most countries have many characteristics, perhaps the most notable being:

1. They give priority to the quest for their own version of power.

2. They reject the Western political and legal systems, and do not recognize the principle of the nation state, instead proposing the establishment of the ‘Caliphate’ or the ‘Islamic system.’

3. They give particular priority to the establishment of parties and organizations based on ideology derived from a partisan study of Islam and their interpretation of its history, teachings, texts and jurisprudence.

This lecture discusses the reasons behind the spread of this phenomenon in contemporary Arab society and the roots of political Islam in the 19th  and 20th  centuries, with brief mention of Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Sheikh Muhammad Abduh and Sheikh Rashid Rida. In addition, there is an examination of the Muslim Brotherhood and competing groups such as the Salafists, Hizb ut-Tahrir and political Shia parties, among others. The lecture will also cover in some detail the characteristics of political Islamic parties, such as their ideological commonality, collective associations, secrecy, maneuverability and discourses, as well as Islam itself as an ideology. This examination will include the evolution of political Islam and its spread between 1928 and 2012 during the periods of colonialism, Nasserism, and the presidential regimes of Sadat and Mubarak, as well as a look at the reach of political Islam to the rest of the Arab Gulf region, with reference to the events in Sudan and the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Despite the spread of political Islam, it has fallen short of what can be considered a comprehensive and profound Islamic renaissance, and neither has it shown itself to be a mature response to the challenges of development and societal modernization in the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood have had exceptional opportunities in Sudan and Egypt to tackle such challenges but did not succeed. The struggle with political Islam and its complexities depends largely on raising the awareness of the Arab people, in particular strengthening education and mainstream religious culture, promoting understanding and tolerance, avoiding exclusion, and enhancing political and economic life in general. Finally, addressing the risks of this movement is the responsibility of both people and governments.

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LECTURER

Wednesday 14 May 2014

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Wednesday 14 May 2014

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