Abid Ullah Jan
According to the neo-cons ideology - embraced by the warlords in Washington and the neo-mods of Islam - Muslims are in search of their past glory. In their view, Islam was a religion of success, a winners? religion. Proponents of this theory make the world believe that Muslims are divided because of their perceptions, and the methodology they propose for regaining the past glory.
The trauma of Muslims history is said to have begun with Napoleon?s landing in Alexandria. It is argued that there have been three main responses to this trauma: “secularism, which means openly learning from the West and reducing Islam to the private sphere; reformism, which means appropriating from the West, saying that the West really derives its strength by stealing from Muslims, therefore Muslims may take back from them, a middle ground; and Islamism, which stressed a return to Islamic ways but in fact takes hugely and covertly from the West - without wanting to, perhaps, but still very much doing so."
Interestingly, the so considered, as responses, are actually some of the basic causes of this trauma. The beginning of Muslims outward downfall actually started in 1492, long before Napoleon?s landing in Egypt, when the Amir of Granada, the capital of Muslim-ruled Spain, agreed to a treaty with King Ferdinand & Queen Isabella: that if the Muslims were to submit to the laws of the Church, all of their homes, mosques, madrassas, and institutions of education and learning would be preserved and protected. This was the beginning of Muslims? shifting their focus and trust from where it should have been. Not surprisingly, within 15 years, every mosque was destroyed, libraries were burnt, volumes of Islamic literature were lost forever, houses were ransacked, Muslim women were raped, and entire families were burnt at the stake for not professing the Catholic faith, in what is now called the Inquisition!
Similarly, the division among Muslims is not a recent phenomenon. It is not the result of responses to the so-called trauma. It is part of the overall strategy to keep Muslims traumatized and weak. In the same way, secularism is not a response to the trauma. This is a disease spread among Muslims, for what Daniel Pipes clearly calls “reducing Islam to the private sphere.” Muslims have seen over 500 years of secular rule, and they are now reaping its rotten fruits.
What the neo-cons call Islamism, and define as “an ideology that demands man’s complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam", is actually Islam. Living by Islam, which also includes adherence to the sacred law, is one of the basic obligations that make one a Muslim, not an Islamist.
To the contrary, an Islamist could either be a Muslim or a non-Muslim because they follow an ideology to confront the fundamentals of Islam as it is. Islamism thus is a) the promotion of artificial divisions among Muslims; b) blindly following terminologies, theories, definitions, and positions, outlined by non-Muslims for Muslims; and c) turning Islam - a way of life - into a religion of rituals, and an ideology for a compartmentalized life. Islamism is imbued with a deep antagonism towards Muslims, and has a particular affinity towards the Western promoters of a war within Islam.
There is no denying the fact that some Muslims are taking extreme positions in their interpretation and practice of Islam. But calling them Islamists and their practice as Islamism does not make any sense at all, as long as they are not doing so for obvious personal interests and worldly gains. Even then, there is no place for classifying Islam for what a fraction of Muslims might be practicing. Their practice, when proved against the injunctions of the Qur?an and Sunnah, can be called bidaa, based on grave misconceptions, not bad intentions. They would stand guilty before Allah, but they are not guilty of Islamism as defined in the Western circles.
The Suffixing of Islam
We need to understand the “-ism” and “ists” in simple words before we apply these suffixes to the complex issues. Margaret H. Parkinson, an expatriate New Zealander associated with Dunedin Methodists, has defined “ists” and “-ism” in a beautiful way. She gave the example of the enormous stretches of tulip fields, spreading like a carpet with rows of different colors. There are the occasional yellow tulip scattered among the red or stray pinks and reds among the yellows - apparently “out of sync.”
These stray colors are invisible until we focus and specifically look for them. The question that strikes the mind is: Were they accidents or simply “the way things are”? It is very easy to think of differences as mistakes, and even crimes, when we further zoom into some serious issues. A yellow tulip among a sea of red? Margaret says: “When reds are majority we tend to ignore yellows, call them weeds and pluck them out, or try to change them to red. Such human tendencies are referred to as ISMs and I call the people suffering from them ISTS.”
