Saturday, November 04, 2006

Islamo-Nationalism not Islamo-Fascism

From Oliver Roy, the best commentator on Political Islam and European Islam.
A book I wrote fifteen years ago is entitled The Failure of Political Islam (not, it should be noted, The Failure of the Islamists). By my title, I meant that the Islamist ideology is simply not working. It didn't provide the basis to create a new society, a new state, or offer an alternative
to the (then) two paths of western democracy and communism.

It seems that many Islamists read my book - or came to the same conclusions independently. For they have (almost) abandoned the idea that the Islamic state is a way to change global society. But what has replaced it? Here there is a wide array of positions along a spectrum that runs from
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's prime minister, to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

For me, the main shift has been towards what I call
Islamo-nationalism. Most of the Islamist parties and movements have in the last decade and a half recasted their direction in nationalist terms - even if they didn't give up the idea that sharia should be the basis of the state.

Moreover, the current agenda of most of the movements -
Hamas, the Iranian revolution (including that of current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), the AK party in Turkey, the FIS, an-Nahda, the Reform Party in Yemen, and even to some extent the Jamaat-e-Islami - is far more nationalist than Islamist. Most of the Muslim Brotherhood's chapters (local movements) are also recasting their political action in national (if not necessarily nationalistic) terms.

A big problem arises. If democratisation means more nationalism and more sharia, this is far from what the western promoters of democratisation envisaged. But this problem must be faced head on by saying: there is no way not to engage the Islamists. There is no alternative. We in the west have to make a choice between Erdoğan and the Taliban. And if we don't choose Erdoğan, we'll get the Taliban.


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