The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World

Posted in Broader Middle East | 17-Jun-08 | Author: Mohammed Ayoob| Source: Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy

The main thrust of the book and of this paper is to challenge several assumptions commonly prevalent in much of the analysis of political Islam. These include the following: (a) There is something unique in Islam that precludes separation between religion and state, and that religion dictates political action in Muslim countries. (b) Political Islam like Islam itself is a monolithic phenomenon and, therefore, by definition a universal or transnational occurrence largely independent of particular social and political contexts in which Islamist groups and parties operate. (c) Islamists are single-minded fanatics who are obsessed with implementing the sharia and enforcing God's sovereignty and are, therefore, incapable of making political compromises or building coalitions with other political forces/parties. (d) Islamist political formations are by definition anti-democratic because belief in God's sovereignty precludes accepting the notion of popular sovereignty; at best they are likely to use democracy in an instrumentalist fashion to come to power, but once in power they are likely to jettison the democratic system in order to perpetuate their rule thus proving true the dictum that Islamists are committed to "one person, one vote, one time". (e) Political Islam is inherently violent or, at the very least, predisposes its followers to undertake unconstitutional and extra-legal activity to achieve their "divinely sanctioned" objectives.

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