The Failure of Political Islam by Olivier Roy

The Failure of Political Islam
by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk
Harvard University Press, 1994


COMMENT: A dense academic and sometimes jargon-y book, but one hitting a bull’s eye of my topic, Islamism. I've read so much of this stuff I can usually grasp what's he's talking about, and he knows a lot. It's all analysis. Very little quoting of anyone else, or descriptions of specific situations.

Traditional Islam and Fundamentalism

Traditional Islam - Division Between the Sharia and "the Sovereign"

"As early as the end of the first century of the hegira, a de facto separation between political power (sultans, amirs) and religious power (the caliph) was created and institutionalized. But this separation always resulted from a division that was different from the one that developed in the west. No positive law emanates from the center of power: the sovereign reigns in the empirical, the contingent. Any intervention into the private sphere is perceived as arbitrary, precisely because social relationships, regulated by the sharia, are not supposed to be subject to arbitrariness and violence, contrary to the image of the capricious despot that Western chroniclers often sent home.
It is because Islam occupied the sphere of law and of social regulation that the power of the sovereign, even of a fair and good sovereign, cannot help but seem contingent and arbitrary, for he can intervene only in what is outside the domain of the sharia, and thus only in nonessential matters. There is, in Islam, a civil society indifferent to the state. There is no `Oriental despotism.`" (Roy, p.14)

What's the Political Role of the Ulama in Fundamentalism? - Censure, not Rule

"The political demand of the fundamentalist clergy is that the law conform to the shariah; it claims the right to censure, not to exercise power. This traditional fundamentalism, which has been the object of much theoretical reflection by the ulamas, is the spontaneous ideology of most mullahs and other clerics, yesterday as today." (Roy, p.29)

Traditionalism and Reformism - Two Currents in Fundamentalism

  • Traditionalists accept "the continuity between the founding texts and their commentaries; it takes as its basic principle imitation (taqlid), that is, refusal to innovate, while accepting what was said before; its adherents follow one of the great legal schools (Shafiism, Malikism, Hanafism, Hanbalism); its vision of the sharia is essentially legalistic and casuistic [determining what is right or wrong in matters of conscience or conduct]. It is sometimes connected to the popular forms of Sufism (hence the Barelvi school in Pakistan)." (Roy, p.30-31)
  • reformist fundamentalism "criticizes the tradition, the commentaries, popular religious practices (maraboutism, the cult of saints), deviations, and superstitions; it aims to return to the founding texts (18th-century examples are Shah Wali Allah in India and Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula). This reformism generally developed in response to an external threat (the influence of Hinduism on Islam, for example)."
    Is salafiyya an example of reformist fundamentalism? It is "in keeping with." Salafiyya "appeared in the 19th century, marking a phase between Fundamentalism and Islamism." (Roy, p.31)

    Another reformist movement: "Ahl-i-Hadith, a movement founded in the 19th century and classified as `Wahhabi` by the British, wrongly so at the time. They developed theological differences with the Hanafi school, in particular with respect to the manner of praying, which scandalized the Afghans, who are generally very orthodox Sunni Hanafis. In Pakistan, they transformed themselves into a political party. Curiously, they opposed the sharia bill (the law that would make the shariah state law), because they felt it was not for the state to legislate on the shariah. Their leader, Ihasan Illahi Zahir, was assassinated in 1987. The Ahl-i Hadith Have been active since the nineteenth century on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan; they have madrasa in Attock, Akora, and in the Kunar ... though designated as Wahhabis by their adversaries, they prefer to call themselves `Salafis.`"
    (The Failure of Political Islam, by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk, Harvard University Press, 1994, p.118-9)

    Modern Fundamentalism and Islamism


    Salafiyya - the `return to the ancestors` is "typified by its three canonical authors,

  • Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1898),
  • Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), and
  • Rashid Raida (1865-1935)
  • "Like all other fundamentalist reformist movements, it rejected common law (adat, urf), maraboutism (belief in the powers of intervention of certain individuals blessed with baraka, or divine charisma), and rapprochement with other religions."
    "Salafism pushed the logic of reformism to its extreme: it demanded the right to individual interpretation (ijtihad) of the founding texts (the Quran and the Sunna) without regard to previous commentaries. The reopening of the right to ijtihad marked a significant rupture with ten centuries of orthodoxy."

    Salafist thought was obsessed with the reconstitution of the Muslim umma, and in particular with the restoration of the caliphate." (Roy, p.33)

    Islamism - How it Differs From Salafiyya

    "Islamism was created both along the line of and as a break from the Salafiyya. The Islamists generally adopt Salafist theology: they preach a return to the Quran, the Sunna, and the sharia and reject the commentaries that have been part of the tradition (the gloss, the philosophy, but also the four major legal schools, the madhahib). They therefore demand the right to ijtihad, individual interpretation. But they don't stop there."

    "Three points clearly separate the Islamists from the fundamentalism of the ulamas:

  • political revolution, "Islamists consider that the society will be Islamized only through social and political action: it is necessary to leave the mosque ..."
  • shariah - "Islamist movement insists less on the application of the shariah than do the fundamentalist ulamas. Whereas moderates and neo-fundamentalists see the application of the shariah as a key to the Islamization of society, the radical Islamists, without questioning the principle of the sharia, tend to consider it more a project than a corpus." (Roy, p.38)
  • issue of women. "Islamist generally tend to favor the education of women and their participation in social and political life: the Islamist woman militates, studies, and has the right to work, but in a chador. Islamist groups include women's associations." (p.38) "The Islamists' obsession is not that women should return of the home, but that the sexes be separated in public." (p.59) (COMMENT:Not originally Roy!)
  • These three elements (the place of politics, women, and the sharia) are good criteria for distinguishing radical Islamists (such as Imam Khomeini) from conservative fundamentalist regimes ... or even from modern neofundamentalist movements (the Algerian FIS) ..." (Roy, p.39)

    Islamists vs. Ulama

    "Islamists reproach the ulama for two things.
    [COMMENT: The translator insists on talking about "the ulamas". Learn some Arabic lady! ]

  • One is their servility to the powers in place, which leads them to accept a secular government and laws that do not conform to the shariah.
  • The other is their compromise with Western modernity: the ulamas have accepted modernity where the Islamist reject it (acceptance of the separation of religion and politics, which necessarily leads to secularization) and maintained the tradition where the Islamists reject it (indifference to modern science, rigid and casuistic teachings, rejection of political and social action)." (Roy, p.37)

    Islamism -- What Is It?

    "Far from being a strange irruption of an irrational, archaic phenomenon, the Islamist movement is in keeping with two pre-existing tendencies.

  • One, of course, is the call to fundamentalism, centered on the shariah: this call is as old as Islam itself and yet still new because it has never been fulfilled, It is a tendency that is forever setting the reformer, the censor, and tribunal against the corruption of the times and of sovereigns, against foreign influence, political opportunism, moral laxity, and the forgetting of sacred texts.
  • The other tendency, more recent and therefore more difficult to see, is that of anticolonialism, of anti-imperialism, which today has simply become anti-Westernism -- from Cairo to Tehran, the crowds that in the 1950s demonstrated under the red or national flag now march beneath the green banner. The targets are the same: foreign banks, nightclubs, local governments accused of complacency toward the West. The continuity is apparent not only in these targets but also the participants: the same individuals who followed Nasser or Marx in the 1960s are Islamists today." "There is an abundance of coming and going and of connections between Marxist groups and the Islamist sphere (the secular Palestinian Ahmad Jibril, for instance, has close ties with the Lebanese Hizbullah). Without question the Shiites have provided the best bridge between the two Third World movements: Ali Shariati, an ideologist of the contestant Shiite movement, was a great reader of Frantz Fanon. ..."
    (The Failure of Political Islam by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk, Harvard University Press, 1994, p.4)
  • Tawhid or Oneness

    "This oneness extends to the individual, whose practices are considered in the aggregate and not classified according to the area in which they are implemented (the social, private, devotional, political, or economic sphere)" (Roy, p.13)

    "...a certain number of recurring themes in Islamic political thought" include ...

