Why some circles of western academia sympathize with Islamism? (3/4)

When some circles of western academia justify violence of Islamism?

D.Wael Saleh

Dr. WaelSalih in the third part of this study explains the reasons behind the sympathy of Western academia with Islamic currents. A significant part of researchers shows sympathy for Islamism, consciously or unconsciously, so they clarify the violence such current practice, whether by denying that accusation absolutely without analysis in depth, or by ignoring its legislation and theorizing violence in the name of religion. These researchers exclude this aspect from the list of their analytical tools, contenting with attempts to understand its socio-political and economic causes, or presenting the violence practiced by Islamic movements as a mere deviation from their peaceful approach, considering it a natural reaction against globalization or western imperialism. These researchers sympathetic to Islamists ignore all the evidences that secret Western documents have shown (fifty years later) how the Muslim Brotherhood has consistently been allies of Western imperialism in wrecking the national liberation projects and regimes that attempted to build independent development, and they have never been enemies of capitalism.

Reasons behind sympathy of some western academia circles with islamism (1)

Some scholars such as David D. KIRKPATRICK and his followers deny that Islamists commit any violence, claiming rather that they are the real victims of violence. For this team of researchers, the Islamists are merely opponents of dictatorial and oppressive regimes in the Middle East, ignoring the fact that the regional Brotherhood centers of gravity and alliance are in Qatar that itself does not implement democracy. This group of researchers goes to the point that the oppressive regimes in the region are in fact managing all this violence and terrorism with the aim of distorting the image of political Islam, seeking the support of the West to help them get rid of them. Usually this current says that Islamists are “moderate” because they are the first party who condemn acts of violence committed in the name of Islam.

On the other hand, there are researchers who admit, in return, that there is violence practiced by Islamists already in the name of Islam, but they add that this violence represents a deviation from their peaceful approach as a result of the context in which they live, as they are suppressed by other political parties in their societies. In the context of this trend, all other possible arguments are used to justify, downplay, or even normalize this violence, especially to say that Islamists are not the only ones who use violence in the current global scene.

Researchers who use this argument cite the extreme right in the West and the countries they call “terrorist” states, then they demand an understanding of the phenomenon of extremism and violence in the name of Islam only in this context that is a spontaneous counter-violence neither theorized nor legally justified. Finally, some Western researchers belonging to the post-colonial trend argue that the violence of Islamism is a matter of legal violence, counter-violence, a kind of resistance or revenge for the colonial phase, a reaction against globalization, a product of Western imperialism or a reaction to it, or some kind of anger of the victims of capitalist globalization, as SlavojZizek asserts.

Finally, there are some researchers who exclude from the list of their analytical tools the idea of ​​”theorizing violence in the name of religion”, seeking only for understanding the socio-political and economic causes, believing these factors are the only ones that stimulate the process of extremism leading to violence. This current also excludes the Muslim Brotherhood from its studies, claiming that they are a peaceful group, while tending to limit their treatment to the study of physical violence more than intellectual, theoretical, or symbolic violence, which constitutes the necessary initial stage for any subsequent physical violence in the name of Islam.

There are facts and observations to criticize this current sympathetic to Islamism (some of which were presented in my article Criticism of Studies of Extremism Leading to Violence in the Name of Islam published in the Journal of “Applied Policy Research Books” published by Sherbrook University in Canada)

Firstly: It seems that there are academic lobbies that seek to spread a state of “epistemic chaos”, which seeks for establishing cognitive hegemony, aiming at imposing an interpretation that is compatible only with the interests of Islamic groups and their strategic allies. From my own point of view, this trend must be understood, which originally denies that Islamists commit any violence in this context, whether this approach taken consciously or unconsciously by some of this trend’s researchers.

