William Shakespeare once wrote “What’s in a name?” In reality, there are myriad meanings within a name and no where is this more evident than within the field of political Islam in the Arab world.
Parties and movements that are affiliated to this type of trend take on catchy names and pledge to achieve great deal. The most famous movement, or the most controversial group, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), chose a conspicuous name as it ‘confined’ Muslim brothers solely to it but not necessarily to other parties thus opening the door to other potential names, such as “Muslim Neighbours” or “Muslim Friends” etc.
Of course there is another name that stands out: Hezbollah [Party of God]. This party didn’t choose a less promising name for itself such as the “Party of God’s Servants” or the “Party of Those Loved by God”, no; this party chose to bear God’s name directly – and who can oppose God’s Party?
The same also applies to the overt leaderships of extremist fundamentalist movements; they have taken on the names of the exalted companions of the Prophet such as Abu Musab [Musab Ibn Umair], Abu Hafs [Omar Ibn al Khattab], Abu Jafaar [Jaafar Ibn Abi Taleb], among others so that a whole new generation has come to associate these important and valuable names in Islamic history with bloodshed, killing and terror.
True Islam is being subjected to a horrendous smear campaign and it is being exploited while public emotions are being manipulated through the abuse of the religion’s figures and symbols to propagate deviant ideas, objectives and principles.
The same exploitation of religion can be witnessed in the commercial field. Following a surge in the Islamic economy and the bustling activity that is taking place; other paradigms are starting to appear through which products and commodities market themselves under the Islamic banner to the extent that we now have Islamic barbers, Islamic tailors, Islamic cars, Islamic millionaires and other concepts that exploit religion in a naive, cheap and provocative manner.
The Islamic world seems to be trapped between a rock and a hard place; between despotism and extremism. In terms of providing models of rightly guided governance in the name of religion, there is Iran’s “Supreme Guide” who oversees matters and effectively represents God’s shadow on earth or, as is the case with the MB, the group’s “General Guide” who supervises over everything upon the consideration that he is the most knowledgeable on matters and interests, as well as on how to justify all the means and steps taken to reach the seat of power – irrespective of methods used.
The Turkish experience may be the only rational ray of hope. One should stop to examine this experience and monitor its development, especially in light of the flourishing and diverse economy, improvement in the standard of living, rise in literacy levels and the development of services provided in the fields of medicine, education and communications. Add to that the increased efficiency of the judiciary and the removal of bureaucratic limitations and the advancement of a more effectual system for cracking down on corruption. These are all points that not many of those who hold important positions in the majority of Islamic countries would be able to match as these are features of achievement, success and efficiency.
The mind has absented at the expense of superstitions; ignorance has triumphed over knowledge and corruption and despotism reign! This has all generated an atmosphere of injustice that is undeniable and has furthermore entrenched a warped concept of social equality whereby all values, concepts and customs have been transformed into tools and methods for despotism and authoritarianism.
Political Islamic activity, so far, has presented a bad example of the danger of manipulating religion and public sentiment in a dramatic and emotional manner. The outcome has led to a gross imbalance between political systems and nations, which has left seditions in its wake where countless innocent lives have been claimed.