Islam and Islamism

Here is an excerpt from the 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations
by Samuel Huntington.
(Additional excerpts from The Clash of Civilizations
are available in this blog here.)
The emphasis, aside from that on purely linguistic elements, is added.

Chapter 5
Economics, Demography,
and the Challenger Civilizations

Indigenization [§4.2] and the revival of religion [§4.3] are global phenomena.
They have been most evident, however, in
the cultural assertiveness and challenges to the West
that have come from Asia and from Islam.
These have been
the dynamic civilizations of the last quarter of the twentieth century.
The Islamic challenge is manifest in
the pervasive cultural, social, and political
resurgence of Islam in the Muslim world
the accompanying rejection of Western values and institutions.
The Asian challenge is manifest in all the East Asian civilizations—
Sinic, Japanese, Buddhist, and Muslim—
and emphasizes their cultural differences from the West
and, at times, the commonalities they share,
often identified with Confucianism.
Both Asians and Muslims stress
the superiority of their cultures to Western culture.
In contrast, people in other non-Western civilizations—
Hindu, Orthodox, Latin American, African—
may affirm the distinctive character of their cultures,
but as of the mid-1990s had been hesitant about
proclaiming their superiority to Western culture.
Asia and Islam stand alone and at times together,
in their increasingly confident assertiveness with respect to the West.

Related but different causes lie behind these challenges.
Asian assertiveness is rooted in economic growth;
Muslim assertiveness stems in considerable measure from
social mobilization and population growth.
Each of these challenges
is having and will continue to have into the twenty-first century
a highly destabilizing impact on global politics.
The nature of those impacts, however, differs significantly.
The economic development of China and other Asian societies
provides their governments with both the incentives and the resources
to become more demanding in their dealing with other countries.
Population growth in Muslim countries,
and particularly the expansion of
the fifteen- to twenty-four-year-old age cohort,
provides recruits for
fundamentalism, terrorism, insurgency, and migration.
Economic growth strengthens Asian governments,
demographic growth threatens Muslim governments and non-Muslim societies.

Section 5.2
The Islamic Resurgence

While Asians became increasingly assertive
as a result of economic development,
Muslims in massive numbers were simultaneously turning toward Islam
as a source of
identity, meaning, stability, legitimacy, development, power, and hope,
hope epitomized in the slogan “Islam is the solution.”
This Islamic Resurgence
[Some readers may wonder why “Resurgence” in “Islamic Resurgence” is capitalized.
The reason is that it refers to
an extremely important historical event affecting one-fifth or more of humanity,
that it is at least as significant as
the American Revolution, French Revolution, or Russian Revolution,
whose “r’s” are usually capitalized,
and that it is similar to and comparable to
the Protestant Reformation in Western society,
whose “R” is almost invariably capitalized.]

in its extent and profundity
is the latest phase in the adjustment of Islamic civilization to the West,
an effort to find the “solution” not in Western ideologies but in Islam.
It embodies
acceptance of modernity,
rejection of Western culture,
and recommitment to Islam
as the guide to life in the modern world.
As a top Saudi official explained in 1994,
“ ‘Foreign imports’ are nice as shiny or high-tech ‘things.’
But intangible social and political institutions imported from elsewhere
can be deadly—ask the Shah of Iran....
Islam for us is not just a religion but a way of life.
We Saudis want to modernize, but not necessarily Westernize.”

The Islamic Resurgence is the effort by Muslims to achieve this goal.
It is a broad intellectual, cultural, social, and political movement
prevalent throughout the Islamic world.
Islamic “fundamentalism,” commonly conceived as political Islam,
is only one component in the much more extensive revival of
Islamic ideas, practices, and rhetoric
and the rededication to Islam by Muslim populations.
The Resurgence is mainstream not extremist,
pervasive not isolated..

The Resurgence has affected Muslims in every country
and most aspects of society and politics in most Muslim countries.
“The indices of an Islamic awakening in personal life,”
John L. Esposito has written,
are many:
increased attention to religious observances
(mosque attendance, prayer, fasting),
proliferation of religious programming and publications,
more emphasis on Islamic dress and values,
the revitalization of Sufism (mysticism).
This broader-based renewal has also been accompanied by
Islam’s reassertion in public life:
an increase in Islamically oriented
governments, organizations, laws, banks, social welfare services,
and educational institutions.
Both governments and opposition movements have turned to Islam
to enhance their authority and muster popular support....
Most rulers and governments,
including more secular states such as Turkey and Tunisia,
becoming aware of the potential strength of Islam,
have shown increased sensitivity to and anxiety about Islamic issues.

