The book, ‘Islamic Activism: a social movement theory approach,’ by Quintan Wiktoroqicz help readers to understand various aspects of Islam and changes that occurred in Islam known as Islamic activism. The author has presents a balanced account of Islam and other related issues. The author has divided Islamic activism in three main parts: violence and contention; culture and framing; and network and alliances. In the way the author describes several societies and their values and beliefs, is a clear indication that the author has done an intensive research on Islamic activism before writing the book. In the Arabic world, the social movements despite having strong and well-articulated shared understanding on their duty about the problems, they lack coherent strategies and policies (Brower 24). The Islamic movements involve mainly the production of new order and relevant structures which will foster their mission. The Islamic activism is driven by issues of ethnicity, uniqueness, and post-materialism as opposed to the elements of economic, class, and political affiliation (Brower 24).
Community in the Muslim context is a group of individuals who have common belief and have the same pattern of life .As community they have they have the same culture and they share most of the things in life .Ummah refers also to Muslim community who believe in Allah in order to serve their God. Muslims religion is the second largest in the world after Christianity. Muslims are group of people who have a common belief on their creator Allah. Muslims believe that through Allah they can communicate to their God. According to them, Muslim community can pray and their prayers can be answered through Allah. They serve God through Allah and also to their fellow Muslims. Authenticity in the Muslim community is the uniqueness as it appertains the religion. The Muslim community uses all the means to protect their religion against invasion by other religions thus diluting it. Their belief is widely known to be unique as they like keeping the authenticity of their religion. This shows that what was practiced in the beginning is still on practice currently, and will take some other years before they can change it. Islam believes that their main reason for living is to serve and work for Allah, which passed from one generation to another, and it has become a culture. Both the traditional and current Muslim continues to practice the same doctrines, which guide their everyday practice to Islam religion. The Islamic activism mission is a struggle over connotation and values within the society .The major aim of the Islam community is to create a community governed and directed by the shari’a (Islamic law) .Shari’ a is the Islamic law which governs the way in which the Muslim community lead there way of life. Shari’a dictates the way in which things are done in the daily life. This law governs the way the Muslim community relates with each in the society. The Shari’a is laws which guide the members of the Muslim on the right behavior to be followed while in the community. It also provides consequences of violating these laws. To accomplish this mission, they believe that they need to be in dominate and convert the state institutions to fit their mission. The activists are aware that the state is a tool for production of a meaning and it is not the end. Most of the modern activism is not waged through the state, but through the society and the cultural set-up. This in turn, put to the test the existing cultural patterns and creates common networking system of meaning of the real community, groups, and the individuals (Wiktorowicz 43).
The author has given a new dimension to Islamic activism, and, Islamic social, movements in his book, a new extensive definition of Islamic activism entail mobilization of contention to support Muslim causes. Peaceful behavior and violent behavior of Islamic activists get analyzed thoroughly, and the author has focused the circumstances on how Muslims are compelled or inclined towards terrorist activities. The author explored various needs of the society, and he believes that to address there is the need to divide the society into six committees. The author also describes the women participation in Islamic activities and involvement, in SMO and dawa activities. This is a well-acclaimed book by the author and to know the intertwined and preoccupied mind (Brower 96).
Michelle Browers in his book “Political Ideology in the Arab World” has broadly elaborated the two ideologies concerning Arab nationalism and Arabic activism. The author observes that Arabs are the leaders of the Muslim community and all other Arabic nations and people who have faith in Islam look towards Arabs as leaders. The author refers to Hassan al-Banna, as a man who propounded the theory of Muslim goodwill and he widely advocated for the respect of the community (Brower 96).
Brower in his book has successfully described in his book about the contemporary changes and several movements going on in the religion. Arabs have influenced the, Islamic social, movements, and they have always been role leaders, but later their role, which confines them, to Islamic activists were involved in several activities, which affected the peaceful existence of Arabs. The Islam started blaming Arab policies for their backwardness and called these policies weak and outdated. Gradually these Islamic activists involved in a number of destructive tasks and started retaliating to the policies of Israel and other forces who tried to suppress their view (Browers 29).
