Who to Blame: Islam or Islamism

Turkey protests

Turkey protests

Much of the debate on Sharia law and its misogyny against women, the brutal murder in Woolwich, terrorism and more comes back to the question of Islam.

Islam we are told is to blame for it all.

After all Sharia law, jihad, misogyny are rooted in the Koran and Hadith (the sayings and action of Islam’s prophet Mohammad) – which is all true.

The link is undeniable (unless you are a cowardly politician). Islam is the banner of Islamism or political Islam.

But Islamism – not Islam – is to blame. Let me explain.

Christianity is the basis of the Christian-Right but fighting the Christian Right in the US is primarily a political fight against a far-Right movement not a fight against the fundamentals of Christianity.

I have said this many times before: if you look at Christianity in Europe today it is different from the days of the inquisition not because its fundamentals have changed but because its political and social status and power have changed. It’s been reined in and pushed back.

It’s the same with Islamism. I am told Sam Harris says “the problem with Islamic fundamentalism is the fundamentals of Islam” but this is about politics not religion. The fundamentals of Christianity remain the same but we are no longer living under the Spanish inquisition…

Of course, in general, we must always fight regressive and inhuman beliefs, including religious ones. Whilst people have a right to their beliefs as private matters, challenging regressive beliefs is an ongoing task. But to challenge and push back Islamism, sharia law, or terrorism, you have to fight it politically.

If you can’t see where the problem lies, you can’t begin to confront it.

A friend writes: “If Islam were sunshine and lollipops, then the political implementation of Islam wouldn’t be a problem. Is it because Islam is what it is that the politicisation of it is a problem?”

Well no. Nationalism is the basis of fascism but every act of flag waving at a football match does not fascism make.

There is of course much more to say on this and I will try to do so soon. However, while we’re on this topic I have to end with another issue that also often comes up in this debate. Not long passes before someone wants to know “where all the Muslims are”? The fact that we are never asked “where all the Christians are” in the fight against the Christian-Right is a good indicator that there is something very wrong with this question.

Most importantly, it’s the religious-Right that organises along the lines of religion. Others organise on the basis of social, political and class politics.Can you really not see the anti-Islamist uprisings in Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia… Can you not see so many fighting and dying (and long before September 11)? Or do you just not want to?


  1. Comtessa de Metoncula says

    This nails it right on the head but one element missing in all of this is the Judaic connection in all three religions!
    Most of the rules of the Sharia come from Judaism.
    As far as I know, Mohamed may have been married to at least two rich Jewish women ( He was not stupid!).
    and one whose father was a Rabbi..Mohammed was not inspired by God (Man made invisible entity which turned out to best one of the most brilliant marketing ploys ever conceived by Human animals)
    People are painfully ignorant of history..There are so many facts mentioned in the Old testament and the Torah which are inacurate and impossible and yet believed by millions of People..
    What needs to happen in this World is a good look at all of us and our values as ONE RACE the Human race going rapidly into an abyss of no return because of our rapidly destroying our home = this Planet and we need to hold hands to reverse this trend.We can only achieve this by telling the World leaders, we are tired of destructive Wars and we need to do something serious about the overpopulation!
    For those who still need convincing please read ” The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich 1968 and other books by the same author and his wife on the same subject..Enough ,enough we are all human animals and related to everything living on this poor blue planet that will soon look like the Moon if we continue on this dangerous path.

  2. David Farrington says

    In my eyes there is much truth in what you state, and I agree that political Islam is a driving force for much of the problem, but can you really say that the fundemetals of Islamic scripture are not the engine motivating the oppression of women? At least at some level. This which seems to have nothin to do with political islam in my view. I have a fraction of the knowledge that you have Maryam on the subject so please feel free to educate me. Keep up the amazing work David.

