Iraq and the Future of Political Islam

James Piscatori

Sixty-five years ago one of the greatest scholars of modern Islam asked the simple question, “whither Islam?", where was the Islamic world going? It was a time of intense turmoil in both the Western and Muslim worlds – the demise of imperialism and crystallisation of a new state system outside Europe; the creation and testing of the neo- Wilsonian world order in the League of Nations; the emergence of European Fascism. Sir Hamilton Gibb recognised that Muslim societies, unable to avoid such world trends, were also faced with the equally inescapable penetration of nationalism, secularism, and Westernisation. While he prudently warned against making predictions – hazards for all of us interested in Middle Eastern and Islamic politics – he felt sure of two things:
(a) the Islamic world would move between the ideal of solidarity and the realities of division;
(b) the key to the future lay in leadership, or who speaks authoritatively for Islam.
Today Gibb’s prognostications may well have renewed relevance as we face a deepening crisis over Iraq, the unfolding of an expansive and controversial war on terror, and the continuing Palestinian problem. In this lecture I would like to look at the factors that may affect the course of Muslim politics in the present period and near-term future. Although the points I will raise are likely to have broader relevance, I will draw mainly on the case of the Arab world.
Assumptions about Political Islam There is no lack of predictions when it comes to a politicised Islam or Islamism. ‘Islamism’ is best understood as a sense that something has gone wrong with contemporary Muslim societies and that the solution must lie in a range of political action. Often used interchangeably with ‘fundamentalism’, Islamism is better equated with ‘political Islam’. Several commentators have proclaimed its demise and the advent of the post-Islamist era. They argue that the repressive apparatus of the state has proven more durable than the Islamic opposition and that the ideological incoherence of the Islamists has made them unsuitable to modern political competition. The events of September 11th seemed to contradict this prediction, yet, unshaken, they have argued that such spectacular, virtually anarchic acts only prove the bankruptcy of Islamist ideas and suggest that the radicals have abandoned any real hope of seizing power.
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Abgelegt unter: ÄgyptenFeaturedHamasMuslimbruderschaftPalästinaStudium & ForschungenVereinigte Staaten & Europa

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