  • "The nonseparation of the religious, legal, and political spheres is affirmed.
  • The sharia should be the sole source of law as well as the norm for individual behavior, both for the sovereign and for the simple believer.
  • The definition of an autonomous political space, with its own rules, its positive laws, and its own values is prohibited.
  • Finally, the state is never considered in terms of a territorialized nation-state: the ideal is to have a power that would rule over the entirety of the umma, the community of the faithful, while actual power is exercised over a segment of the umma whose borders are contingent, provisional and incomplete." (Roy, p.13)
  • COMMENT: Need more information. My image is that there was a division of labor between the sultan and the ulama. People going to the ulama to settle problems. The Sultan raising an army invading, fighting off invasions, etc. Is that what he's talking about?

    Conspiracy Theories

    "The worse legacy of the West was no doubt to offer the Muslim people a ready-to-wear devil: conspiracy theory is currently paralyzing Muslim political thought. For to say that every failure is the devil's work is the same as asking God, or the devil himself (which is to say these days the Americans), to solve one's problems." (Roy, p.19-20)

    "Since Islam has an answer to everything, the troubles from which Muslim society is suffering are due to nonbelievers and to plots, whether Zionist or Christian. Attacks against Jews and Christians appear regularly in neofundamentalist articles. In Egypt, Copts are physically attacked. In Afghanistan, the presence of western humanitarians, who are associated with Christian missionaries [despite the fact that many if not most have secular often leftist backgrounds] is denounced." (Roy, p.85)

    COMMENT: Ummm ... would any colonial power have left the same legacy?

    Divisions Within Islamism - Differing on Means to an End

    "The thought of the movements we are studying oscillates between two poles: a revolutionary pole, for whom the Islamization of society occurs through state power; and a reformist pole, for whom social and political action aims primarily to re-Islamize the society from the bottom up, bringing about, ipso facto, the advent of an Islamic state. The split lies not on the question of the necessity of an Islamic state, but on the means by which to arrive at one and on the attitude to adopt with respect to the powers in place: destruction, opposition, collaboration, indifference. The entire spectrum of attitudes is possible: the Jordanian MB [Muslim Brotherhood] participated in parliamentary elections, the Jamaat-i Islami of Pakistan and the Sudanese MB supported military putsches, the Egyptian Islami Jihad launched a campaign of assassinations of government personalities. Can the two poles be placed on a chronological scale that would move from Islamization from the top down (Islamism) to Islamization from the bottom up (neofundamentalism)? Yes and no."

    No, because ideologically radical movements sometimes support radical means (terrorism), and sometimes not. The original MB leader Al-Banna "has at times advocated the rejection of compromise, at times called for collaboration." (Roy, p.24)

    Success of "Islamisation" from Above and Below

    "Islamist ideas have spread throughout broad sectors of Muslim societies, losing part of their political force in this popularization. An obvious re-Islamization is occurring in high places and on the street. Since the end of the 1970s, the states have reintroduced principles from the sharia into their constitutions and laws; secularity is receding in the legal domain (family statute in Algeria in 1984). From below, one may note the increased visibility of fundamentalist Islam (in attire: the wearing of beards by men, and of veils or scarves by city women) and a greater externality of practice, with the sprouting of neighborhood mosques uncontrolled by the state." (Roy, p.26)

    "Even in `progressive` states such as Algeria, ... Friday became an official holy day in 1976. The official radio stations and journals are being opened up to neofundamentalist preaching: Al-Liwa al-Islami, an official Islamic journal in Egypt, has a higher circulation than the famous Al-Ahram. In December 1991 the Egyptian Security Court condemned the writer Ala'a Hamid to eight years in prison for blasphemy. Religious programs are becoming more numerous on television everywhere, including in communist Afghanis beginning in 1986. In 1972 secular Turkey joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and in 1982 it introduced mandatory religious instruction in primary and secondary schools. In Tunisia, President Ben Ali, who took power in 1987, made a point of promoting the country's Arab-Muslim identity while severely repressing the Islamist: this translated into an increase in the number of religious programs on television, the appointment of a minister of religious affairs, the restoration of the Islamic University of Zayuna, and so on." (p.126-7, The Failure of Political Islam, by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk, Harvard University Press, 1994)
    Veil is authorized in certain universities in Turkey, forbidden in others; "obligatory teaching manuals for religion give only the Muslim point of view." (Roy, p.128)

    "Islamists are also assuming positions in professional associations (lawyers, engineers), even in finance (Islamic banking institutions, which, despite their rejection of interest, turn out to be very profitable). .... Although the specter of Islamic revolution is fading, Islamic symbols are penetrating the society and the political discourse of the Muslim world more than ever. The retreat of political Islamism has been accompanied by the advancement of Islam as a social phenomenon." (Roy, p.78)

    The Advance of Shari'ah - A Timeline
  • 1979 - Law on Personal status was promulgated by presidential decree in Egypt, although it was still criticized by the most ardent fundamentalists.
  • 1979 - Shariatic penalties and authorized collection of the zakat, the Islamic tax on bank accounts in Pakistan
  • 1983 - Sudan proclaimed the shariatic penal code
  • 1984 - Shariatic law of testimony introduced in Pakistan
  • 1984 - Algerian Family Code reintroduces the Quranic dissymmetry between men and women.
  • 1985 - Sharia Bill to definitively replace Anglo-Saxon law introduced but not passed in Pakistan.
  • 1986 - Islamic Code made obligatory with respect to the personal status of Muslims in India.
  • 1992 - New Family Code promulgated in reunified Yemen. Polygamy made legal.

    ... But has this Success been Superficial?

    "Yet basically, the influence of Islamism is more superficial than it seems. The shariah has been put only partially into practice in the most conservative states (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan) The existing regimes have proved stable in the face of Islamist contestation." (Roy, p.26)

    The impact of Islamism, aside from the parentheses of the Iranian revolution and the war in Afghanistan, is essentially sociocultural: it marks the streets and customs but has no power relationship in the Middle East. It does not influence either state borders [merging states to become a united umma] or interests. It has not created a `third force` in the world. It has not even been able to offer the Muslim masses a concrete political expression for their anticolonialism. Can it offer an economic alternative or deeply transform a society? The answer seems to be no." (Roy, p.131)

    ... Then Again the Causes of it Remain

    "Nonetheless, the socioeconomic realities that sustained the Islamist wave are still here and are not going to change: poverty, uprootedness, crises in values and identities, the decay of the educational systems, the North-South opposition, the problem of immigrant integration into the host societies." (Roy, p.27)

    Overpopulation and Overcrowding

    "Urbanization and social problems are exacerbated by population growth, which exceeded 3% annually in many countries (Algeria, Iran, Pakistan). It is true that the fertility rate (number of children per woman) is falling today (from 7.4% to 4.8% in Algeria between 1965 and 1987), following the dissemination of the Western cultural model, but it will take two decades for this decline to affect the rate of population growth. There is thus a mass of young people with little prospect for social mobility." (Roy, p.53)

    "In Algeria in 1990, 80% of youth aged 16 to 29 still lived with their parents, with an average of 8 inhabitants to a room." (Roy, p.54)

    Islamism vs. Neofundamentalism - Trend, Differences, Etc.

    Evolution from Islamism to Neofundamentalism

    "Toward the end of the 1980s, the failure of the Islamist revolutionary idea brought about the drift of a revolutionary, political, Third World type of Islamism, incarnated in the Iranian revolution, toward a puritanical, preaching, populist, conservative neofundamentalism, financed until recently by Saudi Arabia but violently anti-Western, particularly since the end of the East-West confrontation has ceased to cast communism as a foil. The Algerian FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) is the prototype for this sort of group: a conjunction of the political heritage of Islamism, Saudi money (until 1990), and the influence of a more pious than political return to Islam." The distinction "is a difference in emphasis." (Roy, p.25)

    "During the 1980s there was an observable drift of political Islamism toward a `neofundamentalism.` Militants who were previously striving for the Islamic revolution are becoming involved in a process of re-Islamization from below; they preach an individual return to the practices of Islam and, with their pro-shariah campaign, resemble the traditional fundamentalist mullahs from whom they are now distinguished only by their intellectual origins, profession insertion in modern society, and involvement in politics. I speak of a drift because there is no break between Islamism and neofundamentalism; it is the entire Islamist movement ..." (Roy, p.75)
    COMMENT: This is an interesting distinction but Islamists Qutb and Mawdudi both disapproved of women leaving the home (except in exceptional circumstances). So I think the women's issue follows more a timeline from strict to loose, rather than a political pole of Islamists looser, Salafists stricter. Both are against women being able to go outside, but have had to back off as women wouldn't stand for the strict stay-at-home interpretation.

    WHY the Evolution from Islamism to Neofundamentalism?

