Monday, October 8, 2007

Secularism and Islamism in the Arab world

By Sukant Chandan, Conflicts Forum, October 7, 2007

"Secularism in the political leadership in the Arab world has had a very short life-span if put into historical context. It became a dominant political current for a few decades in the latter half of the twentieth century, and today is seeing a near complete collapse in political movements struggling for independence and development in the region. Different Islamic leaders have been the main political inspiration for Arabs in their liberation movements. Salahuddin al-Ayoub, more popularly known as Saladin, who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the twelfth century is probably the Islamic leader most widely known outside of the region. Saladin’s legacy remains a profound source of inspiration for Arabs, especially so for radical Islamists who not only see the parallels with today’s military invasions and occupations, but directly employ this history in their political agitation in their fight against what they consider as the modern-day Crusaders. More recently, Political Islam was at the forefront of the fight against colonialism in the twentieth century. There are examples of movements and leaders from every Arab country, but some of the more well-known include Sheikh Izz al-Din Qassam, after who Hamas have named their armed wing. Sheikh Al-Qassam was killed by the British colonialists in Palestine in an armed confrontation; his death sparked what some call the First Palestinian Intifada from 1936 to ‘39. In Iraq Shia Islamists united with their Sunni counterparts against the British colonialists in 1920, a popular uprising from which one of biggest present-day Iraqi Islamist insurgent groups, the ‘Brigades of the 1920 Revolution,’ takes their name. Shia Islamism in Iraq can also be linked to the emergence of the Lebanese Hezbollah....."

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