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Islamism and Totalitarianism


Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and even more so since the spectacular attacks by Qa‘idat al-Jihad against the United States on 9/11, there has been an ever-growing flood of academic and journalistic publications devoted to radical Islam. Unfortunately, much of that literature has embodied problematic conceptual perspectives that can best be characterized as ‘Islam bashing’, ‘Islam apologism’, or – worst of all – ‘Islamist apologism’. The purpose of this article is to identify the key problems with all of those perspectives, and especially to challenge the widespread view that Islamism can assume genuinely ‘moderate’, ‘democratic’, or ‘liberationist’ forms. On the contrary, the argument herein is that Islamism is an intrinsically radical and anti-democratic extreme right-wing political ideology, one that is not only based upon an unusually strict, puritanical interpretation of central tenets of the Islamic faith but is totalitarian in its very essence. Hence Islamist movements should not be seen as being comparable to Western movements like Christian Democracy, but rather as being similar in certain respects to Western totalitarian movements like Marxism-Leninism and fascism.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Bale, Jeffrey. 2009. "Islamism and Totalitarianism." Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 10 (June): 73-96. http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/testimony/387.pdf

START Author(s):