Unlike most political ideologies whose adherents by and large agree with the definitional tags attributed to their respective ideologies and ideologues, Political Islam is more of an academic concoction.

It works as an analytical umbrella under which political analysts lump various forces that claim to be using historical Islamic texts and traditions to achieve modern political goals.

One is not quite sure exactly when the term Political Islam was invented, but there is agreement among many academics, studying politics in the Muslim world that the word most probably emerged in the 1940s in Europe to define anti-colonial movements that described themselves to be religious/Islamic in orientation.

Though it might have some roots in anti-colonial movements that emerged among the Muslims of India and Arabia in the 19th century, Political Islam is basically a 20th century phenomenon. Its first main expression is believed to be Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood that was formed in 1927.

Even though as a political tendency, Political Islam (to analysts) covers a wide range of Islamic political movements involving different sects, sub-sects, nationalities and leftist, as well as rightist rhetoric and narratives, it is the commonalities in these varied movements that makes analysts study and define them as a single ideological entity that they call Political Islam.

So what are the basic, commonly held aspects of Political Islam?

• Reaction against foreign (especially Western) political and cultural influences in Muslim societies.

• Offering political and social alternatives to replace Western political concepts and social values.

• The alternatives are based on an understanding of history, society, economics and society culled from modern-day interpretations of a (largely imagined) ‘golden age of Islam’.

• Adoption of modern technology because it does not have any particular values attached to it and can thus be tagged and used for the promotion of Islamic values.

• Introducing and infusing what are believed to be Islamic precepts of economics and politics.

Till about the late 1960s, movements associated with classical Political Islam were largely intellectual pursuits with limited political influence.

Nevertheless, they were seen with suspicion, even by those movements and groups that adopted the main aspects of Political Islam but fused them with leftist ideologies.

Thus, during the Cold War the central theological and political tussle in most Muslim countries was not exactly between ‘Islamists’ and secularists, or between religious political groups and communists/Marxists.

The main conflict was between the rightest expressions of Political Islam and the ideology’s leftist versions.

During the Cold War the main conflict in the Muslim world was mainly between the rightest expressions of Political Islam and the ideology’s leftist versions.
During the Cold War the main conflict in the Muslim world was mainly between the rightest expressions of Political Islam and the ideology’s leftist versions.

The rightist side produced tendencies like ‘Islamic Fundamentalism,’ while the leftist sides emerged with concepts like ‘Islamic Socialism,’ ‘Ba’ath Socialism’ and (to a certain extent), ‘Arab Nationalism.’

Consequently, during the Cold War, the rightest expressions of Political Islam were backed and supported by Western powers and Arab monarchies, mainly due to the fact that the leftist sides of the ideology had moved into what (during the Cold War) was called the ‘Soviet camp.’

Though the rightist sides were repressed by Muslim regimes that were operating from the left flanks of Political Islam, the right-wing of Political Islam had by and large failed to attract any worthwhile mass support.

However, things in this respect began to change between the late 1960s and 1980s. The right-wing expressions and groups of Political Islam experienced a surge especially after the defeat of the Egyptian and Syrian armies and air force at the hands of their Israeli counterparts in 1967.

Then the bankrolling of the anti-Soviet Afghan Jihad in Afghanistan by the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the 1980s also became one of the catalysts that triggered the shifting of political and social influence in many Muslim countries from left-wing Political Islam to its rightest expressions.

The ‘Afghan jihad’ also added a more militant dimension to right-wing Political Islam. It reached a nadir in the late 1980s after the Afghan conflict resulted in a stalemate and the Soviet forces in Afghanistan had to pull out.

In the early 1990s, the militant expressions of the ideology began to pull away from the orbit of its former backers (US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan), and tried to trigger ‘Islamic revolutions’ in various Muslim countries.

Their methods of creating chaos through bombings antagonised the regimes that had formerly backed them but now found themselves under attack.

The revolutions failed to materialise, but the bombings continued. Frustrated, the militants found themselves bordering on taking nihilistic action that has caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and even Turkey.

The more classical expressions of right-wing Political Islam have tried to repair the damage by getting involved in the democratic process in countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Indonesia, Sudan, and Turkey.

But on most occasions than not (as has been the case of Pakistan for quite some time and recently in Egypt), ‘moderate’ right-wing democratic expressions of Political Islam have proven to be more successful on the social front, but lack the acumen and narrative required to devise and implement coherent economic policies or act decisively against their more violent and nihilist brethren.

Also, as was seen in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey where large demonstrations were held against their respective governments’ attempt to ‘Islamise the Constitution’, the social gains made by Political Islam too now seem to be challenged and questioned.

So one can cautiously suggest that Political Islam that emerged in the 1930s-40s and then peaked in the 1980s, is now a withering phenomenon.

The answer to just what it will be replaced with, in countries where it has played a leading socio-political role is still up for grabs.

Political Islam: From right to left

Islamic Fundamentalism:

Though usually attributed to the beliefs of modern-day extremist movements in Islam, Islamic Fundamentalism is basically a firm belief in the theological musings of ancient Islamic jurists and traditions.

Islamic Fundamentalists all agree with Imam Ghazali’s (12th century) dictum that the ‘gates of ijtihad (rational debate) in Islam are now closed.’

After about three hundred years of open debate in the Islamic world between the conservatives and the rationalists (Mu’tazilites), Ghazali insisted that a perfect synthesis (between the two) had been reached and that Islam’s social and spiritual philosophy had achieved completion.

The thoughts and writings of 9th Century Arabian theologian, Ahmed Ibn Hanabal, were perhaps the first renowned expressions of Islamic Fundamentalism.
The thoughts and writings of 9th Century Arabian theologian, Ahmed Ibn Hanabal, were perhaps the first renowned expressions of Islamic Fundamentalism.
The Mu’tazilites’ influence began declining during the rule of the ninth Abbasid caliph, Al-Muttawakkil, and the conservatives, who had ferociously debated with the rationalists, began their climb.

Modern-day Islamic Fundamentalism is rooted in this bygone intellectual triumph of the conservatives. Nevertheless, Islamic Fundamentalism never did attempt to form a so-called ‘Islamic state.’

Islamic Fundamentalists in the shape of scholars (ulema) and clergymen (maulvis and imams), mostly worked as advisers to caliphs and kings, or in mosques and madressas.

They were only interested in advocating Islamic laws, but never articulated a political plan that would carry these laws.

At the dilapidation of the Muslim empires from the 19th century onwards, the many reformist Islamic movements that emerged criticised the performance of Islamic Fundamentalists, blaming them for getting too close to the ‘decadent’ kings’ due to whose ‘negligence of Islam,’ Islamic political power had crumbled.

Islamic Fundamentalism has historically been more interested in rectifying ‘cultural and social deviances’ in a Muslim society and for this it used the mosque and evangelism – not direct politics.

Shiekh Ahmad Sirhindi (left), the 16th century Islamic scholar who opposed Mughal King Akbar’s liberal outlook of Islam and the political and theological accommodation of other religions in Mughal India. Sirhindi’s role in this respect was greatly embellished and glorified in the writings of Islamic Fundamentalists of the 20th century.
Shiekh Ahmad Sirhindi (left), the 16th century Islamic scholar who opposed Mughal King Akbar’s liberal outlook of Islam and the political and theological accommodation of other religions in Mughal India. Sirhindi’s role in this respect was greatly embellished and glorified in the writings of Islamic Fundamentalists of the 20th century.

Islamic Fundamentalism continues to be frozen in an understanding of the Quran, the hadith and Shariah developed centuries ago by ancient Islamic scholars.

Though it is vocal in its rhetorical demands for the imposition of Islamic laws, it has little or no political agenda as such. It never did.

It remains largely associated with apolitical Muslim individuals, conservative ulema, the clergy and Islamic evangelists.

Zakir Naik is one of the most well-known faces of modern-day Islamic Fundamentalism. His lectures are popular among urban middle-class Pakistani and Indian Muslims.
Zakir Naik is one of the most well-known faces of modern-day Islamic Fundamentalism. His lectures are popular among urban middle-class Pakistani and Indian Muslims.

Most of modern-day Islamic Fundamentalism’s activism has been expressed through established as well as ad-hoc groups that lobby for the implementation of the practice of veiling for Muslim women in public, the eradication of ‘obscenity in the media and society,’ for making mandatory certain Islamic rituals, for the enforcement of laws against the sale and consumption of alcohol, etc.

