Hasan al-Banna —49 , an Egyptian schoolteacher working in Isma'iliyya, the headquarters of the Suez Canal Company and a highly Europeanized site, was one of those influenced by Rashid Rida and Al-Manar. In he established the Society of Muslim Brothers Jam'iyyat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin , which became the largest and most influential Islamist organization in the Sunni Arab world.
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After emerging as an important factor in Egyptian politics in the late s, the Muslim Brothers established branches in Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Sudan. Many of the radical Islamist movements of the s are inspired by the thinking of Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim Brother leader executed for allegedly planning to overthrow the Egyptian government in Qutb had argued that the regime of Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir, since it had tortured and imprisoned pious Muslims, was not a Muslim state but a regime of pre-Islamic ignorance jahiliyya. Hence, it was legitimate to launch a jihad against such a regime.
The Shi'a tradition—the minority orientation which regards the Prophet's cousin, 'Ali, as the first legitimate Caliph and believes that succession to the leadership of the Muslim community should have been confined to members of Muhammad's family—has an entirely different genealogy. It is geographically centered in Iran and southern Iraq, where the Shi'a form the large majority of Muslims.
An important political focus of much of modern Shi'i thought is the struggle of the 'ulama ' or mullahs in Persian to assert the primacy of their authority against the Qajar and Pahlavi monarchies of Iran. Islam and Modern Politics The conventional narrative of the origins of modern Islamic thought easily lends itself to the erroneous thesis that political Islam is the result of thefailure of modern Muslims to assimilate European liberal ideas such as the separation of church and state, the rule of positive law, citizenship, and secular nationalism.
Al-Afghani's activities, for instance, contributed to the nationalist movements in both Shi'i Iran and Sunni Egypt. Muhammad 'Abduh was a religious reformer, a friend of Lord Cromer, and also the intellectual inspiration of many of the secular liberal Egyptian nationalists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His circle included the leading secularist, Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid, the future leader of the Wafd, Sa'd Zaghlul, and the early proponent of women's rights, Qasim Amin.
The Muslim Brothers were among the first political groups to popularize the cause of Arab Palestine in Egypt, collecting financial contributions for the —39 Arab Revolt and sending volunteers to fight in The Brothers also participated in the guerrilla attacks against the British base on the Suez Canal in —52, an important component of the upsurge of the nationalist movement that ended the Egyptian monarchy.
They were an early ally of Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir and the Free Officers, who came to power on July 23, , but they later fell out with the new military regime. Many varieties of Arab nationalism in the —67 era—Nasirism, the Ba'th, the Algerian FLN—easily appropriated Islamic themes and symbols into a predominantly secular ideological orientation. There are certainly links among the various components of the Islamist movement.
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The Iranian religious opposition to the Pahlavi regime and the revolution of inspired and promoted a network of Shi'a activism, including Amal and Hizb Allah in Lebanon see the chapters of Salim Nasr and Assaf Kfoury , elements of the Iraqi opposition to the Ba 'thist regime, and movements among the Shi'a minorities in the Persian-Arab Gulf states. The success of the Iranian revolution inspired other political Islamist tendencies, including many Sunni groups. As noted earlier, the Muslim Brothers and the several Islamic groups Gama'at Islamiyya that emerged as their radical opposition in Egypt are organizationally and intellectually linked to movements in Algeria, Palestine see Graham Usher's chapter , and Syria.
Hamas was not only the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brothers; it was also promoted by Israel as an alternative to the PLO, which it subsequentlyemerged to challenge see the chapters of Rema Hammami and Graham Usher and the interview with Bassam Jarrar. All these movements draw strength from the widespread deficiencies of the postcolonial states in the Middle East: massive corruption, overreliance on coercion, and the failure of Arab socialism in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Algeria—and a comparable form of state-led development in Turkey—to produce sustained economic development see Karen Pfeifer's chapter on Islamic economics.
These failures have coincided with the collapse of various secularist, nationalist, and leftist political projects, leaving the field of opposition politics more or less open to Islamists. The Islamist movement since the s has been the object of investigation by many analysts who view it as either a politico-military-strategic threat or a civilizational conflict see Yahya Sadowski's chapter. The interpretation offered in this book rejects the thesis of "petro-Islam"—a comprehensive explanation for the movement advanced by the neoconservative, pro-Israel "policy intellectual" Daniel Pipes in the US media and by the Egyptian progressive secularist Fu'ad Zakariyya in the Arab world, among many others.