Secondly: Incitement to violence or providing an ideological, religious or theoretical cover that legitimizes, justifies or incites it cannot be excluded from any objective and fair analysis, and therefore extremism leading to violence in the name of Islam cannot be understood without taking such issue into account. According to Austen’s theory of “Acts Speeches of Theories”, which he founded in his famous book How to do Things with Words, in which he considers that “behavioral actions are accomplished by expressive utterances that usually precede and prepare them. Consequently, it would be sufficient for an influential Islamic preacher to say “this one is anti-Islam or waging a war against Islam” to endanger his life. It is not possible to understand why and how a person is a radical terrorist in the name of his understanding of religion, without understanding the ideas that contain the seeds of violence, without which he cannot commit his actions under the religious banner.

Thirdly: The approaches, theories, and cognitive models that these currents of researchers in the West resort to in a bid to understand the phenomenon of extremism leading to violence in the name of Islam are rarely discussed in depth or through dialogue with their supporters or reconsideration after testing them and proving their failure. Actually, scientific and type of knowledge to which they belong are deemed by those researchers as sacred postulates, while underestimating what is different to it or what is coming from outside its scope of knowledge.

Francois Borga says that “Islamists are only political actors,” so he says that “we must stop using the religious studies approach to understand them.” He refuses to study the foundational texts of Islamism and rely on it in understanding political Islam groups. Thus, it seems that he does not use an approach that is in line with the phenomenon of extremism that leads to violence in the name of Islam, instead, he focuses on what he knows and knows how to deal with, that is, the apparent political behavior of these groups. Inreturn, he underestimates the significance of what he excluded from the list of research tools, the aspects of the extremist religiosity and its founding texts developed by the intellectual and political leaders of these groups. He eliminates from its list of analytical tools the deliberate and conscious, and thus ideological choice of Islamists who decide to engage in extremism, armed violence and terrorism, as SeniguerHaoues, a French political science professor of Algerian origin, explains to us.

It is as if Burga is working to “whitewash” or “clear” violence committed by Islamists, by ignoring the ideological foundations of this violence. Undoubtedly, difference in the interests, specializations and patterns of knowledge of the researchers studying extremism leading to violence in the name of Islam resulted in their lack of interest in the same aspects, the same dimensions or the same methods of observing the phenomenon, which of course affects the results of the research.

Fourthly, the study and way of understanding the terrorist acts operated by young people according to socio-political and economic factors only, despite their importance and influence, is a cognitive and methodological deficiency, as economic and social factors exist in other societies and do not necessarily produce terrorist acts. In other words, insisting on this systematic failure can be seen as a “whitewash” of violence as a result of being satisfied with economic explanations (such as poverty and unemployment) or political (such as dictatorship) only, because it ignores other factors that are not less important, if not more, such as the need to study the mentality of extremism established by the violent texts that uncover them in the name of religion. Such shortage in the study represents a deficiency usually leads to a premature understanding of the phenomenon and ends in partial and biased results.

In any case, the role played by Islamist ideology and other factors that play a role in extremism that leads to violence in the name of Islam must not be excluded. If terrorism is the result of poverty and social inequality only, then the world will be full of terrorists from Latin America to Africa in particular, and if democracy is an effective antidote, India, for example, the world’s largest democracy, will have to face fewer attacks from dictatorships like Libya in the days of Gaddafi. Moreover, if the main cause of terrorism is the Arab-Zionist conflict, then why did the terrorists not direct a single shot at Israel [rather there is overt Israeli evidence that Islamist terrorists in Syria were treated in Israeli hospitals and received some Israeli logistical support], and why did the suicide bombers explode Girls’ schools in Afghanistan instead of supporting the Palestinian people’s resistance? And why did Egypt’s Islamist terrorists in 2017 detonate a bomb before opening fire on the victims, while they were praying Friday in a safe (Sufi) mosque in Sinai, killing more than 300 people in a moment?