Later on, the Islamists sects caused several changes in the society; intolerance and radicalism were evident among the youths, and the concept of Arab nationalism changed into a new Islamic radicalism. Other sects from the society also emerged which included the nationalists and liberals who presented their different views for social movements and social changes. Socialists and communists were also eager to lodge their appearance in the face of this turmoil. All these circumstances led the society towards a condition, which ended with the interference of external forces in the region and one of the effects was America’s policy in Iraq and later on in Middle East, which entangled situation in the region. The prominent component of the Islamic activism is the condemnation of the western countries whom they blame for the spread of the western ideologies and values, which is responsible for the social ills in the society. These social ills in the society include the housing shortages, unemployment opportunities, dormant economic progress, and poverty. They believe that the only gateway to success in the world if through the sophisticated outline contained in Islamic strategies and policies. They claim further that the western ideologies are responsible for the erosion of the sacredness of the Islamic values (Brower 96).
Both books cover all the major aspects of Arabic principles. The authors present chronological order on how social changes happened in society over the years and how difficult reforms took places in Islamic countries. Author Wiktorowicz works’ provide finer details about social belief, status of outstanding and minor communities in the society and values of Islam and his work focuses on Arab and Islamic ideology. The Islamic activists argue that the practice of cultural imperialism is an elaborate western tool to weaken the Muslim community for political, economic, and military reasons. They social movements further believes that the western nations are using the media, international institutions, marketplace, the social network, and the secular contemporary projects to undermine the culture of Islam ((Brower, 1996).
Arab activism, also related to Pan-Arabism, is Arab ideology that deals with the unification, corporation, and solidarity of Arab world against their enemies from Atlantic Ocean to Arabic Sea. This Arab activism is closely related to the Arab nationalism, which stresses that all Arabs wherever they are, constitutes a single nation. The popularity of Arab activism rose to its peak in 1950s and 1970s. Proponents of Arab activism describe that the movements were to empower the Arab world and shield them from external forces by forming strong alliances, and economic corporations (Browers 24).
Arab activism and Islamism have become the main ideological forces of Arab region for a long time. For the last two decades, however, accommodating varying ideologies have been the focus of Arab activism. These includes suppressing the difference which develop between various Arab nations in terms of liberals, Islamists and socialists and to protest against any foreign policy, unpopular Islamism and socialist intellectuals and they contacted many interviews with persons from different nations. Through the examination of all these, Michael Brower traces the development of Arab ideology to a period of ideological transformation, and goes further to explain how the latest flow of ideas from one party to the other has their origin in the past. The political ideology in the Arab world evaluates the consequences of ideological adjustments on Egypt’s Kifaya movement and joint meeting parties popular in Yemen (Brower 96).
Wiktorowics in his book talks about treating Islam’s as normal human being who are able to make decisions concerning their activism in ways similar to non-Muslim activists. The book also features the powerful forward by Charles Tilly, introduction made by the editor and closing remarks by Charles Kurzman. All chapters of this book contain a strong contribution based on empirical research with Islamic activists drawn from various Islam communities. The author also gives a synopsis of social movement’s theory before he moves to discuss the particular topic about Islamic activism (Brower 96).
The West’s view of Islam activism as terrorism has been prevalent. According to Brower’s work, Arab activism uses it as a tool for the corporation and welfare of Islam states, but the West perceives it as terrorism. The book on Islam activism defines the activism as general mobilization of efforts to support Muslim cause. The philosophy and religion of Islam is dependent on the credence that God (Allah) passed knowledge to Muhammad (The Quran. c. 570-630) and some prophets (Moses, Abraham, Adam, Jesus). The believers of Islamic religion, Muslims, understand that this revelation to humankind originates from the Quran, which is the original word of God. The theology of the Islamic scriptures reveals most issues of Muslim culture, tradition, and life. The five pillars of Islam found in Quran and compel every follower to observe the practices strictly to win Allah’s favor. Muslims take the pillars as functional doctrine, which supports them to fast during Ramadan, pray five times a day, declare there is no god but God, pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muhammad is His prophet and gives money to the poor (Brower 96).