It never was and still isn’t a dedicated political movement but a social and theological one.

Early manifestations: Ahmed Inb Hanbal (9th century Arabian scholar and theologian); Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi (16th Century Islamic scholar in Mughal India).

Noted Modern Islamic Fundamentalist Groups: The Tableeghi Jamaat (Pakistan/Bangladesh/India); Al-Huda (Pakistan/Canada); Islamic Research Foundation (India); Dawat-e-Islami (Pakistan).


• Islamisation of society through evangelicalism and advocating rituals and social codes of behaviour (based on sunnah and hadith) for rulers and their subjects.

• Largely rejecting modern interpretations of the Qu’ran.


A word coined in the 1970s (in France), even though it had already (albeit sparsely) been in use among European writers in the 19th century.

In the modern political context, Islamism came to explain a series of (post-19th century) Islamic movements that advocated Islam not only as a religion but as a political system as well.

Islamism’s roots can be found in the Islamic reformist movements that appeared in the subcontinent and in Arabia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Incensed by the crumbling of the Mughal and Ottoman empires, a series of reformist movements emerged, advocating ‘a return to true Islam’ (Salafi) that was said to be free of innovation and corruption.

Some of these movements emphasised on applying reason in religion, but many also added the importance of ‘jihad’ not only against western colonialism but also against the clergy, and especially against Sufi tendencies which these reformists believed were a ‘negative innovation’ and an anathema to ‘true Islam.’

Such movements, though animated, came to a naught, mostly due to the adjustments the more moderate/modern as well as traditional schools of Islam made at the wake of the rise of western colonialism.

At the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate (1922), a bulk of Muslim regimes (especially in Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey) vigorously adopted modern western economic, social and political models (i.e. Liberalism, secularism and nationalism).

One of the first experiments in Islamism that actually took off was when (in the early 20th century) the Al-Saud family conquered a vast tract in Arabia (with the tacit support of the British who were trying to undermine Ottoman rule in the region).

The Al-Saud were ardent followers of Abd Al-Wahhab – an 18th century puritanical Islamic reformist. The Saud family soon enacted the world’s first ‘Islamic State,’ but under the control of a monarchy.

The Saud family’s adherence to puritanical Islam and imposition of harsh Islamic laws went down well with the early Islamists; but the family’s growing ties with the British and its monarchical tendencies made a lot of them uncomfortable.

Founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. A fringe figure in world politics the 1920s, he shot to prominence when vast reserves of oil were found in his country. He then laid the foundation of constructing the first known ‘Islamic state’ that was to be ruled by his family.
Founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. A fringe figure in world politics the 1920s, he shot to prominence when vast reserves of oil were found in his country. He then laid the foundation of constructing the first known ‘Islamic state’ that was to be ruled by his family.

As secular-nationalists dominated the liberation movements in most Muslim countries, politicised Islamic scholars retaliated by labelling these movements as ‘anti-Islamic.’

Pioneering Islamism scholars such as Egypt’s Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, and the subcontinent’s Abul Ala Maududi, began interpreting the Qu’ran and the hadith by using modern political concepts and lingo.

For example, Maududi expanded the Qu’ranic concept of Tauheed (oneness of God) by suggesting that it also meant the (political) oneness of the Muslim ummah that can only be achieved by ‘Islamising the society’ and through attaining state power to finally formulate an ‘Islamic state.’

Abul Aala Maududi: One of the pioneering intellectuals and theoreticians of 20th century ‘Islamism.’
Abul Aala Maududi: One of the pioneering intellectuals and theoreticians of 20th century ‘Islamism.’

Qutb, on the other hand, implied that 20th century Muslim societies were in a state of jahiliyya – a term used by classical Muslim scholars to define the state of ignorance the people of Arabia were in before the arrival of Islam in the 7th century.

Qutb suggested that a jihad was required in Muslim countries to grab state power and to rid the Muslims from the ‘modern forces of jahilyiya’ (i.e., secularism, Marxism, ‘western materialism’).

Sayyid Qutb (right) was a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and an early advocate of armed jihad. He was arrested and executed by the leftist-nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1966.
Sayyid Qutb (right) was a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and an early advocate of armed jihad. He was arrested and executed by the leftist-nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1966.

It must be emphasised that the concept of the Islamic State is very much a 20th century construct.

That is why the theory of Islamism purposefully eschewed a number of ancient commentaries on Qu’ran and Shariah. It rejected these scholarly works as being either ‘stuck in the mosque’ or undertaken to serve kings who had divorced Islam from politics.

It is, however, ironic that Islamism (across the Cold War), was largely supported and funded by Western and Arab powers to prop-up opposition against Muslim countries and regimes that were in the ‘Soviet camp’ or were seen detrimental to Western economic and geo-political interests.

For example, it is now well-known how the United States and its Western and Arab allies (especially Saudi Arabia), funded various early Islamist movements to undermine left-leaning governments and elements in the Muslim world. These movements included the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamat-i-Islami.

The exception in this respect was the (Shia) Iranian Islamists. Though the main groundwork for the 1979 revolution in Iran was done by leftists and constitutionalists, the Iranian forces of Islamism successfully steered the revolution towards becoming an Islamic one. Iran also remains to be Islamism’s only tangible political enactment – though ever since it has greatly suffered from grave economic and social strife.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini was the leading exponent of Islamism among the Shia Muslims.
Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini was the leading exponent of Islamism among the Shia Muslims.

The arrangement between Islamists and its Western and Saudi backers reached a peak in the 1980s during the ‘anti-Soviet jihad’ in Afghanistan.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, and the drying up of the patronage and funds Islamism’s leading organs were receiving (from the West), movements attached to Islamism started to weaken and fragment.

Consequently, Islamism’s less intellectually inclined (and more brutal) cousin, Neo-Fundamentalism, soon began usurping its agenda and political space.

Islamism forces tried to rebound after the Cold War through the democratic process but found themselves being accused of being apologists of violent Neo-Fundamentalists on the one side and of being lukewarm towards Islamising the society on the other.

Wherever they did manage to come into power (through democracy), they have struggled to initiate effective political and economic reforms mainly due to the fact that they end up creating polarisation and administrational chaos by trying to couple solutions to non-religious issues with certain ill-defined religion-orientated alternatives and manoeuvres.

Muhammad Morsi, a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was elected President of Egypt in 2012. Within a year he fell from grace as millions of his opponents took to the streets demanding his resignation. He was ousted in a military coup in July 2013. Like most moderate components of modern-day Islamism, Morsi too ended up creating polarisation and administrational chaos by trying to couple solutions to non-religious issues with certain ill-defined religion-orientated alternatives and manoeuvres.
Muhammad Morsi, a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was elected President of Egypt in 2012. Within a year he fell from grace as millions of his opponents took to the streets demanding his resignation. He was ousted in a military coup in July 2013. Like most moderate components of modern-day Islamism, Morsi too ended up creating polarisation and administrational chaos by trying to couple solutions to non-religious issues with certain ill-defined religion-orientated alternatives and manoeuvres.

Early manifestations: Ibn Taymmiya (13th -14th Century Arabian theologian); Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahab (18th Century Arabian scholar); Abul Ala Maududi (20th Century Indian/Pakistani Islamic scholar).

Noted Modern Islamism groups: Muslim Brotherhood (Middle East); Jamaat-i-Islami (Pakistan); Islamic Republican Party (Iran); National Islamic Front (Sudan); Hamas (Palestine); Hezbollah (Lebanon).


• Advocates Islam as a moral as well as political system.

• Open to the modern interpretations of traditional Islamic texts but only if they accommodate the political goals of Islamism.

• Seeks legislative means to impose ‘Islamic’ moral, economic and social codes and laws.

• Persues state power by infiltrating various state organs such as the military, bureaucracy, judiciary and the police.

• Absorbs secular ‘Western’ political and economic ideas to tweak them with intellectual improvisations and consequently add an ‘Islamic’ dimension to them (‘Islamic banking’; ‘Islamic democracy;’ Islamic science;’ etc.).

• Vehemently opposed to secularism, even though not immune to use secular systems and political processes to achieve state and governmental power.