While superficially attractive in accounting for a certain historical conjuncture, this explanation is flawed because of the very partial set of factors in includes in its account.
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The Egyptian version of Fu'ad Zakariyya suggests that the source of a "backward" form of Islam is the culturally underdeveloped but materially rich Arabian Peninsula, which has been able to impose its values on "civilized" but materially poor Egypt. This approach ignores the prior history of political Islam in Egypt, where the Muslim Brothers clashed violently with the regime in —49 and again in , when they attempted to assassinate Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir.
As Richard P. Mitchell's classic study established,8 the Brothers had a substantial popular base in the s and s. Their activists were largely educated, urban effendis—the same social stratum that provided the main body of organizers and activists for all the political movements of twentiethcentury Egypt.
The Nasir regime put an end to formal political democracy and sharply constricted the space of civil society by incorporating trade unions and professional associations into the apparatus of the state, heavily regulating other voluntary organizations, and banning all political parties except that of the regime. This was accompanied by a significant degree of repression directed primarily against the Marxists, but also against the regime's former allies, the Muslim Brothers. In , when Sayyid Qutb was "martyred" in the terminology of the Islamist movement , Egypt was facing an economic crisis because of inability to increase simultaneously both investment hence, long-term industrial and social development and consumption an important source of the regime's popular legitimacy.
The war with Israel and its effects intensified the economic crisis and the repressive measures of the regime. It also created an opportunity for Islamist activists to argue that "the Jews" had won the war because they combined their religion and politics in the form of the State of Israel, whereas the Muslims had lost because of the secularism of 'Abd al-Nasir and the Ba'th. His successor, Anwar al-Sadat, quickly moved to dismantle major elements of the Nasirist system and recruited Muslim Brothers and student Islamist activists in the battle against the remaining Nasirists and leftists who opposed him.
Only after al-Sadat's autocratic tendencies were clearly manifested, the promises of economic prosperity failed to materialize, and the peace treaty with Israel was signed did the Islamist movement break with the Egyptian regime. Khalid Medani's chapter on Sudan underlines the importance of specific trajectories of capital to the growth of that country's Islamic movement and the Islamist regime installed there in June Islamic movements in Algeria, Egypt, and Iran have also been associated with local mercantile and financial interests that have avoided the control of the state and established their own links to international capital.
The Egyptian and Jordanian movements have benefited from the remittances of workers employed in the oil-producing states. These funding links certainly played a role in the regional success of political Islam. Yet Islamic movements have demonstrated a high level of autonomy from their original patrons. Following the debt crisis of the s, the decline of the price of oil, and the IMF-imposed economic restructuring projects that limited state expenditures, the efficacy of states has tended to become restricted to urban middle-class areas.
States are unable to provide previously established levels of services or to insure adequate supplies of commodities to all sectors of their territory and population. The mass support for political Islam throughout the Middle East is more substantial and sustained than would be possible if it had simply been bought by oil money. And it gained strength as a result of the combined failure and repression of liberal and left secular alternatives. The case for "petro-Islam" in Iran is even weaker.
Political activism of the Shi'a mullah s has been an integral part of modern Iranian politics since the Tobacco Protest of —92 and the Constitutional movement of — Despite this history of activism, the political positions of the mullah s have not been unified: some supported, and others opposed, adopting a constitution based on positive law, for example.
Some of the Shi'a clerical hierarchy resisted the removal of the nationalist Mossadeq government and the restoration of Muhammad Reza Shah by a CIA-sponsored coup in ; others accepted funds from the United States to mobilize opposition to Mossadeq. Widespread popular perceptions of governmental corruption, economic discontent resulting from oil boom-caused inflation, and a perceived relaxation of the regime's repressive apparatus after US President Jimmy Carter announced he would pursue a foreign policy of promoting "human rights" created an opening for the political activity that grew into a revolutionary movement.
The early stages of this movement were initiated by secular liberals, with the participation of Marxists and feminists. Only after January did Ayatollah Khomeini, who established a reputation of militant resistance to the Pahlavi regime as early as , emerge as the titular leader of the revolutionary movement.
After Khomeini returned to Iran in February , pro-Khomeini clericalists fought a complex battle against secular political forces and religious forces with a different orientation. The local issues that generated support for the revolutionary movement may have had little to do with Islam, although Shi 'i ritual provided an important symbolic language and public space for staging the opposition to the Shah. And as Sami Zubaida suggests, the contest over what constitutes an "Islamic state" in Iran has produced some surprising outcomes.
