RECOMMENDED READING: “How To Understand Islamism: Read What its Leaders Really Say”


Israeli analyst Barry Rubin has written a highly useful analysis of Islamism titled “How to Understand Islamism: Read What its Leaders Really Say. The article begins:

JUNE 13, 2013 To read Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1984 book, Islamic Education and Hasan al-Bana, is to get an Islamic education. Nobody should be allowed to talk about Islam or political Islamism without having read this or similar texts. Just as Marx claimed in the ‘Communist Manifesto’ for his movement, the Islamists, too, disdain to conceal their aims. Yet those who don’t read their actual texts, speeches, and debates but only their public relations’ misinformation know nothing.

It’s easy to see why al-Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today, the spiritual guide behind Egypt’s Islamist revolution. He knows how to express his ideas clearly and persuasively. Here is his depiction of the Muslim world before the rise of revolutionary Islamism to power and prominence: ‘

’Just imagine a waste land which has no sign of leaf or tulip or hyacinth far and wide, but which blossoms forth immediately with the first sprinkle of the rains of blessing, and fields of flowers begin to bloom. Lifeblood starts circulating in its lifeless body…..

‘The condition of the Muslim nation was like a wasteland in the middle of the fourteenth century Hijri (mid-nineteenth century). The pillars of caliphate had broken which was the last display of unity under the fiag of Islamic belief. Islamic countries were breathing their last under the talons of capitalist countries like Britain, France and others, so much so that Holland, whose population was [small]dominating over the ten million strong population of Indonesia with the help of force and weapon. It had spoilt the face of Islamic decrees and putting Quran behind was busily engaged in its disrespect. Blind imitation of self-made Western laws and appreciation of foreign values had set over the lives of Muslims. The youths and lovers of new culture who were bearers of the so-called modern culture were particular victims of this. Western domination upon the field of education and means of communication was producing heaps of Westernized `Khan Bahadur’ (honorable people) whose names were no doubt Islamic but brains were West-bred.’’

There is a huge amount to analyze in this passage. Notice his different angle on what for the Western author would be a tale of Western imperialism and on the technological and organizational backwardness of Muslim peoples. Al-Qaradawi does not put the emphasis on Western strength or even injustice but on Muslim weakness. He does not flinch from facing the humiliations of the situation. He promises–as the Arab nationalists did sixty years ago–that his doctrine will bring rapid development and tremendous power. Like Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once said, al-Qaradawi pledges to the West, ‘’We will bury you.’ Islamism is a formula to turn inferiority into superiority, to make the Muslim world number one in the world. It uses religion and is formed by key themes in Islam but ultimately it has nothing to do with religion as such. This is a political movement.

Read the rest here.

 Last month, we recommended another article on the subject of Islamism written by Daniel Pipes. As we wrote then: 

As made clear in our FAQ, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch was created as part of an ongoing effort to track and an analyze the activities of the Global Muslim Brotherhood that we define as “global network of individuals and organizations that developed as Muslim Brotherhood members dispersed to other countries while fleeing the periodic crackdowns on the organization in Egypt.” The GMBDW considers the Muslim Brotherhood, in all its manifestations, to be both the wellspring as well the most important ongoing influence on Islamism in the world today. Therefore, in line with what Dr. Pipes has written, we want to reassert that the GMBDW also makes the distinction between Islam the religion and Islamism which we would characterize as even a greater threat to Muslim-majority nations than it is in the West.

Along the same lines,  we feel the conclusion of the Rubin article is worth excerpting:

It should be stressed that the key challenge is not to cite passages from original Muslim theology to “prove” that Islam is always unchanging and inflexible—though understanding the roots of the radicals’ ideological appeal is important—or to ignore Islam as a factor completely but to look at the movement’s modern strategy and tactics. This task has barely begun.

For background on Youssef Qaradawi, go here.

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