• Analyses modern history as a conflict between revolutionary socio-political and economic doctrines and movements of Islam and the economic, cultural and political hegemony of amoral (capitalist and [formerly] communist) interests (especially emitting from the West).

• Doesn't directly resort to armed militancy but is known to facilitate and support it.

Islamic Neo-Fundamentalism:

Neo-Fundamentalism in Political Islam is a tendency that aims to politicise and radicalise the social and cultural aspects of Islamic Fundamentalism.

Neo-Fundamentalism rose with the emergence of the Taliban in 1996 (in Afghanistan and Pakistan), and began filling the void created by the post-Cold War weakening of Islamism.

Like traditional Islamic Fundamentalism, Neo-Fundamentalism too maintains that the gates of ijtihad in Islam are closed and there is no room for reason in the act of understanding religious texts that are to be taken at face value.

However, unlike Islamic Fundamentalism, Neo-Fundamentalism looks to impose Islamic laws, morality and piety by force and through armed struggle (jihad), and through the creation of an ‘Islamic State’ (and/or ‘Islamic Emirate’).

Sultan Bajad, the leader of the early 20th Century radical Islamic militia, the Akhwan, that helped Ibn Saud come to power in what is today Saudi Arabia.
Sultan Bajad, the leader of the early 20th Century radical Islamic militia, the Akhwan, that helped Ibn Saud come to power in what is today Saudi Arabia.

The rise of the Taliban and the al Qaeda in the 1990s is seen to symbolise the emergence of ‘Islamic Neo-Fundamentalism.’
The rise of the Taliban and the al Qaeda in the 1990s is seen to symbolise the emergence of ‘Islamic Neo-Fundamentalism.’

Where Islamic Fundamentalists use concentrated evangelical tactics to supposedly ‘cleanse Muslim societies of un-Islamic practices,’ Neo-Fundamentalists use violence, coercion and terrorism.

Islamic Neo-Fundamentalism has further narrowed itself to become a squarely Sunni sectarian tendency that in the last decade has exhibited extreme displays of religious and sectarian xenophobia and violence bordering on nihilism.

It is also devoid of the intellectual tradition associated with Islamism, settling instead for radical polemical Islamist literature and thought that advocates violent action and an extremely narrow worldview.

Armed members of Nigeria’s Neo-Fundamentalist group, the Boko Haram.
Armed members of Nigeria’s Neo-Fundamentalist group, the Boko Haram.

Early manifestations: The Kharijites (7th Century Arabian puritans); the Akhwan (an early 20th century Islamic militia that helped Ibn Saud capture power in what today is Saudi Arabia).

Noted modern-day Islamic Neo-Fundamentalist groups: Al Qaeda and its many affiliates (international); the Taliban (Pakistan/Afghanistan); Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Pakistan); Islamic Salvation Army (Algeria); Armed Islamic Group (Algeria); Union of Islamic Courts (Somalia); Boko Haram (Nigeria).


• Totally rejects any modern interpretation of the Qu’ran and insists that it should be read and understood literally.

• Rejects all modern concepts of participatory and constitutional politics.

• Advocates armed jihad as one of the foremost tenants of Islam.

• Describes a majority of Islamic sects to be heretical.

• Rejects most intellectual works and commentaries on Qu’ran, hadith and Shariah by both traditional and modern Islamic scholars, except those by ancient Arabian scholar, Hanabal and radical ‘Wahabi’ polemical l texts produced by various modern-day ‘jihadist/sectarian ideologues.’

• Not immune to committing genocide-like violence against ‘infidels’ and ‘heretical Islamic sects.’

• Treats violence as a replenishing force for Islam.

Islamic Socialism:

A term first used by the Muslim Socialist community in Kazan (Russia) just before the 1917 Communist revolution there. Staunchly anti-clerical, the community supported communist forces but retained its Muslim identity.

The term then became popular with certain Muslim members of the Indian National Congress Party and among some left-leaning sections of the All Indian Muslim League.

Islamic Socialism, as an ideology that attempted to equate Qu’ranic concepts of equality and charity with modern Socialist economics, was adopted (as ‘Arab Socialism’ and Ba’ath Socialism) in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, where secular Muslim leaders fused Islamic notions of parity and justice with socialism and Arab nationalism.

Though known for its usage of Islamic symbolism, Islamic Socialism was largely secular, anti-clerical, socially liberal and mostly sympathetic towards communist powers - Soviet Union and China.

It eventually became the left-wing of Political Islam.

Leading architect of ‘Arab Socialism,’ Egyptian leader, Gamal Abul Nasser (right), with famous Latin American revolutionary Marxist, Che Guevara in Cairo.
Leading architect of ‘Arab Socialism,’ Egyptian leader, Gamal Abul Nasser (right), with famous Latin American revolutionary Marxist, Che Guevara in Cairo.

Egypt’s popular leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, became Arab Socialism’s leading advocate and practitioner; while in Syria and Iraq the concept became to be known as ‘Ba’ath Socialism’ (Ba’th in Arabic means renaissance).

After the political success of Islamic Socialism in these countries, the idea also gained currency in Pakistan, Algeria, Indonesia, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

The National Liberation Front that led Algeria’s independence from France (1962) described itself as a follower of Islamic Socialism, and so did the populist Pakistan Peoples Party.

Libya too began calling itself an Islamic Socialist state after Muammar al-Qadhafi toppled the Libyan monarchy in a coup in 1969. Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) also described itself as being Islamic Socialists.

Famous PLO revolutionary and Islamic Socialist of the 1970s, Leila Khalid in Algeria (1972).
Famous PLO revolutionary and Islamic Socialist of the 1970s, Leila Khalid in Algeria (1972).

In Iran, radical anti-Shah militant organisations that fused Islamic symbolism with Marxist/socialist ideas also appeared. They took an active part in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, but were then eliminated or banished by the new Islamic regime.

Islamic Socialism was vehemently attacked and criticised by conservative Muslim monarchies (mainly Saudi Arabia), as well as by those forces associated with Islamism (such as Jamaat-i-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood).

Painter, poet and writer, Hanif Ramay, was the main theorist and ideologue behind the Pakistan Peoples Party’s ‘Islamic Socialism.’
Painter, poet and writer, Hanif Ramay, was the main theorist and ideologue behind the Pakistan Peoples Party’s ‘Islamic Socialism.’

The charisma attached to Islamic Socialism began to wither after the death of Nasser in 1970, and when most Muslim countries began coming closer to the conservative oil-rich Arab monarchies.

The international oil crises of 1973-74 saw the economic policies of regimes professing Islamic Socialism come under great stress, creating disillusionment among the masses that began being drawn towards the advocates of Islamism.

The last major expression of Islamic Socialism was the (Soviet-backed) ‘Saur Revolution’ in Afghanistan in 1978, led by the People’s Democratic Party.

By the late 1970s Islamic Socialism had all but withered away, even though some mainstream right-wing parties in Muslim countries have (ironically) adopted old Islamic Socialist slogans despite the fact that most of them had opposed Islamic Socialism during the Cold War.

Early manifestations: Jamaluddin Afghani (19th Century Pan-Islamic ideologue); Ubaidullah Sindhi (Early 20th Century Indian/Muslim nationalist); Ghulam Ahmed Parvez (20th century Indian/Pakistani nationalist and scholar); Michel Aflaq (20th Century Syrian sociologist, philosopher and Arab nationalist); Ali Shariati (20th Century Iranian scholar and activist).

Noted Islamic Socialist groups: Arab Socialist Party (Egypt); Ba’ath Socialist Party (Iraq, Syria); National Liberation Front (Algeria); Pakistan Peoples Party (Pakistan); PLO (Palestine); National Front (Iran); Mojahedin-e-Khalq (Iran); Peoples Fadayeen (Iran).


• Described socialist doctrines to be the modern manifestations of Islam’s emphasis on equality, charity and justice.

• In the context of the historicity of Muslim societies, Islamic Socialism understood the Marxist concept of historical class struggle as an on-going tussle between the upright have-nots and the oppressive ruling elites in the shape of kings, dictators and those exploiting Islam (through distortion of Islamic texts, superstition and coercion) to safeguard the rulers’ political and economic interests.

• Defined Islamism, the politicised clergy, conservative ulema and Arab monarchies as tools of capitalist/feudal exploitation and ‘Western imperialism.’