In similar terms, another distinguished scholar of Islam,
Ali E. Hillal Dessouki, sees the Resurgence as involving
efforts to reinstitute Islamic law in place of Western law,
the increased use of religious language and symbolism,
expansion of Islamic education
(manifested in the multiplication of Islamic schools
and Islamization of the curricula in regular state schools),
increased adherence to Islamic codes of social behavior
(e.g., female covering, abstinence from alcohol)
and increased participation in religious observances,
domination of the opposition to secular governments in Muslim societies
by Islamic groups, and
expanding efforts to develop international solidarity
among Islamic states and societies.
La revanche de Dieu is a global phenomenon, but God, or rather Allah,
has made His revenge most pervasive and fulfilling
in the ummah, the community of Islam.

In its political manifestations,
the Islamic Resurgence bears some resemblance to Marxism, with
scriptural texts,
a vision of the perfect society,
commitment to fundamental change,
rejection of the powers that be and the nation state, and
doctrinal diversity ranging from moderate reformist to violent revolutionary.
A more useful analogy, however, is the Protestant Reformation.
Both are
reactions to the stagnation and corruption of existing institutions;
advocate a return to a purer and more demanding form of their religion;
preach work, order, and discipline; and
appeal to emerging, dynamic, middle-class people.
Both are also complex movements, with diverse strands, but two major ones,
Lutheranism and Calvinism,
Shi’ite and Sunni fundamentalism,
and even parallels between John Calvin and the Ayatollah Khomeini
and the monastic discipline they tried to impose on their societies.
The central spirit of both the Reformation and the Resurgence
is fundamental reform.
“Reformation must be universal,” one puritan minister [Thomas Case] declared,
“...reform all places, all persons and callings;
reform the benches of judgment, the inferior magistrates...
Reform the universities,
reform the cities, reform the countries, reform inferior schools of learning,
reform the Sabbath, reform the ordinances, the worship of God.”
In similar terms, Hassan al-Turabi asserts,
“this awakening is comprehensive—it is not just about individual piety;
it is not just intellectual and cultural, not is it just political.
It is all of these,
a comprehensive reconstruction of society from top to bottom.”
To ignore the impact of the Islamic Resurgence
on Eastern Hemisphere politics in the late twentieth century
[and, of course, into the twenty-first century]
is equivalent to ignoring
the impact of the Protestant Reformation
on European politics in the late sixteenth century.

The Resurgence differs from the Reformation in one key aspect.
The latter’s impact was largely limited to northern Europe;
it made little progress in Spain, Italy, eastern Europe,
and the Hapsburg lands generally.
The Resurgence, in contrast, has touched almost every Muslim society.
Beginning in the 1970s,
Islamic symbols, beliefs, practices, institutions, policies, and organizations
won increasing commitment and support
through the world of 1 billion Muslims
stretching from Morocco to Indonesia and from Nigeria to Kazahkhstan.
Islamization tended to occur first in the cultural realm
and then to move on to the social and political spheres.
Intellectual and political leaders, whether they favored it or not,
could neither ignore it nor avoid adapting to it in one way or another.
Sweeping generalizations are always dangerous and often wrong.
One, however, does seem justified.
In 1995 every country with a predominantly Muslim population, except Iran,
was more Islamic and Islamist culturally, socially, and politically
than it was fifteen years earlier.

In most countries a central element of Islamization was
the development of Islamic social organizations and
the capture of previously existing organizations by Islamic groups.
Islamists paid particular attention both
to establishing Islamic schools and
to expanding Islamic influence in state schools.
In effect Islamic groups brought into existence an Islamic “civil society”
which paralleled, surpassed, and often supplanted in scope and activity
the frequently frail institutions of secular civil society.
In Egypt by the early 1990s Islamic organizations
had developed an extensive network of organizations which,
filling a vacuum left by the government,
provided health, welfare, educational, and other services
to a large number of Egypt’s poor.
After the 1992 earthquake in Cairo, these organizations
“were on the streets within hours, handing out food and blankets
while the Government’s relief efforts lagged.”
In Jordan the Muslim Brotherhood consciously pursued a policy of
developing the social and cultural “infrastructure of an Islamic republic”
and by the early 1990s, in this small country of 4 million people,
was operating a large hospital, twenty clinics, forty Islamic schools,
and 120 Koranic study centers.
Next door in the West Bank and Gaza,
Islamic organizations established and operated
“student unions, youth organizations,
and religious, social, and educational associations,”
including schools ranging from kindergartens to
an Islamic university, clinics, orphanages, a retirement home, and a system of Islamic judges and arbitrators.
Islamic organizations spread throughout Indonesia in the 1970s and 1980s.
By the early 1980s, the largest, the Muhhammadijah, had 6 million members,
constituted a “religious-welfare-state-within-the-secular-state,”
and provided “cradle-to-grave” services for the entire country
through an elaborate network of
schools, clinics, hospitals, and university-level institutions.
In these and other Muslim societies,
Islamist organizations, banned from political activity,
were providing social services comparable to
those of the political machines in the United States
in the early twentieth century.