  • the subordination within Islamism itself, of strictly political action in favor of the reformation of mortality
  • the loss [i.e. failure] of the Iranian model
  • the failure of terrorist or revolutionary efforts, (COMMENT: Except bin Laden is BOTH neofundamentalist and terrorist.)
  • adoption by states of Islamic symbols while conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia have set out to finance and thereby control Islamist networks, attempting to influence their activities and ideology in the direction of a more conservative neofundamentalism."
  • (p.76) The last move has had the effect of accentuating "the gulf between Shiites and Sunnis ... " (Roy, p.107)

    Evolution to Neofundamentalism Has Heightened Shia-Sunni Rift

    The drift of Islamism toward neofundamentalism has brought a resurgence of Sunni fundamentalism's visceral anti-Shi’ism. In Afghanistan for example the Wahhabis circulated an anti-Shiite pamphlet titled Tuhfa-i ithna ashariyya (The gift of the twelve Shi'ities), republished in Turkey in 1988 and widely distributed in Peshawar; this book was written at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the son of Shah Wali Allah, who was also the religious mentor of Sayyid Barlevi, founder of the Ahl-i Hadith movement. At the same time, some Iranian circles see the Wahhabis as a sect inspired by British imperialism. (Roy, p.123)

    Evolution from Islamism to Neofundamentalism - Like Social Democrats and Marxists?

    Re-Islamization thus takes place along two axes: individual reform through preaching (da'wa) and the establishment of Islamized spaces, either in purely spatial terms (cities, neighborhoods) or in terms of practical considerations and networks (Islamic banks). One can prepare for the Islamic society through local militancy, associations, cooperatives, and other institutions: in this sense neofundamentalism is to Islamism what social democracy was to Marxism." (Roy, p.79)

    What Neofundamentalist Society Looks Like

    "Women are pushed to wear veils, alcohol is banned, coeducation is condemned, and attempts are made to promote the moralization of the society by fighting (just as fundamentalist Christians or Jews might do) against `pornography`, gambling, cafes, and sometimes music, drugs, and delinquency. ... there is the demand that daily life be adapted to the practice of Islam (free time for prayers, the consumption of halal food, special hours for Ramadan). Finally, one of the highest priorities is the adaptation of the school system to Islam (Arabization, censoring impious materials, banning coeducation)." (Roy, p.81)

    Difference Between Islamism and Neofundamentalism

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Members Appearance

    "Neofundamentalists are obsessed with the corrupting influence of Western culture. Unlike the Islamist, they are not fascinated by modernity or by Western models in politics or economics. The break they want to effect with the Western model occurs within the very body of the believer and in the very forms of conviviality. It takes on a `cultural` aspect in the anthropological sense of the term. Body language and clothing are recast: while Islamist didn't hesitate to dress in a European manner, so long as they Islamized them (scarves and raincoats for women), neofundamentalist adopt traditional clothing. ... [Unlike the Egyptian MB up until recently] Sheikh Madani, leader of the FIS ... is seen only in a long shirt, baggy trousers and a white skullcap." (Roy, p.82)

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Members Behavior

    "Compromise with the West is forbidden: neckties, laughter, the use of Western forms of salutation, handshakes, applause... Non-Muslims are discouraged from participating in rituals or using expressions considered to be exclusively Muslim: the foreigner who risks using the term salaam alaykum as a salutation is snubbed. Certain social practices are avoided even if they are not expressly condemned, such as participation in sports." The believer must "prove he is a true Muslim ... Neofundamentalism entails a shrinking of the public space to the family and the mosque." (Roy, p.83)

    In contrast "Maududi didn't hesitate to attend Hindu ceremonies. Khomeini never proposed the status of dhimmi (protected) for Iranian Christians or Jews, as provided for in the sharia: the Armenians in Iran have remained Iranian citizens, are required to perform military service and to pay the same taxes as Muslims, and have the right to vote (with separate electoral colleges). Similarly, the Afghan Jamaat, in its statutes, has declared it legal in the eyes of Islam to employ non-Muslims as experts, a position that would undoubtedly be rejected by the neofundamentalists." (Roy, p.215)

    COMMENT: Was this evolution "drift", or the logical conclusion of the Islamist call by Qutb (who wore a necktie) and others to return to the days of the Prophet and his companions? Was it not only a matter of time? The Prophet and his companions didn't shake hands, applaud, wear neckties, or even listen to music or laugh (so the traditions say), so eventually militants would demand it not be done either. This is not to say that Salafiism makes sense. We CAN'T return to the days of salaf, but if you believe it ...

    Why did Islamists EVER shake hands, applauded speakers, wear neckties? Can't you trace it to the shock of being confronted by Western power (invasions) and technology, not to mention the supreme Western self-confidence in pre-WWII days. The West had no doubt Christianity and Western culture were bound to sweep away Islam. Arrogant, aggressive, flamboyant Islamic militancy of the CAIR-type would have earned its user a quick trip to the lockup ... or more likely the loony bin. Naturally it took a while to shed its impact. Now days the confidence is gone. Europe's population is shrinking. It has no choice to accept poor foreign immigrants and their non-European ways. Most strikingly there's the French -- helpless to stop weeks of rioting and millions of dollars in destruction by Muslims. Why not flaunt your roots and wear a Dishdasha?

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Women's Vote and other Rights

    "It is significant that the 1990 agreements between the Afghan Shiite mujahideen backed by Iran and the Sunnis backed by Saudi Arabia failed, among other things, on the question of women: the Shiites demanded women' right to vote; the Sunnis denied it. The question of personal status (wives, family, divorce) is becoming the principal area of neofundamentalist assertions, which brutally reestablish the letter of the shariah without the social and educational measures that the Iranian or Egyptian Islamist favored." (Roy, p.83)

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Science and Technology

    "Another sign of the regression of the neofundamentalists with respect to the Islamists is their critique of the perverse effects of modern technology. The Algerian FIS has declared war on satellite antennas, which facilitate the reception of Western television. The neofundamentalists do not share the Islamist fascination with science and technology. They preach a retreat from modernity and not its adoption." (Roy, p.85)

    COMMENT: Ummm. Not sure about that! The Islamists in Iran are doing their incompetent best to stop satellite dishes too. Don't they both share the idea that technology is a gift from God, a collection of facts; and not a result of effort utilizing a particular mindset of questioning and openness. Qutb had a long list of what sciences could and could not be studied by "Muslims."

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Neos try to pass for Mullahs

    Neofundies often are victims of bad education. In addition "what is new about neofundamentalists as compared to Islamist militants is that they try to pass for mullahs. While both share the same disdain for the official ulamas, the same anticlericalism does not obtain. Political militants have given way to a new category of mullahs, imams, and other sheikhs, this time self-proclaimed. ..." (Roy, p.86)

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Is the Rise of Neofundamentalism a Reflection of Islamism's Failure?

    "The transformation of Islamist movements into neofundamentalist, populist, and contestant movements saps their originality, but also the model of virtue they put forward, in favor of formalism and appearances, in favor, in other words of hypocrisy. The neofundamentalism of today is but a lumpen-Islamism." (Roy, p.84)

    Islamism contrasted with Neofundamentalism - Fading away of leftist policies

    "The image of the `left-wing Islamist,` incarnated in the Iranian revolution, was little by little supplanted by a less state-oriented and more liberal image, at least with respect to the economy, in Iran as in the rest of the Muslim world." (Roy, p.138)

    But How Sustainable and Truly Islamic is Neofundamentalism?

    "The only model for sociability in Islamism is personal devotion within the framework of the mosque. Why create associations, leisure activities, opportunities for individuals to blossom, when the only model of behavior is devotional? ... it rejects any space for conviviality and sociability if only by the strict implementation of the separation of the sexes ... This puritanism is profoundly modern and urban, in the sense that the most rigorous Muslim peasant society (such as the Afghan mujahidin, who are as fundamentalist as can be) knows what it means to enjoy laughter, humor, song, and poetry." (Roy, p.197)

    Islamism and Political Institutions

    The Leader of the Islamist Revolution - Who Will It Be? How Will He Be Chosen?

    "`The Quran Is Our Constitution` is the slogan encountered from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to the Afghan Islamists. But what institutions are to be derived from this generality? Two concepts recur constantly among most Islamist theoreticians: that of the leader (amir) and that of the advisory council (shura), around which both the Islamic political party and the future Islamic society are structured.

