Creating an Islamic state under the umbrella of Islamic laws or Shariah in all formats is the desire of millions Muslims around the world and the efforts to create an Islamic state is generally known as Political Islam. It is also more commonly known as Islamic fundamentalism in West and is a hot mainstream phenomenon in current world affairs.
The Founders of Political Islam are, Mawlana Abu Ala Al-Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-Banna an Egyptian who founded Muslim Brotherhood with the aim of creating a state under Islamic law or Shariah. Their famous vision and slogan was that Islam is the solution.
What led Islamists for creation of an Islamic state is due to the fact that they assumes Muslims had a glorified past with governmental, technological, social and cultural advancement, but today they live with the mercy of West in many aspects. The reason behind is that Muslims lost the path of Islamic laws and they can get back their past glory if they implement true Islamic divine laws.
Islamic governments in Afghanistan during Taliban’s period, Zia-Ul-haq’s period in Pakistan and in Iran have emerged under the shadow of Shariah and Islamic fundamentals. In addition, many Islamist presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians have been elected in counties like Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Pakistan.
Adherents of Political Islam have not only challenged West but also Muslim countries with security concerns like Taliban in Afghanistan, TTP in Pakistan and Al-Qaeda as a threat to West which have done huge attacks like 9/11. On the other hand, many governments have appealed Islam for their legitimacy or to mobilize support for their policies. For instance, in Pakistan, Saudi and Iran.
Political Islam is a contemporary resurgence of Islamic values in public and private life. Islam according to Islamists is considered as an alternative system of government against Western system and ideologies of democracy, capitalism, socialism and it is demonstrated by them as sole solution for their glory and success.
Events that comes under shadow of Political Islam are creation of Pakistan in 1947, Arab-Israel wars of 1947, 1956, 1967, creation of Jammat-I-Islami by Mawlana Abu Ala Al-Mawdudi, 1979 Iranian revolution. In addition, in mid-2000’s Islamists groups became part of mainstream politics in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait.
1979 Iranian revolution was the event when US strong ally Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown and government with slogan of Islam came by Ayatollah Khomeini, so political Islam sharply got US-West attention.
The turning point where Political Islam transformed from national to a transnational form was Soviet’s intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, where freedom fighters came from different countries across the globe, specifically Muslims countries including Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc.
Now, concerns have risen between conflict of Western democracy and Muslim faith of Islamism. The prior perceives Political Islam as a threat to democracy and their stability therefore they goes to tackle it in different parts like in Iran, Palestine and many Muslim countries but it would/have led to retaliation, revenge or even political confrontation as we have observed it in the shape of Al-Qaeda. Some even thinks that Islamic movements are inherently violent and threat to their security.
Moreover, in literature post 2000’s era is considered as an era of religions’ significance and confrontation in international politics. Specifically, between Islam and West. This idea was termed as “Clash of Civilization” by Samuel Huntington. Religious and cultural significance have also raised in international arena due to globalization and its effects.
Islamists in current context assumes that they lost their identity (Islamic identity) because various Muslim states believes in Western democracy, following its system of government, banking, social and cultural. Therefore, today they are concerned about their identity, socio-cultural and religious phenomena’s.
Threat that West feels from Political Islam is religious extremism which is not the way behind what founders of Political Islam dictated, but they considers it as extremism/terrorism. Those groups that are performing terrorist ends are not people behind that notion.
The aims of such groups can be political and economic as much as they are religious. Like Hamas in Palestine was creation against Israel or Mujahedeen in Afghanistan was creation of US for its political gain with support of Pakistan.
There are two opposite interpretation of such ideas, to some such movements or groups are terrorist, but for others they are freedom fighters. Like, Hamas is considered as freedom fighters for Palestinians but for Israeli’s they are terrorist, therefore the line between national liberation, Political Islam and terrorism is always uncertain.
Jocelyne Cesari who is senior fellow at Georgetown Berkeley Center expresses her view in such wordings about the spectrum of incorporation of religion and politics which has led to instability between West and Muslims that,
“Relationship between state and religion is fundamental in explaining social instability or political violence”.
In her idea, “Islam is not sole issue out there rather inclusion of religion with politics is main cause for destabilization or instability”.
She further explains that we need not to reform Islam or in other words, Islam does not need reforms because what we discuss under political Islam is actually the outcome of reforms or modernization. A proper way we need is better understanding of Islam and its basics.
So what West or any entity thinks about Political Islam is due to vacuum of their knowledge about it or in some way it might be due to number of groups and individuals those represents Islam with different interpretation to the world with their extremist policies like killing innocent civilians, suicide blasts, bombs and other means which are used for their political or economic gains.
Such acts are strongly prohibited in Islam and people behind it do not represent Muslims as a whole. In fact, if West wants to Co-exist peacefully with Muslims than the earlier needs to accept the reality that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony with no existence of violence and terrorism.
*Zabihullah, MPhil Scholar of International Relations at Iqra University Islamabad. Writes on Asian politics, PAK-AFGHAN relations and contemporary international issues.