, Islamist extremism
or radical Islam
is extremism associated with the religion of Islam
. These are controversial terms with varying definitions, ranging from academic understandings to the idea that all ideologies other than Islam have failed and have demonstrated their bankruptcy,
as well as political ones like the definition by the government of the United Kingdom
which understands Islamic extremism as any form of Islam
that opposes "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs".
It is not to be confused with Islamic fundamentalism
, the former defined as a movement of Muslims who are of the view that Muslim-majority countries should return to the fundamentals of an Islamic state (though some see Islamic fundamentalism as a form of Islamic extremism) and the latter being a type of political Islam
. Islamic terrorism
is very often the result of Islamic extremism, although not in every case.
The academic definition of radical Islam consists of two parts:
The first being: Islamic thought that states that all ideologies other than Islam, whether associated with the West (capitalism) or the East (communism or socialism) have failed and have demonstrated their bankruptcy.
The second being: Islamic thought that states that (semi)secular regimes are wrong because of their negligence of Islam.
United Kingdom High Courts definition
The UK High Courts have ruled in two cases on Islamic extremism, and provided definition.
Aside from those, two major definitions have been offered for Islamic extremism, sometimes using overlapping but also distinct aspects of extreme interpretations and pursuits of Islamic
- The use of violent tactics such as bombing and assassinations for achieving perceived Islamic goals (see Jihadism; or Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Eurasian Policy at the Hudson Institute, prefers the term Islamist extremism)
- An extremely conservative view of Islam, which does not necessarily entail violence (see also Islamic fundamentalism [Baran again prefers the term Islamism]).
UK High Court rulings
There are two UK High Court cases that explicitly address the issue of Islamic extremism.
- May 2016: An Appeal from the Crown Court and Central Criminal Court: several individuals' cases considered together.
- October 2016: In which the Judge concluded that Imam Shakeel Begg is an Islamic Extremist, and does not uphold Begg's claim that the BBC had libelled him by saying so.
May 2016 appeal case
The judge refers to several grounds: section 20 of the 2006 Act; the definition of "terrorism" in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the decision of the Supreme Court in R v Gul
October 2016 Shakeel Begg case
Begg, a prominent Muslim public figure and Imam at Lewisham Islamic Centre since 1998 lost his 2016 court case of Libel
against the BBC
. This case is noteworthy because the judge lists a 10-point definition of Islamic extremism that he used to determine the case:
Extremist Islamic positions
118. In my view, the following constitute "extremist" Islamic positions (or indicia thereof).
- First, a 'Manichean' view of the world. A total, eternal 'Manichean' worldview is a central tenet of violent Islamic extremism. It divides the world strictly into 'Us' versus 'Them': those who are blessed or saved (i.e. the "right kind" of Muslim) on the one hand and those who are to be damned for eternity (i.e. the "wrong kind" of Muslim and everyone else) on the other. For violent Islamic extremists, the "wrong kind" of Muslim includes moderate Sunni Muslims, all Shia Muslims, and many others who are "mete for the sword" and can be killed, and anyone who associates or collaborates" with them...
- Second, the reduction of jihad (striving in God's cause) to qital (armed combat) ('the Lesser Jihad')...
- Third, the ignoring or flouting of the conditions for the declaration of armed jihad (qital), i.e. the established Islamic doctrinal conditions for the declaration of armed combat (qital) set out above...
- Fourth, the ignoring or flouting of the strict regulations governing the conduct of armed jihad, i.e. the stipulations in the Qur'an and the Sunna for the ethics of conducting qital set out above. Thus, the use of excessive violence, attacks on civilians, indiscriminate 'suicide' violence and the torture or the murder of prisoners would constitute violation of these regulations of jihad...
- Fifth, advocating armed fighting in defence of Islam (qital) as a universal individual religious obligation (fard al 'ayn)...
- Sixth, any interpretation of Shari'a (i.e. religious law laid down by the Qur'an and the Sunna) that required breaking the 'law of the land'...
- Seventh, the classification of all non-Muslims as unbelievers (kuffar)...
- Eighth, the extreme Salafist Islamism doctrine that the precepts of the Muslim faith negate and supersede all other natural ties, such as those of family, kinship and nation...
- Ninth, the citing with approval the fatwa (legal opinions) of Islamic scholars who espouse extremist view...
- Tenth, any teaching which, expressly or implicitly, encourages Muslims to engage in, or support, terrorism or violence in the name of Allah.
Key influences of radical Islam
According to the academic definition of radical Islam, the second condition for something to be called radical Islam, is that it is antigovernmental. Consequently, a government is a condition for radical Islam. However, even though the peace of Westphalia
was established in 1648 and thus introduced the nation state
, the writings of the early Islam period are influential to the contemporary writings that were coined radical after the concept of the nation state was established in Islamic regions as well. Key influences of radical Islam that stem from early Islam include:
According to some contemporary Muslim commentators, extremism within Islam goes back to the 7th century to the Kharijites
From their essentially political position, they developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. Tradition traces the origin of the Kharijities to a battle between 'Ali and Mu'awiya at Siffin in 657. When 'Ali was faced with a military stalemate and agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration, some of his party withdrew their support from him. "Judgement belongs to God alone" (لاَ حُكْكْ إلَا لِلّهِ) became the slogan of these secessionists. They also called themselves al-shurat, "vendors", to reflect their willingness to sell their lives in martyrdom.
