chapter  2
22 Pages

Islamic political radicalism: origins and destinations

It is important to provide a deeper analysis of the radicalism of Muslims from its historical origins to more recent developments in the twentieth century, and how political Islam has permeated aspects of life in Muslim Britain today.1 Apart from specific events that have taken place in Muslim lands throughout the 1990s and beyond, there has been British political activity within the Muslim world, for example in Egypt, Pakistan and Palestine, for many hundreds of years. The attempt here is to trace these developments and to discern the extent to which they have shaped the radicalisation of British Islam. There is a specific exploration of the lives and works of Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, central figures who have been influential in shaping a radical Islam in the 1950s and 1960s. The roles of HT, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are analysed to determine how a global Islamic political identity has emerged. In Britain, there have been important recent developments, for example the growth of Al-Muhajiroun in the mid-1990s. It was disbanded towards the end of 2004, but it did, however, spawn a number of offshoots, which have now also been prohibited: The Saviour (Saved) Sect, Al-Ghuraba (‘the Strangers’) and Islam4UK. After the Danish cartoons demonstrations of February 2006, these and other groups were officially proscribed by the British government only for them to be re-invented yet again. Given the negative media and political attention Muslims have received in the post-7/7 period, it is apparent that there will be many questions asked of existing and new Muslim organisations, especially in how they are regarded as potentially important (or not) in the radicalisation (and de-radicalisation) of young Muslims in Britain. In exploring the ideas of the most important ideologues that have impac-

ted on the Islamic revival movements over the past few hundred years,

arguably the first person to provide a puritanical version of Islam as a response to the lived experience of Muslims was Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328). Since then, a whole host of other important figures in the Islamic revivalist movement have emerged, and their ideological perspectives are essential to analyse, particularly in the context of the anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggles of a range of oppressed Muslim states, lands and peoples. Of the many individuals and their thinking of interest in the current period, only one is of Shi’i origin, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-89), while the others all emanate from orthodox Sunni schools. Khomeini largely concentrated on the Islamisation of the state of Iran, and the militant orthodoxy did not reach beyond the confines of the Middle East. Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon in 1982, after a civil war resulted in the arrival of French and US forces, and it was supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Today, in Iraq, there are Shi’a militia forces loyal to Muqtada al-Sadar (b. 1973),2 and they arguably have some support from Iran. Rather, the focus here is on Sunni violent extremism, given that it is this which has caused greatest alarm in the West (Sunnis make up over 85 per cent of all the Muslims in the world). Many argue Sunni revivalist Islam is the greatest threat to Western neo-liberal socio-democratic hegemony and security, but it is also the case that Sunni lands have arguably suffered most at the hands colonial and post-colonial efforts of the past 500 years. The wider analysis here also focuses on the early Kharijite of the late seventh century, the ‘Assassins’ of the ninth to the eleventh centuries, Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab (1703-92), Jamal al-Din alAfghani (1838-97), Ahmad Raza Khan (1856-1921) and the development of the Barelwi movement and, finally, the Darul Uloom (1866-), which is an expansion of the Deobandi movement. The latter three emerged under the colonial rule of the British in South Asia. In the twentieth century, Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), Taqi ud-Din al-Nabhani (1909-77), Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Osama bin Laden (b. 1957) and the formation of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1994 have created the greatest interest among social thinkers studying British and Western European political Islam in the current period.3