• Contextualised secularism in Muslim societies by suggesting that Islam was inherently secular because it had no official priesthood and that the Prophet Muhammad was exceptionally pluralistic in his handling of the non-Muslim populations of Makkah and Madina.

• Offered itself to be the most effective alternative (in Muslim countries) to monopolistic capitalism/feudalism/monarchism, communism and religious fundamentalism.

• Was extremely pro-ijtihad and encouraged an understanding and reading of Islamic texts as reflecting the modern economic, political and secular manifestations of Islamic Socialism.

Liberal Islam:

Though many liberal Muslims consider 8th and 9th century Islamic rationalists (the Mu’tazilites) to be the first political and philosophical expressions of Liberal Islam, in the political context, Liberal Islam just like all other branches of Political Islam, too is a late 19th/early 20th century creation – despite the fact that there is historical accuracy in the claim that major Muslim empires of yore were already largely pluralistic in orientation.

Again, in the political context, Liberal Islam can find its roots in some 19th century reformist movements and in the way Muslim countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey adopted secular western economic and social models in the early 20th century.

Famous 9th Century Muslim scholar and Mu’tazilite, Al-Kindi.
Famous 9th Century Muslim scholar and Mu’tazilite, Al-Kindi.

The emergence of the secular-nationalist movements in the Muslim world too gave impetus to the thought attached to Liberal Islam, and so did the coming to prominence of effusive ideologies such as Islamic Socialism.

Liberal Islam has been a flexible entity. Both the anti-West as well as pro-West sections profess it, with the acknowledgment of secularism being the common link between the two.

Kamal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish nation, remains to be the most secular expression of Liberal Islam.
Kamal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish nation, remains to be the most secular expression of Liberal Islam.

Many democratic political parties of the left as well of the right, and also authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world can be termed as having liberal views about Islam’s political and social role.

These parties and regimes are highly suspicious of the clergy and repulsed by the political ambitions of Islamism and Neo-Fundamentalism.

They encourage ijtihad in matters like the understanding of the Qu’ran and Shariah, and emphasise that Islam is best served through the mosque instead of through state or the government.

An emphasis on multiculturalism, nationalism and democratic pluralism too is made, even though, as mentioned before, some Liberal Muslim organs have been authoritarian as well.

The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a liberal Muslim and envisioned Pakistan as a modern, democratic and progressive Muslim-majority state. However, after his death in 1948 (just a year after Pakistan’s creation), Pakistan’s politics gradually slipped from the hands of liberal Muslims. The next six decades saw an intense political tussle between forces of Islamism and Islamic Socialism and then between Islamism, Islamic Neo-Fundamentalism and the more watered down expressions of Liberal Islam.
The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a liberal Muslim and envisioned Pakistan as a modern, democratic and progressive Muslim-majority state. However, after his death in 1948 (just a year after Pakistan’s creation), Pakistan’s politics gradually slipped from the hands of liberal Muslims. The next six decades saw an intense political tussle between forces of Islamism and Islamic Socialism and then between Islamism, Islamic Neo-Fundamentalism and the more watered down expressions of Liberal Islam.

Most mainstream political parties in the Muslim world today can be said to be following various degrees of Liberal Islam. Not all of them are secular in the western sense of the word, but they are flexible in their outlook towards matters such as Islamic laws, and concepts and practices that are deemed as ‘un-Islamic’ by their Islamist opponents (such as co-education, non-segregated events, women’s rights, films, music, alcohol, etc.).

Early manifestations: Al-Kindi (9th Century Arabian philosopher and scholar); Akbar (16th Century Mughal emperor); Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Amer Ali (19th Century Indian Muslim scholars); Mustafa Kamal Pasha (Turkish general, nationalist and founder of modern Turkey); Mohammad Arkoun (20th Century Algerian scholar);

Noted Liberal Islam political parties with large vote banks: Indonesian Democratic Party; People’s Alliance (Malaysia); National Liberation Front (Algeria); Bangladesh Awami League (Bangladesh); National Democratic Party (Egypt); Maldivian Democratic Party (Maldives); Socialist Union (Morocco); Popular Movement (Morocco); Action Congress (Nigeria); Pakistan Peoples Party (Pakistan); Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Pakistan); Awami National Party (Pakistan); People’s Democratic Party (Tajikistan); Republican People’s Party (Turkey); Liberal Democratic Party (Uzbekistan).


• Encourages constant Ijtihad and the contextualised, metaphorical and rational reading of the Qu’ran and related Islamic texts.

• Also advocates an individual (non-clerical) reading of the Qu’ran and the hadith; some strands of Liberal Islam reject the hadith for being unreliable and being manipulated manifestations of the political and theological interests of ancient Muslim kings and ulema and thus dangerous in the hands of modern-day clerics and Islamists.

• Understands Qu’ran to be a book of moral guidance as opposed to a political manifesto (as proclaimed by Islamism).

• Advocates the complete separation of the state and religion because politics (that, by nature, is amoral), ends up staining Islam that is supposed to be pristine and dignified.

• Abhors coercion in matters of dress, ritual and social behaviour (imposed in the name of Islam) because according to the Qu’ran ‘there is no compulsion in religion.’

• Insists that the Qu’ranic concept of aqal (reason, observation and logic) should be given precedence over the ritualistic aspects to form an educated and progressive Muslim society that can through reasoning come to a democratic consensus on what is right or wrong as long as it does not retard the society’s economic, social, cultural and political evolution.

• Also insists that faith should be a personal matter because when it is dragged out into the public it might come into conflict with certain rules and regulations prescribed by the state and the government and with the sentiments of other religions and differing sects.


Oliver Roy, The failure of Political Islam (Harvard University Press, 1998) p.2

Muhammad Ayoob, The Many Faces of Political Islam (University of Michigan, 2007).

Roger Hardy, The Muslim Revolt, (Harsh Publishers 1999) p.18

Ziauddin Sardar, Islam, Post-Modernism & Other Futures (Pluto Press 2001) p.100

Martin Kramer, Fundamentalists or Islamists? (Middle East Qutarly, 2003) pp.65-70

Abdullah Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy & Islam (Ashgate Publishing, 2004) p.90

James Toth, Syed Qutb (Oxford University Press, 2013) p.324

Nadeem F. Paracha, Islamic Socialism: A history from left to right (DAWN.COM, February 21, 2013).

Do you have information you wish to share with Dawn.com? You can email our News Desk to share news tips, reports and general feedback. You can also email the Blog Desk if you have an opinion or narrative to share, or reach out to the Special Projects Desk to send us your Photos, or Videos.

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (89) (Closed)

jamil Ahmed
Jul 18, 2013 01:02pm

NFP summaries our recent history in a nut shell.

Jul 18, 2013 01:31pm

Another masterpiece from NFP.

My request is to Dawn - why can't an option be provided "Single Page View" so that one doesn't have to download page 14 times. See other news websites like hindustantimes.com.

Jul 18, 2013 01:44pm

V. enlightening ! Also interesting to see the satirist , for once, give way to a hopeful future ulema on these topics. Well written and educative, thanks NFP.

Jul 18, 2013 02:03pm

NFP, his is long. Please make it downloadable in PDF so that I can print and read. It looks interesting to read and informative.

Jul 18, 2013 02:30pm

Janab bahut khoob, a nice 20 minute low down synopsis of a Long history, a good starring point for a intellectually curious.

A Naik
Jul 18, 2013 02:33pm

@Mr.paracha Liberal islam ,Islamic socialism and words like these don't exist in Islamic society's dictionary . Islam was born as a struggle and spread by force. Personalities like Luther King and many more even from Islamic society are very critical of your founder and they give very negative views and we also see it true word by word .

Jul 18, 2013 02:36pm

Wonderful and scholarly article

Jul 18, 2013 03:12pm

........and who will explain this to men of God and politics in the Islamic world ?

Muhammad Umair
Jul 18, 2013 03:22pm

How can you miss the discussion of the world's largest Islamic Political group named " Hizb-ut-tahrir" in your detailed discussion regarding Political Islam and Fundamentalist thought? How?

