Sunday, June 03, 2007

Four Schools of Contemporary Islam

A very helpful categorization from Shiv Malik in this brilliant and disturbing piece detailing the life and world of the leader of the 7/7 Bombers (England's 9/11). Article here.

The description (my emphasis):
For simplicity's sake, contemporary Islam can be divided into four schools: traditionalists, fundamentalists, modernists and Islamists. Unlike the split between Christian fundamentalists and other Christians, both Islamic traditionalists and fundamentalists lean towards scriptural literalism. The main difference between the groups is how they regard the 1,400 years of theological innovation since Muhammad's death.

While traditionalists will not hesitate to draw upon centuries of scholarly argument, evolution in Sharia law and changes in accepted Islamic practice, fundamentalist movements—of which the Saudi-backed Wahhabis are the most important—reject all theological innovation since the life of Muhammad and his closest companions. Muslims, they say, should pay attention only to the holy book and the collected sayings and doings of Muhammad. This is why, over the last 50 years, Wahhabi authorities in Saudi Arabia have demolished more than 300 historical structures in the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. They want to create a timeless Islam.

The third and smallest group are the theological modernisers—two figures well known in Britain are Tariq Ramadan and Ziauddin Sardar—who say that Muslims should look beyond the literalism of the Koran and seek out the meaning behind the words. What counts in the modern world is not the actions of Muhammad in 7th-century Arabia, but the principles that inspired those actions. Most liberal Muslims belong to this group, but they are a small minority, both within Muslim societies and in Europe.

The fourth school, Islamism, is a relatively recent offshoot of fundamentalism. It emerged in response to the final demise of Islamic authority with the fall of the Ottoman empire after the first world war, but harks back to the early days of the caliphate, when the Koran was the basis for law-making. It sees Islam not just as a religion, but as a socioeconomic system. The Koran is God's version of Das Kapital. Islamists pick and choose teachings from across the ages, and while they read script literally and share a religious zeal with the fundamentalists, they are more akin to an ideological movement than a religious one. Their style of work is often compared with the student far left of the 1960s and 1970s.
The scariest piece, according to Malik's religious expert Hassan Butt (former recruiter for the British jihadi network: the Islamists are winning in Britain.


Post a Comment

<< Home