    "The terms that designate the leader vary: murshid among the MB; amir for Tunisians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Soviet Muslims; imam in Iran (but this concept has specifically Shiite connotations). The term khalifa, caliph, sometimes used in the 1950s, has practically disappeared. The amir is both the political and religious leader of the community. For Islamist, the challenged is to end the division of power that has traditionally existed in the Muslim world between the de facto sovereign and a class ulamas [sic] who oversee the law without involving themselves in matters of power.

    "Early on, Islamist replaced the concept of the caliphate (surviving mainly in the writings of Hasan al-Banna) with that of the amir. One reason for this is that according to the classical authors, a caliph must be a member of the tribe of the Prophet (the Quraysh), which would not correspond to the emergence of a new elite; moreover, caliphs ruled societies that the Islamist do not consider to have been Islamic (the Ottoman Empire)." (Roy, p.42)

    Who designates the amir? Little is said in Islamist literature about concrete procedures for designating the amir or about the extent and limits of his power. To many Islamists (with the exception of the Iranians), the idea of voting and of elections seems to weaken the unity of the umma and to relativize, `humanize`, that which proceeds from God alone. The ideal solution, which runs throughout the debate, would be for the amir to be index sui, his own indicator; that is, by merely appearing he would be instantly recognizable. Hence, no doubt, the incessant quest for a charismatic chief, which is transformed in political life into a quest for a leader. The only criterion for designating an amir would therefore be the man himself, his virtue, his personality." (Roy, p.43)

    Organizations (Islamist/Neofundamentalist)

    What Strategy Should Islamist Organizations Take? -- A Vanguard Party? A Pluralistic Party Competing with Others?

    The three models of Islamist political movements:

  • "A Leninist-type party presenting itself as an avant-garde aiming to conquer power and denying the legitimacy of all other parties; the Hizb-i Islami in Afghanistan is an example.
  • A Western-style political party, seeking, within the electoralist and multiparty framework, to get the maximum number of elements in its program adopted; an example is the Prosperity Party in Turkey.
  • A religious militant organization, aiming to promote Islamic values and to modify society and mentalities by giving rise to associations and by penetrating the elite, but without direct political ambitions; examples include the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which insists on mass action; and the Jamaati-i Islami of Pakistan, more given to infiltrating the elite. The two parties occasionally present their own candidates at elections."

    On the other hand, "the very notion of a party is problematic to Islamists. In the umma there is `no other party than the Party of God`: la hizb illa hizbullah was the chant of the Iranian militants as they attacked other parties' headquarters and demonstrations during the first year of the Iranian revolution." (Roy, p.46)

    Why the variety? There's no template to follow.

    "How can one translate into concrete political institutions the concepts of the amir and the shura, which as we have seen, are the basis for the Islamist vision of politics? The question is explicitly rejected as irrelevant. Maududi affirms right from the start [in his book The Islamic Law and Constitution, p.260]

    Islam does not prescribe any definite form for the formation of the consultative body or bodies for the simple reason that it is a universal religion meant for all times and climes.
    ....What counts is neither the form nor the strength of the institution, but rather the manner in which the institution effaces itself before the establishment of Islamic principles, which then must govern the hearts and actions of men. The key to politics is in a `social morality.`" (Roy, p.61)

    Islamists are not fatalistic but "victory is not perceived to be the consequence of a series of human acts: it is a gift from God, which may or may not be granted. One of the most frequently employed slogans in jihad propaganda is tawfiq min Allah, `success comes from God.`" (Roy, p.66)

    ta'zir and qanun - legislation dealing with areas not covered by the shari'ah have no place in Islamist utopia. "In a tawhid society there is no place for ta'zir and qanun." (source: Hashimi in Jamaat-i Islami party journal) (Roy, p.64)

    The Islamist Organization - Cult-Like Features

    "The militant must be separated from `ignorant` society (jahili) and live according to purely Islamic criteria. The party is an island of purity in an ocean of ignorance and corruption. Militants are generally invited to live as much as possible among themselves, as indicated by the Egyptian MB's use of the term usra (family) to designate the basic cell. (Roy, p.68-9)

    The Islamist Organization - Levels of Membership

    "There are generally four stages to the initiation-membership process; the list for the Afghan Hizb-i Islami is as follows" from top to bottom

  • Amir
  • sura-ye markzai (members of the `Central Council`) which assisted by an Executive Committee (komite-ye irja'iyya) elects the amir.
  • `pillars`
  • members
  • sympathizers
  • "The degrees of `initiation` are explicitly likened to a mystical initiation:
    From the point of view of morality, this party is an avant-garde founded on spirituality [ruhaniyya] and Sufism [tasawwuf].
    The new member must purify his would to achieve a `spiritual education` (tarbiya-ye irfani). (source: "page 83 of the [Afghan Hizb-i Islami] statutes.") (Roy, p.69)

    Specific Islamist/Neofundamentalist Organizations

    Rabita, the World Muslim League - Neofundamentalist Propagation Organization

    "Saudi Arabia, thanks to petrodollars, has attempted to develop a propaganda of strict religious fundamentalism that avoids the issue of political power. This was the purpose of the creation, in 1962 of the Rabita, the World Muslim League, which prints Qurans and devotional books and subsidizes mosques and Islamic institutes throughout the world, paying the salaries of imams at many mosques in Europe, for example. Certainly the Rabita is not openly Wahhabi, but the type of Islam it encourages is very clearly conservative fundamentalist, based on a return to the Quran and the Sunna." (Roy, p.116)

    Gulf War Rift -- What Organizations Sided With Who

    Pro-Saddam: "Quickest to condemn Saudi" were

  • Hassan al-Turabi,
  • Tunisians under Ghannouchi,
  • Jordanian MB,
  • Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine led by Sheikh Asad al-Tamimi.
  • Sheikh Umar ab al-Rahman's Islamic Jihad and the MB faction led by Ma'mun al-Hudaybi (p.121)
  • Also

  • Sa'ad al-Din group
  • Muslim Student' Association (A U.S.-based MB organization financed by the Saudis)
  • radical Afghan Islamists (Hikmatyar, Sayyaf) (Roy, p.121)
  • Pro-Saddam after some hesitation and pressure from the grassroots:

  • Egyptian MB
  • Leadership of FIS in Algeria
  • All these opponents gathered at the Islamic Popular Conference called by Saddam Husayn in Baghdad on January 11, 1991. (Roy, p.121)


  • Hamas in Palestine (needed Saudi money).
  • Moderate Afghans (Rabbani)
  • MB organizations in the Gulf states.
  • Moderates in Tunisian Nahda party (Abd al-Fatah Murro) (Roy, p.121)
  • Shi'a Sunni Rift and Pro-Iran Sunni Organizations

    "Iran has succeeded only in rallying (or facilitating the creation of) small Sunni groups who appear as token Sunnis at conferences but have little influence in their countries of origin. These include

  • Sheikh Sha'ban's Movement of Islamic Unification (Tawhid) in Tripoli, Lebanon
  • the small Afghan groups led by Mawlai Mansur and Qazi Amin
  • and the Jam'iyyat faction called Afzali in and around the city of Herat.
  • Here and there we also find Sunni Hizbullahs (on the Afghan-Iranian border). (Roy, p.124)
  • Iranian rejection front conferences

  • Solidarity Conference of the Iraqi Opposition (Dec. 1986)
  • Conference to Safeguard the Sacred Sites (Winter of 1987)
  • Conference of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (Oct. 1991)(p.192)
  • Islamist/Fundamentalist Messianic Groups Based on Charismatic Personalities

  • 1979 November - Saudi group of Juhayman al-Utaybi seizes the Mosque in Mecca. Unknown number die.
  • 1980 December - followers of Muhammad Marwa rise up in the city of Kano, in Northern Nigeria. At least 4000 die in subsequent fighting. (p.114 Olivier Roy, Failure of Political Islam
  • Organizations - Geostrategic Alliances and Local Conflicts

    "To break out of the Shiite ghetto, Iran needs Sunni relays. While it is still possible for Iran to use specific relay points, such as Turabi, it is unlikely that the MBs, which tend to be anti-Shiite and securely anchored in the Arab world, would make a strategic and durable alliance with Iran. As is often the case, geostrategic alliances do not jibe with local alliances. Turabi, who is now allied with Iran with regard to the Middle East, is close to Gulbadin Hikmatyar in Afghanistan, who himself condemns the [Palestine/Israeli] peace process and is close to the Jordanian MB, but is also violently opposed to Afghan Shiites and to Iran's potential role in that country. Deep antagonisms prevail over tactical alliances, even if the latter would be highly advantageous." (Roy, p.123)