  3. says

    Sorry, but political Christianity is not supported in the basic Christian scriptures, which is the only reason it has been “beaten back”. But political Islam is virtually the entire raison d’etre of the basic Muslim scriptures. The very word Islam means unconditional surrender of body, mind, and territory to the One Truth of Allah and rule by true Muslims. Historically, Christendom got most of its bad aspects first by imitating the pagan Roman Empire, then by imitating Islam. It took the Protestant Reformation and a bloody series of wars to end political Christianity, starting with the launch of the United States of America and its Constitution and Bill of Rights. Too bad, overreaction against Christianity soon led to the pendulum swinging too far the other way, resulting in the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, followed by Marxism-Leninism. So-called Islamism is just a word invented by Westerners to sitmatize a return to true Islam by Muslims they had been working on to Westernize who turned on them. Learn all about the history of Islam by taking my free online course at my Historyscoper site.

  4. Ron Martin says

    Your attempt to separate Islam from Islamism is naive at best. Islam is the government; politico and way of life i.e. Sharia law, jihad, misogyny are rooted in the Koran and Hadith (the sayings and action of Islam’s prophet Mohammad) – which is all true and according to Islam cannot be separated out from a political standpoint of Islamism. Muslins will tell it is one in the same. Islam is to blame and we must put the blame squarely where it belongs!

  5. chrisdevries says

    I say blame both Islam and Islamism. Islamism, as the political expression of radical Islam, is certainly the more troubling specific ideology, but it is still rooted in the tenets of Islam. Using your American Christian fundamentalist analogy, liberal Lutherans and Presbyterians are not a huge threat to the secular nature of the USA; Dominionists and Christian Reconstructionists draw their support from more conservative versions of Protestantism. However, as Harris, Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens argue, the protection from criticism that Christianity enjoys in America (especially in the Bible Belt states), and (perhaps more importantly) the almost universal belief that belief itself is a good thing (regardless of both the irrationality of the claims made by the devout and the demonstrable harm even mild versions of religion can cause/endorse) are cultural qualities that give extremists the automatic benefit of the doubt amongst their moderate brethren, and thus a layer of protection they would not have in a rational society where all beliefs were formed in direct response to the evidence available.

    Islam as practiced by peaceful, secular-minded Muslims is still Islam. It is not blameless or benign because it creates a cultural context that allows more extreme versions of Islamic doctrine to flourish uncontested. It is also noteworthy that Islam as it is currently practiced in certain places is far less tolerant of criticism than American Christianity. There are probably millions of Muslims who would disavow the actions and beliefs of the Taliban and Hamas, were they not afraid of the repercussions. And just like with Christianity, Muslim fundamentalists are correct in their claim that theirs is the most faithful practice of the tenets of their faith. It is the moderates who are perverting and watering down God’s word to make it more compatible with the secular values they already possess. Thus, Islam as a cultural context offers the most protection to the most extreme Muslim factions. It is hard to use a religious rationale to criticize those who are the most faithful to their religion.

    The flip side to all of this is that it is probably easier to fight fundamentalism from within a faith than from without, but Islam is somewhat innoculated against this, being that its fundamentalists are known to use violence to settle their religious disputes. Unless a perspective is believed by a clear, outspoken majority, its advocates are literally putting their lives on the line.

    So, while Islamists may be the biggest threat, their existence and perspectives are given “cover” by all Muslims, even those who are outspoken against extremism. This culture war may be fought in the political realm in some countries, but it is religion that is the root problem. Without religion (and more generally, dogma) as a cultural norm, those who uncritically accept ridiculous beliefs would be in a tiny minority and certainly would have a hard time gaining political traction.

  6. Michael R says

    This is a bad case of motivated reasoning. Maryam is intelligent, and yet no intelligent person could equate the doctrine of Islam with Christianity. No intelligent person could equate the life of Muhammad with Jesus or the Buddha. It defies all logic. Hence Maryam has a motive other than the honest pursuit of truth. That motive is probably found in her background, coming from a Muslim country.

    Maryam’s problem is that if we identify Islamic doctrine as the main problem then the policies that flow from that realisation will no doubt include stopping all Muslim immigration e.g. you can see this with Geert Wilders. Maryam, being from Muslim background, presumably does not want the whole Muslim community to be lumped into this problem. So she tries to create this bizarre distinction between Islam and Islamism. No logic could make this distinction, only an alterior motive could do that.