Being oblivious to the reality and being influenced by the blitz of the Western “mainstream” media we make similar judgments in the life and death matters - such as calling violent reaction and resistance as jihad when the USA wants to dislodge the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, but when others try to dislodge the USA from Afghanistan and Iraq, it becomes Jihadism.
Any “ism”, thus, is based on the ideology of considering others with different opinions as weeds to be plucked out. Forcing Muslims to think of the different among them - particularly those, who look at the USA foreign policies with an unfavorable perspective to Washington - as weeds to be labeled as “fundamentalists,” “extremists,” “radicals,” “zealots,” and terrorists” and plucked out through any possible means.
This is an “-ism,” that could be rightly called “Islamism” because it is proudly promotes in the name of a different Islam - “moderate,” “progressive,” “liberal,” “civil,” “democratic Islam.” Those who proclaim to belong to these groups of pluckers deserve to be called Islamists, because they proudly wear badges of “moderate” and other forms of Islam, promoted by the USA and its allies, for the obvious worldly gains. They are also the promoters of labels for other Muslims who reject such classifications and detest the labels put on them.
The simple reason for the Islam-bashers? promoting their Muslim mercenaries in a “war within Islam” as “moderates”, and labeling other Muslims as Islamists, and their adherence to the core message of Islam as Islamism, is that they do not want Islam to challenge the status quo. Islam as a socio-politico, and religio-economic whole is not acceptable. In their view “Islamism turns the bits and pieces within Islam that deal with politics, economics, and military affairs into a sustained and systematic program.”  Thus, the sustained and systematic alternative to the modern forms of tyranny is the threat.
They realize that “the bits and pieces” within Islam remain bits and pieces, not Islam, until applied and implemented as a whole. When the New York Times carries a margin to margin headline that reads “Red Menace is Gone but Here?s Islam,” it does not say Islamism. It says Islam. It makes little difference when, for silencing Muslim analysts who argue that the war on Islam is occurring, presentations are twisted with the argument: “No! No! we are only against Islamism, and political Islam.”
All of these spin doctors understand that Islam is not an “ism”, but definitely a threat to the systematic injustice and oppression around the globe. That?s why they have to promote Islamism, and streamline it through Islamists - the neo-mods of Islam - for the purpose of weakening Islam and working as a secular bulwarks to check Islam from undermining the foundations of global tyranny.
What is blamed on Muslims is exactly what is practiced by the West-sponsored-Islamists called “moderates.” They claim the “fundamentalists” offer “a way of approaching and controlling state power.” They claim the “extremists” rely “on state power for coercive purposes.” The hypothetical fear to scare people of a future threat is actually in operation before our eyes. We only need to open eyes and see who is controlling state power in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria and so on, and who is relying on state power for coercive purposes?
Islamism is, in other words, yet another unexposed 21st century radical utopian scheme of the neo-cons. Its success so far can be judged from the fact that with every mention of the word “Islamist,” leaders of some gun-toting Islamic movement come to mind, not the American puppets imposed on Muslims in country after country. The reality, however, is exactly the opposite of what we perceive.
Daniel Pipes claims that Islamism looks forward to “a total transformation of traditional Islam.” See who is asking for total transformation of Islam - the non-violent Islamic movements or the neo-mods of Islam? Islamic movements want a return to the straight path, without undue innovations for pleasing others. Thus even by Pipes? standards, the neo-mods ("moderates,” et al) are Islamists. The rest are Muslims looking forward only to implementation of Islam, without any unnecessary transformation and reinterpretation for worldly gains alone.
Islamism as the Islam-bashers present it is not an ideology that deals with the problems of “urban living, of working women and others at the cutting edge, and not the traditional concerns of farmers.” Or, as Olivier Roy, the French scholar, puts it, “rather than a reaction against the modernization of Muslim societies, Islamism is a product of it.”
