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the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:01 pm
Author: Shirko
* Is the rise of political Islam a purely negative phenomenon?*
 Opinion — Analysis 
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author

*Is the rise of political Islam a purely negative phenomenon? ‎* 4.2.2013  
By Abdulla Hawez Abdulla —
* *• *Read more by Abdulla Hawez
**February 4, 2013*


Two years Arab Spring, the boldest outcome by far has been the rise of political Islam; that’s mainly because Islamic organizations have been among the only forums in which average citizens can express themselves or participate actively in the lives of their communities. However, the story of political Islam hasn’t started here, it has much older record; the wave has first started in Iran, Turkey later Iraq, way before the Arab Spring. Accordingly, the political Islam has been extremely varying from a place to another. Hence, the performance of political Islam has been as diverse as the rainbow, from the dogmatic fundamentalism of Afghanistan’s Taliban to much-praised liberal-oriented the justice and development party in Turkey; that’s to be said, the political Islam is not a purely negative phenomenon.

*The term “political Islam”*

The term political Islam is a controversial one. It has first used by western scholars to name the political movements that their ideological background is based on Islamic principals. “In the past century a distinct Islamic political movement has emerged, based on the idea that Muslims should be ruled by a
state, which bases its legitimacy on Islam and implements Islamic law” (Gardner, 2005). However, advocators of political Islam refuses this term and they see Islam as a whole way of life that, in addition to its spiritual aspects, comprehends politics, economics and a social system.

*Islamists versus Islamists*

Interestingly all the Middle Eastern powerhouses govern by religious forces from Turkey to Iran, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. However their models are notably diverse, for instance Turkey’s incumbent the Islamic-leaning justice and development party, more commonly known by the initials A.K.P. has been called by many scholars as a new model of political Islam. They have been called Liberal Islamists, liberal in the sense that it respects people’s liberty to choose between Islam and non-Islam, between piety and vice. This liberal experiment of Turkey’s ruling the A.K.P. is becoming a model for Islamist parties in the Arab Spring countries that they already won elections in both Egypt and Tunisia and formed governments. “If Turkey succeeds in that liberal experiment, and drafts its new constitution-in-the-making accordingly, it can set a promising example for Islamist-led governments in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere” (Akyol, 2012).

However in the same time, there is the model of Iran, where there is authoritarian theocracy with some elements of modern democratic states such as frequent periodic elections. Furthermore, there is also the model of Saudi Arabia where there is a mix of theocracy and tradition. This is a more totalitarian model of theocracy than Iran’s because of the strong presence of traditions that limit civic freedoms further more. Moreover, the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood that found in 1928, but gained power in 2012 could be considered another and different model of political Islam. The Economist in an article that published in late 2011 defines the Muslim Brotherhood as “professing a fairly moderate version of Islam, the Brotherhood is known for its political savvy as well as its resilience and discipline.” This trend that could be considered the widest in the Islamic world is called: democratic Islamism. But, this model might not be liberal like Turkey’s because “there are illiberal democracies, too, where the majority’s power is not checked by constitutional liberalism, and the rights and freedoms of all citizens are not secured” (Zakaria, 2003). Also in Egypt another type of political Islam is in emergence that is closer to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabis. This trend has been called Salafism. “Egypt's Salafists seek to purge the faith of modern accretions and impose literal interpretations of dogma” ("Political islam everywhere," 2011).

*Is the rise of political Islam purely negative?*

Perhaps the negative image of political Islam is not based on nothing; many Islamists have a notorious history, particularly the ones that ruled before the Arab Spring with exception of Turkey. The Islamic models of Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan and somehow Hamas in Gaza have been considered failure especially with the lenses of the western democratic liberals. However despite the negative commonplace on political Islam that has become stereotype in the west, and in many Islamic countries equally, the rise of political Islam is certainly not purely negative.

A major positivity of the rise of political Islam is engagement of Islamists in the democratic system, while they have been for long perceived as opponents of it. In a country like Egypt, the ultra-Orthodox Salafis until very recently were denouncing participation in the elections or representation in the parliament, but now they have the second biggest share in the parliament. This could be considered an impressive change in the mentality of this fundamentalist group that has picked the ballot box rather than the gun barrel. Even further moderation in their ideology is expected as they engage in the democratic system further. “Islamists will become only more pragmatic as they face the responsibility of governing” (Ghanim, 2012).

The rise of political Islam has also become a strong setback for Jihadists, particularly Al-Qaeda. Many religious youths in the region has interred Jihadist group because they have seen no hope for peaceful change, and they have been oppressed, while it is believed that Islamists will become more moderate when they are not oppressed. Therefore, the rise of Islamists within the new democracies in the region is an automatic setback for aggressive Jihadists. Safwat Abdel-Ghani, the leader of an Egyptian Salafist group that once preached terrorism in the name of jihad, says “Al-Qaeda has not been destroyed by the ‘war on terror' but by popular revolutions that made it unnecessary” ("Political islam everywhere," 2011).

