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Islamic vs. Islamist: An Artificial Distinction


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.

Islam and Islamists

Jihad Watch

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.

In line with this, I recently received this email from a Jihad Watch reader in Canada:

A conversation with several friends on Facebook erupted into something quite extraordinary. An 18 year old Muslim student, from Western University and born in Mississauga had this to say about the distinction between Islam and Islamism:

“case and point on why you dont understand Islam. No one makes this distinction [between Islam and Islamism] other then the Western world, for the sake of having a tidy little system to classify everything. Our religion and political ideology are one. Furthermore, I really wouldnt use the term islamist or Islamism. Many muslims, including myself, find the term deeply offensive.”

In other words, IN CANADA, there is an entire generation of Muslims who openly subscribe to ‘Islamism’ as indistinguishable from Islam.

And that should come as no surprise. Except to willfully blind non-Muslim analysts in the West.

  • Cheryl Barker

    Oh dear – another whiner from the Religion of The Perpetually Offended! Note to self: Keep using the words “islamist” and “islamism.”

  • prestigio

    moronic obfuscation
    for the liberal msm
    to convolute over and of course
    apologise for
    there is only one islam
    only one type of moslem
    and they are all
    this is a struggle of good vs. evil
    the msm can reach out and posture
    intellectualizing the problem
    just like moron al gore would seek
    solutions through diplomacy
    it is still good vs. evil
    g-d vs. satan
    g-d vs. allah

  • A more accurate term would be doctrinaire muslims. I doubt this term will catch on because to acknowledge that there are doctrinaire Muslims means that these particular Muslims are simply going by the book, so to speak. That leads us to conclude that “the book” is something we should be concerned about, but we don’t want to go there so we invented mushy terms such as islamist and violent extremist.

  • Ira

    The Mississauga kid is offended by the term probably because the label “Islamist” as understood by US correctly identifies him.
    I think there is a difference between those we would consider “Islamist” and those we think of as, you put it, “Islamic.” The Islamic Muslims do recognize that there should be a separation between Mosque and state. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is, I believe, a good example.
    There are a whole bunch of offenses listed in the Torah for which the death penalty is called (e.g., Exodus 31:14-15, for working on Shabbat). If a critical mass of Jews ever adopted such conduct (i.e., executing people for violating certain provisions of the Bible), I’m certain the rest of us would have a name for them.

  • Frank

    “case and point on why you dont understand Islam. No one makes this distinction [between Islam and Islamism] other then the Western world, for the sake of having a tidy little system to classify everything. Our religion and political ideology are one. Furthermore, I really wouldnt use the term islamist or Islamism. Many muslims, including myself, find the term deeply offensive.”-Muslim student
    In any case, it’s a good thing that most Muslims are “moderate”-and a bad thing that most people who claim to be “Christians” are moderate re Jesus’ teachings.
    BTW, the Muslim students’ astute observation (“a tidy little system to classify everything”) really applies to the bourgeois “tolerance-progressive.” Goldi-Progressive-locks always desires a “tolerance” porridge that is “not to hot, not too cold, but just right”

  • Ira wrote:

    I think there is a difference between those we would consider “Islamist” and those we think of as, you put it, “Islamic.” The Islamic Muslims do recognize that there should be a separation between Mosque and state. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is, I believe, a good example.

    Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is hardly a representative example of an “Islamic Muslim,” which is as redundant a term as you could get. Ataturk established secular Turkey by essentially going to war with Islam and restricting its political aspects, most notably by abolishing the caliphate. For his pains he is widely regarded in the Islamic world as an enemy of Islam. At no point in his career did he in any way suggest that what he was doing was any form of Islam. On the contrary, he was explicit about restricting Islam in Turkey.

  • BruceO

    I got confused, so I dropped the “ist” and the “ism” and just call them barbarians. There’s no confusion and everyone understands exactly what you mean.
    I call them other easily understood things, too. But barbarian is the best example for a mixed company venue.

  • Preserving our language will help preserve civilization. “…other then…” should have been corrected or the error noted.
    Also, the is no Western University. The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario is colloquially called “Western” or UWO.

  • Betty

    me I look at the qur’an as a book on the cult no more no less. satin’s holy book. and I think every true AMERICAN and that believes in JESUS CHRIST will look on it the same way.

  • dan

    The militants, who have vowed to rid Somalia (and eventually the USA)of Christianity, killed Guled Jama Muktar on Sept. 25 in his home near Deynile, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mogadishu. The Islamic extremist group had been monitoring his family since the Christians arrived in Somalia from Kenya in 2008, said the source in Mogadishu, who requested anonymity.
    When will they start doing that here?

  • Walter Sieruk

    Yes,just as any difference between the words “Islamic” and “Islamist” an artificial distinction. So are the words between “Islam” and Islamism” a artificial distinction.

  • Is anyone else having trouble with edits “taking hold”? I preview my post then find my published post contains only some of those edits. Also, has the comment protocol for Jihad Watch changed? I can’t comment there and there is no way to contact Mr Spencer about it.