The political manifestations of the Resurgence
have been less pervasive than its social and cultural manifestations,
but they still are the single most important development in Muslim societies
in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
The extent and makeup of the political support for Islamist movements
has varied from country to country.
Yet certain broad tendencies exist.
By and large those movements do not get much support from
rural elites, peasants, and the elderly.
Like fundamentalists in other religions,
Islamists are overwhelmingly participants in and products of
the processes of modernization.

They are mobile and modern-oriented younger people
drawn in large part from three groups.

As with most revolutionary movements,
the core element has consisted of students and intellectuals.
In most countries
fundamentalists winning control of student unions and similar organizations
was the first phase in the process of political Islamization,
with the Islamist “breakthrough” in universities occurring in the 1970s
in Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan,
and then moving on to other Muslim countries.
The Islamist appeal was particularly strong among students in
technical institutes, engineering faculties, and scientific departments.
In the 1990s, in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and elsewhere,
“second generation indigenization” was manifesting itself with
increasing proportions of university students
being educated in their home languages
and hence increasingly exposed to Islamist influences.
Islamists also often developed a substantial appeal to women,
and Turkey witnessed a clear demarcation between
the older generation of secularist women and
their Islamist-oriented daughters and granddaughters.
One study of the militant leaders of Egyptian Islamist groups
found they had five major characteristics,
which appear to be typical of Islamists in other countries.
  • They were young, overwhelmingly in their twenties and thirties.

  • Eighty percent were university students of university graduates.

  • Over half came from elite colleges
    or from the intellectually most demanding fields of technical specialization
    such as medicine and engineering.

  • Over 70 percent
    were from lower middle-class, “modest, but not poor backgrounds,”
    and were the first generation in their family to get higher education.

  • They spent their childhoods in small towns or rural areas
    but had become residents of large cities.

While students and intellectuals
formed the militant cadres and shock troops of Islamist movements,
urban middle-class people made up the bulk of the active membership.
In some degree these came from
what often termed “traditional” middle-class groups:
merchants, traders, small business proprietors, bazaaris.
These played a crucial role in the Iranian Revolution
and provided significant support to
fundamentalist movements in Algeria, Turkey, and Indonesia.
To an even greater extent, however,
fundamentalists belonged to the more “modern” sectors of the middle class.
Islamist activists
“probably include a disproportionately large number of
the best-educated and most intelligent young people
in their respective populations,”
including doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, teachers, civil servants.

The third key element in the Islamist constituency was
recent migrants to the cities.
Throughout the Islamic world in the 1970s and 1980s
urban populations grew at dramatic rates.
Crowded into decaying and often primitive slum areas,
the urban migrants needed and were the beneficiaries of
the social services provided by Islamist organizations.
In addition, Ernest Gellner points out,
Islam offered “a dignified identity” to these “newly uprooted masses.”
In Istanbul and Ankara, Cairo and Asyut, Algiers and Fes, and on the Gaza strip,
Islamist parties successfully organized and appealed to
“the downtrodden and dispossessed.”
“The mass of revolutionary Islam,” Oliver Roy said, is
“a product of modern society...
the new urban arrivals,
the millions of peasants who have tripled the populations of
the great Muslim metropolises.”

By the mid-1990s
explicitly Islamist governments had come to power only in Iran and Sudan.
A small number of Muslim countries, such as Turkey and Pakistan,
had regimes with some claim to democratic legitimacy.
The governments in the two score other Muslim countries
were overwhelmingly nondemocratic:
monarchies, one-party systems, military regimes, personal dictatorships,
or some combination of these,
usually resting on a limited family, clan, or tribal base
and in some cases highly dependent on foreign support.
Two regimes, in Morocco and Saudi Arabia,
attempted to invoke some form of Islamic legitimacy.
Most of these governments, however,
lacked any basis for justifying their rule in terms of
Islamic, democratic, or nationalist values.
They were “bunker regimes,” to use Clement Henry Moore’s phrase,
repressive, corrupt,
divorced from the needs and aspirations of their societies.
Such regimes may sustain themselves for long periods of time;
they need not fail.
In the modern world, however,
the probability that they will change or collapse is high.
In the mid-1990s, consequently,
a central issue concerned the likely alternatives:
Who or what would be their successors?
In almost every country in the mid-1990s,
the most likely successor regime was an Islamist one.