In sum, following a critical and multidisciplinary approach and linking the factors of economic, social and political marginalization with the founding and justifying texts of violence such as the books of SayedQutb, Al-Mawdudi, Faraj Abdel Salam, etc, while giving all factors their relative weight is necessary to better understand the phenomenon of extremism that leads to violence in the name of Islam falsely, without falling into the trap of whitewashing violence. Only this comprehensive epistemological approach is capable of finding contextual solutions and:


1- Going beyond the orientalist or fundamentalist interpretations that emphasize Islam as being arbitrary, as a religion in its own represents the main explanatory factor for extremism leading to violence,

2- At the same time, it goes beyond the interpretations that show sympathy or academic bias with Islamism by absolving the closed and militant pattern of religiosity that islamists are brought up and leads to rapid transition to the practice of violence, which are interpretations that completely deny the role of the ideological text establishing violence and restrict the causes of this extremism, violence and terrorism only in economic, social and political factors.

Islam is in jeopardy

Since its founding in 1928, Islamism has claimed that Islam is in danger and that its role is to protect this threatened religion. Therefore, Western researchers sympathetic to Islamism see those who see that political Islam is a societal identity opposed to colonialism, and that it is a legitimate response to the attempt of taking away the  Islamic civilizational-cultural identity by the colonizer. Thus, most Western studies are busy analyzing the Islamists’ discourse.

We can say that the issue of representations of Muslims who are not affiliated with the thought of political Islam is rarely addressed in Western literature, just as there is a current that matches Islam as a religion with Islamist groups, and the latter is considered the only representative of Islam, ignoring other important currents in the Islamic arena, such as Sufism and the current mental renovation, etc. Therefore, this current doesn’t care about analyzing the Islamists ’discourse about the non-Islamist and others, alleging that it is a legitimate and understandable reaction of Islamic identities towards the attempt to take away the Islamic civilizational-cultural identity by the former Western colonialist.

This current ignores that by analyzing the founding texts of Islamism, it becomes clear without much effort that the “big other”, in the concept of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, which means “radical altruism that does not reduce to any imaginary or subjective identity,” is the ordinary Muslim who does not belong to the thought of the Political Islam, not the former Western colonialist. As the Egyptian writer and thinker Salah Salem explains to us in his book “The Founding Myths of Political Islam,” the closed identity of Islamism, which is based on the assumption that the purity of Islam requires the purity of a civilized identity, does not only lead to the consideration that every cultural or civilizational interaction between Islamic civilization and other civilizations is a distortion of Islam. , but also leads to preventing any interaction with other intellectual forms of Islam that exist within this civilization itself, and this leads to almost complete isolation, whether with human civilization or with other Muslims.

Accordingly, we notice that the Islamist discourse builds a mental image of a Muslim who does not belong to political Islam as “the last hostile and rejected” and that through a mental process that reaches the level of stereotyping a non-Islamist Muslim, Islamism – like other religious sects – is based on establishing “structural cohesion” among its adherents in order to impose its view of the religion on its members firstly, then on the other ordinary Muslims secondly, before thinking about the West and its rhetoric, so that on the one hand it shows its distinction, difference and righteousness, while on the other hand,in parallel, it distorts the image of the non-Islamist Muslim.

Thisfeeling of distinction and difference turns into an existential and cognitive hostility, which is reflected in the form of superior interactions that reach to racism towards the other Muslim.

For example, the founder of the group, Hasan al-Banna, classifies Muslims according to their initial reactions to the group into four categories: believers, hesitant, utilitarian, and prejudiced, then ends with the assertion that those remain hostile to the Brotherhood are an enemy of God. Yusuf Elqaradwi and some other scholars of the Islamism current classify the non-Brotherhood Muslims into six types: “Those who either oppose the Brotherhoods’ “message” or ignore its reality, those who are agents to forces hostile to Islam and its nation oract as slaves of Western thought or prisoners of its philosophy, those who found in their vocation an obstacle to their thefts and their privileges or found in their vocation an obstacle to their forbidden desires.

