At its most innocent, it appears to mean that Islam is not just a religion but a political system – meaning that the religion’s tenets become law.
At worst, Islamism will be a movement to set sharia law in cement and to drive out non-Muslims and, in the extreme, work to unite Muslims and create a worldwide caliphate.
In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, former autocratic leaders are now gone, and news reports talk of “Islamists” surging to power. In Libya, one report said, “National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said sharia law would be the main source of legislation, that laws contradicting its tenets would be nullified, and that polygamy would be legalized.”
Sharia law is characterized by abject intolerance for not following the strictest interpretations of Islam, and is extremely harsh on women and dismissive if not hostile toward non-Muslims.
Abdul-Jalil later tried to walk his statement back, saying “I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims.”
Well, silly us!
The Jerusalem Post writes of Tunisia’s supposedly “moderate” Ennahda party:
“The party supported the 1979 embassy takeover in Iran, and evidence suggests it was responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s. In 1991 its operatives attacked the headquarters of Ben Ali’s party, killing one person and throwing acid in the faces of several others, and that same year (party founder Rachid) Ghannouchi called for attacks on U.S. interests in the Middle East in response to America’s invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War.
“Ennahda’s founding ideology was largely shaped by that of Sayyid Qutb, a leading ideologue of the grandfather of all Islamist groups, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Ennahda still maintains ties with the Brotherhood, but the Tunisian party prefers to compare itself with another political model: Turkey’s ruling AK party, which though religious in its founding and nature, has stopped short of calling for the imposition of Sharia”
A spokesman for the National Transitional Council pooh-poohed concern in the West over Abdul-Jalil’s authoritarian pronouncement, saying he “had an obligation at the dawn of a new era to assure Libyans that Islam would be respected.” That’s a crock. No one expected it not to be. And even if they up and adopted the U.S. Constitution, guess what: Islam would be respected.
The main difference would be, so would other religions. And women. And individual rights. Under sharia, fat chance.
We hope, for their own sakes, the Libyan people resist the apparently irresistible urge to tend toward the intolerance of sharia law. Where on Earth has the oppression of a people under strict religious law improved a nation’s economy or standing in the world? Does it advance the cause of peace with non-Muslims? How will Libyan women fare in a society in which they are treated like property and denied equal rights – and even, as Abdul-Jalil has promised, under polygamy? How can you have a system that is oppressive to its own people and hostile to outsiders and say it’s an improvement?
What’s the point of all that bloodshed and economic hardship and turmoil if they’re just going to trade one tyranny for another?
“Moderate” Islamists? What does that even mean?