The role of social networks in enhancing the Islam activism is particularly critical as the author states that the ideology of Muslims spread across Arabian Peninsula to the whole of North Africa. Islamism activism also mobilizes student organizations in higher learning institutions. In Muslim countries, the author notes, the associations act like surrogates where diverse political tendencies compete for a greater control of resources and institutional positions. With the reduction of leftist’s ideological movements, immediately after the Second World War, the Islamic movements gained control over the various associations and used them to enhance their religious practices (Brower 96).
In addition, a great number of Islamic groups have taken heed of small degree of political liberalization by mobilizing political parties as Brower explains in his book. While a number of Islamists oppose democracy as non-Islamic, the reform-oriented movements have lead to new political openings, which aims to change the status quo. In Jordan, for instance, Wicktorowicz explains in his book that the Islamic Action Front (IAF) has shown considerable strides in practicing democracy. He notes that the social movement’s theorists in most instances share the same delineation of most crucial exogenous factors, but a number of scholars in the area concentrate on the opening up of political space by embracing democracy (Brosers, 2004).
Compared to Michael Brower’s work, the prognostic issues in Islam activism are common among all activists. His work shows concurrence to Workowicz studies on Islam ideologies as it indicates that a break from the west is vital for the deepening of the Islam activism and Pan-Arabism. Other groups still belief that the individual transformation of beliefs will affect broader areas of Islam ideologies overtime. Therefore, the missionary movement, like Jam’ at Tabligh, aims at dawa (propagation) in order to influence the changes in individual attitudes and perspectives towards the role of religion in controlling the personal behavior and societal norms. Therefore, the Arab descendants, just like their ancestors, belief in Muslim doctrines, and that no amount of intimidation can make them lose their ideology on Islamic Activism. The idea is that the young generation, just like their parents will pass on the Islamic beliefs, practices, dogmas, and tenets to their friends, children, collectivities, and communities. Brower indicates that the solidarity in the Muslim movement and ideology is enhanced through highly developed ideological networks of Islam activism. In the end, the process will expand to include the entire Islam society, after which the top institution will automatically accommodate the shari’fa principals .The missionary movements focus on assisting the members of the society who were affected by the shari’fa values by giving them the understanding to know the purpose of the religion in shaping the society and individual behavior. This in turn, support individual in observing Islamic practices among diverse groups of people in the society. Thus, this will influence the greater society, and the state institutions will eventually embrace the shari’a values.
Social movement groups often do compete with the established official frames. Since the regimes all over the Muslim world depend on Islamic legitimating ways, they are principally involved in what the scholars James Piscatori and Dale Eickelman refer to as Muslim Politics. Browers also notes, that in an effort to sustain the Islamic legitimacy, the regimes articulate innocuous policies, which support the regime and power interests. The frames in themselves do not ensure broader societal transformation, notes Workowicz, but strengthens the individual or personal piety for personal salvation, hence supporting Islam’s political quiescent political variant. In addition, Islamic regimes try to limit the supply of institutional resources and space available for the eventual dissemination of diverse frames, which could pose a challenge to regime legitimacy. The overall state control of mosques, sermons and other religious institutions is to enhance regime frames at the same time muting other perspectives, which pose a, threat to work of activists.
Browers’ work shows that in the event of social movements, to encourage Islamic ideology in the Arab world, the success of the involved Islamic group undertaking the movement depends on the extent of state support. The only impediment is the unsuccessful modernization and political turmoil within the Arab states, which have eroded the support of the Muslim movements. A Muslim movement in a non-Islam territory always perceives it as a threat to national security because of lack of support from established institutions. An Islamic movement more often links to the terror movements or groups, and this is particularly so after the World Trade Organization center bombing in 2001. Any Muslim movement in the USA is prohibited at all costs because the have a perception that the Muslims are terrorists in nature. The Islamic movements have shown that although there is shift in the structures, which provides avenues the structures are surrounded and shaped by beliefs and ideologies. For example, the mild Islamists have come up with political parties because of the liberalization of the political arena. This is chieflky because the reformists allow the practice of democracy despite being narrowly described as shura (Consultation) (Brower 28).