    Islamism in Jordan

    "In Jordan in 1989 parliamentary elections were held for the first time in 22 years; Islamist candidates (MBs and independents) took 34 of 42 sears (22 of these 34 being MB). A Muslim Brother, Abd al-Tatif Arabiyya, was elected president of the National Assembly, and the cabinet formed in January 1991 included several MBs. The MBs disappeared from the Jordanian cabinet during a ministerial shakeup in September 1991, but Arabiyya was reelected president of the National Assembly with the support of partisans of the King." (Roy, p.128)

    Islamism in Morocco

    "In Morocco, while repressing the Al-Adl wal-Ihsan party, the monarchy supported a neofundamentalist group, Abdellilah Benkirane's Jama'at al-Islamiyya." (Roy, p.128)

    Islamism in Tunisia

    "In Tunisia, the Islamic Tendency Movement, rebaptized Hizb al-Nahda, gained 14.5% of the votes in the elections of April 1989, but found itself outlawed in 1991." Much like the FIS in Algeria. (Roy, p.128)

    Islam in Pakistan

    "Islam in Pakistan is divided into three tendencies:

  • the Jamaat, which is the Islamist party and which, although it does not have extensive popular roots, is politically influential; the
  • deobandi, administered by fundamentalists and reformist ulamas; and the
  • Barelvi, which recruits from popular and Sufi Islamic circles.
  • These three currents were united in the Rushdie affair, as well as in the criticism of the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States during the second Gulf war. Thus was are seeing Sufi milieus, generally fairly lax with respect to the strict application of the sharia, move toward neofundamentalism, despite the age-old hostility that sets them against Wahhabism."
    Old Sufi brotherhoods are falling apart because of "the destruction of old solidarities, induced by the modernization of Middle Eastern societies ... as a result the brotherhoods are becoming less mystical and more fundamentalist." Particularly in Turkey. (The Failure of Political Islam, by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk, Harvard University Press, 1994, p.88)

    Islam as an Expression of Nationalism

    Islamism is supposed to be about transcending race and ethnic consciousness, but often it's just an expression of it.
    "In Sudan, where a regime supported by the Muslim Brotherhood is in power, a former MB, Dawud Bulad, assumed leadership in 1991 of a black guerrilla group in the Darfur that was against the `Arabs` of Khartoum; behind the politics of Islamization, an age-old hostility between Arabs and blacks is also resurfacing. In Algeria, the Arabization extolled by the FIS is to the detriment of the Kabyles [Berbers?]. In Malaysia, Islamism is also the expression of ethnic tension with the Chinese." (Roy, p.201)

    Islamism and Terrorism

    "It is curious that almost all Western reflection on Islamic terrorism traces it back to the Ismaili `Assassins` (hashashin) of the 12th century, without seeing its continuity with the Western terrorist tradition, which dates back to the Carbonari, the anarchists, and the Russian populists, a terrorism whose ethical and mystical aspects have been amply described by novelist (Camus, Malraux); suicide when faced with the impossibility of perfection, and the eradication of man's split between good and evil through one individual's sacrificial death." (p.67)

    COMMENT: If true, I suspect Western and Islamist terrorists must have come to the same conclusion separately. Few Muslims know or care about nardniks, red shirts or any of that.

    "It is in the most extremist Egyptian group, Takfir wal-Hijra, which takes the Islamist ideas of Sayyid Qutb to their full extension, that the abandonment of politics can be seen in the idea of the hegira, retreat from the world, hijra ... " (Roy, p.79)

    The Islamists - Who are they?


    "Islamists recruit more from engineering than from philosophy departments, with one exception: the teachers' training colleges. The prototype of the Islamist cadre is an engineer, born sometimes in the 1950s in a city but whose parents were from the country. Some, the elite, have even completed their studies in the West."
    For example, one-fourth of the deputies in the Turkish Islamist National Salvation party in the 1970s were engineers. (Roy, p.50)


    "Thus the advent of the contemporary political Islam is in no way the return of a medieval, obscurantist clergy crusading against modernity. Muslim revolts today are urban: Tehran in 1978-1979, Hama (Syria) in 1982, Asyut in a recurrent manner in Egypt, Gaza in Palestine, Algiers, and in Lebanon, southern Beirut and Tripoli. ... " (Roy, p.50)

    "Paradoxically, the communist or secular (ba'thist) parities have a more rural than urban base (Hafiz al-Asad and Saddam Husayn are from the country). In Afghanistan, Iraq, South Yemen, and Syria, the armies, vehicles of secular state coups, have officers of peasant origins." (Roy, p.52)


    "Islamism is "for the re-adaptation of modernity to a newly rediscovered identity. That is why the Islamist everywhere favor industrial development, urbanization, education for the masses and the teaching of science."
    Communism was collectives plus electricity, "Islamism is the sharia plus electricity." (Roy, p.52)

    Obsessed with Conversion of Non-Muslims

    "Today's Islamist activists are obsessed with conversion: rumors that Western celebrities or entire groups are converting are hailed enthusiastically by the core militants. ... Religion requires individual conversion, transforming the dynamic of conversion to Islam among Christians into a matter of simple arithmetic rather than mass sociopolitical phenomenon: you keep adding until the number of converts shifts the balance of the society. But here is where the difficulty lies: anyone in a Christian environment who converts to Islam is psychologically choosing a sect structure, which generally indicates a marginalized person, a fanatic or a true mystic -- in other words a loner, which thus precludes desire for a mass movement." (Roy, p.6-7)

    COMMENT: I don't know about a "sect structure," but conversion to Islam (with the exception of spouses) in the US, Europe and other Western countries is almost a defacto anti-white, or if white, an anti-Western civilization statement -- Islam has become so associated with the militant (we are the religion of fighting oppression! we don't turn the other cheek!), anti-capitalist, anti-liberal alternative to Western civilization.

    New Trend of Lumpenintelligentsia

    As Islamic Revival takes hold and Arab countries become less Westernized, the next generation of Islamists is also less influenced by the West. "Beginning the 1970s, however, a new generation of Islamists emerged, less intellectual than the first. Student over population, the weakening of the general standards of education, and the replacement of colonial languages (English and French) with national languages, ... brought about the emergence of a young `lumpenintelligentsia;`" they've spent enough time in school to consider themselves `educated` and not to want to go back to the country or work in a factory ... but they haven't pursued higher education.

    "... Unemployment among the educated is undoubtedly the main resource of the Islamist movements: the policies of `Arabization,` like the one implemented in Algeria in the 1970s, accentuates the phenomenon in the young `Arabists` no longer even have the possibility of emigrating. This new generation is more neofundamentalist than Islamist, for it is intellectually less `Westernized than the preceding generation." (Roy, p.51)

    "Young intellectuals have little hope of finding a post equal to their ambitions either in an overcrowded state bureaucracy or in a national capitalist system less concerned with development than with shady business and financing. For them the revolution means social integration and upward mobility" (Roy, p.53)

    "Impasses of Islamist Ideology"

    Islamist Texts - Nothing New Since 1978

    "The Islamist Theoretical model has broken down. It has broken down, first in terms of texts: since the founding writings of Abul-Ala Maududi, Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Mustafa al-Siba'i (Syrian MB), Ali Shariati, Ruhollah Khomeini, Baqir al-Sadr, Murtaza Mutahhari, all before 1978, in all the languages of the umma there are nothing but brochures, prayers, feeble glosses and citations of canonical authors." (Roy, p.60)

    Islamist Concepts - Islamic State Is Uninterested in Institutions, With Bad Results in Iran and Afghanistan

    Islamism "has broken down, next, in terms of concepts, which are reaching a dead end; for the Islamist, Islamic society exists only through politics, but the political institutions functions only as a result of the virtue of those who run them, a virtue can become widespread only if the society is Islamic beforehand. It is a vicious circle." (Roy, p.60)

    The Afghan underground and "Iranian Revolutionary Guards of the first Gulf war" were famous for the bravery of their mujahideen and their willingness to risk/sacrifice their lives. But "these periods of exaltation are transitory; the same individuals who were prepared to die on the Iranian or Afghan front may not be local chiefs demanding their due [i.e. their cut of the governmental loot]. But this fall to earth is considered to be corruption by the actors themselves, who dream of the past moment of purity instead of attempting to build institutions capable of handling the weakness of men." (Roy, p.66-67)

