Observing Variants of
Intellectual Discourses and Social Movements
Variants of Islamism and Post-Islamism
Post-Islamist Intellectual Discourse and Democracy
Post-Islamism: A Critique from Within
Multiple Salafism and De-Radicalization
Mainstream Islamism and the Failure of Post-Islamism
Post-Islamism and Armed Struggle
Post-Islamism: Beyond September 11 and the Enlightened Moderation
Twenty-first century is regarded as the period of globalization which is predominantly depicted as a violent encounter between Islam and the West. Already, during the first quarter, three responses have emerged to this encounter: liberalization of Islam, interfaith dialogue and, and the clash of civilizations. Besides the political exploits and media sensational hype, the essentialist scholarship on Islam and Muslim societies has been also dismissing the plurality that globalization has brought forth as they have consistently ignored the diverse Muslim responses to modernity and globalization.
During the last century, modernity has been continuously underscoring diversity in the social world. Nevertheless, most scholars, both Muslim and Western, define modernity as Western and divide the world into the West and East. The West perceives modernity as Western, defines development, progress and civilization as linear evolution and contrasts these terms with tradition, decadence, and barbarism in the East. These thought categories are used as essentialist and binary values to deny the contribution of non-Western societies. Recent scholarship has even tried to simplify this complex situation as conflict and clash between West and Islam. This simplistic binary categorization is disallowing most scholars to notice the inner dynamism and diversity in Muslim societies.
Husnul Amin’s Observing Variants of Post-Islamism, Intellectual Discourses, and Social Movements explores quite assiduously this ‘silent evolution’ in Pakistan during 2006–2014. The book argues that it was in 1999 that postcolonial Pakistan took consciously the path of moderate Islam, recognizing the space for women, youth, and non-Muslim voices and consequently allowing pluralism to play a crucial role in the socio-economic development and democratization of Pakistani society. According to Husnul Amin, it was made possible by the emergence of a thought movement formed by ‘seceded intellectuals’ from the mainstream Islamist movements. French scholar Olivier Roy noticed this development (‘lumpen-Islamism’) in the Muslim societies in 1994 (The Failure of Political Islam). Speaking about the imminent failure of political Islam in Muslim societies, he observed the rise of non-elite local intellectuals. The Iranian scholar Asef Bayat in 1996 designated this phenomenon as “post-Islamist” (“The Coming of a Post-Islamist Society,” Critical Middle East Studies, 1996). While Asef Bayat identified the post-Khomeini Iran as post-Islamist, Roy spoke about it as a general trend in Muslim societies. In his later publication (Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford, 2007) Bayat chose a wider scope. These studies generated a debate on the authenticity of post-Islamism. Some scholars (e.g., Saba Mahmood, “Secularism, Hermeneutics, Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation,” Public Culture, 2006) argued that these trends were in fact linked with US projects for liberalizing Islam from within.
Amin questions this linkage and argues that this conclusion is based on the essentialist assumption that Islamism is a deviation from pure Islam and that is why it was described as fundamentalism, extremism or radicalism. He explains that Islamism is one of several revivalist movements. It is, however, distinguishable from others for its call for top-down reform. The following three elements separate it further from other movements: political interpretation of the scripture blurring the distinction between collective and personal obligation, socio-political struggle for the enforcement of sharia and adoption of modern forms of communication. Post Islamism as a social movement is, therefore, very closely connected to Islamism. It differs significantly with Islamism in its admission about the failure of the idea of an Islamic state, recognition of the space for multiple discourses on Islamization and is a criticism of exclusive neglect of vulnerable segments of society. It is not particularly opposed to secularism.
Amin studies Javed Ahmad Ghamidi’s movement in Pakistan from this perspective and describes it as an emergent intellectual social response to internal and external socio-economic developments. It aims at epistemological uniqueness, democratic culture, and re-Islamization through the reformation of individual behavior rather than enforcing sharia.
Ghamidi movement has been able to create an interpretive community in Pakistan that engages with liberalism and democracy. Amin admits that post-Islamism is not yet a popular movement due to the domination of socio-political context by persecutory syndrome and discourse of exceptionalism and because its influence is limited to middle classes.
The book is indeed a welcome addition to the much-needed analytical studies of Muslim intellectual movements that are responding positively to globalization and exposing the failure of essentialist approaches to appreciate the diversity and complexity in Islamic thought and inner dynamism in Muslim societies.