Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second Some scholars and historians trace the birth of Islamism and modern-day Islamist movements, such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, to the Muslim Brotherhood and to the ideological foundations it laid. As such the Islamist ideology and worldview stands at the base of murderous terror acts, such as the September 11th attacks and the July 7th 2005 London bombings, as well as horrific acts committed in the Middle East, including the genocide of the Yazidis in Iraq and the murder of thousands of innocent people in this region, the majority of whom were Muslims themselves. Let’s now turn to the definition of Islamism and its main principles. Islamism is about the combination of religion and politics.
Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds Of course in early Islam and in Islamic history Islam was used in politics, but the definition of Islam as a political religion is new. It did not exist before. Islam was used for political pursuits, but never defined as a political religion. Islamists define Islam as a political religion. Islamists religionized politics. They religionized economics. They religionized culture. So Islamism is religionized politics. The best statement about Islamism is a quote by Islamists themselves. Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood coined the term “al-Islamiyya”, which means Islamism, and “al-Islamiyya” is “Islam is din wa-dawlah” - Islam is a unity between the state and religion. In other words Islamism is the interpretation of Islam as a state order.
Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds I believe that Islamism has roots in Islam itself, even though it is a kind of “invention of tradition.” This is a term used by scholars - if you draw on a tradition and give it a new shape this is a tradition, but it’s given a new shape, this is an “invention of tradition”. The term “dawlah” in Arabic “state” does not occur in the Quran. The term “nizam” - “system”, does not occur in the Quran. So the language of Islamism is new but it draws on Islamic teaching. We have to distinguish between differentiations within Islamism. When Islamism was born, it was a hybrid movement. It was both legal, partly legal, and partly underground, partly peaceful, partly violent.
Skip to 2 minutes and 51 seconds So Hassan al-Banna himself engaged in existing institutions but at the same time he was also involved in bank robberies, in assassinations. So the distinction between peaceful and violent Islamism was not clear in the early years. Today
Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds Islamism has two directions: one is institutional and one is jihadist, I’ll explain both. By institutional Islamism I mean Islamists who abandon the use of violence, and are willing to work in institutions. The best example for this is the AKP (Justice and Development Party) of Turkey. So AKP Turkey is not a violent party. It is an institutional party. But it is an Islamist party and Islamists were able to come to power and to overtake Turkey by democratic means. This is institutional Islamism. Jihadist Islamism or violent Islamism is a direction which argues that the best way to overtake power, to seize power is violence. And they interpret “jihad” as a world revolution and they engage in Jihadism. Jihadism is not classical “jihad”.
Skip to 4 minutes and 28 seconds Jihadism is terrorism. Classical “jihad” is not terrorism. classical jihad is also violent but it is not terrorism. Classical “jihad” is regular war. Jihadism is irregular war. And ISIS and Al-Qaeda are jihadist groups. That means they belong to the terrorists camp within Islamism. Not every Islamist is a terrorist. The distinction with regard to antisemitism between violent and nonviolent Islamists is not pertinent, because both the Islamists who are peaceful and those like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, who are violent, they share the same antisemitism. I see little difference in this regard.
Prof. Bassam Tibi
Some scholars and historians trace the birth of Islamism and modern day Islamist movements, such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, to the Muslim Brotherhood and to the ideological foundations it laid. As such, the Islamist ideology and worldview stands at the base of murderous terror acts, such as the September 11th attacks and the July 7th, 2005, London bombings, as well as horrific acts committed in the Middle East, including the genocide of the Yazidis in Iraq and the murder of thousands of innocent people in this region, the majority of whom were Muslim themselves.
How is Islamism defined and what are its main principles? How do Islamists abuse Islam?
Tibi, Bassam, Islamism and Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
Tibi, Bassam, Islam in Global Politics: Conflict and Cross-Civilizational Bridging (New York: Routledge, 2012).
© Yad Vashem