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Apocalypticism in Islam

Introduction

Cook, David. 1996. “Muslim Apocalyptic and Jihad,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 20:66-104.

Cook, David. 2001. “Jihad and Martyrdom Operations as Apocalyptic Events.” Paper presented at the Fifth Annual Center for Millennial Studies Conference, Boston University, November.

Cook, David. 2002. “ America, the Second ‘Ad: The Perception of the United States in Modern Muslim Apocalyptic Literature,” Yale Center for International and Area Studies Publications 5:150-93.

Wessinger, Catherine. 2001. “Bin Laden and Revolutionary Millennialism,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10 October, http://www.mille.org/cmshome/wessladen.html.

Jean E. Rosenfeld, “The Religion of Usamah bin Ladin: Terror As the Hand of God," <http://www.publiceye.org/frontpage/911/Islam/rosenfeld2001.htm> (9 October 2002).


For background on Wahhabism as a form of Islamic fundamentalism, see:

Olivier Roy, " Afghanistan: An Islamic War of Resistance," in Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Politics, Economies, and Militance, The Fundamentalism Project 3, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), 491-510.

Jamal Malik. "Making Sense of Islamic Fundamentalism," ISIM Newsletter (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World), 19 October 2001, online version, <http://www.isim.nl/newsletter/1/research/01AD30.html>

Khaled Aabu El Fadl, “Islam and the Theology of Power,” Middle East Report 221, (Winter 2001) <http://www.merip.org/mer/mer221/221_abu_el_fadl.html> (9 October 2002).

Selected Books on Militant Islamic Supremacy

Arjomand, Said. The Turban and the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Arjomand, Said. The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam.
Akhavi, Shahrough. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran.. 
Arkoun, Muhammed. Rethinking Islam.
Burgat, François. Islamic Movements in North Africa.
Djaït, Hichem. Europe and Islam.
Eickelman, Dale. Muslim Politics.
Eickelman, Dale. Russia's Muslim Frontiers.
Jansen, Johannes. The Dual Nature of Fundamentalist Islam.
Kelsay, John. Islam and War.
Kepel, Gilles. Muslim Extremism in Egypt.
Lewis, Bernard. The Political Language of Islam.
Marty. M. and Appleby, S., eds. The Fundamentalism Project.
Peters, Rudolph. Islam and Colonialism.
Roy, Oliver. Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan.
Roy, Oliver. The Failure of Political Islam.
Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses.
Sivan, Emmanuel. Radical Islam.
Tibi, Bassam. The Crisis of Modern Islam.
Tibi, Bassam. Islam and the Cultural Accomodation of Social Change.
Wiley, Joyce. The Islamic Movement of Iraqui Shi'as.

Clerical Fascism - Use with Caution:

The Protestant reformation did not start out by spreading an Enlightenment critique including the idea of liberty. One early form resulted in theocratic Calvinism and the uptight Puritans. The effort to find a compromise with the Enlightenment and modernity came later and generated the U.S. Christian fundamentalist movement. The Christian Right Reconstructionist movement and Extreme Right Christian Identity movement are attempts to reform a Protestantism that already was the result of a previous process of reformation of Catholicism started by Martin Luther. This repeated process is common. Something similar is happening within Islam.  

In Islam there was a series of reformations in the 1700s, similar to Martin Luther’s reformation of Catholicism into Protestantism, but the decentralized nature of Islam was an issue, and there were several separate reform movements. One was led by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92), that became the Wahhabi movement—the theology behind the Saudi government. Think of the Wahhabist Saudi government as similar to the theocratic government created by John Calvin in Geneva. Both are based on the idea of the sovereignty of God administered by righteous men.  

Now there is a second reformation going on within Islam that is more global—theocratic Islamic fundamentalism. It has its roots in the theological/political theories of Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-79) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66). The result is a form of Islamic fundamentalism that is very repressive. Mawdudi argued that his ideal Islamic State “would be totalitarian, because it subjected everything to the rule of God. . .” notes Armstrong.7 In the most extreme case, this type of social totalitarianism based on theology has been called a new form of clerical fascism—similar to WWII European clerical fascist movements such as the Romanian Iron Guard and the Croatian Ustashi. This is a disputed view.  

Although the concept of clerical fascism is used widely in analyzing certain forms of fascism, is it fair to apply it to certain forms of theocratic Islamic fundamentalism? Armstrong mentions there are some similarities worth noting.8 Walter Laqueur discusses its usefulness as a concept at length in Fascism: Past, Present, Future.9 A number of academics, however, disagree with the use of the term fascism in this context. Roger Griffin believes it stretches the term fascist too far to apply the term ‘fascism’ to “so-called fundamentalist or terroristic forms of traditional religion (i.e. scripture or sacred text based with a strong sense of orthodoxy or orthodoxies rooted in traditional institutions and teachings).” He does, however, concede that the United States has seen the emergence of hybrids of political religion and fascism in such phenomena as the Nation of Islam and Christian Identity, and that bin Laden's al Qaeda network may represent such a hybrid. He is unhappy with the term ‘clerical fascism,’ though, since he says that “in this case we are rather dealing with a variety of ‘fascistized clericalism.’”

In any case, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda networks are revolutionary right-wing populists seeking to overthrow existing Muslim states. They not only want to rid all Muslim nations of the evils of secularism, humanism, and Western influence, but also seek to restore a “true” Islamic theocracy based on a militant fundamentalist version of Wahhabism. Saudi Arabia is an example of a repressive and reactionary orthodox Islamic theocracy, but it is not technically fascist. The point is not to be an apologist for the Saudi regime, but to suggest that theocratic Islamic fundamentalist totalitarianism would be worse than the already repressive Saudi oligarchy.  

The term clerical fascism can be defended for cafreful use in public discussions and when applied specifically to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda networks. However some caution is required. The term fascism is often overused, and currently some use it in a propagandistic way. Therefore we feel progressives should only use the term clerical fascism where: it is not a justification for excessive and aggressive militarism; does not demonize or scapegoat Arabs and Muslims; and is differentiated from inaccurate and sweeping misuse.


Adapted from my 2003 chapter, “Terminology:Use with Caution.” Fascism. Vol. 5, Critical Concepts in Political Science, Roger Griffin and Matthew Feldman, eds. New York, NY: Routledge.  

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