Islam and Islamism in Afghanistan

Kristin Mendoza

The last half-century in particular has seen the recurrent use of religious Islam as

ideology, often referred to as political Islam or Islamism, in groups espousing the

establishment of an Islamic state. Attention was drawn to Afghanistan when it became

the rallying point for Islamists in the 1980s. However, the earlier appearance of an

Islamist movement in Afghanistan in the 1960s and its subsequent development offer an

instructive, unique lesson in understanding Islam and Islamism in Afghan society.

This overview of the Islamist movement in Afghanistan is divided into three

parts: It begins by defining the differing manifestations of Islam in Afghanistan,

indicating how Islamism differs from or draws upon each manifestation in constructing

its own vision. Then, the broader context of Islamism elsewhere in the Muslim world is

discussed and analyzed. Although the theoretical basis for Islamism was constructed in

the 1960s by Abu ‘Ala Mawdudi in Pakistan and Sayyid Qutb in Egypt, this paper will

show that the Islamist movement in Afghanistan did not mirror those in either of these

countries. To this end, this paper reviews the thought of the above-mentioned

theoreticians of Islamism, and outlines historical and social conditions that colored the

implementation of their models in their respective countries. This leads back to a

discussion of the Afghan context, which makes up the final part of the paper. It is

necessary to review salient aspects of the traditional structure of Afghan society, and the

role Islam has historically played in Afghanistan to understand how the Islamist

experience was shaped and constrained by this structure, as well as how the Islamist

experience has altered it.
As Afghanistan is now faced with the monumental task of rebuilding a state and

legal system, Islamists are attempting to influence the reconstruction. This overview will

underscore for those observing and participating in this process the importance of

understanding the Afghan Islamist perspective, its historical underpinnings, and current

demands.


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Filed Under: EgyptFeaturedMuslim BrotherhoodStudies & Researches

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