Muslim extremism can only be marginalized if the general public is carefully educated in distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.
1. Islam vs. Islamism
2. How non-Muslims view Islamists and how Islamists view non-Muslims
3. Tactics and Organizations
5. Strategy for marginalizing Islamism
1. Islam vs. Islamism
Meeting the challenge posed by the modern totalitarian political ideology of Islamism is very vital to the future of worldwide liberal-democratic open society; to the prospects for the combined liberalization and democratization of countries where Islam is the predominant traditional religion as well as for ensuring a secular nature of their respective public space.
What then is Islamism and how is it different from other forms of Islam? Contemporary Islam among both Sunnis and Shias appears in three main forms, namely 1) Orthodox Islam, 2) Sufism and 3) Islamism. Secular Muslims, traditional Muslims and orthoprax Muslims are found in all of the three main streams of contemporary Islam. Also, varying degrees of religious strictness and relative degrees of social conservativism are found within all three main streams of contemporary Islam. Multiple major theological schools madahib (singular madhhab) of sharia law (Islamic religious law) as comparable to the two Talmuds are also found in the three main forms of Islam.
Orthodox Islam is a communitarian lifestyle comparable to that of Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Muslims maintain Islamic law (sharia) in their private lives within their own local communities and descent groups. Orthodox Islam maintains and articulates the historically normative interpretation of Islam.
Sufism (tasawwuf) is constituted by a number of global fraternal organizations whose local members regularly meet to sing, dance and play music as a form of collective meditation, known as dhikr (pronounced more like zikr). A Sufi order (Arabic tariqa) is a strictly voluntary cultural organization with a global hierarchy. Sufism interprets Islam in a way that is at the same time mystical, esoteric and exegetically pluralistic while engaging in syncretistic practices involving elements of regional traditional religions as practiced prior to the historical spread of Islam.
Islamism is a modern totalitarian political ideology that is strongly influenced by Nazism and Communism and whose goal is to establish a worldwide religious dictatorship led by a religiously appointed dictator who would rule in accordance with Islamist interpretations of sharia law. Sunni Islamists refer to this envisioned neo-imperialist worldwide dictatorship as the Caliphate (Arabic Khilafa) while Twelver Shia Islamists imagine the contemporary Islamist political system of Iran extended to the entire world.
Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was the main 20th century ideologue of Sunni Islamism and Ali Shariati (1933-1977) was the main 20th century ideologue of Twelver Shia Islamism. Both forms of Islamism are heavily influenced by Nazism and Communism and are feverously Anti-Semitic in often believing in Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories while advocating purgatory terror and often practicing political dissimulation. Islamism is however quite comparable to Kahanism in Rabbinic Judaism and the Ku Klux Klan in Christianity. Islamists usually try to portray themselves as representing Orthodox Islam despite their modernist heterodoxy and extensive syncretism with Nazism and Communism. Islamism is despite its current popularity a form of political extremism and its politicized claims to represent Orthodox Islam should be rejected as historically highly inaccurate indeed.
2. How non-Muslims view Islamists and how Islamists view non-Muslims
There are two main academic schools in the study of Islam and Islamdom, traditionally Orientalism which emerged and developed in the context of European colonialism as well as Occidentalism (“postcolonialism”) which is a Marxist academic critique of Orientalism. Both Orientalists and Occidentalists tend to take the view that political Islam is pivotal for transitioning Islamdom towards more freedom and more representative government. For Orientalists this is an expression of pessimism while for Occidentalists this is an expression of optimism.
Westerners tend to distinguish between Modernizing Islamists and Ultra-Conservative Islamists. Occidentalists and those influenced by academic Occidentalism incorrectly refer to Modernizing Islamists as so called “moderate Islamists” who in this Eurocentric dichotomy are juxtaposed to Ultra-Conservative Islamists whom Occidentalists and their acolytes refer to as “extreme Islamists”. Orientalists and Orientalist-inspired critics of Islamism refer to Islamism as “Radical Islam” as implicitly juxtaposed to the non-Islamist “Conservative Islam” of Sufism and Orthodox Islam and far more explicitly so to the “Moderate Islam” of Muslim supporters of open society and liberal democracy worldwide.
All streams of Islamism are strongly ideologically committed to Anti-Judaism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism; the three historical stages of Anti-Jewish polemics in both Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. Ultra-Conservative Islamist movements are however explicitly Christocentric in their outright opposition to modernity (i.e. European Christian culture) while Modernizing Islamists are usually obsessively Anti-Jewish in closely resembling Nazism in this respect as well as in others. Thus, Modernizing Islamists focus on hating cultural Jews while Ultra-Conservative Islamists focus on hating cultural Christians.