Jibreel Sohail
Jul 18, 2013 03:27pm

Is it just me or is Dawn's new multi-page layout extremely inconvenient and annoying? Not all of us have the luxury of high speed internet you know. -.-

Jul 18, 2013 03:29pm

How can Jinnah, who did all his politics around Islam during his entire lifetime, is not considered political Islamist but, a liberal islamist ?............ Why NFP didn't bother to mention a single Indian muslim, while describing about liberal Islam ? How can any definition of liberal muslim can be completed without mentioning Indian muslims (second largest muslim population in the world, even bigger than Pakistan) ? How can Indian national congress thinkers, like Maulana Azad, can be forgotten while defining about liberal faces of muslims ? Why there is no mention of any Bangladeshi muslim thinker/leader, who lead first successful muslim nation's modernisation movement (from which even Egyptians are learning now) didn't find mention in liberal muslim descriptions ? I think, it is very difficult to understand muslim libarlism, while sitting in Pakistan, whose birth was originated at the dead body of Islamic liberalism. And NFP, in spite of all his talent, is also no exception.......It is Indian muslims who refused to go with idea of Pakistan, are leading the liberalism in muslim world (though indirectly)....... Impact of these liberal muslims is clearly reflected in Bangladesh and now in Egypt.....Although any Pakistani muslim, liberal or hardliner will naturally find it difficult to acknowledge this great contribution of Indian nationalist muslims. And also, dawn, a pakistani newspaper will find it difficult to publish my comments as it is.

Jul 18, 2013 03:32pm

Political Islam: Rise, fragmentation and possible fall

If you remove political from it , the heading would still be relevant.


Jul 18, 2013 03:42pm

@Pankaj: Ever the knee-jerk. Go through the later sections of Islamic Socialism and Liberal Islam and you'll find the names of Indian Muslims.

Jul 18, 2013 03:45pm

This guy is one of the most unique writers I have come across in South Asia. One week he'll crack you up with sharp political and social satire and the very next week give you a mammoth and well researched piece on an extremely complex topic. NFP just refuses to to be pinned down. A huge fan of his.

Ali S
Jul 18, 2013 03:47pm

Interestingly, NFP skirted around defining what 'sharia' is. Politics (or at least certain aspects of it) are part and parcel of sharia which is not compliant with 'secularism', take it or leave it with all its consequences. It's futile to go around in circles about it, trying to come up with excuses under the guise of 'rationalism' to water it down and make yourself feel better about justifying your liberal views with an Islamic perspective.

Jul 18, 2013 03:48pm

Why article on multiple pages please give us back the one or max. two page view.

Jul 18, 2013 03:50pm

Read Quran and one can find different issues with unique solutions. Islam must be understood in great honor and positive eyes which primafacie revolve around knowledge. Knowledge if perfected among human can usher era of progress and establishment of health and pure institutions, among which falls the politics. Islamic scholar fall short of any findings and as such dirty politics satrted in absence of right and pure respectable divine values in practice. Let discover new ideas to make world on Quanic order in all walks of life whether politics or else.

Jul 18, 2013 03:53pm

@Ali S: I disagree. On the contrary what NFP's analysis suggest is that Shariah is man-made and thus easily distorted and exploited by all shades of Political Islam.

Secondly, what interested me the most about Paracha's thesis was the point he makes about how the main conflict in Muslim societies has been between left, right and liberal versions of Political Islam. Insightful observation.

Jul 18, 2013 03:56pm

@Ali: Agree. But you can hit the print button and read it as a single document. But the print version doesn't have any images.

Jul 18, 2013 04:01pm

@A Naik: But they exist in all the analysis done on the subject. Don't read this piece as a manifesto. Read it as a well thought out thesis.

Gerry D'Cunha
Jul 18, 2013 04:03pm

muslims are confused society - how to use 'islam' to the best of their knowledge and belief and thus impose on others by hook or by crook - this is what the sapasalars of 'islam', the talibans in many forms are doing

Jul 18, 2013 04:05pm

@Jibreel Sohail: Even making and reading responses to readers' comments is annoying. My response here and your original comment may be pages apart, and readers will not be able to get the context of my post.

@DAWN - All that glitters is not gold. The purpose of your website is to inform in an efficient manner. Your page certainly looks prettier, but is also a pain.

Jul 18, 2013 04:06pm

@Anjum: Thanks Anjum for the tip love it no Ads also, Images are missing but can be used for Articles without images.

Zubair Khan
Jul 18, 2013 04:07pm

Good to read the detailed reearch work. However, regrettably one important link totally been missed in the research. It pertains to Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and its founder. Interpretation offered by Ahmadiyya community founder about Jihad as well subsequent writings of its Khalifas specially about Islam response to contemporary issues deserve attention by any one undertaking research on Islam. Comments forwarded by eminent personalities in Capitol Hill, European Parliament and UK Parliament about the loving and peaceful interpretation of Islam presented by current Ahmadiyya Community supreme head deserve its mention in any research work. Could be, like others, the author did not consider Ahmadiyya as part of Islam. How unfortunate it is.

Jul 18, 2013 04:06pm

There should always be a separation of religion and state. Only then can its citizens live in freedom to practice whatever they want. Mixing the two will always lead to exploitation in the name of God.

Salim Akbani
Jul 18, 2013 04:58pm

@Hina: Studying Islam or any religion and applying in the modern world is like studying all about stone age tools and how to solve todays problems using those tools. Does not work. There is not much out there in any writing of Islamic Scholars that proscribes concrete solutions to modern day challenges.

All religions sound heavenly until you apply them, It is hell living under them.

Jul 18, 2013 06:38pm

Excellent treatise on our political history. Well done NFParacha

Jul 18, 2013 06:42pm

@Muhammad Umair: how are ht the largest group? the largest Islamic groups have millions of followers e.g. the Muslim brotherhood or Tunisia's an nahda. They have enough following to elect themselves, which country has enough ht people to get popular support? ht is followed by a handful of people in western countries not even in the Muslim world!

Jul 18, 2013 06:52pm

@Ravi: Islam will never fall so the headlines is right it maybe political falling nowadays but it willrise once again

Jul 18, 2013 07:46pm

@Salim Akbani: "All religions sound heavenly until you apply them, It is hell living under them." Excellent observation. The Christian West became a humane place only after it ditched religion.

Jul 19, 2013 12:43pm

@Zubair Khan: I hope it is not because of the peaceful and loving interpretation, that they have been declared non-muslim.

Jul 19, 2013 12:57pm

While some goals of the “Political Islam” are commendable (one Ummah worldwide), its socio-economics is incompatible with the emerging era of Globalization and Free Trade, and therefore, it has no future.

Mohammed AS after defeating the Meccan Democracy founded the Secular Republic of Medina with following traits.

  • Universality of God and His Creation (man+)
  • Individual Rights and Justice
  • Emancipation of women from Housework and Childrearing
  • Economy based on Knowledge as Public good
  • Free Enterprise
  • Meritocracy
  • Free Trade
  • Peace

However, immediately after his death the Demos was back in power and laid the foundation of a “Political Islam”. One can not but note that the traits of this Kaliphate Islam were:

  • Superiority of Arabs, in particular of Quraish
  • Laws and Lawyerism
  • Shackling of women
  • Absence of knowledge
  • Controlled Enterprise
  • Nepotism
  • Tariffs, Ushr, Mr. 10Percentism
  • War

Today’s Islamists to the last does not speak in name of Mohammedan Revolution, but the Kaliphate – recovery of 3 last empires – Spain from Christians, India from Hindus, and Turkey from Europeans.

But you are only as powerful as your god. The god of Islamists is not the All Knowing, All Powerful abstract External Allah with 99 attributes in infinite measure who can not be seen and to whom fire does not touch, but a homo-morphic being with face, arms, legs (that he dips in hell fire to cool it). And their Mohammed AS is not the Quranic “blessing to mankind” or “city of knowledge”, but one who did not know how to read or write and slept with a 9-year old. With such low concepts do you really think that Real Allah will allow these characters to succeed?

We are seeing the last hurrah of the Islamists and that will last as long the Americans allow the Saudis of Nejd to sell other people’s oil (that belongs to the people of the Eastern Province), and that means some 5-10 years max.

Stay tuned.

Jamshed Khan
Jul 19, 2013 01:34pm

@AHA: You must be living in dreamland if you think Christian West has ditched religion.