  • Interstingly in the interview with Coren Mrs. Geller said that all Muslims were not the same. Of course we are not talking about height and weight but in religous goals. Here just the opposite. I believe they are all the same and if they say they aren’t they deceive themselves. They quietly ‘high-five’ one another and donate money to places in which they don’t care what the money buys as long as it is Islam.

  • Yeah Blink, as the saying goes if your plane is hitting flak you must be over the target.

  • Rose

    Potato. Potato.
    Tomato. Tomato.
    What difference does it make when our civilization is on the brink of destruction?
    Make no appologies. You are in the fight of your life.
    God save the Republic.

  • Kufar Dawg

    Prime Minister of Turkey Tayepp Erdogan on Islam:
    “These description are very ugly; it is offensive and an insult
    to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam
    is Islam and that’s it.”
    Millions of: Hindus and Sikhs (in Pakistan and Bangladesh), Armenian and Assyrian Christians (in islamofascist Turkey as well as E. Timor), Bahais (in Iran)
    and Jews (throughout the Mid-East) have been slaughtered in the 20th century, for no other reason than they weren’t MUSLIME.

  • While it is true that Islam is a religion of the sword, most Muslims do not practice Islam as it was practiced early on. They have mellowed. If you want to know what the early on version is, you need only see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s sermon “Islam is not a Religion of Pacifists. You can likely find it in the internet. So I have no problem with the term Islamist as denoting those who think Islam should be practiced as it was in the seventh century and as written in the Koran.
    The Muslim Brotherhood was formed by Hassan al Banna in 1928 in the very nadir of Islam, after the Ottoman Caliphate was defeated in World War I. He thought that the remedy for Muslims was to return to Islam’s earlier practices. Until the petrodollars commenced flowing, the Muslim Brotherhood could only export its violence to Palestine, adjacent to Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood was started. However when it obtained oil money from the Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Tribe, it could field the violence against the West. The Saudis directed quite a lot of their petrodollars to the Wahhabis for internal political reasons. See Dore Gold, “Hatred’s Kingdom”.

  • Kufar Dawg

    @Wallace Edward Brand
    You’re an ignorant fool. All muslime states persecute people of other faiths and you try to tell me: “They have mellowed”. Turkey disallows the ringing of church bells and the sounding of the Shofar but allows the Daily Call to Prayer and synagogues resemble armed fortresses (because two of them have been blown up in the last twenty years).

  • KKKK

    the only difference between a Muslim and a “radical Muslim” is that one is more open about their intentions than the other.

  • Steve

    The A,B,C’s of Islamists/Islamics in a Huge Nutshell

    Apostasy for those who renounce islam, appeasement appreciated as response to intimidation, acid attacks for a change up method of killing, anti-semitism in general, beheadings, bombings, brainwashing, burkas as health and security risks),boring culture promoting fear of enjoyment of life, burying alive, beastialityto cover the b’s, clitorectomy, crucifying especially christians but others as well, child brides, censoring liberally, cult, cannibalism, christianophobic, for the c’s, dhimmitude offered for dummies introduced to the “religion of peace”, executions, electrocutions, fire-bombings, fatwas, garroting, genital mutilations, genocide of non-muslims as well as muslims moving right along, hangings, infidel branding, infanticide, incivism, incest rampant throughout islam, isolationism, illiteracy throughout islam, iman islands of control unto themselves, inability to accept any criticism at all, jihadist fanaticism, jizya tax, kaffir branding, lashing, mangling, mutilation, murder, mob mentality, mental retardation from incest (no surprise here), mohammed (name of every other muslim in this world), no-go zones (no pleasure zones), nazi sympathizing (actual muslim nazi divisions in WWII), oochlocracy, oppression (reward for muslim women), pedophile prophet and followers, plagiarism of many western inventions, polls showing moderates true feelings agreeing with terrorism, anti-pluralistic, polygamous harems, quranicbipolar verses of contradiction mecca versus medina, raping regularly, rocketfiring regularly, revenge killing as needed, roof tossing of gays, stoning including family as needed, slavery (bringing the seventh century to the modern world), submission to islamic god or else, starvation for vanquished, sharia for control of the mob, science islamist style (make it up), seventh century dogma to die by, sociopathic antisocial misfits, taqiyya (sacred deception), torturing in general, terror cells, uterus purification (wash it up after all the rapes), virgins 72 (why not 73?, 146?), verses of violence (at least 109 in kuran), whipping wives guidelines, xenophobia (as in Islamic jihadist hatred for western culture), you tube (all those “workplace violence” terrorists screaming allahu akbar and all those wonderfully miserable moderates gone jihadist islamists who sneakingly perpetrate hell upon the unsuspecting past, present and future who if they did suspect are called islamaphobes and this is all assisted by the turning cheek of western scumbag “leaders” often due to bribes and/or ignorance), and finally, zabh (as in cutting throats).

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