The Anti-Muslim movement is a political movement mainly in the United States and Western Europe which argues against Islam as a whole while paradoxically endorsing Islamist interpretations of Islam. Islamists are reactionary fundamentalists whom to varying degrees claim to practice 7th century Islam and the ideologues of the Anti-Muslim movement argue in favor of Islamist literalism according to which Islamic mythology and Islamic hagiography should be literally understood as pure history. Islamists and the Anti-Muslims thus share the ahistorical and essentialist view of contemporary Islamism as somehow purportedly “the true and original” Islam in to varying degrees ignoring centuries of theologically creative religiously normative developments in both Orthodox Islam and Sufism.
Post-fascist political parties in Western Europe have become vastly electorally successful by means of embracing the teachings of the ideologues of the Anti-Muslim movement in North America and notably so Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. In fact, the Anti-Muslim ideology has been crucial in the transition of Western European fascist parties from fascism to post-fascism, something which has allowed them to transform themselves from determined fascists to determined opponents of fascism, irrespective of whether the fascism is Nazi or Islamist. Some remnants of fascist ideology still remain in many post-fascist political parties and the blanket opposition to immigration generally has been transformed into the idea that all believing Muslims are really Islamists at heart and that the modern social construct of Islamism is somehow the literal essence of Islam. Rather than Islamism being a form of Islam, they take the absurdly ahistorical view of Orthodox Islam as being an expression of Islamism while usually completely ignoring the worldwide existence and even today immense global popularity of Sufism. The Anti-Muslim movement is thus seemingly paradoxically so both doctrinally pro-Islamist and doctrinally Anti-Muslim.
3. Tactics and Organizations
All streams of Islamism support Jihadism and terrorism to varying degrees. There is e.g. a consensus within Islamism in support of Hamas suicide attacks directed specifically against civilians. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the Islamist movement most often mentioned as purportedly “moderate”. All Islamists share the same political goal with minor variations of a global religious dictatorship and so differences between Islamist movements mostly pertain to disagreements about tactics for achieving those shared goals. The racist Occidentalist dichotomy whereby Ultra-Conservative Islamists are wild savages while Modernizing Islamists are noble pacifists is thus simply unfounded. As Ultra-Conservative Islamist terrorists specifically seek to murder Christians so do Modernizing Islamist terrorists specifically seek to murder Jews and should I add with quite open genocidal fervor. However, the vast majority of victims of Jihadist warfare and Jihadist terrorism are in both cases themselves either Muslims or with a Muslim family background.
Similarly are most victims of the Islamist reign of terror in Muslim neighborhoods in Western Europe likewise mostly Muslims and ex-Muslims. While Jews are once more persecuted in more and more cities of Western Europe, including in Germany, most victims of Islamism in Europe are themselves either Muslims or of Muslim origin. The liberties enjoyed by citizens of European liberal democracies are not available to informally segregated residents of Muslim neighborhoods who are bullied by Islamist vigilantes and Islamist vigilance committees. Islamist dress code is enforced and women, girls and LGBTQ persons are not free to express themselves and make their own individual lifestyle choices. Many Muslims and ex-Muslims not wishing to live under this Islamist tyranny seek to leave the Islamist-tyrannized neighborhoods so as to able to exercise the freedoms that come with open society and liberal democracy.
As there is currently significant cultural tension and religious polarization between cultural Christians and informally segregated Muslims in Western Europe; both Islamists and the Anti-Muslim movement seek to portray this as purportedly being the main part of the problem in Europe when in fact Islamism is mostly a problem between Muslims with the overwhelming majority of victims of Islamism in Europe themselves being either Muslims or of Muslim background. Both pro-Islamist apologists and Islamist apologists often claim that Islamist persecution against Jews in Europe is really an extension of the conflict between Israel and some of its neighbors when in fact there is not even a semblance of reciprocal conflict between Jews and Muslims in Europe, but rather only one-sided Islamist persecution against Jews in a number of cities in Western Europe. Jews are thus taunted and humiliated in public space and this oppression and persecution is specifically designed to ultimately compel Jews to leave Judaism for Islam.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a Salafi Ultra-Conservative Islamist movement organized as a modern political party with the conventional methods of political parties while not in any way hiding its goal of universally abolishing liberal democracy and establishing a worldwide religious dictatorship. The Modernizing Islamist Muslim Brotherhood also runs political parties in various countries while sometimes violently taking over existing non-Islamist mosques but also establishing new Islamist mosques with funds that are typically derived from oil-producing dictatorships.