Jul 19, 2013 01:53pm

@Pankaj: when u talk about Indian Muslims u r in fact falling short of understanding the main concept of liberal Islam.

Ahsan Raza
Jul 19, 2013 02:03pm

Not many writers have such a grip and vision in now a days who can summarize such a vast topic according to young generation. As usual Nadeem F Paracha, well done..

Karachi Wala
Jul 19, 2013 02:33pm

A deep and thought provoking analysis as usual. Thanks NFP

Jul 19, 2013 03:19pm

@ Dawn web dev, remove the page style, because normally people dont want to read the complete article in 13pages.

whts the strategy behind this page style article?

Karachi Wala
Jul 19, 2013 03:40pm

?? ??? ??? ????? ? ?? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ???? ? ?? ?? ??? ?? ???? ?? ?? ??? ?? ???? ?? ?? ???? ???? ??? ??? ??? ?? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??? ??? ????? ?? ???? ???? ???? ?? ???? ?? ??? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??? ?? ????? ?? ?? ??? ?? ?? ? ??? ?? ????? ?? ?? ??? ??? ?? ???? ????? ?? ??? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ? ?? ???? ??? ? ???? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ???? ???? ????? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ???? ? ?? ?? ???? ???? ? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?? ???? ???? ???? ? ??

Jul 19, 2013 03:54pm

@AbbasToronto: I am Surprised there are Muslims who can think balance.Congratulations you are human. Dhammi

Karachi Wala
Jul 19, 2013 03:59pm

Yeh daagh daagh ujaala, yeh shab gazeedah sahar wo intezaar tha jis ka, yeh wo sahar to nahin Yeh wo sahar to nahin jis ki aarzoo lekar Chale the yaar ke mil jaaygi kahin na kahin Falak ke dasht mein taaron ki aakhri manzil Kahin to hoga shab e sust mauj ka sahil Kahin to ja ke rukega safina e gham e dil

Jigar ki aag, nazar ki umang, dil ki jalan Kisi pe chaara e hijraan ko kuch asar hi nahin Kahan se aayi nigaar e sabaa, kidhar ko gayi Abhi Charagh e sar e rah ko kuch khabr hi nahin Abhi giraani e shab mein kami nahin aayi Najaat e deedah o dil ki ghari nahi aayi Chale chalo ke wo manzil abhi nahin aayi

Hammad Ansari
Jul 19, 2013 04:17pm

@muhajirkhan: Advertisements

Satyameva Jayate
Jul 19, 2013 04:28pm

WoW. NFP can educate without being humourous too. Thanks.

S Shastri
Jul 19, 2013 05:33pm

@Jibreel Sohail: I also find the multi-page format disturbing and irritating. It breaks the flow of the narrative. Perhaps DAWN and others do this to artificially increase the number of "hits" on their web site which helps in raising their KPIs (key performance indicators), which has commercial implications.

Jul 19, 2013 07:03pm

98% of Asylum seekers to Western countries are from Muslim countries .Now we know the answer.. we have a problem in understanding of our Own religion .. Sex and Religion should stay inside the house .if not it will destroy the Human life . More muslims are killed by their own Muslim members than by Israel or America . Eg .. Syria , Iraq .

Jul 19, 2013 07:38pm

I have a feeling islam will go massive change in the next 100 years than it does in the earlier thousand years. Christianity was also in the similar state as islam is now but european powers curb down the power of pope and separate state from the religion that's why enlightenment could happen in the europe...i wish something similar happens with islam otherwise islamic world will be in darkness for years to come.

Nazia NurulAin
Jul 19, 2013 07:54pm

@AbbasToronto: Even while doing a analysis of Islam you have a dig at Sindhis and since it is forbidden in Islam to give a tit for tat answer, most of the Sindhi community doesn't bother to answer such digs widespread in the media and this is interpreted as being a 'docile' nation who poor because it is lazy. While the real corrupt culprits are being tolerated because they play by the rules set in the capitals of Europe i.e give a tit for tat answer, talk till you are dead (sitting quiet and minding your own business is in fact insulting), backbite and eat the vegetables and fruits planted with extensive labor consisting of Sindhi farmers who work in the hot sun and extreme cold when it water freezes in their front yard if left in an open container. There is a limit to "ihsaan faramoshi" and this comment is so shameful.

Fahad Tarar
Jul 19, 2013 08:03pm

Very thorough and extensive research. Excellent. I must say u deserve some sort of govt recognition for this. Please send this to Imran Khan, will surely help to clear his confused view about Taliban.

Mohammad Adam Khan
Jul 19, 2013 09:02pm

Our book, journey of rover Curiosity to MARS, 9/11 to Malala, people of Pakistan and their capabilities to understand reality ; " Never expect from Blind and deaf person to react by light and thunder"

RK Singh
Jul 19, 2013 09:04pm

great article. Only NFP can write it.

Jul 19, 2013 09:09pm

I saw the first reference which is "Oliver Roy, The failure of Political Islam (Harvard University Press, 1998) p.2", and i knew it that it would be biased article, since the first you went through was the failure, instead of searching for the Glory or Islam. Despite the fact, the Article's Title tells it all"Possible Fall", and In the current reality there is no one following Politics in Islam as told by the Prophet SAW to do so, goto www.Khilafah.com and see what Politics in Islam is all about.

Jul 19, 2013 09:38pm

@AbbasToronto: Disagree with your very first sentence apart from other things. One Ummah is not an admirable concept at all. It reeks of enforced implementation of a uniform code rather than recognizing the value of diversity in the modern world.

Jul 19, 2013 09:43pm

@pakistani: That's what you think. Look at Christianity and Judaism. If they have lost influence over time, so will Islam. Nothing sets Islam apart from those two. No matter how much you repeat the chant of 'one true faith'. Abrahamic religions in their 'pure' form are not only irrelevant but dangerous.

Jul 19, 2013 09:44pm

@Zubair Khan: Actually it's just as irrelevant to the modern world as the rest of Islam so never mind.

Jul 19, 2013 09:47pm

@AHA: @AHA Absolutely agree, the fact that replies are posted pages away from the original post is totally idiotic and annoying. It's impossible to discuss a point anymore. I fail to understand why they have changed it to this from the previously perfectly fine format for replies.

Pankaj Patel
Jul 19, 2013 10:20pm

Well done,Nadeem bhai. I did not know you can write not only satire but such an excelant,educative article. I feel more educated about political Islam today then ever.But you did not do enough justice to liberal Muslim movements in India,Bangladesh and Indonesia while proclaiming PPP as secular while it is responsible for blasphemy law in Pakistan.

Jul 19, 2013 10:51pm

Religion is your private affarir why should anyone even knowor care about it? Follow it in your own home.

Jul 19, 2013 11:06pm

Read only first page and jumped to comments. New page format sucks.

Jul 19, 2013 11:06pm

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistani-Hindus-worst-victims-of-rape-US-report/articleshow/21167541.cms ISLAMABAD, Hindus in Pakistan are the worst victims of rape, says a report by an independent American group.

In the past 18 months, seven incidents of Hindu girls being raped were reported, says the study by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Not only this, two Hindus were killed and four injured in 16 attacks in Pakistan. Besides this, three Hindus were killed in targeted attacks, the Daily Times cited the report as saying.

There were three cases of attacks on Sikhs in Pakistan, leading to the death of one person.

In the last 18 months, 203 incidents of sectarian violence resulted in 1,800 casualties including 717 deaths. Of these, 635 were Shia Muslims.

The report said sectarian and religious violence in Pakistan was on the rise, and between January 2012 and June 2013 the Shia community had been the worst victim.

The factsheet prepared under the "Pakistan Religious Violence Project" took into account publicly reported attacks against religious communities.

The report said the already poor religious freedom environment for Hindus, Christians and Ahmadiyas continued to deteriorate.

There were 77 attacks on Shias, leaving 635 dead and 834 injured. They also suffered 18 bomb blasts and 46 targeted shootings.

Christians, the second biggest religious community in Pakistan, were attacked 37 times in which 11 people were killed and 36 injured. Five Christian girls were raped.

