Islam, Islamism & Muslimism

Ahmed Abou Hussein –  August 24, 2013 – Domestic Policy – Research Turkey

 Islam has been the main focus of many analysts and politicians in recent history. This fourteen centuries old religion has changed the world, and even today, Islam still stirs many questions in regards to its compatibility with democracy and liberalism. In recent years and with emergence of “Arab Awakening” Islam has been put under further scrutiny. However, in recent years we find that many people including Muslims themselves confuse Islam with “Islamism” and the political behavior of Muslims.

Struggling with Islamism

Islamism is perhaps the most dangerous political ideology that Islam faces. It is the Islamists’ understanding of Islam, in which they believe it is applicable to all people around the world regardless of their different socio-economic conditions. It has by far and large, created a gap between ordinary Muslims and those who call themselves “Islamists.” The notion that someone is more Muslim than another because of his or hers political ideology is something that deserves more studying especially these days. As a former Islamist and Ultraconservative, I can simply believe that “Islamism” is the capability of hijacking Islam in the name of creating an “Islamo-utopian” society and making God a campaigner for your cause. It is simply using Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and even God to propagate political interests instead of using politics to serve God, Islam, and the entire humanity.

I remember what drew me to the rhetoric of Islamists is the identity distortion I felt as an Egyptian during Mubarak’s era. I believe that what drew the founders of the greatest Islamist organization in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, one must understand that some Islamists’ choice of choosing this track of life is out of a sincere cry to find one’s identity. Islamism like everything else has two interpretations, one is non-violent and the other one is violent. I was personally lucky to be part of a peaceful discourse. However, I was introduced to several feelings that perhaps endangered my human spirit. The first is the sense of collectiveness against the other. The other is not necessarily a non-Muslim; on the contrary, it could be a Muslim or even a family member. A sense of “us and them” takes over. Later, you de-Islamize your opposition and then you dehumanize them. This leads to the belief that you are somehow superior to others. You are probably saved, while they are not. You are a soldier (violent or non-violent) of Allah, while the others are the soldiers of evil. You start to see Islam from political lenses – everything in the Quran is about Islamism and against other political ideologies.  However, it was a normal thing that many people got absorbed in the late 90’s wave of Islamism. Islamists were everywhere; they were in the slums, mosques, clubs, schools, television, etc. They were also fought against the state, which we all hated; this gave them more legitimacy. They always appeared where the state was short. After the 1992 earthquake many Egyptians were devastated and if it were not for the Islamists aid, many people would have died out of despair.

I had to get out of Islamism because I was not raised to hate, but rather to love and unconditionally.  It was a shock for me that most of my group believed, and what many Islamists, such as Hamas, prepare for–one of the final signs of judgment day is the complete slaughter of Jews, in which stones and trees are going to call upon the servants of God, Muslims, to kill the Jew hiding behind it! This is when it started to hit me Islamism has hijacked Islam and if you don’t believe in what the Islamists say, then you are out of Islam; you are not a real Muslim. Another element that I started questioning was the Islamist call for a Caliphate that will rule the world. “Islam will rule the world” Islamists used to preach. This notion of world domination is quite understandable as a human nature – look at the history of Britain, Germany, and even the United States. When I became older I came to the understanding that it wasn’t a religion that is going to take over the world, but rather a political ideology called Islamism.

A Muslim not an Islamist

Going back to the Quran was my escape. I rejected Islamism from its naming. He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah! He is your Protector – the Best to protect and the Best to help!” (Quran, Yusuf Ali translation, the pilgrimage: 78). By the power of this verse, I was liberated; I am a Muslim not an Islamist and my path is clear with no hardships. My political ideology was up to me and I have chosen to be a social-liberal, who holds Islam’s commandments with respect. I understood that perhaps Islamism is the most dangerous political ideology to Islam because it takes over Islam and from Islam it portrays itself as infallible.

We Muslims have a duty of self-criticism for allowing Islamism to take over Islam. Nor do I absolve my own self (of blame): the (human) soul is certainly prone to evil, unless my Lord do bestow His Mercy: but surely my Lord is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran, Yusuf Ali translation, Joseph: 53). It also came clear to me that the notion to politicize Islam is just equivalent to the same notion of politicizing Christianity or Judaism.

Muslimism, a door for Islamism

A country such as Turkey is a great model on how Islam can coexist in a country on a quest for a liberal democracy. Turkey remains a beacon of this notion. However, Turkey too is endangered by another serious notion, which Mustafa Akyol accurately names- “Muslimism.” Muslims is the unconditional sympathy with Islamists around the world, something that is quite evident in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speeches as well as actions. This notion of Muslimism is also spreading among the young conservatives, which creates a fertile ground for Islamism. This unconditional sympathy towards Islamists creates an unreal connection between being a Muslim and siding with injustice.

Islam is a very powerful religion not only on those who follow it, but also on those who get affected by it, which is the rest of the world. Therefore, it is very necessary for Muslims around the world to uphold Islam as it is without mixing it with Islamism. Islamism endangers Islam more than any other threat in the world. It distorts the message of God and creates societies that are entangled in the Middle Ages.

Ahmed Abou Hussein, Deputy Editor, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey)

Please cite this publication as follows: Hussein, Ahmed Abou (August, 2013), “Islam, Islamism and Muslimism”, Vol. II, Issue 6, pp.62-65, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. ( )