Trump has vowed to eradicate ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ But what about ‘Islamism’?

Source: The Washington Post


In conservative political circles in the United States, Islamism has become interchangeable with “radical Islamic terrorism,” which President Trump has vowed to “eradicate from the face of the Earth.” Across the political spectrum, though, the idea of Islamism and the threat of violence are never far apart.

But what if we got it wrong? What if the prospect of violence is actually secondary? What if, deep down, the reason Islamism makes so many uncomfortable is not the military challenge it poses but the intellectual one?

The very notion of Islamism often elicits fear and confusion in the West. Used to describe political action where Islam and Islamic law plays a prominent public role, it includes everyone from the European-educated “progressives” of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party to the fanatics of the Islamic State. Not surprisingly, then, “Islamism” can confuse more than it reveals.

In 2015 and 2016, we met with a diverse group of Islamist activists and leaders from 10 countries in Doha and Istanbul, outcomes we published in a recent Brookings report. The “twin shocks” of the Arab Spring and the rise of the Islamic State have forced mainstream Islamists — Muslim Brotherhood-inspired groups that accept parliamentary politics and seek to work within existing political systems — to better articulate their worldview and where it converges and diverges with the post-World War II liberal order.

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