Political Islam and United States Policy The most visible and prominent Islamist movements today are insurgent movements that represent challenges to existing regimes and to a political order that by and large has served Western interests well. This insurgent character, not their Islamic demeanor, underlies the generally adversarial relations between the United States and these movements. In one case, that of Iran, such a movement has seized and consolidated state power. Iran'srevolution in marks the beginning of widespread American perceptions of an "Islamic threat.
US policy spokespersons have recently taken great pains to stress that the United States has no inherent differences with Islam, or even with regimes that identify themselves as Islamic. US policy toward Islamists has been basically instrumentalist. The professedly Islamic regimes of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been key strategic allies of the United States in the Middle East, and Sudan's Islamist military regime moved decisively into the adversary column only after shifting from the Saudi to the Iranian orbit.
Some American policy makers assert, in fact, that the United States does not oppose Islamists, only extremists. From to in Afghanistan, though, the largest CIA covert aid program in US history financed and armed the most extreme of the mujahidin groups fighting the Afghan communist regime in Kabul and the Soviet interventionary force that tried to save it.
This US support has been a factor of major importance in the growth and military capabilities of militant Islamist forces in Egypt and elsewhere11 see the interview with Tal'at Fu'ad Qasim. Saudi funding for Islamist groups and institutions going back to the mids was benignly observed from Washington because such assistance worked against radical nationalism—the Ba'th in Syria and 'Abd al-Nasir in Egypt—and supported conservative figures like King Husayn in Jordan.
Similarly, there was no hint of any US reproach in the s when the Egyptian government of Anwar al-Sadat, then on its way to becoming the second largest recipient after Israel of US economic and military aid, encouraged the Muslim Brothers and its radical offshoots to organize against nationalists and leftists. French scholar Olivier Roy writes, with only a little exaggeration, that "[t]he notion of a radical opposition between fundamentalism and the West is typically French.
Americans have never seen Islamism as an ideological enemy. They have favored neoconservative fundamentalism. The Iranian revolution marked the end of a phase of "benign neglect" on the part of the United States and its allies in the region. But even US hostility toward Islamist Iran has been tempered by instrumentalism, particularly in the service of the American jihad against Soviet communism. The multibillion dollar campaign in support of militant Islam in Afghanistan was more of a pattern than an exception.
In , for instance, the CIA passed to the Khomeini regime an extensive list of Iranian communists and leftists working in the Iranian government. As the official Tower Commission inquiry into the Iran-contra scandal dispassionately observed, "Using this information, the Khomeini government took measures, including mass executions, that virtually eliminated the pro-Soviet infrastructure in Iran.
Iran's revolution marked a watershed in the evolution of American attitudes and policy toward political Islam for several reasons. First, it demolished the main US regional ally and military surrogate in the Persian Gulf. Coming only four years after the US defeat in Indochina, and after a series of apparently successful revolutions and national liberation struggles in Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, and elsewhere, Iran's revolution seemed to mark a decisive decline of American power.
The US role in restoring the Shah to power in and sustaining his regime, moreover, infused the revolution from the beginning with a fiercely anti-American character. A polarization of popular as well as elite attitudes in both countries occurred with the November takeover of the US embassy following Washington's decision to allow the Shah to enter the United States. President Jimmy Carter's public dismissal of the events of as "ancient history" captured this polarization on the American side.
Second, events in Iran were followed by several deeply disturbing indications, from an American elite point of view, that Iran's revolution might not be contained within its borders. One was the November takeover of the grand mosque in Mecca by a group of radical Islamist opponents of the Saudi regime; that rebellion had to be put down with the help of Jordanian and French military advisors. The second was the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan beginning in December , which exacerbated an American and Western sense of vulnerability in the Persian Gulf region.
A third development was the October assassination of Anwar al-Sadat by Islamist Egyptian army officers. The third complex reason relates to overlapping perceptions of Cold War vulnerability and rivalry. Although the disruption of oil markets caused by the Iranian revolution was relatively brief, it was popularly associated with the oil embargo triggered by the October Arab-Israeli war and the enormous increase in oil prices that accompanied the embargo.