Another good sign of the rise of political Islam is the diversity. In spite of their landslide popularity in many countries in the region, the range of Islamists can be a guarantee of democratic systems in those countries. Things would be more concerning if Islamists were united in a single worldview. A good example here would be Iraq. With the current Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, an Islamist, is consolidation power that threatens the democratic system in Iraq, his opponents that are mainly Islamists are moving to fade off his dream to establish another autocracy, in another form, in Iraq. Now if all Islamists were united in one worldview, the return of autocracy was much more likely. Here, Islamists are becoming guardians of democracy because pluralistic democracy can protect their interest.

A wave of conservatisms is surrounding the Middle East and elsewhere. Islamists can contain them, which is good, because otherwise they might not be controlled. In a country like Egypt only Islamists can reflect the mass, as an overwhelming majority is conservative. “I see more men in just one single day with bruised foreheads—acquired by hitting their heads on the floor during prayer—than I have seen in all other Muslim-majority countries combined in almost a decade. The country is, as far as I can tell, the most Islamicized place in the world after Saudi Arabia” (Totten, 2012). Here one can be optimistic, as Islamists are reflecting the majority, which something good may come out.

More positive than all what have been mentioned above, Islamists can be even more democratic than seculars as in the case of Turkey. The ruling A.K.P. has swept the country toward further democratization since gained power a decade ago. The minorities rights that have always been a black stain on Islamists faces have been considerably widen for Kurds, an ethnical group, and Alevis, a secular sect of Islam. Furthermore political liberalism has been flourished and the country is expected to liberalize further with a new constitution is in the making.

With the rise of political Islam, science is also expected to come back, after centuries of stagnation. In a country like Tunisia, which rules by Islamists “scientists say they are already seeing promising reforms in the way university posts are filled. People are being elected, rather than appointed by the regime” ("Islam and science" 2012). Even the other countries of the region that rules by Islamists are performing much better in science than other non-Islamic countries. Research spending in Turkey increased by over 10% each year between 2005 and 2010, by which year its cash outlays were twice Norway’s. In the category of best-regarded mathematics papers, Iran now performs well above average, with 1.7% of its papers among the most-cited 1%. In Egypt too, the government that governs by Islamists has promised to spend more on research.


The late rise of political Islam is gradually reducing the widely negative image on Islamists. The relative success of Turkish model of liberal Islamism may liberalize the other moderate Islamists in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region as well. Yet, one cannot be in total optimism as there is fear that the soft and moderate version of political Islam may witness failure, in this case the re-rise of the violent Jihadists is expected. After all the rise of political Islam is still in the making, it has not been completed; that’s why positivity or negativities of it may unpredictably change.

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Berman, Sh. "The Promise of the Arab Spring." Foreign Affairs. 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 3 Feb. 2013. Retrieved from ... rab-spring
Fitzsimons, L. (2012, February 04). The rise of political islam presents challenges, but we're not doomed. Huffington Post. Retrieved from ... 77536.html
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"Abdulla Hawez is a Kurdish freelance journalist, blogger and civil society activist based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region in Iraq. He has participated in major regional and international conferences; he has worked with some international programs including Democracy Now, and his works have appeared in some major Medias including Today's Zaman, The Majalla, Middle East Online and Global Politician. He is currently student of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Kurdistan-Hawler(UKH). He can be reached at: and you may visit his Blog at:"

Copyright © 2013
*Read more by Abdulla Hawez Abdulla*
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Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:39 pm
Author: Anthea

There are 2 main causes of wars, Religion and Greed.

Most of the current wars seem to have a religious background with a smattering of greed for other people's oil reserves.

In my mind Religion should have NO part in politics.

Religion is a personal thing. No two people who read the Quran, or the Bible for that matter, are going have exactly the same sense of understanding what has been read or what feelings and ideas they have evolved from that reading.

People should believe in their hearts, not just their minds, that is what faith is all about. And it cannot effectively translated into Political Islam.

Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:55 pm
Author: Shirko
Ok Anthea, but why are the secular governments of Turkey, Baathist Syria and Baathist Iraq ware so bad?

Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:01 pm
Author: Shirko
I think a healthy mix of both is good, like the USA. The majority of any population should vote and decide what they want in a free world.

Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:10 pm
Author: Anthea
HZKurdi wrote:Ok Anthea, but why are the secular governments of Turkey, Baathist Syria and Baathist Iraq ware so bad?

As a woman I am tempted to state that it is because the governments were run by men :ymdevil:

But NO the governments were run by EGOS X(

Most governments are run by EGOS. a lot of truth in the saying "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"

Most politicians forget that they were once normal people and VERY FEW politicians have any connection at all with the people they are supposed to represent.

Correct me if I am wrong but erDOGan seems to think that that Turkish government money is his own PERSONAL bank. Am I correct in believing that he used government money to by his son-in-law a large media company?

Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:02 pm
Author: Farhan222
Obviously bad.........

Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:32 pm
Author: Anthea
Farhan222 wrote:Obviously bad.........

Welcome to Roj Bash Kurdistan :ymhug:

Please say hello in the section below :D

Introduce Yourself


Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:06 pm
Author: Shirko
Farhan222 wrote:Obviously bad.........

Help me out, I can't see the "obvious" examples.

Re: the rise of political Islam, good or bad?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:29 am
Author: chili_pepper
HZKurdi wrote:
Farhan222 wrote:Obviously bad.........

Help me out, I can't see the "obvious" examples.

Obvious examples are Iran and Saudi Arabia.