Islamism inside of or derived from the Arabophonie typically regards Sufism as heresy and its pilgrimage practices as idol worship. These distinctions are much more unclear in South Asia where Sufis themselves are often Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by the Egyptian school teacher Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949); a former member of the Senussi Sufi order and the anti-Sufi Muslim Brotherhood is therefore paradoxically in some ways organized as a global Sufi order despite being doctrinally completely opposed to the very existence of Sufism.
The Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has two main organizational vehicles, namely the AKP political party in Turkey and the Millî Görüş Islamist movement which is very active in both Turkey and among Turkish expatriates in Europe. Both main branches of the Turkish MB outwardly often claim to be non-Islamists and are similar in this respect to the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia (Ennahda) and the southern branch of the Israeli Muslim Brotherhood which also disingenuously sometimes claim to be non-Islamist. However there are also Sufi Islamists in Turkey known as the Gülen movement which is led by Fethullah Gülen (b. 1941), now a resident of Pennsylvania.
Islamists in Western countries maintain mosque associations on the centralizing model that is typical of Christian denominations with local mosques federated into national federations of mosques. Islamism thus takes advantage of the Western notion of freedom of religion by hijacking a major world religion for the purpose of promoting a modern totalitarian political ideology with strong European influences from Nazism and Communism. It should be noted that pre-modern Islam for the most part had no formal organization other than those of the Sufi orders and the Muslim state itself.
Islamism first emerged in British-influenced India in the 17th century, in Arabia in the 18th century (the Wahhabi sect) and in Egypt in the 20th century (the Muslim Brotherhood). The multiple geographic origins of Islamism thus contributed to its spread and lately its attainment of increasingly widespread religious legitimacy. Islamists have so far succeeded in more or less taking over Islam in a number of countries including in Saudi Arabia and in the United States of America.
However, the globalization of Islamism as beginning in the second half of the 20th century is mostly connected with the Islamist dictatorships of the major oil-producing states of Iran and Saudi Arabia exporting their own particular Islamist state ideologies. Saudi Arabia has used its intelligence services to spread, fund and organize Sunni Islamism on the model of the Soviet Union spreading Communist ideology globally during the Cold War. The Muslim Brotherhood (including AKP and Hamas) is the world’s largest Islamist movement and is despite its veneer of modernity simply one of several clerical Saudi intelligence agencies and in this case run on the model of the KGB-controlled Comintern, the Third Communist International, then a global network of Kremlin-controlled Communist parties.
Iran in contrast uses its intelligence services on the model of Nazi Germany in Europe in the 1930s to infiltrate and weaken primarily countries in relative geographic proximity to Iran with the view of ultimately taking over and annexing those countries into Islamist Iran’s own neo-imperialist orbit on the path to the establishment of a global religious dictatorship.
5. Strategy for marginalizing Islamism
There is no significant difference within Islamism as regards its ultimate political goals. The typical Western paradigm has so far been to either naively believe that Modernizing Islamists are “good Islamists” (with only Ultra-Conservative Islamists being “bad”) and claiming that only Islamists and Islamist organizations directly involved in terrorism are extremists with all other Islamists deemed purportedly “moderate”, despite e.g. raising funds for Jihadist movements. However, there is no significant difference with regard to their attitudes towards Jihadism and Jihadist terrorism between Modernizing Islamists and Ultra-Conservative Islamists; the only difference being that Ultra-Conservative Islamists support Jihadism and Jihadist terrorism in more Jihadist arenas worldwide than do Modernizing Islamists.
Therefore, fighting Jihadism worldwide will remain ineffective unless the operative ideology in Jihadism, namely Islamism is comprehensively discredited among Muslims. Non-Islamist practicing Muslims are often fearful of Islamists and usually display a degree of misplaced tolerance towards Islamism and Islamists. The task of discrediting and marginalizing Islamism is essential and so pro-democratic Muslims who reject Islamism must be empowered to lead this fight to marginalize Islamism just as the former mass movement of Ku Klux Klan was successfully socially and religiously marginalized in the United States. Pro-democratic non-Muslims certainly can and should support and sponsor intellectual, political and religious leadership by pro-democratic persons of Muslim background.
The task is thus to train a new generation of intellectual leaders with Muslim background with current religious outlooks spanning from orthoprax to atheist and who are capable of taking on the task of intellectually leading the fight against the totalitarian political ideology of Islamism and making sure that it is effectively marginalized among Muslims. Those non-Muslim leaders who naively extend recognition, acceptance and legitimacy to Islamist organizations and Islamist leaders are only making the essential Muslim task of marginalizing Islamism even harder.
