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On Islamism: Its Roots, Development and Future

This article examines Islamism in its historical trajectory as well as its current standing and likely evolution. After pointing out to the problems stemming from the lack of an agreed-upon definition, the article presents a definition that constitutes the basis of analysis. It identifies three generations of Islamists and evaluates them by using three criteria: the framework of reference, political theme-tendency, and leadership profile. The article presents a self-criticism of the second generation Islamists, of which the author is also a member, and identifies areas in which the third generation Islamists have faced a serious test. The paper then turns to discuss the experience of the AK Party in Turkey, focusing on the debate on whether it is an Islamist movement. Next, the article seeks to drive an analytical distinction between Islamism and theology, before concluding the analysis with a critical engagement of an ongoing debate on whether Islamism is dead.

On Islamism Its Roots Development and Future
Women walk past a mosque in Ankara.
 

The ambiguity surrounding “Islamism,” which will clearly have a large presence in regional and international agendas, arises from the difficulty in defining it. Because there is no agreed definition, many people or groups who are called “Islamists” are in fact hardly Islamists. For some, it is an “ideology” like liberalism, socialism, or nationalism. For others, it is a method of “politics or politicizing,” which has been reduced to a certain interpretation or doctrine. There are also many people who see it as “religious manipulation in politics.”

Even if it is not possible to completely eliminate the confusion, it is possible to define the general framework. In any case, a definition is needed to draw the boundaries of the concept and differentiate it from related concepts. My definition is as follows: Islamism is an intellectual, moral, societal, economic, political and inter-state movement that is based on Islam as the main reference point and aims for a “new” conception of the person, society, politics/state and thus a new model of social organization and universal Islamic Union. In other words, it is Islam coming to life, following its authority and ideals, with the intention of it to be established in every historical and societal condition in the world.

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