There is a spectre haunting the Muslim world, by the name of political Islam. Whether in the form of violent terrorist groups or in the guise of political parties pragmatically using the democratic process to gain power, it seems that everywhere behind the stunted development of Muslim-majority societies is the troublesome presence of political Islam. Observers of contemporary affairs will note Islamic politics as an object of social commentary, occupying a highly contentious and vilified space in academic analysis.
Rather than providing useful insights about Islamic politics itself, dominant Western representations of political Islam merely reflect the anxieties of the intellectual and ideological milieu producing them. Only in deconstructing these frames of analysis will Muslims be able to define an Islamic political ethic on their own terms.
Political Islam is the animation of public life with Islamic principles: to give Islam an authoritative status in political life. This definition…
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