Those who oppose our call are against Islam, but they are too clever or too cowardly to say it explicitly, fearing of revealing their truth. They claim that they are Muslims by bearing Muslim names, but they are hostile to Islam, they do not want either Islam or ummah (nation) to rule the world, and don’t want the Islamic state to be back again. As for those Muslim scholars who are not Brotherhood affiliates, they see them “scholars of authority or police agents”.

And the founding texts of Islamism entrench and reinforce a negative mental image of the non-Islamist Muslim in the general mentality of the Islamist. He is on the level of his relationship with the West (traitor, proxy of the West, dominated by the West, Westerner, slave of the West and its ideas, a tool for Western conspiracy), on the level of his morals (corrupt and dissolved), and on the level of his relationship with the Islamic religion (atheist, hostile to religion against Islam, hostile to the Islamic project against Islamic values, he has no Islamic reference, and he is secular and radical secular).

This “structural cohesion” in the Islamism discourse about the moderate Muslim is based on the legacy of Islamism as a sect that has its own interpretation of the Islamic religion that insists on linking religion to the political project, aims at imposing it as a political authority after it has transformed it into an ideological authority, and this can only be achieved by inciting against the non-Islamist Muslim who is the biggest obstacle to his mastery.

On the other hand, Islamism satisfies the need of its affiliates with Islam capable of providing simple and immediate answers in an extremely complex and rapidly changing world by fixing everything that is inherently variable. The Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, consists of a well-established list of indisputable ideological convictions, to which its supporters literally adhere to. They believe they are the “owners of true Islam” because they agree with it and embody it. Therefore, Islamism, from their viewpoint, is Islam and Islam is Islamism.

In this context, Islamism even seeks for eradicating the pluralism of jurisprudence inherited in Islamic history, such as Saeed Ramadan who claimed in his book Islamic Law, Its Scope and Equit that Muslims do not really need to disperse in different schools of jurisprudence.

Why some circles of western academia sympathize with Islamism? (2)

Amid these Islamist groups that are based on the idea of ​​religious discrimination of their members from other Muslims, and the idea of ​​feeling threatened from within by “pseudo-Muslims”, as they see them, every Islamist becomes a fighter for Islam and he is the sole guardian and responsible for true Islam, as every Muslim becomes “Non-Islamist” is the target of all forms of symbolic and physical violence, contempt, intolerance and exclusion. Hence, we can confirm that this “non-Islamist” Muslim is the product of a dual process of building the Islamist ego and excluding the “non-Islamist” Muslim from Islam.

The analysis of the Islamist discourse about identity, ego and the other show us many deviations that can be described as sectarian par excellence:

1- Sanctifying the founder to the extent that he takes the place of the Messenger, even if indirectly.

2 – There is no Islam outside “Islamism” (the thought of political Islam). Islamism does not present itself as part of Islamic different currents, but it sees itself as the only embodiment of Islam, it represents Islam exclusively. For them, Islamism is the only way for salvation of Islam and humanity. Actually, it is a parallel Islam.

3- Sanctifying suffering and constant pursuit of “Karbalaism.”

4- Emotional isolation, so the Brotherhood does not intellectually leave their community except in cases of promoting their ideas or recruiting the moderate Muslim in favor of Islamism.

5- A serious critical debate about the pattern of Islamism is unthinkable.

6- Sticking to their own vocabulary and striving to spread it, either by creating new words, or by changing the meaning of common words.

To summarize, the Islamist identity is based above all on the definition of the other, the non-Islamist Muslim, and not on the definition of the former Western colonialist as a legitimate response to an attempt to take away the civilizational-cultural identity, as some Western academy sympathizers claim about Islamism.

Finally, since the concept of “Islamism” identity cannot be separated from the concept of the other “moderate Muslim” from which identity derives its legitimacy (as Patrick Coli assures us in his article “Identité et altérité”), we note that the most object against whom hatred and war are waged is the “non-Islamist” Muslim”, not the Arabs, because his existence questions that real Islam is Islamism or that Islamism represents the real Islam.


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