    "How can one escape the cycle: no Islamic state without virtuous Muslims, no virtuous Muslims without an Islamic state? This is the function of the party: a training site for the pure, a synthesis between a political actor and a moral instructor, the party functions more as a sect than as an instrument for obtaining power." (Roy, p.67-8)

    "... the dream of justice and social redistribution can be based only on the virtue of those who implement it. But the transformation of Islamist parties into mass movements and the test of power will produce the same results that it has with all other ideologies: the `pure` will be corrupted or will abandon politics to climbers, careerists, and unscrupulous businessmen." (Roy, p.195)

    Islamism/Neofundamentalism Outlook is Fundamentally Negative, Defensive, Paranoid

    "Sunni neofundamentalism applies a wholly religious reading to the North-South opposition: the theme of the new crusade re-awakens that of imperialism, Israel is the bridgehead of the west (or vice versa in the most paranoid versions), Christian missionaries are everywhere. Western culture is judged to be a corrupting influence, and its society is described in entirely negative terms (suicides, alcoholism, depravity, and so on). The neofundamentalist vision of the world is defensive. One point that illustrates this evolution is the Afghan's vision of Jews: before the war in Afghanistan, the Pakhtun tribes boasted of being descended from a lost tribe of Israel; during the war, many traditionalist mullahs could be heard extolling the virtues of the Torah (in opposition, of course, to the atheist communists) but today many Afghan neofundamentalists harp on the Zionist plot." (Roy, p.203)

    Islamist Action

    "Finally, it has broken down in terms of action, the success of which might have enabled people to forget the impoverishment of the discourse, but neither the Islamic revolution in Iran, mired in economic crisis and infighting among factions, nor the liberated zones of Afghanistan, torn apart by clannish and ethnic conflicts, furnish a model for what an Islamic society should be. And the FIS's Algeria will do nothing more than place a chador over the FLN's Algeria." (Roy, p.60)

    Islamic Enthusiasm - Islamic State Producing LESS not More

    Islamist preach that Islam is not really Islam, or at least not complete Islam, without Islamic government -- but look at Islamically ruled Iran. In "Islamist Iran ... one almost never sees a person praying in the street." Compare that with "the new Islamized neighborhoods of otherwise secular republics (Tunisia, Turkey), where certain streets are practically closed to cars by the crowd of men in prayer. The political victory of Islamism is the end of true devotion. Mosques are packed in places where they have become sites of mobilization in opposition to a state perceived as particularist, client-oriented, and repressive; but they empty out when Islamism takes power." (Roy, p.199)

    Islamist Education

    "During the 1980s a movement to create a new kind of Islamic school or institute (a cross between a madrasa and a university) began taking shape in the Muslim world: in Nigeria, in Iran and Shiite Lebanon, in Saudi Arabia and in France. These new institutions, both state-run and private, endeavor to return to the corpus and the projects of the new intellectuals, to turn out `militants` or preachers, even bureaucrats. It is noteworthy that in places where the state has taken charge of this institutionalization, it is occurring in the form of institutes or centers of militant training, never as a reorganization of the educational system, which continues to function according to the dichotomy between Westernized systems and Quranic schools (whether in Nigeria or in Iran). (Roy, p.104)
    COMMENT: In other words, the clerical vested interest of medieval education is strong enough to prevent the new system from encroaching on its turf.

    Islamist Education - Iran

    "The project is most coherent and developed in Iran. The goal is to train homo islamicus, a modern technocrat who thinks according to Islamic ideology, absorbing modern science without being corrupted by Western values. ... An example of this training is found at the Rizayi University of the Astan-i Quds (a pious foundation that manages the sanctuary) in Mashhad, established by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Here one find both the religious structures of the madrasa and the pedagogical structures of the modern university; the curriculum is counted in years and not in books read; subjects taught include more modern disciplines than traditional ones; the rooms are laid out in amphitheaters, even though the students prefer to sit in circles, crosslegged, at the foot of the tiers; the equipment is modern, with audiovisual courses and libraries managed by computers. It is a university created both for mullahs and for the secular, where specialization begins only after a common core of study; at which point one chooses to become either a mullah or a multipurpose technocrat (an Islamist higher civil servant.)

    These institutes are still in operation, but they furnish few high-level executives, and their impact remains marginal." (Roy, p.104-5)
    COMMENT: Should make note of this in "Khomeini - promises kept."

    Islamist Education - Saudi

    "Other educational networks exist in a clearly neofundamentalist context: they are financed directly indirectly by the Saudis, often within the framework of the World Muslim League. These institutes have the benefit of up-to-date technology (in computer science, for example), but the context of the teaching is based entirely on the reformist fundamentalism specific to the salafists and wahhabis. Many of the students are `new intellectuals` who are thus transformed into preachers and mullahs. Their approach to the modern world is akin to that of the old-time Christian missionaries: `learn the other's culture the better to fight against it.` Language and science are taught to apologetic ends: to show the excellence of Islam and its aptitude to respond to the challenges of modernity, not by adapting, but rather by returning to it true foundations." (Roy, p.105)

    Islamic Economics


    Islamic Concepts Having To Do With Economics:

  • zakat - "taxing of certain goods, such as harvest, with an eye to allocating these taxes to expenditures that are also explicitly defined, such as aid to the needy."
  • Gharar - the "is the interdiction of chance ... that is, of the presence of any element of uncertainty, in a contract (which excludes not only insurance but also the lending of money without participation in the risks)"
  • Riba - "referred to as usury" (Roy, p.132)
  • How Laws of Islamic Economic are created

    "As always in Muslim law, these concepts are constructed on the basis of isolated prescriptions, anecdotes, examples, words of the Prophet, all gathered together and systematized by commentators according to an inductive, casuistic method." (Roy, p.132)

    But traditionally there isn't really Islamic "Commercial Law" or "Economic Theory"

    "For traditionalist ulamas, these prescriptions are elements of Muslim law among others: in no way do they carve out an autonomous space that could be called `commercial law` or an economic theory, even if they have consequences on economic activity.
    A good example of this process can be found, curiously, in the writings of Imam Khomeini in his work Tawzih al-masa'il ... he approaches the economy as the classical ulamas do; the term `economy` does not appear; the chapter on selling and buying (Kharid o forush) comes after the one on pilgrimage and present economic questions as individual acts open to moral analysis: `To lend [without interest, on a note from the lender] is among the good works that are particularly recommended in the verses of the Quran and the in the Traditions.` (Roy, p.133) (source: Tawzih al-masa'il p.543)

    "As we have seen, the Salafist reformers were fairly uninterested in socioeconomic questions. [again: "the prophet and his companions didn't study `laws` of economics, look for patterns, strive for understanding of what happens in commerce, production, consumption. Why should we?"] Reflection on the Islamic economy is thus an Islamist novelty despite the recent appearance of a conservative technocratic trend (especially in Saudi and Pakistani milieus) that endeavors to adapt modern banking practices to Quranic norms." (Roy, p.133)

    Islamic Socialism

    "Generally the radicals develop a `social democratic` vision of the economy: they recognize private property, but want the State to ensure social justice through limiting the accumulation of wealth and through its redistribution, systematizing the scattered economic principles in the shariah (zakat and so on).
    Limitation on accumulation is implemented by condemning whatever goes beyond the satisfaction of needs: luxury, amassing wealth, certain types of income -- in short, any income that is not earned through work or running a risk, basically, hoarding (ihtikat)." (Roy, p.135)

    "The laws of inheritance, by favoring the breaking up of patrimony, also work against accumulation, for in Islamic law there is no privileged heir: parents, descendants, and relatives inherit equally as a function of their proximity to the defunct and of their sex (a half share for women). (p.136)

    Islamic non-Socialism

    "But many Islamist reject this socialist-leaning reading of Islam; they emphasize instead all that is compatible with capitalism in Islam (the right to ownership and a market economy) while assigning the state a relatively important role in planning, fighting monopolies, and acting as an engine for industrialization and social action; this is the line of thought of the Turkish Prosperity Party, the Iranian Hujjatiyya group, and the Algerian FIS. The latter tow examples indicate that there is no systematic link between radicalism in politics, ideology, and economics." (Roy, p.136)

