I have written about this in the past here. Essentially, what does it mean to say that someone or something is “Islamist” as opposed to “Islamic”? Nothing, really, except that the person speaking doesn’t want to offend Islam by speaking unwelcome truths about the political nature of the religion.
Robert Spencer on the silly semantics of Islam and Islamists:
The term “Islamist” is in common use to refer to Muslim individuals and organizations that adhere to Islamic law’s political aspects (most notably its denial of any legitimacy of a separation between religion and the state) and consequently most fiercely oppose America, Israel and the West in general. The implication is that Islam itself, in its authentic form, has no requisite political aspect, and no incompatibility with Western values or democratic government.
The problem with this is that it is a Western, artificial distinction, imposed by non-Muslims upon the Islamic world and lacking any real substance with reference to Islamic law as it has always been formulated by the Sunni and Shi’ite madhahib (schools of jurisprudence). Islam has always been political, and the union of religion and the state has always been essential to its political program; the idea that all this can and should be separated from Islam proper is the wishful thinking of Western analysts who do not wish to face the implications of the fact that these ideas represent mainstream Islamic thinking.
“It is Islamist terrorism,” Theresa May said. “It is a perversion of a great faith.” What is perverted? They quote Quran and Hadith, chapter and verse. When did May get her PhD in Islamic theology? What does she know of it? Is she more knowledgeable Abu Bakr al-Baghdad, the caliph of the Islamic State, a religious scholar all of his life who received his PhD in Islamic theology?
Newsweek: When he wasn’t in school, he spent much of his time at the local mosque, immersed in his religious studies; and when he came home at the end of the day, according to one of his brothers, Shamsi, he was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law.
Baghdadi’s lower-middle-class family was known for its piety but also for its proud lineage. His Sunni forefathers claimed to descend from the Prophet Muhammad through the Shiite leaders buried in Samarra’s golden-domed shrine.
The family patriarch, Baghdadi’s father Awwad, was active in the religious life of the community. It was at the mosque where his father taught that the teenaged Baghdadi got his own start as a teacher, leading neighborhood children in chanting the Koran.
This was his first experience with oratory and religious instruction. When reciting the scripture, a revered vocation in Islam, Baghdadi’s quiet voice would come to life, pronouncing the letters in firm, reverberating tones. He devoted countless hours to mastering the subtleties of the art.
When Baghdadi graduated from the University of Baghdad in 1996, he enrolled in the recently established Saddam University for Islamic Studies, where he studied for a master’s in Koranic recitation, his favorite subject.
Baghdadi’s master’s thesis was a commentary on an obscure medieval text on Koranic recitation. His task was to reconcile various versions of the manuscript. He received his master’s degree in 1999 and immediately enrolled in Saddam University’s doctoral program in Koranic studies.
May knows more than him about Islam? What, pray tell, Ms. May, has he perverted?
The Prime Minister has said the “Islamist” attack on Parliament was not “Islamic” and Islam is a “great faith”.Taking on the role of a theologian, Theresa May insisted: “It is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism. It is a perversion of a great faith.”Speaking in Parliament, she also said the attack showed “the importance of all of our faiths working together, and recognising the values that we share”.Adding: “This act of terror was not an act of faith. It was a perversion; a warped ideology, which leads to an act of terrorism like that and it will not prevail.”Islamism is generally defined as a political interpretation of Islam. Some critics argue Islam is intrinsically political – as the Quran mandates a religious state and law – and say the term is irrelevant.MPs almost unanimously agreed with the Prime Minister, lining up to warn against “demonising” and “stigmatising” Muslims, and to condemn “Islamophobia” and “racial and religious” discrimination.Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the attacker or attackers “pretend to be of a particular religion”.“If they were of a religion they would not be carrying out acts like this,” he added.Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, added: “People who commit acts of terrorism in the name of Islam do not speak for the majority of Muslims in this country.”UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, meanwhile, did not shy away from describing the attack as “Islamic”.“We have a cancer within a particular community and it needs to be cut out,” he told Sky News outside Westminster Palace. “The Muslim community I believe needs to do more about this.“We have the problem that we have 800 British citizens out fighting in Syria and Iraq for Islamic State.“I don’t believe they should be allowed to return and I think that, down the line, we’re going to have to look at foreign funding of mosques, particularly from Saudi Arabia, who promote radicalism across the globe.”
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