Islamism and Politics

Islamism and Politics

The argument of Islamism has recently been carried to a point where the conceptual dimension is being discussed after certain comments of different writers. The argument, which has been broadened by different views, turned into a cause to reassess the characterization of Islamism, and the relation between Islam and politics. It is a good sign that Islamism has become a matter of discussion and especially thinking about itself. This could turn into a movement of self evaluation, which we strongly require.
The discussion had started with the question that why was the Moslem identity not sufficient against the argument that each Moslem is already an Islamist. But where do we derive the provision that a Moslem cannot have any other name or identity but Moslem? In the Quran, Moslem (Muslim) is identified as being “believer” (moo’min), “sincere” (mookhlis) and at the mean time as “beneficent” (moohsen) and having many other characteristics. The word “Muslim” covers all these identities in a way; however each of these names highlights different features and characteristics of Muslim. If the word “Muslim” specifies every aspect of a Moslem then why were all these characteristics required? If Quran itself has increased the characteristics of the Moslem, then what do we servants of God can do? The main point here is that this characterization should not exceed the boundaries of Quran.
Then the question is that which characteristic of a Moslem does Islamism point to and to which extent this characteristic is temporary, permanent, modern and political? Is it a necessity that it should be modern if it is political? The “Islamist” characteristic of a Moslem is actually related to the political aspect and is a sine qua non of this characteristic. Since politics is a fact which is within the human in general and Moslem in special. Is Islamism only an oppositional discourse? If so, then the Islamism of Sultan Abdulhamid or Mehmet Akif’s Ottomanism and Union of Islam ideas oppose which governance?
Politicism basically is related to being a party without requiring big projects. All discourses of Islam from the very beginning force Moslem to be on a party. Starting from the creation of Adam, Quran calls human to stand on God’s side against the Satan and other people. This in fact is the basic definition of politics and this definition, rather than owning any project, determines the politicism of the Moslem. The “tawhid” (oneness of God), which is the essence of Islam is totally related with determining this party; denying any other gods, starting the belief with a denial and accepting Allah as the sole authority to obey.
Since it is not possible to be a Moslem without having a rejectionist stance against powers claiming divinity, and considering the fact that such powers exist in every time and circumstances, politicism is the basic level of the existence of the Moslem. Islamism points to this situation of Moslem; in fact this aspect of a Moslem could be explained without such identification. Quran for instance, has not used such a concept.
Requiring a new concept is related with the ability of concepts to maintain the communication in the society. The concept of Islamism is has stepped in to as a result of the shrinking of the function of the Moslem concept. In fact the birth of the concept goes back much beyond the 19th century. During the first periods this concept itself was used. The article of Imam Al Ash’ary bears the title “Maqalat’al Islamiyyin wa Ekhtilaf’al Mousalleen” (Words of Islamists and Controversies of the Mousalleen); the word “Islamist” here here refers to those who live Islam truly and struggle for it. Terms like “moujahid” or “mourabet”, which occur from time to time, have meant meanings defined by Islamism.
Mümtazer Türköne, who is one of the two sides initiating the Islamism argument, sees Islamism as a political project trying to compete with Marxism or liberalism, which both have been developed by modeling Islam at certain times, and explains that it has not achieved its goals after coming to the power with its current status. Why? The reason, he believes, is that the real place of Islamism is the opposition, and coming to the power can be considered as a sole indicator of its failure.
I believe one of Türköne’s main mistakes regarding Islamism is that he sees government power as a position he always considers being factionalized by Islamism.
1. Türköne puts his theory forward sometimes as a “normative principle” in other words “If Islamism should be realistic, it should always exist as opposition”, and sometimes as a “identification describing the existing”.
Initially in order to determine the situation, one should think the starting point of the 19th century Islamism, which was his doctorate thesis. Was this ideology, which he mentions as being an opposition movement since 150 years, an opposition ideology during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II? What about Islamism of Mehmet Akif and first phase of “Sebilürreşad” followers?
Türköne says “This strong political movement was systemically always kept away from the power. Islamism never experienced protection and patronage from state authorities, even during Sultan Abdulhamid”. How can ideology adopted by the government for a certain reason be kept away from the power? Was an intellect, a stance and a strategy named Union of Islam, which set the pace for the policies of the governing power, not Islamism itself? Is it necessary to think about this ideology, which sustains existence as a governing ideology in scope of “protection and patronage”? Was the statism, which was the main character of the discourse, put forward as representing Islamism, not the resource of rightist conservatism discourse, which the sequential Islamist discourses did not manage to sort out? In fact many discussions have been made regarding different status of pre and post Republic Islamism from the point of government-opposition relations.
2. As for considering opposition as a normative principle for Islamism, we should recall that Islamism does not have such a principle. I do not think that it would not be possible to reconcile continuous and cynic opposition appraisal with Islam, which has a political philosophy highlighting responsibility. Islam has nothing to do with opposition theologies developed by those who practically do not have a chance for government.
In fact ascribing only an opposition role to Islamist politics is related with not being able to assessing its nature very sufficiently. This is actually a distinguishing aspect of Islam’s political-theology. In Ernest Gellner’s book Muslim Society (published recently by Kabalcı Publishing with translation by Müfit Günay), a feature which he points to regarding Islam is that Islam is the only religion which has achieved a fast success and maintained the unity of its Book. When Christianity weakened, they “gave the devil his due”, and when it claimed back power, they did not manage to reassume that due. In Judaism, the situation is more complex. They are a community, which have not actualized their ambitions, did not manage to enter the promised lands during the time of their prophet Moses, did not comfort when they did, and never got away from exiles. It is a political theology, which they made the whole world pay for, after the point they arrived to is Zionism through continuous Diaspora status.
Moslems on the other hand, according to Gellner, migrated to Madina after 13 years of suffering in Mecca, established a state, its book and life model completed and its theological discourse produced through time.
If consider Marxism’s experience by including it to this comparison keeping in mind that it has never managed to carry its proletariat to its objectives; Moslems are a community, which have experienced every political position in life, able to produce individual and society law for every situation, and perceived life as a dynamic process and be able to develop political law. Thus we can say that this situation gives them a very special characteristic. In transition between different laws (fiqh), unity and consistency is sought. The process after all, is not disconnected from the range.
We may easily say that it is only a peculiarity of Islam among all other religions and political ideologies that its political theologies surround a total process law (fiqh). However we should keep in mind at this stage; the fact that Islam is a religion, which has transferred its “completed” ideals with all aspects into reality for a period, does not mean that Moslems have been able to establish this integrity every time.
Therefore it is theoretically possible to see Islamist opposition to the Islamist government, besides we come across many historical samples of this situation. In other words opposing a government with Islamist features does not in fact mean opposing Islam itself. This, whether it is named as such or not, is another sign that shows how hegemonic (government as defined by Foucault) Islam is.