Leiden Safety and Security Blog

Political Muslims – Understanding Youth Resistance in a Global Contest

Political Muslims – Understanding Youth Resistance in a Global Contest

A spectre is haunting the globe – the spectre of Islamism. Yet, too many jump to a speedy conclusion as to what this concept entails. For most, it is associated with extremism, leading to radicalisation, and eventually terrorism. This is the view that dominates much of policy thinking and academic parlance in this field. In the minds of many, the concept of Islamism is heavily skewed towards the idea that violence is the inevitable outcome.

My good friend and colleague Dr Sadek Hamid from the UK and I, when I was based in Turkey, wanted to counter some of the negative associations in relation to the idea of Islamism. We regard it as a value-free concept, with the essential notion being that Muslim groups are alluding to political challenges, struggles or opportunities based on their reading, understanding and application of particular Islamic doctrine to mobilise into action a response to or engagement with politics. This does not mean that violence is a natural consequence of Islamism, although in certain circumstances there is the possibility of hostility. We wish to make it clear that Islamism is also a progressive idea, which reveals positive social, cultural as well as political consequences in societies where Muslims are both minorities and majorities. In pursuit of wanting to shift the terrain on Islamism, an edited book project was born. We worked for the better part of the last four years putting together what we see as an antidote to this negative perception. Syracuse University Press was keen to publish it. The review process and publication process took some time but the result has been worth it. The adage that all good things come to those who wait certainly applied in this instance. The contributions from scholars in ten locations across the world suggest unequivocally that Muslim reading of Islamic scripture that makes a politico-ideological statement is in a number of cases leading to pro-integration, pro-equality and pro-diversity outcomes within communities variously affected by war, marginalisation and exclusion, which are often the antecedents to radicalisation.

These contributions focus on the dilemmas of being young and Muslim at a time of heightened tensions in relation to the ‘Muslim question’ across the world. Islamophobia continues to grow alongside anti-Semitism, reflecting an air of intolerance and bigotry that is on the rise, where populism, authoritarianism and xenophobia combine in a heady cocktail that leads to division, discord and disharmony on a global scale. These are unprecedented times and Muslim groups are often facing the brunt of negativity in the world today. Using different methodological approaches, from the arts, humanities to the social sciences in general, scholars from across the globe, namely, the United States, Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and Indonesia explore the vicissitudes of being Muslim and political today. Rather than retreat into spaces of no hope, these writers underscore the importance and significance of Muslim youth agency in particular settings. They scrutinise the trials facing urban youth in various socioeconomic positions, focusing on issues that range from understanding the nature of hybrid identities and student activism to the strategic use of music and social media.

The objects of the book are to highlight the injustices in societies and to encourage young Muslims to look into their faith with open eyes as a means to mobilise their political resistance in ways that are participatory and engaged with the wider body politic. To that end, this book actively challenges the dominant strain of thinking regarding Islamism by proposing an alternative and more progressive approach to being a Muslim citizen across the world today.

Political Muslims: Understanding Youth Resistance in a Global Context is now available in all good book shops and online in both hardback and paperback.

3 Comments

Tahir Abbas
Posted on April 25, 2019 at 14:01 by Tahir Abbas

Precisely the argument. Islamism is a neutral term, now hijacked to suggest something akin to Muslims on the verge of violence per se. The term is nuanced and situational, as we and the authors go to great lengths to demonstrate in this collection.

Sohail Ahmed
Posted on April 1, 2019 at 21:31 by Sohail Ahmed

I made an error in my previous comment in stating that Nawaz coined the term. That is incorrect, and the term has been around for a long time, although with varying definitions. My original point stands: that this is a semantic issue of definition, which hasn’t been discussed.

Sohail Ahmed
Posted on April 1, 2019 at 21:26 by Sohail Ahmed

The problem here seems to me, at least superficially, to be one of definition. How does one define ‘Islamism’? The definition suggested above is so wide and porous that it is essentially alluding to political islam and Muslims who are politically active, who use their religion as a source of guidance.

This is not the definition that was proposed by Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam foundation, the people who coined the term. As such this post is highly misleading. There is no discussion regarding the definition of the term, merely a statement of the definition as though it were a widely accepted fact.

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