    Danish researcher: Islam is the most violent religion

    “The religious texts of Islam call upon its followers to commit acts of terror and violence to a much higher degree than any other religion, concludes Tina Magaard, who graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris as a PhD in Textual Analysis and Intercultural Communication, after a three-year research project that compared the basic texts from 10 religions.”

    When an apple falls from a tree, we know gravity caused it. When Muslims go bad, we know Islamic doctrine, and the example of Muhammad, caused it (albeit Western foreign policy is also a factor). To ignore doctrine and focus only on groups who take it seriously is no permanent solution. Rather it guarantees a permanent threat to the Western world because it fails to deal with root causes.

  7. thetruth says

    Who to blame?

    1) 9/11 conspirators to legitimize illegal occupation of Palestine land?

    2) Those killers who have massacred 1.2 innocent people including children to find weapons of mass destruction which never found. (of a Muslim country called Iraq)?

    3) Destruction of a poor nation called Afghanistan to find 9/11 terrorists?

    These (about 1% of the population of this earth)atheists and other supporting anti Islamic elements…
    Mariam Namazie and her 5 commenter’s?


    These 1500 architects, engineers, scientists and intellectuals who made the following video to understand terror Islam ?.

    Support Mariam Namazie by linking following video to wipe out Islam.

  8. Vulcan29 says

    I do not agree that asking “where all the Muslims are?” is wrong. In the fight against radical Islamism which is linked directly to terrorism, repression and murder it is a question that must be asked.
    The question – “where all the Christians are” in the fight against the Christian-Right – is something that many of us are asking as fundamentalist “Christians” are undoubtedly equally as dangerous as other fundamentalists. Take a look at the attempts to remove rights from women in the USA (health and reproductive rights in particular) which are being lead by Bible thumping right wing fundamentalist Christians.
    All extreme religious and political dogmas are a threat to us all and need to be brought under control so that the 99% of the world population that wishes to live in peace can do so. It seems that an individuals location and which issues are of immediate personal priority dictate which questions are asked. A very wide view is required to have knowledge of all the questions that are being asked. Probably an impossible task!
    Those who see fundamental Islamists as the greatest threat to their lives and life styles may ask “where all the Muslims are?”. These that fear fundamental Christians will ask “where all the Christians are”. Those that are starving will ask “is there food?”. Those that are dying of thirst ask “is there water?”. All of these questions are relevant depending upon an individuals circumstances. Because we ask one question without asking all the others that are possible does not make them wrong.

  9. Martha says

    I love the analogy to the Spanish Inquisition, and I wish some of the comments above reflected a better understanding of the subtlety of your argument. Even if one is convinced that religion is the source of all evil– and I’m not– surely it’s clear that the political battle is an easier one to fight. Given the incredible destructive power of Islamism, shouldn’t we focus on that political battle first?

    On a separate note, I very much enjoyed your talk at WiS2 and look forward to reading here more regularly.

  10. says

    I can’t see much of the anti-Islamist uprisings; the media here in NZ don’t think they’re news, and don’t show them.
    Several commenters have said already what these kinds of people always say when someone mentions Islam, that Islamist political ideals are at the “core” of the religion whereas the witch-hunts etc. are not the “core” of Christianity. I have yet to be persuaded that religions have “cores” in the way they’re talking about, but the analogy can easily be made better: are Christians, en bloc, still persecuting Jews?
    You will find anti-Jewish messages in Christendom for 19 centuries right back to the Gospels. Ask a Christian what Christ came for, and you will get an answer like “To save us from the penalties of sin under the Old Law” — “the Old Law” being a polite way of saying “Judaism”. Christianity is based, to its “core”, on the rejection of Judaism.
    Now: are Christians as a whole still persecuting Jews?
    Then perhaps it is not the “core beliefs” that matter most after all.

  11. ... says

    Funny, I seem to remember that someone was all in favour of the “Arab Spring” and we now see where that has lead.

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