Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Islamism" widespread, deeply rooted among Muslims in Europe, according to Pew study

Surprise! In a newly published report, researchers from the Pew Religion Forum show that groups committed to "political Islam" are extremely influential among Muslims in Europe. The report goes so far as to say that "The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates often succeed in setting the public agenda for European Muslims." [p. 26]

In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is most influential among Arab Muslims in Europe, the report also highlights the Pakistan-based Islamist group, Jama'at-i Islami, which is predominant among Muslims from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other parts of South Asia. Jama'at-i Islami is especially strong in the UK, where two thirds of the Muslim population (of about 3 million) are of South Asian origin. [pp. 23-24]

The report, perhaps unintentionally, also provides a startling look at the moving targets of "moderate" versus "extremist" Islam. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and Jama'at-i Islami are specifically identified in the report as promoting "the establishment of a distinctly Islamic system of government". In addition, the report states that the Saudi based and funded Muslim World Leage and Assembly of Muslim Youth "are widely regarded as promoting the strict Wahhabi brand of Islam that is prevalent in the desert kingdom." [p. 29]

However, the Pew report treats "radical Islam" separately from the four groups above. Apparently, no matter how extremist a group's ideology is, if it has enough widespread support from Muslims, and official recognition from both Muslim and Western governments, it must fall outside the "radical" camp! The clear impression given is that there are, on the one hand, responsible, mature, broad-based Islamic organizations and movements in Europe, while, on the other hand, there are "networks and cells affiliated with global jihadi organizations, such as al-Qaeda, whose ideology calls for the violent pursuit of a global Islamic political order." [p. 32]

The only problem is that there is actually little, if any, ideological space between the "radicals" and non-radicals in terms of their ultimate goals.

The report also includes a brief appendix on Muslim groups in North America, from which the following is an excerpt:
Most, if not all, of the Muslim movements and networks with a significant presence in Western Europe can also be found in North America . . . .

Muslim Brotherhood supporters were involved in the founding of several groups in North America, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS). But these organizations have since diversified their memberships and activities. ISNA is now a broad-based organization whose annual conventions are attended by Muslims of varied backgrounds and sectarian orientations. CAIR focuses on advocacy and civil rights issues involving Muslim Americans. MAS, which has dozens of local chapters across the U.S., was the organization most closely associated with the Brotherhood when it was founded in the early 1990s, but its current leadership disavows ongoing ties to the movement and emphasizes the group’s civil rights and social justice agenda.

The Muslim World League, which undertakes a wide range of activities focused on the propagation of Islam, has offices in New York City and Falls Church, Va. (a Washington suburb), as well as one near Toronto. The World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which focuses primarily on promoting Islamic solidarity among Muslim teenagers and young adults in their early 20s, also has an office in Falls Church, Va.

[pp. 58-59]
Visit the Pew website to find out much more about the report. You can even download the whole thing as a pdf (it's only 63 pages).