    Islamic Banking - Iran

    "It is interesting that there is no divergence between Shiites and Sunnis on this matter of the Islamic bank. Iran developed a banking system on the same basis as the one created by Pakistani or Saudi theoreticians. The `Islamic banking system,` the object of a 1983 decree, is in fact a reconciliation of capitalistic practices and the Islamic prohibition against interest. There are joint venture (muzarebe) and partnership (musharaka) contracts in Iran, as well as the concept of the `anticipated sale` (salaf), a legal from of loan. [source: "see F. Moini, Yearbook Iran 89/90, pp.11-41"]
    Banks are required to make interest-free loans, but fees are deducted. Banks can also invest directly according to complex terms and conditions that are tightly controlled by the state. There are two types of deposits:

  • Qard hasan a bank deposit made by individuals that bears no interest, but on which the bank is authorized to offer bonuses or various incentives to depositors, and the
  • term investment, in which the bank and the depositor share the risks and profits." (Roy, p.142)
  • Islamic Banking - Sunni

    "Based on a model one could call `conservative technocratic`: the goal is to offer the believer a means of making his money grow without violating the shariah. These enterprises are always private. The large Islamic banks (Dubai Islamic Bank, founded in 1975, Faysal Islamic Bank, Kuwait Finance, Al-Taqwa Islamic Bank) are completely separate from the Islamic states; they serve essentially make the capital of high-level shareholders bear fruit and to attract popular savings. The creation of an Islamic bank is not proof of an Islamist state. Saudi Arabia has never Islamized its official banking system. Private Islamic banks do not aim to change the society, but to capture a specific new clientele.

    The theory behind the Islamic banks is that they avoid sin while yielding more than ordinary banks.
    For example: President of Pakistani Habib Bank quoted in Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by J. Esposito, p.24

    Interest-free banking should not be taken to mean that banks -- financial institutions -- would neither pay any return on their own deposits nor get any income from their loans, etc.

    Established in countries with unstable, high-inflation economies (Iran, Pakistan), the banks cannot draw their profits from industrial production, yet they must pay yields higher than inflation. The necessity of producing profits to appear more attractive than ordinary banks implies a certain economic adventurism, thus speculation. The concept of sharing risks and profits, even when applied honestly, encourages the banks to get involved in only short-term operations. No matter where Islamic banks have been created, or where `normal` banks have created an `Islamic division` (such as the BCCI, with Pakistani management and Dubai capital, the resounding crash of which shook the Muslim world in 1991), they have functioned essentially on speculation and short-term investment."

    Sooner of later, speculation entails a crash. The examples of crashes of `Islamic` financial institutions are legion. In Egypt, the Al-Rayan Bank, founded in the early 1980s on the concept of sharing profits (which introduces the concept of sharing risks, which is essential in order to distinguish legitimate profit from interest), boasted profits between 24% and 30%, while the state banks were offering 13%. [source: Liberation, June 24-5, 1989]
    It soon came to light that such revenues were drawn from speculation on international markets: the ephemeral success of the Islamic banks was founded on playing the most unstable elements of Western markets (the gold market in New York in the case of Al-Rayan); when circumstances changed (the Wall Street crash of October 1987) bankruptcy loomed." (Roy, p.142-3)

    COMMENT: This may be because there is no productive local private sector to invest in, Middle Eastern countries having huge public sectors and legendary corruption, still it's not a new Islamic economic order, is it?

    The goal is to tap into a type of savings among `Islamic` depositors and not to finance Islamic movements or even to contribute to the creation of Islamized spaces. The `Islamic bank is a marketing tool and not a scheme for a new economic order. That Islam is an inviting product is confirmed by the fact that several banks, without changing their commercial practices, have opened an `Islamic` branch, or even just a window, or provide `Islamic` interpretation of their practices. The following example, which is quite typical, appeared in a bilingual French-Arab monthly [called Al-Bouchra, Nov. 3, 1988, p.l8 published in France]:

    The Winterthur Company ... is offering very favorable conditions for the insurance of your possessions; and we are doing even more. For moral reasons connected to religion, it is not desirable to speak of life insurance. Winterthur has established a saving account to be withdrawn by specified parties. The name of this contract is Cap Retraite. The idea is this; by signing this contract, you open a savings account that is remunerated, for several years, at an annual rate of 12.5%. As you will see, Winterthur pays its clients a share of 95% of the profits ...
    (Roy, p.144)

    Islamist Lack of Interest in Agrarian Land Reform

    "One point is generally absent from Islamist economic thought whether moderate or radical, except in the writings of Sayyid Qutb. It is the question of agrarian reform. On the one hand, such reform would imply a reexamination of the concept of ownership, but most of all it would throw into question the waaf, endowments whose revenue ensures the functioning of religious institutions. Thus in the Iranian province of Khorasan, 50% of the cultivated lands belong to the religious foundation Astan-i Quds, which oversees the mausoleum of the Imam Reza in Mashhad. Questioning waaf property, therefore, would mean questioning the foundation of the financial autonomy of the mullahs and mosques. Even during the most Third World period of the Islamic revolution in Iran, there was no agrarian reform. Opposition to agrarian reform has even played a role in Islamist uprisings (Iran 1963, Afghanistan, 1978). (Roy, p.136)

    Iran and Shi'ism - the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini's Vilayat-i faqih

    IRI Not Following Shari'ah

    pious foundations and revolutionary foundations are "patronage-oriented holding companies that ensure the channeling of revenues to groups and milieus supporting the regime" but don't help the poor as a class. (p.139)

    "More surprisingly, the financial system has barely been Islamized; Christians, for example, are not subject to a poll tax and pay according to the common scheme.
    [Contrast this to Mawdudi: "The two kinds of citizenship that Islam envisions are the following: (1) the Muslims, (2) the Zimmis."
    source: The Islamic Law and Constitution, p.245 (Roy, p.223)]

    Insurance is maintained (even though chance, the very basis for insurance should theoretically be excluded from all contracts). The contracts signed with foreigners all accept the matter of interest. The basic mechanisms of the economy oscillate between capitalist liberalism and state-controlled socialism." (Roy, p.139-40)

    "As for the financial and banking system, it functions essentially on speculation. In Iran, 1300 Islamic credit unions `became usurers' dens`; under the influence of the market, they were regrouped into an `Organization of the Islamic Economy` and pay annual interest rates of from 25% to 50% that are designated as `participation in the profits of enterprise`; they thereby pull into the speculative sector savings that the state banks, more concerned with investment, can remunerate at only 9%. In any case, the principles governing the Iranian banks are the same as those of the Sunni Islamic financial institutions that sprang up in the 1980s." (Roy, p.140)

    Third Worldism - IRI Not Following Islamism

    "Sympathy for the Third World was a constant of the Islamic revolution. The Iranian press, during the ten years when revolution was the keynote (until the death of Khomeini in 1989), devoted extensive coverage to non-Muslim revolutionary movements (from the Sandinistas to the African National Congress and the Irish Republican Army) and downplayed the role of the Islamic movements considered conservative, such as the Afghan mujahidin. During this period Third World solidarity took precedence over Muslim fraternity, in an utter departure from all other Islamist movements.

    Yet a schism appeared when ideologization found itself in contradiction with the shariah. For most of the members of the clergy Islamization had to take precedence of over revolutionary logic, which meant, for instance, that private property took precedence over state control, respect of the private homes over police investigations, ... In Iran during his lifetime, Imam Khomeini always imposed revolutionary logic, represented in the guide's will, if need be over the shariah.

    from: The Failure of Political Islam
    by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk
    Harvard University Press, 1994, p.175)

    IRI Not Following Shariah - UnIslamic Aspects of Law in the Islamic Republic of Iran

    "On key questions, Iranian law has remained fairly un-Islamic. The constitution grants equality of rights among men and women (article 20). The discretionary law of repudiation [by a man of his wife in triple talaq I assume] is not recognized for men. There is no legal discrimination on the basis of personal status against Christian, Jews, and Zoroastrians, all of whom perform military service, pay no special taxes, and hold full citizenship; nevertheless, they are prohibited from assuming leadership posts and vote in separate colleges. Similarly, a Muslim foreigner has the same status as a Christian foreigner. Finally, Iran has kept the solar calendar and celebrates the new year on March 21." (Roy, p.178)

    How Shi'ism works - Invented in the 18th Century

    In the 18th century shia known as usuli (fundamentalists) established the right among Shia for "high ulamas" to be mujtahid, i.e. practice ijtihad. This "marked a fundamental rift with Sunnism and paved the way for the creation of the modern Shiite clergy. The right to ijtihad is recognized only for high ulamas, who form a collegial body and who are referred to as mujtahid or ayatollahs. As a result, each believer must follow the interpretation of an ulama, who he chooses from among the college of grand ayatollahs, in general by intermediary of the local mullahs, who have received their investiture either directly or indirectly from a grand ayatollah. Clericalization (the formation of an autonomous body of clerics separate from the state) is a consequence of the [theological] victory of the usuli" over their opponents, the akhbar ("traditionalists"). (Roy, p.171)

    Shi'ism, the Grand Ayatollahs and Khomeini's Vilayat-i faqih

    "During his courses in Najaf in the 1960s, Ayatollah Khomeini developed the concept of the vilayat-i faqih (government of the doctor of law). This concept is the Shiite version of the Islamist idea that there cannot be an Islamic society without an Islamic state: it is not enough that the laws promulgated be in conformity with the sharia; the state must be Islamic in its essence. ....