The Muslims? desire to live by Islam in a free Islamic State is a reaction to the problems due to secularism, materialism, and tyrannies imposed on them in the name of democracy and liberation. They do not want to live by Islamism, under the rule of Islamists like Musharraf, who periodically come out with new acceptable-to-Washington concepts of Islam. Islamic movements are a reaction to demoralization, stagnation and the Muslim societies? reeling under oppression.
Islamism, on the other hand, is actually a reaction of the Islam-bashers to these Islamic movements. Islamism is neither a medieval program of Muslims, nor does it respond to the stress and strains of the twentieth century. Islamism is the promotion of divisions among Muslims, and of “war within Islam”, with the help of neo-mods of Islam, who could appropriately be labeled Islamists, bent upon, in Margaret?s terms, plucking the different tulips out, or changing all of them to red.
The reason more and more educated people join Islamic movements is that they have seen both faces of the world. Pipes admits that the Islamic movement “is led by capable people coping with the rough and tumble of modern life?. I am always fascinated to note how many Islamist leaders (for example in Turkey and Jordan) are engineers.” They join the movement for implementing Islam. Islamism is the label given to their struggle by those working to undermine Islam, and to discredit, isolate and demonize the movement for living by Islam. Islamism and the Islamic movement are thus antithetical to each other.
Religion, “-ism”, and Islam stand clearly from each other. Islam is not a religion like Judaism and Christianity, that could be limited to rituals alone. Nor are the Islamic movements based on some utopian ideology like fascism and Marxism. The proof lies in Daniel Pipes testimony: “The prophet Muhammad fled the city of Mecca in A.D. 622. By 630, only eight years later, he was back in Mecca, now as ruler. The Muslims began as an obscure group in Arabia and within a century ruled a territory from Spain to India. In the year 1000, say, Islam was on top no matter what index of worldly success one looks at - health, wealth, literacy, culture, power.”
Does anyone see utopia in the mission of Islamic movements, when looked in the light of this statement from an arch enemy of Islam? Utopia is something hypothetical, imaginary, and an impossible scheme. What the recently galvanized movement among Muslims aim for has a successfully implemented precedent, which no one can deny.
Does anyone see in the above mentioned statement from Daniel Pipes that the paths of faith and power are parted in Islam? Note the words “ruler” and “ruled” in the above statement. Who can think of ruling for centuries without power? Also note the list, “health, wealth, literacy, culture and power.” A people could only be on top in all these fields if they had taken and implemented Islam as a whole, and not practiced in bits and pieces, as suggested by Pipes in another place to contradict himself and undermine the cause of his “moderate” comrades.
Islamism, as embraced by the likes of Musharraf, is a global affliction whose victims count peoples of almost all religions and societies. Non-Muslims are losing their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to it, because they are being convinced that - other than the much-lied-about weapons of mass destruction - they are also fighting a war against ideas of mass destruction in the Muslim world. They are on a mission to “humanise” Muslims. Islamists in the garb of “moderates” are fully backing the warlords in Washington, to promote the myth that any end to USA occupations, without installing secular puppets and imposing Islam-free constitutions, will pave the way for the success of Islamic movements.
Islamism is perhaps the most hidden, misunderstood, vibrant and coherent ideological movement in the world today. Muslims and non-Muslims must cooperate to understand the phenomenon, and identify the real culprits - neo-cons, and their fellow Islamists known as “moderate” - before battling this scourge.
1. All Muslims who call themselves “moderates,” “enlightened moderates,” “liberals,” or “progressive” Muslims, mostly to make themselves presentable and acceptable in the Western world, or for some other personal gains - ignoring the fact that moderation is the basic requirement of Islam ? are here called “neo-mods”. A Muslim cannot be a Muslim without being moderate. A true Muslim does not need a badge for moderation. He/she is moderate by default.
2. Daniel Pipes, “Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 30, 1998 http://www.danielpipes.org/article/954
3. Ibid. Pipes, “Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.”
4. Ibid. Pipes, “Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.”
5. Ibid. Pipes, “Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.” All other quotes from Pipes are taken from the same write up, unless mentioned otherwise.
Abid Ullah Jan is the author of A war on Islam? His latest book, The End of Democracy, was released in Canada in 2003.
Article courtesy of ICSSA