Political Islam in the 21st century : an analysis of the contestation between "militant and "progressive" Islam, with particular emphasis on forms of political expression amongst Muslims in post-apartheid South Africa.
The political events that unfolded on September 11 200 I, marked a turning point in world history. The attacks on the United States brought into sharp focus, the very complex issue of political violence being perpetrated by elements from within the Muslim world, and the project of what is commonly referred to as Political Islam. These events have subsequently led to an intensification of scrutiny of Muslims globally, by the Western world, as well as the establishment of heightened security measures by many governments, with Muslims being subjected to increasing levels of suspicion and the curtailment of civil liberties. Accompanying this scrutiny of Muslims, has been the United States led "War on Terror," which has further fuelled anger and resentment within the Muslim world, and inspired the carrying out of further attacks of political violence against Western targets such as Britain and Spain, by Muslim militants. This thesis attempts to locate the unfolding of these acts of political violence, within the broad framework of an examination of what constitutes the arena of Political Islam (which is seen as the interface between the Islamic faith and political activity by Muslims), and to interrogate two streams of political expression within Political Islam. These are Militant Islam and Progressive Islam. This interrogation will attempt to take into account the historical development of political thought and action within the Muslim world, and Islam's encounter with the projects of colonialism, empire and orientalism, in order to understand and offer some analysis around the possible reasons for the phenomenon of contemporary political violence emanating from the Muslim world. The study will also argue that progressive expressions of Islam are more representative of the essence of Quranic teachings and that militancy, while sometimes necessary, is not an ideal way for Muslims to engage politics. The case study within which the broader theoretical argument unfolds, is the post-apartheid South African Muslim context. This case study examines how SA Muslims are expressing themselves politically in a democratic dispensation, and whether they are inclined towards militant or progressive expressions, as a faith based community engaging politics. The thesis concludes by offering suggestions for how SA Muslims can advance a peaceful progressive political agenda, which acts as a model for Muslim communities elsewhere.