The late 20th and the early 21st centuries were characterized by the revival of the role of religious ideology on the political stage. Radical Islam gained widespread popularity during the time due to the prevalence of Islamism ideology as an important facet in the rise of religious political ideology across the globe (Farmer, 2007).
In the past, the definition of Islam was clear and simple; all those Muslims who testify that God is one and Muhammad is His prophet and who pray towards Mecca (Farmer, 2007). Islam allowed for a substantial diversity of both beliefs and practice but certain limits had to be observed.
However, this changed with the emergence of radical Islam. Radical Islam, commonly referred to as Islamism, refers to a set of ideologies which hold that in addition to being a religion, Islam is a political system which has led to the emphasis for political unity among contemporary Muslims. The movement has thrived primarily due to the economic and political distress spread across most regions of the world as well as social strain and communal humiliation.
The rise of Radical Islam
Islamism is generally viewed as a struggle for religious supremacy and rejection for modernity. Radical Islam emerged as a movement against western influence and modernization which they considered as conflicting with the practice of pure Muslims. Consequently, the movement targets those who are responsible for these innovations such as the Western countries and perceives them as ‘The enemy’.
With the rapid and unstoppable spread of Western influence, the radical Muslims continue to perceive the world as “the prison for believers and the paradise for unbelievers” (Schanzer, 2002 p 1). While most Muslims were flexible and adapted to the rapid changes resulting from industrialization, modernization and westernization, radical Muslims rejected these changes and instead created a rigid ideology that borrowed heavily from traditional values and laws of the Koran.
This gave rise to the modern day radical Islamism. They argued that the Islamic laws were being replaced by Western values and further claimed that Allah was angered by His people for accepting the western values and was consequently punishing them. With time the radical Islam vision crystallized and in addition to rejection of the Western values, the movement began rising against Arabic governments which supported the West. Consequently, political reforms became one of the major agendas of radical Islam.
Consequences of Radical Islam on society
The ideologies and beliefs held by radical Islam have led to actions that directly or indirectly affect the society. Radical Islam introduces a conjunction between supreme value and rent seeking behavior which needs to be emphasized upon when discussing the economic impact of the movement in the society (Inbar & Frisch, 2008).
Supreme values prohibit tradeoffs or any distractions that may hinder attainment of priority goals. Consequently, the supreme values that guide radical Islam subordinate economic achievement to religiously ordained geopolitical goals (Inbar & Frisch, 2008). Since the movement seeks to achieve supreme value objectives, the radical Muslims often forego economic progress in the quest for achievement of their goals. Indeed, their activities tend to reverse economic progress in areas where it had been achieved (Inbar & Frisch, 2008).
The movement’s rent seeking is externally directed at changing institutions and belief system of other societies which results in internal economic deprivation. Further, terrorism and other crimes associated with the movement have resulted in property destruction and loss of lives which in turn affects the economy of their target countries.
The social impacts of radical Islam are worth noting. Since the radical Muslims aim at dominating the world through the Sharia law, their activities threatens the basic values and liberties of the Western society and the world at large.
The movement has resulted in widespread fear across societies through their terrorist attacks which they justify according to Sharia law which dictates that private and public lives should be subjected to the “Will of Allah.” Consequently, the movement supports torture and persecution of people which often conflicts with the basic human rights consequently impacting negatively on people’s livelihood. Radical Islam has had a major impact on the political framework of most countries especially in the Western and Arab world.
Since the radical Islam claim that politics is an inherent part of Islamic religion, the movement focuses on the fight for political reforms in Arabic countries that are allies with the Western societies and hits back when Western countries interfere with the issues facing the Arabic world. Consequently, the movement has formed various armed cell groups such as Al Qaeda, Muslim brotherhood of Egypt among others to fight against governments which in their view are oppressive and operate against the teachings of the Islam.
Radical Islam has been associated with activities such as perpetuating terrorist attacks, hate crimes against secular people and people from other religious groups, oppression of women in society, among other crimes.
Therefore, Islamism is a real issue facing the contemporary society and has caused severe damage to both Muslims and non Muslims. Unity among all people regardless of their religion and ethnic background is thus essential in the fight against such crimes which will in turn reduce the overall consequences of Islamism on society.
Farmer, R. B., (2007). Understanding radical Islam: medieval ideology in the twenty-first century. New York: Peter Lang.
Frisch H., Inbar E., (2008). Radical Islam and international security: Challenges and responses. London: Routledge.
Schanzer J., (2002). At war with whom: a short history of the radical Islam, spring. Retrieved from http://www.meforum.org/168/at-war-with-whom