Jul 19, 2013 11:18pm

@Hina: "you should not be visiting this site without mehram" :-)

Jul 20, 2013 12:01am

@AbbasToronto: Educate yourself "Abbas". You're carrying a Muslim name and still you don't have the decency to respect it or its Messenger SAW a bit. I live in Perth and here when a Christian converts to Islam he/she says "I have understood more about Christianity by coming into Islam" and they don't insult their former religion because that would indirectly make them hypocrites, which I think IS a bad thing no matter what religion you belong to or what code of ethics you follow. Pakistanis on the other hand are a different breed of humans all together. When we even dislike something we are vocal about it no matter how blindly we abuse it. That is the case in our social, academical, emotional, ethical or religious life. You, my fellow human being, are that example.

You on one side you list his goals and on the other you accuse him of sleeping with a 9 year old. Do you even know how that marriage came into place or are you following your "forum based researcher's" instincts?

You clearly have some knowledge of propaganda Islam which explains the "Nejd" comment but why the sudden focus on Saudis from sudden focus to mainstream Islam and Allah SWT? That only suggest you hate Salafis which is acceptable because everyone's doing it right? I have lived in Qatar, Pak and now Perth and I can tell you one thing, don't believe the media. Its very simple. You file a super-injunction and your story never makes it to the paper. How biased is that? Study also finds that Ronald Reagan won election in those states where the news caster was just and I mean just a bit biased towards Reagan because he was his favorite of the two candidate.

Now to the "Shackling of women". Khilafat ruled over all of Middle East, parts of Europe and Africa and Asia as well. You think they were that dumb that they didn't knew how to work up a system for it? The extended Khilafat saw one of the best rulers. In whose times there were no poor people. And "shackling of women" where did you come up with that? There are no stories of women forced to wear niqabs or men forced to pray. How you mind works is strange.

Hope you get my point.

Jul 20, 2013 12:09am

Dhammi Sahib, Greetings

Many thanks for your kind words.

The Taliban aside, in fairness today’s Pakistanis are by and large cool minded and up to date for simple reason that Islam is the natural religion for today's trading era (just as Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism are religions of the Agrarian age).

If India could produce just 1/5 as many level headed per capita there will enough on both side for a dialog towards peace in the region. But that is dreaming in technicolor. Jinnah’s justice was met Gandhi’s stubbornness, Laiqat’s reason by Nehru’s emotionalism towards his birthplace of Kashmir. It goes on and on.

Now tell me has India produced any internationalists of the caliber of Tariq Ali, or Eqbal Ahmed? Does The Hindu has any serious minded analyst like Dawn's NFP?

Most esteemed international figures (Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, et al) assert that Pakistan has not been dealt with justly by India and the US. But Allah is Just, and those who are unjust always lose in the end, only delaying the truth for a while.

Best wishes

Jul 20, 2013 12:21am


" ... Political Islam: Rise, fragmentation and possible fall... If you remove political from it , the heading would still be relevant .."

Facts do not support your wishful thesis.

Religions are tied to economy. Each Economic Era has a natural religion. The Pastoral Era’s natural, optimal religion was that of Moses and his Laws. The Agrarian Age’s natural optimal religion was Christianity. The Trading Times (that we live in today) has Mohammedan/Koranic Islam as natural, optimal socio-economics.

That is because Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed AS were the Chief Economists of their respective eras. Moses was a shepherd, Jesus an artisan in the Fertile Crescent, and Mohammed AS a businessman trader who developed his socio-economics for a water-poor, soil-poor, resource-poor Arabia that the globe is increasingly becoming today.

No wonder the best of the West, the upper middle class young, educated, healthy, nubile women convert to Islam in droves (google conversion video and see the results). Islam as a socio-ecomics is frugal, efficient. Try it, you will like it.

Ishita Sharma
Jul 20, 2013 12:38am

"Its first main expression is believed to be Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood that was formed in 1927"

What about the Khilafat movement? Surely that predates MB?

Saifur Rahman
Jul 20, 2013 06:32am

First commandment of Al Quran is to seek knowledge [by the use of pen, which means literacy], and it is also said “In the eye of God, one night’s stand for acquisition of knowledge is superior to thousands of nights of prayers [by ignorant]”. Hence, logical and contextual interpretation of Al Quran makes more sense (than its literal meaning). Way of life of our Prophet (peace be upon him), also teaches us the same. Awarding a general amnesty to non-Muslims after conquer of Mecca is one such example. I feel intense pain to see Pakistan gradually sinking into neo-fundamentalism. What is the solution? Fundamentalist elements can only grow; take roots, and spread its poisonous branches where bad governance is the practice; modern education and rule of law is absent. Unfortunately, Pakistan had been such a place since it’s independence. Where to start? Probably best strategy is to begin with a massive mass literacy program (with priority to woman’s education). Once that is attained, good governance and rule of law would be established by itself. This is a slow process and can take decades for fruition but at the same time this the only process that would eventually work for Pakistan.

Jul 20, 2013 06:45am

Politics and "spirituality" cannot be separated in Islam....one leads to another in circles.

Islam suffers from a Siamese twin like situation.

Reform is the only solution or better still forget religion ( and politics that goes with it) and focus like much of the world on very temporal issues like education,science and tech,enterprise and good governance!

Jul 20, 2013 07:02am

@AbbasToronto: Mumbo jumbo!!!

Jul 20, 2013 07:48am

after looking through several Dawn articles and the comments below, it 'dawned' on me that this is just a club for those who want to hear themselves speak.... so mostly baseless, ignorant and pathetically pro-western.
It is so amusing to see all these guys pat each other on their backs with so many ‘likes’…. Wake up guys, please stop being followers and repeating the non-sense that you hear around…. Wake up to see the reality…

Nabarun Dey
Jul 20, 2013 08:29am

Whatever rises, eventually falls. That is logic. I do not understand why a religion need to 'rise' at all ? So if there indeed is fall, no one should be complaining. Islam and politics is synonymous. War at Karbala was the beginning. 'Muslim world' more often quoted as compared to 'Christian world' or 'Hindu world' even though Islam is much younger faith. However kudos to DAWN and NFP for the thought provoking piece. Excellent stuff. Please keep it up.

Jul 20, 2013 12:45pm

@AbbasToronto: Anyways who is Tariq Ali, or Eqbal Ahmed????????? I seriously never heard of them

Muhammad Abul Hossain PhD
Jul 20, 2013 12:49pm

Religion should unite people; not divide them.Millions were killed in the name of religion all over the world. Secetarianism is so strong in Islam that it seems there are Islams within Islam which is untrue. Our Ulemas should try to convince people to pray in same mosque-no shia or sunni mosque. I apologise if I have hurt any body and ask for forgiveness of Allah if I have expressed anything sinful.

M Khaleeq
Jul 20, 2013 12:52pm

Religions are basically a guide to a socioeconomic living at a time few hundred or thousands years ago. The handful of Prophets mentioned in religious books appeared one after the other with a gap of hundreds of years. The reference to God, life after death, rewards and punishments were compelling reasons for the habitants to follow a particular Prophet. Most of them left an open ended hope or anticipation that a Messiah will come. God is symbol of being the creator of the universe. Nature is the continued process of evolution that has no end to it. Our way of life is the continuity of reforms as we experience and develop as and when necessary. Industrial reforms are for our convenience and facilitation for a comfortable and extended life span. The rules and the laws for today should be devised according to the socio-econics structure of today.

Dearborn Iffy
Jul 20, 2013 01:48pm

@AbbasToronto: Hi Uncle, we meet again. This time in writing and not in Dearborn.

You say " Islam as a socio-ecomics is frugal, efficient.". I do not agree with you entirely since to do good business the Muslim has to be "wordly, sophisticated and less parochial in pitching their businesses. Here's an example where it did not work.

The ever so effervescent Veena (you know her, of the morphed fame) was keen to have a new monthly fashion magazine launched in Pakistan but the mullahs wouldn't have it. So she came to UK and met Sir Richard Branson of the famous "Virgin" brand name (Media, Records, Atlantic). Incidentally, Sir Richard hates being called Dick.

Anyway, Veena won his heart and almost signed the deal. The only condition was that her magazine would also be known as "Virgin Veena's Monthly" to identify his famous brand name. This made Veena blush and shy to no end. "Oh, Dickie, you don't mean it, what.... me a V?" This made Sir Richard very angry and he stormed out leaving Veena sobbing.

Moral: A good business was lost because we Muslims do not like to be too enterprising and accommodating to the changing wordly needs.