These original Kharijites opposed both 'Ali and Mu'awiya, and appointed their own leaders. They were decisively defeated by 'Ali, who was in turn assassinated by a Kharijite. Kharijites engaged in guerilla warfare against the Umayyads, but only became a movement to be reckoned with during the second civil war when they at one point controlled more territory than any of their rivals. Kharijites were, in fact, one of the major threats to Ibn al-Zubayr's bid for the caliphate; during this time they controlled Yamama and most of southern Arabia and captured the oasis town of al-Ta'if.
The most extreme faction of Kharijites was that of the Azariqa, who condemned all other Muslims as apostates, also known as the process of takfir
. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to takfir
, whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death.
The more moderate Ibadi Kharijites were longer-lived, continuing to wield political power in North and East Africa and in eastern Arabia during the 'Abbasid period.
Because of their readiness to declare any opponent an apostate, the extreme Kharijites tended to fragment into small groups. One of the few points that the various Kharijite splinter groups held in common was their view of the caliphate, which differed from other Muslim theories on two points.
- First, they were principled egalitarians, holding that any pious Muslim ("even an Ethiopian slave") can become Caliph and that family or tribal affiliation is inconsequential. The only requirements for leadership are piety and acceptance by the community.
- Second, they agreed that it is the duty of the believers to depose any leader who falls into error. This second principle had profound implications for Kharijite theology. Applying these ideas to the early history of the caliphate, Kharijites only accept Abu Bakr and 'Umar as legitimate caliphs. Of 'Uthman's caliphate they recognize only the first six years as legitimate, and they reject 'Ali altogether.
By the time that Ibn al-Muqaffa' wrote his political treatise early in the 'Abassid period, the Kharijites were no longer a significant political threat. The memory of the menace they had posed to Muslim unity and of the moral challenge generated by their pious idealism still weighed heavily on Muslim political and religious thought, however. Even if the Kharijites could no longer threaten, their ghosts still had to be answered.
The Ibadis are the only Kharijite group to surivive into modern times.
The contemporary period begins after 1924. With the extinction of the Ottoman Empire
, the caliphate was also abolished. This heavily influenced Islamic thinking in general, but also what would later be coined radial Islamic thought.
Key thinkers that wrote about Islam in the 20th century, and especially about jihad
Sayyid Qutb could be said to have founded the actual movement of radical Islam.
Unlike the other writers that have been mentioned above, Qutb is not an apologist
Some of the proponents of Islam
emphasise peaceful political processes, whereas Sayyid Qutb
in particular called for violence, and those followers are generally considered Islamic extremists
and their stated goal is Islamic revolution
with the intent to force implementation of Sharia law
and/or an Islamic State Caliphate
Active Islamic extremist groups There are over 120 Islamic extremist groups active today.
Below is a list of major groups active.
- ^ Cook, David (2015). Understanding Jihad. University of California Press. p. 103. ISBN 9780520287327.
- ^ Casciani, Dominic (10 June 2014). "How do you define Islamist extremism?". BBC News. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- ^ Cook, David (2015). Understanding Jihad. University of California Press. p. 103. ISBN 9780520287327.
- ^ Cook, David (2015). Understanding Jihad. University of California Press. p. 107. ISBN 9780520287327.
- ^ a b Baran, Zeyno (10 July 2008). "The Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter It" (PDF). Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- ^ Brian R. Farmer (2007). Understanding radical Islam: medieval ideology in the twenty-first century. Peter Lang. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8204-8843-1.
- ^ Jason F. Isaacson; Colin Lewis Rubenstein (2002). Islam in Asia: changing political realities. Transaction Publishers. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7658-0769-4.
- ^ http://www.judiciary.gov.uk website repository of UK High Court rulings
- ^ a b https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf
- ^ a b c https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/shakeel-begg-v-bbc-judgment-final-20161028.pdf
- ^ Casciani, Dominic (28 October 2016). "Imam loses libel action against BBC over 'extreme' claim". BBC News.
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- ^ Cook, David (2015). Understanding Jihad. University of California Press. p. 93. ISBN 9780520287327.
- ^ Cook, David (2015). Understanding Jihad. University of California Press. p. 102. ISBN 9780520287327.
- ^ Idem, p. 103
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- ^ Zalman, Amy. "Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)". About.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
- ^ Counter-Society to Counter-State: Jemaah Islamiah According to Pupji, p. 11., Elena Pavlova, The Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, 
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Last edited on 7 May 2021, at 15:25
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