That Iran was not an Arab country mattered little: it was a Muslim Middle Eastern country that had visibly profited from the increase in oil revenues. These perceptions were further complicated by the campaign of conservative American political forces to scuttle detente with the Soviet Union and increase US military spending. Part of this campaign involved portraying the United States and its one reliable ally in the region, Israel, as beset by an Arab-Soviet axis, the Arab component threatening Israel and gouging thewallets of ordinary Americans while the Soviet Union exploited detente to expand its global power.
Iran's revolution unfolded within this perceptual framework. Seeing Iran in cold War terms suited the agenda of the American right. The Islamic Revolution inserted a Muslim dimension into this familiar adversarial paradigm. This Muslim aspect, of course, came encumbered with its own perceptual freight: the European history of Christian-Muslim rivalry; the profile of American Black Muslim militancy in US race relations; and the very present and well-nurtured image of Muslim Arab hostility to Israel. All these elements were poured into the reductionist fray of American domestic politics and media representations.
The conflict was commonly represented as pitting leftist Muslims, backed by the PLO, against rightist Christians, backed by Israel, though the reality was far more complex. The shifting alliances and complex regional ramifications of the civil war allowed the Iranian revolution to extend its influence into Lebanon. This was not because Shi'ism has an innate proclivity for political opposition, martyrdom, or terrorism, as many facile Western analyses proposed. The Iranian revolution further invigorated the already growing political mobilization of Lebanon's Shi'a community see Salim Nasr's chapter.
Simultaneously, Israel escalated its military efforts to eliminate the PLO as a political force. This climaxed with a full-scale invasion in June , transparently backed by the Reagan administration, and a protracted military siege of Beirut over that summer. When the Israeli siege of Beirut ended, US troops were brought in as part of a larger Western peacekeeping deployment.
Over the following months, though, US forces became increasingly and openly engaged in supporting efforts of the Israeli-installed and Maronite-dominated government headed by Amin Gemayel to extend its power beyond the walls of the presidential palace. In August and September , in support of theMaronite-dominated Lebanese army, US battleships shelled positions of Druze and other opposition militias. By February , the Reagan administration acknowledged that its military and political position in Lebanon was untenable and withdrew remaining US forces.
Following the US intervention in Lebanon, several Shi'i militias kidnapped and held hostage Americans and other Western civilians working in Beirut.
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Only at the beginning of the s was the last of these hostages finally released. In the same period, largely Shi'a resistance forces launched many effective suicide attacks against Israeli troops in occupied south Lebanon. The sequence of the Iranian revolution and the Lebanese Shi'i campaign against the United States and the Israeli presence in Lebanon, as filtered through Western media, generated images and attitudes that unproblematically equated Islamism with irrational, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli terrorism.
Sporadic attacks and counterattacks between the United States and Libya under Mua'mmar Qadhdhafi also fed this imagery, though Qadhdhafi's regime, in fact, opposed most Islamist currents. The subsequent emergence of armed Islamist forces in Egypt, Algeria, and occupied Palestine, their military skills honed in the US- and Saudi-funded Afghanistan campaign, solidified and enlarged these images and attitudes. Perceptions of Iran and Lebanon altered Washington's historically largely instrumentalist approach to political Islam.
The demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War further eroded the earlier pragmatism. Over the past several years, as indicated above, the executive branch—the State Department, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon—has promoted a fairly consistent line, most prominently articulated by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Robert Pelletreau, and his predecessor, Edward Djerejian.
This approach rhetorically acknowledges the variety of Islamist political formations and distinguishes between those that, in Pelletreau's words, "choose to participate in their countries' electoral processes, hoping to affect change within existing political structures," and those that "have opted for the use of violence against existing governments, indigenous minorities, and foreigners. But US policy formulation is more than the words of high-level diplomats.
Scanning the post-Cold War policy landscape, we find that the former focus of the instrumentalist approach, the Soviet Union, which served as a policycompass or gyroscope for three-quarters of a century, is no more. An instrumentalist orientation now must take its bearings from the impact of Islamist politics in particular societies and the consequences for US interests in those countries. This is especially the case where Islamist political forces have, as in Algeria, become components of a popular oppositional consensus.
The collapse of the Soviet Union as a policy touchstone has created a vacuum of sorts, a phenomenon abhorred by "policy intellectuals" and geostrategists as much as by nature. There seem to be few contenders for a replacement; issues like hunger and social equity will not sustain outsized military budgets. One nominee is "the unknown," an intrinsically unreliable policy guide. A somewhat more serviceable contender is "Islamic fundamentalism. Right now there is no transportation in order to the eBook shop.
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