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Jewish financier and agent provocateur of Prussia, Max Oppenheim posing as a radical Muslim, circa WWI.

Islamism is a controversial term that is usually used to denote a set of political ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system and its teachings should be preeminent in all facets of society. It holds that Muslims must return to the original teachings and the early models of Islam, particularly by making Islamic law (sharia) the basis for all statutory law of society and by uniting politically, eventually in one state; and that western military, economic, political, social, or cultural influence in the Muslim world is un-Islamic and should be replaced by purely Islamic influences.

Muslims instrumental in developing and promoting the tenets of Islamism include Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Abul Ala Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and Ayatollah Khomeini[1]. The term is applied to a wide variety of movements and groups spanning the gamut from reformists who seek change through participation in elections—like the successful and respected moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party of Turkey, the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, and the Tunisian leader Rashid Al-Ghannouchi—who deny any plans to force the implementation of sharia law; to groups that participate in both elections and armed attacks, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon; to the radical Islamist al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, who oppose democracy and support the use of attacks on civilians, and takfir of other Muslims. One of the major divisions in Islamism is between the fundamentalist "guardians of tradition" of the Salafism or Wahhabi movement, and the "vanguard of change" centered on the Muslim Brotherhood[2]

This usage is controversial. Those labeled Islamists often, if not always, oppose use of the term, maintaining they are simply Muslims, and that their beliefs are a straightforward expression of Islam as a way of life. Some people find it troublesome that a word derived from "Islam" is applied to organisations they consider radical and extreme.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. Fundamentalist Islam
  2. Fuller, Graham E., The Future of Political Islam, Palgrave MacMillan, (2003), p.194-5