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Summary - Исламская альтернатива и исламистский проект

Islamism is a phenomenon that arises naturally and logically within the Muslim world and cannot be ‘abolished’ or put down to the schemes of ignorant obscurantists. Only Islam can propose its own alternative form of globalization, an alternative most clearly and thoroughly described by Islamists themselves.

The Quran and tradition are predisposed to a fundamentalist reading. The historical experience of the last 400 years has also contributed to such a reading. Islamism is not a malady of Islam, but an endless reaction to Islam’s lost history. even if we were to consider it as a malady, it would take generations to cure it, and the ‘healers’ (if there were any) would constantly have to provide not only for ‘treatment of the patient’ but also for maintaining the patient’s psychological stability. Otherwise outbreaks of terrorism would be inevitable and threaten not only the patient but also the doctors.

Islamism is a political activity and a part of popular consciousness at the same time, and of course an ideology. The key issues for Islamism include 1) developing an Islamic alternative and 2) defining Islam’s stance toward the non-Islamic world, especially the West (including Russia), as well as china and India.

There are two distinct movements in Islamism: a moderate one consisting of pragmatic Islamists concerned with practical issues and acting like political groups at the national or local level; and a radical, extremist movement struggling for a priori unattainable goals such as the creation of a caliphate, but ready to fight for these goals indefinitely, using the harshest methods possible, including resorting to terrorism.

While putting the term ‘Islamic threat’ in the quotation marks we should acknowledge the existence of an Islamist or, to be more exact, radical Islamist threat. This threat will persist for an indefinitely long period of time. Even if we agree with those who believe that it could be overcome in the next twenty years, we must admit that the near and medium-term future is unpredictable. The Islamist threat can to some extent be likened to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has lasted for nearly sixty years even though a definitive resolution often seemed possible during these years. However, the Islamist situation is much more complicated.

The radical Islamist threat has the following characteristics:

  • Ongoing efforts to destabilize Islamic countries;
  • Constant rather than sporadic terrorist attacks against the West which have become a specific form of a declared war, which, as any war, claims civilian lives;
  • Fomenting local conflicts, involving the greatest possible number of people, groups and movements;
  • Efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. one has to assume that it is only a matter of time before Islamists achieve this goal, and where and against whom they choose to use such weapons will depend on the character, cast of mind, intelligence and psychology of a group or a lone fanatic.

The Islamist threat is provocative: it leads politicians and society to believe that an ongoing clash of civilizations has already started, and it complicates relationships between ethnic and religious groups. It exerts a growing influence on the public consciousness and state policy of the countries of Eurasia and America, leading to counter-measures that threaten to curtail democracy.

People worldwide are now getting used to religious fanaticism; it is becoming a normal feature of life for Americans, Europeans, and Russians. It goes unnoticed and people are reminded of it only after another act of terrorism is committed.

Only on September 11 did the United States, and then the rest of the world, start to really recognize that we are dealing not with a marginalized group or some invulnerable ‘Islamic mafia’ but with a political and cultural phenomenon reflecting the opinions and interests of millions of people. Furthermore, destroying Bin laden will not make this phenomenon disappear by itself.

The Islamic community does not have time to wait for the elimination of the social roots of Islamic radicalism poverty, backwardness, and the weakness or almost complete absence of civil society. The world has long outgrown the illusion that ‘big money’ from oil or gas can by itself solve socio-economic and political problems. The period from 1970 to 2000 dispelled that idea.

Reforms and the democratization of Islamic society are slow and are taking place at the same time as changes of priorities in Islamic ideology. Modern institutions and their activities are not sufficient to turn the tide and make the modernization process irreversible.

The transformation of Islamic society is scarcely imaginable ‘outside Islam’. The dissemination of a progressive reformist ideology is impossible without the combined efforts of theologians, scholars and politicians. Overcoming the most archaic interpretations can be considered successful only if this process involves the middle class at large and takes hold more firmly at the level of mass consciousness.

But in the late 20th and early 21st centuries Islamists are the more active players in society. The two major movements, Islamist and reformist, operate in ‘parallel’ in Islamic ideology. The reformers accuse the Islamists of distorting Islam, fueling tension within Islam and confrontation with the followers of other religions. on occasion, Islamists are rejected as true adherents of Islam. The Islamists do much the same, accusing their opponents of imitating the West and being oblivious to the values of ‘true Islam’. In this way, the very possibility of a reform process is put in doubt. Extremists call for a war against the traitors and for their overthrow and elimination. The inter-Islamic dialogue does not happen. And this is one of the major problems of modern Islam.

Will Islamic civilization ever ‘mature’ to the level of Christian (Western Christian) civilization, where the resolution of worldly problems does not require resorting to a Supreme Being? For it seems that only in this case will the politicization of Islam in its most radical forms be prevented, the prospects for further Islamic revolutions eliminated, and will the ‘Islamist threat’, both internal and external, disappear by itself. For Muslims this question sounds extremely blunt and even “insulting”.

It is not possible for one civilization to ‘catch up’ with another even in a long-term historical perspective. The paths of development of any civilization are complicated and oblique. It is impossible to predict which factors will influence the development of value systems. And it is completely unknown what new circumstances will affect humanity in general. (Qualitative technological advances, a nuclear apocalypse, cloning, or even the effects of outer space?)

The weight of the foregoing circumstances is not likely to bear in full in the near future. But it is clear that every civilization maintains its ‘constants’, including a set of religious, ideological, and psychological factors defining the norms governing relationships between people, the individual and society, the individual and the state, and among followers of various religions. The Islamic tradition emphasizes interrelations between groups and cultures more than between individuals. This presupposes an almost insurmountable difference between views on personal liberty and human rights. This difference between the Islamic and Western Christian traditions will hardly ever be fully overcome.

It can be described as ‘lagging-behind’ but also as a fundamental difference between these cultures. The Western world view emphasizes the former circumstances and the Islamic world the latter.

The main argument of the West in favor of Western civilization is the high level of economic development, which is clearly evident against the backdrop of the Muslim world, which is falling further and further behind. The Muslims according to this logic should admit without any reservations their own underdevelopment and inability to independently resolve their political and social problems. They should fully accept the “rules of the game” set by the West. It is obvious, however, that such an approach can meet nothing but a negative reaction in the Muslim society, and that this reaction would be most actively and fiercely expressed by Islamists, first of all by their radical and extremist wing.

Islamism will maintain its influence in the policy and ideology of Muslims for an indefinitely long time.

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