The ideas mentioned above explain the strength of Arabic activism as it appertains their belief and political movements. As much as the West adores science and technology with limited regards to strictly following a religion, the Muslim states have found religion more encompassing and vital in their ideological movements. Once there is full acceptance of the primacy of Muslim religious motives, notes Brower, it seems that it is more appropriate to follow a particular suggestion in the formulation of religious sociology. The idea is political ideologies like those that Arab activism and Pan-Arabism are the functional units of religion, with some regard to the political sphere. Weberian A.D. Smith notes that nationalist Islam ideology is a solution to political life problem. As a result, of various contemporary ideological activities in the Middle East, the Islamism, nationalist, and socialist movements are fully conscious of the existing rivalry and have decided to move towards mutually exclusive definitions. Brower notes that if the assumption of the imminent supersession of Islam ideologies and movements by the ones familiar with the Western history, then it is being as a result of lack of exclusionary Islamic movements. Most leaders in Islam states, as depicts in the book “Islam Activism” are now apprehensive of the stratagem of presenting communist, nationalist and socialists ideas in an Islamic garb having high hopes of developing an’ archaic’ movement which, in time to come, would undergo the type of supersession Gillnet and Hobsbewm were talking for granted.
The pursuit for science in the Arab world and patriotism in the other hand are both shown in the Quran and Hadith. However, whereas al-Baanna limits learning of natural sciences in advanced stages, he totally declines to offer the same status to the Arab nationalism since the political ideology prevalent in a nationalist movement is a political rival. He notes that sometimes people are seduced to appeal to patriotism and at other times to nationalism, but patriotism virtues are only found in Islam. In a way, that is more comprehensive, complete, loftier, more pure, and more exalted than any information that can be found on the Westerners’ utterances and European books. This provides an exclusive conclusion on the idea that the Western nations misinterpreted concerning the Islamic activism. Browsers also describes that Islamic proponents makes the idea got wrong by saying that the notion of nationalism usually melts away and disappear in the depths of history. Contrastingly, Islamic unity (Pan-Arabism) stays for so long to allow generations to follow its doctrines (Browers 24).
The book ‘Islam Activism’ depicts that the Islamic as a movement in 1970s, in Iran, wanted to define the character of Islam. These movements adopted Islamic ideologues, which did not allow any group to contest; but the fact remained that there is a wider receptivity of Islamic ideologies throughout Middle East. The chapters by Brower and other scholars like Toprak, von Sivers, and Ahmed discuss the socio-political reasons leading to the high receptivity to ideologies of Islam and the eventual Islam politicization (Wiktorowicz 43).
Islam activism has become a radical aspect when it relates to the understanding of the controversial politics and aggression .In the history of Arabic; the social movements embrace both the non-violent and violent techniques. The social and political changes in the Arab world, therefore, shaped by a string of ideological occurrences, which have been discussed by the above authors. Of great importance to note is that the Pan-Arabism is an attempt to contempt in the Western world, often terming it as the possible cause of terrorism.
In conclusion, Islamic ideologies, which have been on the rise since time immemorial will continue to exist against the Western ideologies, which historically and still continuing, were against them. The vast divide exists when there is a mismatch of religious inclinations. The activism is not an end to itself, though, since it has received the greatest support from the Muslim faithful across the globe. The Islamic activism is continuing to influence many ideologies of different nations in the world today.
Browers, Michaelle. Political ideology in the Arab world: accommodation and transformation.
New York, NY: Lexington Books.
Wiktorowicz, Quintan. Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 2004. Print