ISLAM AND ISLAMISM
By Salim Mansur, associate professor of political Science at Western University at Ontario, Canada.
"Islam, a religion, cannot be turned into a handmaiden of politics; when this occurs, Islam is turned into Islamism. Its defining characteristic is its intolerance of others, including Muslims, and glorification of violence against all who disagree. The conflict inside the Muslim world might be characterized as one between tyranny and freedom, even if that tyranny is packaged in God's name. The strategically right thing to do is provide moral and material assistance to Muslims struggling against Islamists."
This particularly illuminating and informative paragraph is the thrust of one of the most useful of the volumes of recent articles and tomes written on the subject of Islam and Islamism. Professor Mansur engages the delicate subject of Islam versus Islamism forthrightly and in non-academic language.
Unfortunately that subject is often buried in political affectation and posturing. On one side there are those, unfortunately many well placed in academia and government, who write blithely of the "war on Islam" as the core of our problems in the Middle East, believing that terrorism is simply a reaction to U.S. intervention in the Middle East. On the other side are those who cannot, or do not try to, distinguish between Islam the religion and Islamism, a political ideology, which Mansur described as "fascistic and totalitarian in impulse and language."
As the author notes much of the confusion arises from the fact that Islamists insist that Islamism is Islam. The original prototype of this combination was Saudi Arabia, a country created by a marriage of a Bedouin tribe and the Wahhabi sect. Mansur termed it as a "marginal, extremist, sectarian, even vulgar movement ..." A more modern example of this extremist theocracy, the author asserted, is Iran.
The author sees the current conflict as a contest between Islamists and anti-Islamists, between theocrats and anti-theocrats. He views the Islamic struggle as analogous to the struggle within Christendom's bloody transition from the inquisition to the era of the cold war. He posits that this historical struggle should be recalled in analyzing the present day conflict within Islam. It promises to be as long as the 500 year old conflict within the Christian world--and likely just as violent.
Much of the article focuses on the...