Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Raymond Ibrahim On The Difference Between Muslims And Islamists

Raymond Ibrahim writes about what happens When Muslims Are More 'Radical' than 'Islamists'.

Ibrahim writes in the context of a televised debate between a traditional Muslim and an Islamist--where Ibrahim defines Islamism as:
a hybrid abomination of sorts, whereby the better principles of Western civilization are absorbed and rearticulated within a distinctly Muslim paradigm. For instance, the Western stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice, is, for Islamists, transformed into a stress on Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice—all, naturally, at the sake of the infidel.


So while the Islamist maintains traditional hostility for infidels, he may exhibit a Western sense of "humanitarianism" to fellow Muslims, evoking things like their "human worth" and "dignity." Zayyat, for instance, repeatedly accused Mubarak of "robbing the people," "betraying the people," "torturing the nation's sons," "denying sons from their mothers and fathers"—language as alien to the traditional Muslim mentality as it is familiar to the Western. Similarly, Islamists influenced by the Western notion of "nationalism" tend to Westernize Islam's notion of Umma, as when Zayyat talked sentimentally about how "the Umma has a right" over Mubarak.
Read the whole thing.

I'm not so sure this definition doesn't muddy the waters, rather than clarify.
In general usage, Islamism is often used to refer to radical Islam as opposed to Islam in general, which is assumed to be not necessarily radical.

At least that is the way I thought it was used.

A few weeks ago, I emailed Raymond Ibrahim about distinguishing the two and he responded:
There is a distinction between "Muslim" and "Islamist," so in that sense it is useful. That said, the mistake is to think that anything "bad" in Islam is "Islamist," and never simply "Muslim." Islamists are basically a byproduct of the modern world, influenced by the West, which they rearticulate from a distinctly Muslim paradigm, whereas traditional Muslims are just that. One example: killing apostates is "bad" and worthy of condemnation, but it is not "Islamist" - it is simply Islam, something "Muslims" have been doing for 14 centuries.
The problem in terms of terminology is, I think, that people who tend to use the term "Islamist" do not see it as referring to a Muslim who necessarily uses a western framework in stating his principles.

I know I don't.

As a side point, Ibrahim's article is interesting to read for the reasoning given by a Sunni Muslim on why according to Shariah law, Mubarak cannot be tried--no matter how brutal a ruler he may have been.

No wonder the Arab League was so slow to react to Libya and Iran.


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