During the 1970s and 1980s a wave of democratization swept across the world,
encompassing several dozen countries.
This wave had an impact on Muslim societies, but it was a limited one.
While democratic movements were gaining strength and coming to power in southern Europe, Latin America, the East Asian periphery, and central Europe,
Islamist movements were simultaneously gaining strength in Muslim countries.
Islamism was the functional substitute for
the democratic opposition to authoritarianism in Christian societies,

and it was in large part the product of similar causes:
social mobilization, loss of performance legitimacy by authoritarian regimes,
and a changing international environment, including oil price increases,
which in the Muslim world encouraged Islamist rather than democratic trends.
Priests, ministers, and lay religious groups
played major roles in opposing authoritarian regimes in Christian societies,
and ulema, mosque-based groups, and Islamists
played comparable opposition roles in Muslim countries.
The Pope was central to ending the communist regime in Poland,
the ayatollah to bringing down the Shah’s regime in Iran.

In the 1980s and 1990s Islamist movements
dominated and often monopolized
the opposition to governments in Muslim countries.
Their strength was in part
a function of the weakness of alternative sources of opposition.
Leftist and communist movements
had been discredited and then seriously undermined by
the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism.
Liberal, democratic opposition groups had existed in most Muslim societies,
but were usually confined to limited numbers of intellectuals
and others with Western roots or connections.
[Compare Toynbee’s “intelligentsia.”]
With only occasional exceptions, liberal democrats
were unable to achieve sustained popular support in Muslim societies,
and even Islamic liberalism failed to establish roots.
“In one Muslim society after another,” Fouad Ajami observes,
“to write of liberalism and of a national bourgeois tradition
is to write obituaries of men who took on impossible odds and then failed.”
The general failure of liberal democracy to take hold in Muslim societies
is a continuing and repeated phenomenon for an entire century
beginning in the late 1800s.
This failure has its source at least in part in
the inhospitable nature of Islamic culture and society
to Western liberal concepts.

The success of Islamist movements in dominating the opposition
and establishing themselves as the only viable alternative to incumbent regimes
was also greatly helped by the policies of those regimes.

At one time or another during the Cold War
many governments,
including those of Algeria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel,
encouraged and supported Islamists
as a counter to communist or hostile nationalist movements.

At least until the end of the 1991 Gulf War,
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states provided massive funding to
the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups in a variety of countries.
The ability of Islamist groups to dominate the opposition was also enhanced by government suppression of secular oppositions.
Fundamentalist strength generally varied inversely with
that of secular democratic of nationalist parties
and was weaker in countries, such as Morocco and Turkey,
that allowed some degree of multiparty competition
than it was in countries that suppressed all opposition.
Secular opposition, however, is more vulnerable to repression
than religious opposition.
The latter can operate within and behind a network of
mosques, welfare organizations, foundations, and other Muslim institutions
which the government feels it cannot suppress.
Liberal democrats have no such cover
and hence are more easily controlled or eliminated by the government.

In an effort to preempt the growth of Islamist tendencies,
government expanded religious education in state-controlled schools,
which often came to be dominated by Islamist teachers and ideas,
and expanded their support for religion and religious educational institutions.
These actions were in part evidence of the government’s commitment to Islam,
and, through funding,
they extended governmental control over Islamic institutions and education.
They also, however,
led to the education of large numbers of students and people in Islamic values,
making them more open to Islamist appeals,
and graduated militants who went forth to work on behalf of Islamist goals.

The strength of the Resurgence and the appeal of Islamist movements
induced governments
to promote Islamic symbols and practices into their regime.
At the broadest level this meant affirming or reaffirming
the Islamic character of their state and society.
In the 1970s and 1980s
political leaders rushed to identify their regimes and themselves with Islam.
King Hussein of Jordan,
convinced that secular governments had little future in the Arab world,
spoke of the need to create “Islamic democracy” and a “modernizing Islam.”
King Hassan of Morocco emphasized his descent from the Prophet
and his role as “Commander of the Faithful.”
The sultan of Brunei, not previously noted for Islamic practices,
became “increasingly devout” and defined his regime as
a “Malay Muslim monarchy.”
Ben Ali in Tunisia began regularly to invoke Allah in his speeches and
“wrapped himself in the mantle of Islam”
to check the growing appeal of Islamic groups.
In the early 1990s Suharto explicitly adopted a policy of becoming
“more Muslim.”
In Bangladesh the principle of “secularism”
was dropped from the constitution in the mid 1970s,
and by the early 1990s
the secular, Kemalist identity of Turkey was, for the first time,
coming under serious challenge.
To underline their Islamic commitment, governmental leaders—
Özal (Turkey), Suharto (Indonesia), Karimov (Uzbekistan)—
hastened to their hajh.

