History 271: The Modern Middle East
Writing Assignment #2
April 19, 2012
The rise of Islamism
Islamism is an ideology that demands Muslims complete adherence to the law of Islam and rejects as much as possible outside influence. It is based with a deep antagonism towards non-Muslims and has a particular hostility towards the West. It amounts to an effort to turn Islam, a religion and civilization, into an ideology. Islamism is, in other words, another twentieth-century radical utopian discourse, offering a way to control the state, run society, and give the Muslim community a sense of unity. Islamism is by now a powerful force. It runs governments in Iran, Sudan, and Afghanistan. It is an important force of opposition in Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and the Palestinian authority.
The paper at hand is going to analyze what conditions and events allowed for the rise of Islamism as an ideology in the later 20th century? The first part is going to introduce the concept of eurocentrism. Following this, Kemalism and its effect on Islamism is going to be discussed. In the last part of the paper post-modernism and Khomeini and their role in the rise of Islamism are highlighted.
Eurocentrism can be described as a phenomenon establishing the West as the center of the world by equating it with modernity and as a result make it the destiny of the world to become westernized, since this is equal with being modern. This development is based on the idea that "the West knows best" (Sayyid, 127). This concept has its historical roots in European colonialism and imperialism. "The discourse of eurocentrism is one of the major strands with which the network of western global power is held together "(p.129), since it provides them with a sense of unity and power, which serves as legitimacy for claiming to be the center of the world. Opposition that wants to resist this hegemonic order, can do so only in the terms of that hegemony. This leads to another assumption of eurocentrism: "there is nothing outside the Western project". (p.135)
After the post-colonial order and the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim world was dominated by Kemalist discourses. Influenced by eurocentrism, Kemal's vision was to mimic the European way of building and reigning a nation to become like the West and as a result become modern and reach political efficacy (Sayyid 155). This aim to become like the West resulted in major changes in Turkey and other countries being influenced by the Kemalist discourse.
Before being abolished by the Kemalist regime, the caliphate constituted the nodal point, around which the Muslim unity and identity was built. At the same time it was the centre of the Muslim political structure, attaching Islam as a master signifier to the state. (p.57) Abolishing the caliphate separated the link between state and Islam. The goal of Kemalism was to disconnect Islam from the state to be able to establish a hegemonic discourse without having to integrate Islam. Being aware of the fact that the Kemalist government could not neglect Islam altogether, since the possibility of using it to mobilize support still existed, Kemal tried to tie it in into his discourse. Acts like the abolishment of the caliphate and putting all educational institutions under direct state control to avoid Islamic concepts being taught, sought to distance and even exclude Islam from the Kemalist Turkey.(pp.63-64)
The effect of Kemalism on the role of Islam was different than expected. Instead of depoliticize Islam the policies of the Kemalist reactivated it. By removing it from the centre of their construction of political order, they politicized it. Unsettling it and disseminating it into the general culture made it available for reinscription. The rise of Islamism was enabled through the possibility to articulate it into a counter-hegemonic discourse. (pp.72-73)...
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