The Anti-Muslim movement has displayed much “success” in 1) self-marginalization, 2) in marginalizing Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries by stereotyping all religious Muslims as purportedly Islamists at heart, 3) in indirectly convincing Muslims who feel under ideological siege to join Islamism as well as 4) engaging in rhetoric that indirectly serves to legitimize infiltration by Islamist leaders into the civil societies of liberal democracies by claiming that all Muslims are somehow Islamists.
Respect for freedom of religion is a cornerstone of liberal democracy and by claiming that Muslims generally are all somehow Islamists, the Anti-Muslim movement is in effect legitimizing Islamism rather than marginalizing Islamism. The Anti-Muslim approach is not only prejudicial but also serves to legitimize Islamism and Islamist infiltration into liberal-democratic bodies of civil society in therefore enabling Islamists to claim victimhood status despite being oppressors of Muslims. While some adherents of the Anti-Muslim movement are racist White nationalists, many others in the Anti-Muslim movement should be engaged in dialogue so as to explain the distinction between Orthodoxy, Sufism and Islamism. Dialogue with intellectual leaders of the Anti-Muslim movement may prove very effective and especially considering that this could likely be conducive to the continued de-radicalization of post-fascist political parties in Europe.
Reluctance among non-Islamist Muslims to condemn Islamism is mainly due to fear of Islamist persecution but is also often due to misplaced tolerance due to the fact that the once marginal ideology of Islamism is today not marginal at all but in fact part very prominent in the mainstream of the Muslim world. This mainstream status is not limited to Modernizing Islamists but Ultra-Conservative Islamists are part of the Muslim mainstream as are even Jihadism and Jihadist terrorism generally. Al Qaida and Daesh in fact enjoy widespread popularity in the Muslim world and the maintenance and growth of that popularity is one important reason why al Qaida perpetrates terrorist attacks worldwide.
Islamism is presently the most important obstacle to democratization and liberalization in Muslim countries as well as to the attainment/maintenance of a secular public space in those countries. It has become very clear that Islamism and democratization are completely incompatible in those Muslim countries where Islamist parties stand a reasonable chance of winning a majority of parliamentary seats. Therefore, democratization needs to come with zero-tolerance towards all political movements seeking to replace liberal democracy with dictatorship and seeking a closed society rather than an open one. Islamism certainly needs to be fought with the tool boxes that were once used to fight Nazism and Communism. Therefore, Islamism needs to be recognized for the modern totalitarian political ideology that it is.
All anti-democratic political movements should be automatically illegal by law and Islamist mosques should be confiscated and turned into cinemas, sports facilities, night clubs and libraries. Liberal democracy should thus cease to extend legitimacy to existential enemies of open society who actually threaten liberal-democratic open societies from within.
Islamist leaders should be named and shamed and Islamists should be denied asylum and naturalization. Immigration policy has in many European countries mostly become corrupted into one great human trafficking scheme. Human persons are thus trafficked for asylum, trafficked for arranged marriage and trafficked for slave labor. This has served to severely undermine the public legitimacy of current corrupt immigration policies as it is not the ones most needing refuge that are admitted to many European countries such as Sweden. An Iranian wishing and/or needing to seek asylum in Sweden thus have to pay a trafficker between 20 000 and 30 000 euros in order to be smuggled to be able to arrive in Sweden so as to apply for asylum. These astounding sums are thus often raised among extended relatives in that third world country of Iran and who in turn are planning to come to Sweden by means of “family reunification”.
These corrupt, completely immoral and frankly collapsed immigration policies have unfortunately contributed to the rise of not only Islamism among Muslims in Europe but also to the rise of the Anti-Muslim movement among non-Muslims of all ethnicities in Europe. Rather, only asylum seekers that genuinely support liberal democracy and open society should be granted asylum and citizenship. Islamists should thus never be given asylum in liberal democracies but should rather naturally be referred to apply for asylum in countries ruled by Islamists. Citizens of liberal democracy with a proven track record of being active in or supporting organizations animated by anti-democratic totalitarian ideologies such as Islamism and Nazism should have their citizenships rescinded on account of treason. All applications for political asylum should be handled through embassies and consulates abroad. Those granted asylum should be permitted to immediately bring spouses and dependent persons including legal minors. First generation immigrants, second generation immigrants and third generation immigrants should not otherwise be legally able to claim further family reunification whether for marriage or otherwise as most of them could surely unite in their country of origin. Family reunification generally in liberal democracies should otherwise only happen between fellow liberal democracies. Labor migration from dictatorships should not be permitted at all in liberal democracies other than in exceptional cases.