Jul 20, 2013 01:56pm

@Muhammad Abul Hossain PhD: If you truly meant what you said, you forgot to mention Ahmadis equally. If you don't, then you are a hypocrite too.

Abdul Wahid Mohammad
Jul 20, 2013 02:32pm

@AbbasToronto: Excellent! We need more analyses of Islam as this. Kudos!!!

Abdul Wahid Mohammad
Jul 20, 2013 02:42pm

@Prapur: Give statistics of India as well. How many girls were raped there? both Muslims and Hindus? How many innocents were killed there during the same periods you mention? India today is said to be the rape capital of the world. Are you pointing fingers at 'seven' cases of rape in '18 months'?

Abdul Wahid Mohammad
Jul 20, 2013 02:43pm

@Shanzay: Right! new page format sucksssss.

Jul 20, 2013 02:50pm


" ... who is Tariq Ali, or Eqbal Ahmed????????? I seriously never heard of them ..."

I rest my case.

Abdul Wahid Mohammad
Jul 20, 2013 02:52pm

@Irfaan: What enlightenment are talking about? Turning people into machines and making them busy in such a way that they can't even see beyond their feet is enlightenment? I think what you are referring to as enlightenment is in fact ignorance.

Jul 20, 2013 03:19pm

@ M Khaleeq: The truth about our lives

Jul 20, 2013 03:22pm

@Muhammad Abul Hossain PhD: Allah does not get when some one speaks truth. You are right in what you are saying but I would extend it further. The real Ulema covers all humans on our planet. So far, astronomers have not found another planet with life so let us preserve the only one we know of.

Jul 20, 2013 04:32pm

@AbbasToronto: Mr. Abbas no wonder you chose to stay in toronto and not in pakistan...

Jul 20, 2013 04:40pm

@ M Khaleeq: Absolutely agree with you. The only thing that is permanent is change. No system can meet the demands of 'all times to come'.

Jul 20, 2013 04:41pm

@Muhammad Abul Hossain PhD: Just a minor amendment. Ask the victim for forgiveness first and then the Allah. That is the Islamic way. Cheers.

Jul 20, 2013 04:48pm

@AbbasToronto: Free flow of words from your pen and gibberish along with it.

Despite the huge number of thumb downs they notch up..you persist...what sort of disorder is that you suffer from?

Jul 20, 2013 04:49pm

@Muhammad Abul Hossain PhD: I must disagree. Religion, by its very nature, is divisive: “My god is truer than your god. My path is better than your path.”

And, most importantly, religion is anti-humanity because of its core belief system: “I will ULTIMATELY go to heaven no matter how bad I am. You will go to hell no matter how good you are.”

Unity? No way. Not even by a huge margin.

V. C. Bhutani
Jul 20, 2013 05:07pm

I Jihad was the chosen instrument of the State of Pakistan from 1990 onwards. It is now its principal scourge. To begin with, Pakistan regarded jihadis as its assets in its policies and actions towards Afghanistan and India. No one in Pakistan, not even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, seems to have even a shadow of an idea how these assets can now be brought into control. The fearsome part is that successive governments in Pakistan from about 1980 onwards created and trained jihadis, who are now said to number as many as half a million. Pakistan’s regular army is said to have 617,000 men on active service, with 515,000 in reserve. An army of that size, along with paramilitary forces and police and other security personnel, and the civilian administrative personnel of government must consume a very large part of the revenues of the State. Combined with the need to service and repay loans from world financial institutions, something like 90% of the revenues of the State are taken up in these sectors, leaving barely 10% for development expenditure. This should be standing nightmare for Mr Nawaz Sharif. Under the best of conditions he cannot hope to balance the budget without reducing expenses on army and government personnel. In the 66 years since Independence Pakistan has devoted an inordinate share of attention and resources to defence and correspondingly little to development and education. As a result Pakistan suffers from extraordinary influence and impact of education imparted in the madrassas. We need to recall, and Mr Nawaz Sharif needs to recall, that the great process of Islamization was set in train by Ziaul Haq from 1977 onwards and that no later government had the courage to reverse the trend. In effect, Islamization of State and Society in Pakistan has proceeded apace in all the years from 1977 to this day. It has also meant increasing influence of Islamist forces, with the necessary concomitant of radicalism and extremism. In short, it was a formula for the growth of terror, which Pakistan’s State, Government, Army, and Intelligence supported wholeheartedly throughout. Pakistan’s Society in general also supports terror. To be continued.

V. C. Bhutani
Jul 20, 2013 05:09pm

II Pakistan was riding a tiger when it opted to use terror as an instrument of its policies. Now, when ever more parts of the rest of the world are forming a realization that Pakistan has been for long the epicentre of global terror (Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy went on record to say that 70 to 80 percent of global terror emanated from Pakistan), Pakistan has no option but to get off the tiger, which is proving proverbially ready to devour its former rider. Mrs Hillary Clinton said if you rear snakes in your backyard, do not expect that they shall bite only your neighbours. It turns out now that terror has its main playground in the Karachi–Quetta–Peshawar triangle. The snakes are indeed biting Pakistan itself. The ominous and worrisome part is that views and tendencies among students in universities are not far different from those of the madrassa students. (We know that talib only means student, whence the plural, taliban, that is, students of Islamic studies.) This paper goes into great detail in the making and evolution of Islamism. To my way of thinking, this was extraordinary because promoting Islamism is not quite the same as promoting Islam. Our understanding has been that it was all right to work for the promotion of Islam. But in doing so, one does not deviate into spreading altogether wrong interpretation of Islam and Quran, citing in support Hadith and Shariat and all that. This was recruiting Islam for the service of ‘Political Islam’, or Islamism. Such effort met ready support from the common followers of Islam, who probably are far from equipped to understand and interpret Quran. By using slogans like Islam khatre mein it was easy to gather support from ordinary people, and not only in Pakistan. Now the chicken have come home to roost. When they did not find congenial environment abroad, they turned on their own compatriots. We need to understand, and the rest of the world needs to understand too, that the element of jihad is going to remain a standing scourge for years to come worldwide. The rest of the world has no choice but to meet the challenge of Islamists head on, because non-Islamic peoples and civilizations are not going to welcome an Islamist or even Islamic emirate worldwide, doubtless with a central caliph to keep the faithful in line. It is clear to all except to the Islamists themselves that the rest of the world is not waiting hat in hand for the advent of Islamist or Islamic dominance

V. C. Bhutani
Jul 20, 2013 05:10pm

III If jihadis persist in their present choices, they may verily bring on what has been called ‘the clash of civilizations’. We have seen that USA attempted to meet the challenge of jihad in the wake of 9/11, having ignored earlier instances of Islamist attacks on US embassies in Africa. For almost 12 years the US-led coalition has attempted to destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. In this effort, however, Mr Bush chose wrongly and ensconced Pakistan as frontline non-Nato ally in the global war against terror. It was clear to the owner of the smallest intelligence even in 2001 that Pakistan was itself originator of terror and that Pakistan was not going to willingly work to defeat and destroy its coreligionists then working seemingly for the glory of Islam. It has been said that Pakistan lost 40,000 lives to terror since then. But these lives were lost to terrorists whom Pakistan itself created and nurtured. Instead of pretending that Pakistan had made enormous sacrifices in fighting terror, Pakistan should understand and the rest of the world should remember that throughout these 12 years Pakistan perfidiously played on both sides of the line: it ran with the hares and hunted with the hounds. The failure of the US-led effort in Afghanistan was written into the situation. It was a question of time before US and other leaders understood that the effort in Afghanistan could not succeed unless Pakistan was treated as part of the problem and not part of the solution. Mr Bush’s initial error in 2001 has cost USA victory in Afghanistan. USA shall now run away from battle, with the tail between its legs. It is unlikely that Pakistan’s role shall be seen for what it has been all along the line: Mr Kerry is steadfast in his support to Pakistan. It may be expected that the US department of state shall not designate Pakistan as state sponsor of terror even after December 2014. Concluded. V. C. Bhutani, Edinburgh, 20 July 2013, 1310 GMT

Jul 21, 2013 05:56am

@Prapur: July 20th, 2013 India sentences to life six men in Swiss gang-rape case

The six men were accused in the gang-rape and robbery of a 39-year-old Swiss woman cyclist holidaying in India.