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Is Islamism really dangerous for the West?

Of course it is, but few will tell the truth

Anna Firth waits for the Southend West by-election results on Feb. 04, 2022, in Southend, England. John Keeble/Getty Images

Is Islamism really dangerous for the West?
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The Western world is severely confused and often misguided about political Islam. Hence, it’s truly refreshing to see a British politician who gets it and is willing to openly call attention to the severe dangers of radical Islam and Islamism in western societies.

Conservative politician Anna Firth is the Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency known as Southend West in England. In her latest article in The Telegraph, she asserts that, “Nobody wants to admit the scale of the Islamist threat to our democracy.” She clearly describes the threat: “We seem afraid. Afraid to be seen as racist or Islamophobic, even when we simply seek to save lives by speaking the truth.”

Firth warns that “many Islamist fundamentalists with bad intentions live and walk among us.” To make her point, Firth highlights two recent atrocities committed by Muslims in Britain. In 2021, Sir David Amess—whom Firth succeeded as MP—was massacred by an Islamist who didn’t like his vote about the war in Syria; and recently Mike Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green, announced he would step down after Islamists made him a target. (Sir David’s killer had gone looking for Freer first, and Freer’s office was recently firebombed.)

Firth’s examples are only a sample of a repeated pattern of atrocities committed in the Western world in recent years—all under the umbrella of Islam. However, very little is done or said about the threat of Islamism, as Islamists use intimidation, terrorization, and assassination to achieve their religio-political agendas as they live and flourish in the West.

So, who are the Islamists? What makes a Muslim an Islamist? What is Islamism in reality and what makes it dangerous in Western democracies?

Islamism views the religion of Islam in terms of both worship and political power. It is often labeled as political Islam. It views Muhammad as to have embodied two realities in his career: a religious preacher serving Allah and a military commander who invaded lands to advance Islam. Islamists are Muslims who cherish Islam’s religious commands and precedents, and treat them as mandatory political tools to replace and surpass any other religion in this world.

For an Islamist, it’s a religious duty to bring forth Islam’s supremacy in the society by all possible means.

In recent years, the world identified groups like Al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Hamas, among many others, as terrorist organizations, but what many don’t realize is that Islamism is the driving ideology of all these groups. While these terrorist organizations are openly militant in their application of Islam and flourish in Muslim-majority lands, other groups—such as the Muslim Brotherhood and even CAIR in the United States—take pride in Islamism, yet choose to advance their goals through the political spheres in western societies.

How does a cultural Muslim differ from an Islamist?

A cultural Muslim might simply seek to live and integrate charitably in societies, while an Islamist would diligently seek to see Islam victorious among non-Muslims, by applying its religio-political principals. For an Islamist, it’s a religious duty to bring forth Islam’s supremacy in the society by all possible means. If for a nominal Muslim jihad merely reflects piety and self-control, an Islamist views it as a religiously driven pursuit to declare Islam’s political hegemony among non-Muslims. While a cultural Muslim might embrace the culture of a society as a legitimate necessity, an Islamist would see all non-Muslim cultures as inferior and lax as compared to Islamic ways of living.

For an Islamist, the Islamic caliphate is the best political system, the Quran is the most honorable constitution, Muhammad is the greatest man who ever lived, and jihad is the only religiously commendable way to subdue non-Muslims. Islamists pine for the earliest days of Islam. They view those days as the golden period when Islam victoriously supplanted other religions and subdued non-Muslims through military activities.

This is one reason why, in the West, Islamist groups and preachers clearly use religious freedom to advance in the system. They (mis)use the system, not to assert and protect religious freedom for all, but specifically to elevate Islam and its commands as a superior political system to rule the land. As long as Islamists are in the minority, they are vulnerable and seek diplomatic ways to achieve the maximum benefits of the system. Once they accomplish a slight majority, they diligently aim to advance Islamic principles and patterns of life. By achieving their political goals, Islamists view these as religious victories for Islam.

So, Anna Firth is right and the world needs to wake up to the threat of Islamism to the core fabric of western societies. Whatever the democratic West had embraced as values or secured as resources might one day become obsolete, replaced by commands and philosophies derived from seventh-century Arabia, as exemplified in fanatic tales of soldiers on horses.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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