As Islamism is mainly disseminated by Iran and Saudi Arabia; policies need to be put in place that will completely stop virtually all funding of Islamism. The Iranian regime must be unseated by the peoples of Iran while in Saudi Arabia the royal family must take charge of the Saudi intelligence agencies run by powerful clerics of the Wahhabi sect that disseminate Sunni Islamism worldwide with the goal of establishing a global Caliphate dictatorship. A glasnost process has in the past decade taken place in Saudi Arabia with the monarchy and the regime Wahhabi clerics being in an increasing state of political rivalry about the future direction of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its foreign policy. This involves the monarchy being aligned with Israel and the United States while Saudi clerical intelligence agencies continue fund the spread and propagation of Sunni Islamism and Sunni Jihadism worldwide.
The appointment of an Iraqi caliph in Daesh is a very clear sign of the increasing friction as a future Saudi king is no longer the presumptive caliph of the intended worldwide Wahhabi state. While the Saudi state was founded upon partnership between the Wahhabi sect and the Saudi royal family, the Saudi royal family must be encouraged to take charge of their own country and remove Wahhabi clerics from all positions of state authority. The world must thus stand up against Islamism and support both the peoples of Iran to revolt and the Saudi royal family in order so as to put an end to the spread of the totalitarian ideology of Islamism worldwide.
Democratization and liberalization must be cautious, careful, calibrated and incremental; it must be allowed to take its time as is necessary. But generally speaking, the greater the popular support for liberal democracy the faster the success in democratization and liberalization. There are special conditions in Muslim countries that hamper democratization and liberalization, one factor is of course the popularity of the totalitarian ideology of Islamism but there are also issues with regard to political culture, toleration of extremism and cultural norms such as extreme social conservatism.
Democracy aid should be given to NGOs in dictatorships, but those organizations should not become tools of agendas of foreign governments in those NGOs thus literally becoming addicted to foreign aid. NGOs in emerging democracies need to be encouraged to develop their popular support base and indeed local funding. Supporting the organic development of civil society should certainly be prioritized in Muslim countries that are not yet ready for liberal democracy due to the popularity of Islamism. Victims of Islamism whether in Muslim minority countries or in Muslim majority countries should be empowered, strengthened and made visible. This should be an important goal in providing funding to NGOs both domestically and abroad. People of Muslim background should be precisely empowered to marginalize all forms of Islamism.
The Anti-Muslim movement often warns that Muslim immigration will inevitably lead to Islamization while their opponents usually claim that this cannot possibly happen in majority non-Muslim societies. Both are wrong of course as Islamization is indeed enforced by Islamist thugs in Muslim neighborhoods in cities across Western Europe. Of course, all Muslim countries were originally non-Muslim and became historically Islamized. Rather, continued major Muslim immigration to liberal democracies requires vigilant de-Islamization of the public space of Muslim neighborhoods. Residents of Muslim neighborhoods should be at liberty to dress and choose their lifestyles as they please without interference from Islamist vigilantes currently terrorizing their public space. Therefore the streets of Muslim neighborhoods in Europe that are currently terrorized by Islamist thugs need to be intensely patrolled by female police officers and even female soldiers so at so make the point that women and girls should not feel compelled to cover themselves up. This will set the norm in those neighborhoods and will help marginalize Islamists within Muslim communities of Western Europe.
Also there is the issue whether Islamist institutions can be de-radicalized considering the vast potential for Islamist deception and dissimulation in this regard. Yes it is in principle possible to de-radicalize Islamist institutions but Islamist institutions such as Islamist mosques should still be confiscated. In fact, confiscating the buildings of Islamist mosques is the single most effective way of promoting de-radicalization. Indeed, confiscation of all Islamist mosques will provide a very effective incentive for effective de-radicalization in the Muslim community. This will serve to marginalize Islamism within Muslim communities as Islamists will no longer be welcome in non-Islamist mosques. De-radicalization should be done with the big stick of confiscation while providing no carrots other than supporting Anti-Islamist victims of Islamism. Notably, the buildings housing Islamist mosques should be confiscated in their entirety even if the Islamist mosque does not actually own the building.
Majority religions usually have a complicated relationship with national politics. This is certainly not unique to Muslim countries; however there are certain complications to varying degrees in much of contemporary Islamdom that must not be disregarded whether these complications are political, religious or cultural. Also, an executive presidential office usually causes democratization and liberalization to fail and there is furthermore actually no real need for any such office anywhere in the world. Published in 2015