Mainstream Islamism without Fear. the Cases of Jamaat-E-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-E-Islam in Pakistan

By Amin, Husnul | Romanian Journal of Political Science, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Mainstream Islamism without Fear. the Cases of Jamaat-E-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-E-Islam in Pakistan


Amin, Husnul, Romanian Journal of Political Science


Introduction

In this paper, mainstream Islamism and Islamic political parties (IPPs) mainly refer to Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur Rehamn Group (JUI-F). The JI as one of the oldest Islamist movements in the Muslim world is inspired by Mawdudi's (1903-79) ideology of revivalism through the establishment of an Islamic state (Mawdudi, 1980; Azmi, 2002; Moten 2002; Bahadur 1997; Nasr 1994; Sayeed 1957; also see the JI website: www.jamaat.org). The JUI-F represents the largest political force of traditional-Deobandi Islam. That is, a Sunni sect which subscribes to an interpretation of the doctrinal text by the graduates of Deobandi seminaries. The first Islamic school of the Deobandi sect was founded in 1866 in the British Indian district of Saharanpur (for a detailed historical account of the Deoband movement, see e.g., Metcalf, 1982, pp. 87-263). The historical roots of the JUI-F can be traced back in Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) in British Colonial India (Pirzada, 2000). Unlike the JI that derives its support mainly from the modern educated urban middle classes, the JUI-F tends to draw from traditional rural sections of society. Most of the JI central and middle rank leadership comes from university graduates with a negligible portion from traditional madrasas (Ahmad, 1991; Nasr, 1994). In contrast, the JUI-F's organizational structure at all levels (central, provincial, district) is mainly occupied by ulema and madrasa graduates. In the given political landscape in Pakistan, the JI and JUI-F together can be safely said to represent mainstream Islamism. Among the IPPs taking part in national and provincial elections, these two parties capture the lion's share of votes. Both represent Sunni Islam. The JI has maintained a non-sectarian identity providing the space to people of different religious sects to join the party. However, the JUI-F mainly accepts membership of those Sunni Muslims that also subscribe to a Hanafi-Deobandi Islam. For the sake of this paper, I have also made a distinction between "militant" and "institutional" Islamism. The IPPs discussed in this paper may be referred to the latter category. The institutional Islamists primarily opt for democratic means, take part in elections, form electoral alliances with other religious and secular parties, and join coalition governments. However, it is still difficult to neatly separate the JI and JUI-F from their tacit connections and moral approval of the jihadi movements around the globe. Domestically, for the establishment of their intended Islamic state, these parties rely on electoral processes and they do not call for an overthrow of the existing political order through a violent revolution.

For the German scholar of Syrian origin and Professor of International Relations, Bassam Tibi (2012), Islam and Islamism are two distinguishable, nay mutually exclusive categories. In his rather simplistic conceptualization, the former stands for a religion, while the latter for a totalitarian ideology. Thus unlike Islam, Islamism necessarily aims to establish a totalitarian Islamic state based on sharia. According to Tibi, "it is a great mistake to view Islamism as liberation theology characterized by an 'attempt to repair'" (2012, p. 186). On the contrary, he argues, Islamism proffers an "agenda of cultural-totalitarian purification" and as there can be no "democratic totalitarianism," there cannot be a "democratic Islamism" (ibid). This bold verdict on political Islam leads Tibi to conclude that it is completely unlikely for Islamists to accept pluralism and abhor violence. Islamism (in contrast to Islam) "poses a grave challenge to world politics, security, and stability" (ibid). The Islamists aim at radical transformation of the modern nation-state system to a totalitarian Islamic state. Their vision of an Islamic order is "is nothing less than a vision of totalitarian rule" (Tibi, 1998, p. 18). This leads him to state that Islamists "constitute the most serious challenge to democracy in our age" (ibid, p. …

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