    Khomeini never favored the clergy as an institution: on the contrary, he sought the support of the Islamists and the hujjat al-islam, younger clergy of lower rank, rather than that of the high clergy. ...

    It is therefore not surprising that the vilayat-i faqih thesis was rejected by almost the entire dozen grand ayatollahs living in 1981:

  • they either openly opposed Khomeini, as did Abu al-Qasim al-Khu'i and Shariat Madari (who died in 1986), or
  • they maintained a discreet distance, refusing official posts, as did Gulpaygani, al-Qummi, al-Shirazi, and al-Najaf al-Mar'ashi.
  • Only one grand ayatollah, Muntazari, a former student and designated successor of Khomeini before being rejected in 1989, approved the concept.

  • "Moreover, Khomeini was not the most influential ayatollah at the moment of the Islamic revolution. The one who had the most developed network of disciples and former students was the very old Ayatollah al-Khu'i (born in 1899), an Iranian Azeri whose great influence reached from Lebanon (the spiritual leader of the Hizbullah, Sheikh Fadlallah, is one of his disciples) to Afghanistan, by way of Khorasan province and the former Soviet Azerbaijan (where the current religious chief, Sheikh al-Islam Pashazada, is his disciple). Al-Khu'i did not leave Najaf during the war between Iran and Iraq and always rejected the concept of vilayat-i faqih; certain religious chiefs, such as Fadlallah, would follow him in this theological opposition while politically supporting the Islamic revolution. There is still no direct link between dogma and political action."
    COMMENT: How's that for cognitive dissonance! (Roy, p.173-4)

    "In 1980, after the execution of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, all the dozen surviving grand ayatollahs were Iranian, including the only one who still lived in Najaf, Ayatollah al-Khu'i." (Roy, p.186)

    How the IRI Mutates the World of Shi'ism's Ulama

    "Khomeini eliminated the transcendent, autonomous space from which the clergy spoke: the clergy was brought down to the level of the state, yet without really controlling it, since the political hierarchy is not the religious hierarchy. Today there is not a single grand ayatollah in power" in Iran. (italics added, Roy, p.180)

    How Iranianism is Shi'ism

    "A general rule, valid since the 16th century, has it that loyalty to the central state is based on Shiism and not on ethnicity; the Shiites of Iran feel Iranian no matter what their ethnic category (Persian, Arab, or Azeri), whereas the Sunnis do not feel Iranian even if they are of Iranian culture (Kurds and Baluchis). But Shiite solidarity has been badly hurt since the end of the war with Iraq ...
    to make matters worse, since the breakup of the Soviet Union there are national poles of identity for Azeris and Turkomans, .... At the same time, Iran's Sunni population is slowly increasing as a result of the influx of Kurdish and Afghan refugees. Iran's largest province, Khorasan, now has a Sunni majority. ..." (Roy, p.181)
    COMMENT: Is this a trend reversing now? Sunnis in Iran are a famously malcontented group, but Afghanistan is/was taking back refugees and so should Iraqi Kurdistan now that it's more stable and prosperous than it's been in a long time.

    "Even today, barely half of Iranian citizens speak Persian as a mother tongue." (Roy, p.183)

    Varieties of Shi'ia

    ".... Twelver Shiites alone were receptive to ... clericalization (the other Shiites either have no clergy, like the Alevis of Turkey, or live in closed sects, like the Ismailis or the Zaydis of Yemen)." (Roy p.185)

    Has the Islamic Revolution Prevented Iran from being a great regional power?

    Despite the IRI's overtures, Sunni political radicals keep their distance. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sunnis have been turned against Shi'a by the Wahhabi enemy. Shiite Azerbaijanis adopted the Latin alphabet and turned to Ankara. ... Only little Tadzhikistan" followed Tehran ... until a change in government "eliminated almost all Iranian influence" there in 1992. (Roy, p.192-3)

    "There is no middle ground between pure Shiite revolutionism and a nationalist, pragmatic policy. Prisoner of its own symbolism and of its revolutionary legitimacy, Iran was unable to make the strategic choices that would have restored it to its place as a great regional power." (p.193)
    COMMENT: Will nukes make a difference?

    How the West Relates to Islamism - US more blasé than the French

    "The notion of a radical opposition between fundamentalism and the West is typically French, as is the association between Islamism and terrorism. The American attitude has been more ambiguous: Americans have never seen Islamism as an ideological enemy. They have favored conservative fundamentalism (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, General Numayri's Sudan), in order to take the wind out of the radicals' sails. They accepted as a lesser evil the cultural anti-Westernism of the MBs and of all the conservative fundamentalists, since it seemed primarily an obstacle to Iranian and Soviet expansion." Most extreme was the US support of Hizb-i Islami in Afghanistan "until 1989." "Since 1982 the Saudi embassy in Washington has housed a `Department of Islamic Affairs,` directed by Prince Muhammad bin Faysal ibn Abd al-Rahman, who is active in Islamization programs for black Americans and who maintains contact with American Islamic organizations (such as the Muslim Students' Association, founded in 1963, one of whose leaders during the 1970s was Muhammad Abu Sayyid, an Egyptian MB now established in Saudi Arabia (Roy, p.130-1)


    Abu Dharr - companion of the prophet "considered a harbinger of Islamic socialism." (Roy, p.135)

    akhbari - "traditionalists." Shiite clergy who believed that the right to ijtihad of the sunna was closed after the disappearance of the 12th imam. In contrast to usuli who won the 18th century debate. (Roy, p.171)

    Asabiyya - Arab "solidarity groups, generally a clan or a minority." Asabiyya have often served as the power base of a state regime, sometimes effectively seizing control of the state. Examples of this are the Alawis in Syria or Takritis in Iraq. (Roy, p.15)

    Imam - name used for basic mosque leader in Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) and thus immigrants to France. (Roy, p.29)

    Islah - reform, i.e. reform of Islamic religious thought and practice to eliminate modern and non-Islamic accretions. (Roy, p.33)

    Mullah - name used for basic mosque leader in Iran, Turkey, central Asia and the Indian subcontinent (Roy, p.28-9)

    Sayf al-din - "sword of religion." Amongst other things a title sometimes bestowed on sultan. (Roy, p.15)

    taqwa - "virtue." (Roy, p.137)

    usra - literally "family." Name used by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for "the basic cell" of their organization. A reflection of "how the militants are generally invited to live as much as possible among themselves ... according to purely Islamic criteria" and separately from jahili (ignorant) society. (Roy, p.68-9)

    Usuli - "fundamentalists." Shiite clergy who believed (in contrast with the akhbari) that the most learned of the Shi'a clergy had the right to ijtihad of the sunna. Victory of the usuli paved the way for the modern Shiite clergy. (Roy, p.171)

    Islamic Law

    Adat - common law. Disapproved of by Islamic purist reformists such as the Wahhabis. (Roy, p.32)

    Urf - common law (Roy, p.32)

    Ta'zir - legislation dealing with areas not covered by the shari'ah. Disapproved of by Islamists. (Roy, p.64)

    Qanun - legislation dealing with areas not covered by the shari'ah. Disapproved of by Islamists. (Roy, p.64)

    Maslaha - "public good." (Roy, p.15)

    Gharar - the "is the interdiction of chance ... that is, of the presence of any element of uncertainty, in a contract (which excludes not only insurance but also the lending of money without participation in the risks)" (Roy, p.132)

    Riba - "referred to as usury" (Roy, p.132)

    ihtikar - "hoarding." forbidden by Islamic socialists like Bani Sadr. (Roy, p.135)