Governments in Muslim countries also acted to Islamicize law.
In Indonesia Islamic legal concepts and practices
were incorporated into the secular legal system.
Reflecting its substantial non-Muslim population,
Malaysia, in contrast,
moved toward the development of two separate legal systems,
one Islamic and one secular.
In Pakistan during the regime of General Zia ul-Haq,
extensive efforts were made to Islamicize the law and economy.
Islamic penalties were introduced,
a system of shari’a courts established, and
the shari’a declared the supreme law of the land.

Like other manifestations of the global religious revival,
the Islamic Resurgence is both a product of and an effort to come to grips with modernization.
Its underlying causes
are those generally responsible for indigenization trends
in non-Western societies:
social mobilization,
higher levels of literacy and education,
intensified communication and media consumption, and
expanded interaction with Western and other cultures.
These developments undermine traditional village and clan ties
and create alienation and an identity crisis.
Islamist symbols, commitments, and beliefs meet these psychological needs,
and Islamist welfare organizations, the social, cultural, and economic needs
of Muslims caught in the process of modernization.
Muslims feel the need to return to Islamic ideas, practices, and institutions
to provide the compass and the motor of modernization.

The Islamic revival, it has been argued, was also
“a product of the West’s declining power and prestige....
As the West relinquished total ascendance,
its ideals and institutions lost luster.”
More specifically, the Resurgence
was stimulated and fueled by the oil boom of the 1970s,
which greatly increased the wealth and power of many Muslim nations
and enabled them to reverse the relations of domination and subordination
that had existed with the West.
As John B. Kelly observed at the time,
“For the Saudis, there is undoubtedly a double satisfaction to be gained from
the infliction of humiliating punishments upon Westerners;
for not only are they an expression
of the power and independence of Saudi Arabia,
but they also demonstrate, as they are intended to demonstrate,
contempt for Christianity and the pre-eminence of Islam.”
The actions of the oil-rich Muslim states
“if placed in their historical, religious, racial and cultural setting,
amount to nothing less than a bold attempt
to lay the Christian West under tribute to the Muslim East.”
The Saudi, Libyan, and other governments used their oil riches
to stimulate and finance the Muslim revival,
and Muslim wealth led Muslims to swing
from fascination with Western culture
to deep involvement in their own
and willingness to assert
the place and importance of Islam in non-Islamic societies.
Just as Western wealth had previously been seen as
the evidence of the superiority of Western culture,
oil wealth was seen as evidence of the superiority of Islam.

[This seems like a foolish comparison:
Oil wealth is hardly a product of the Muslims,
merely resulting from what lay under their ground,
together with the engineering skill developed by the West
and the rather small labor component required to extract, refine, and ship it.
Can the effort and skill required to extract and ship oil really be compared to, say,
that required to produce the Mercedes, BMWs, Airbusses, and military aircraft
that the inhabitants of the oil states are so fond of?
Suppose the populations of, say, Germany and Saudi Arabia were switched.
The Germans, I venture to say, could without missing a beat
do what the Saudis now do.
Does anyone really believe that Saudis could do what the Germans do?]

The impetus provided by the oil price hikes faded in the 1980s,
but population growth was a continuing motor force.
While the rise of East Asia has been fueled by
spectacular rates of economic growth,
the Resurgence of Islam has been fueled by
equally spectacular rates of population growth.

[Huntington spends the remainder of this section, six paragraphs,
documenting and developing this theme.
There is little not well known there, so they are omitted here.]

[End of Section 5.2, “The Islamic Resurgence”,
of The Clash of Civilizations.]

Miscellaneous References


Political Islam 101
Three books administration officials should read
as they attempt to deal with the Middle East in all its messy nuance.

by Daniel Levy
The American Prospect, 2009-04-15

[Reviewed are:]

Engaging the Muslim World
by Juan Cole, Palgrave MacMillan, 282 pages, $26.95

Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East
by Rashid Khalidi, Beacon Press, 308 pages, $25.95

Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East
by Robin Wright, Penguin Press, 464 pages, $26.95