Islamism and Islamists: a Very Short Introduction

What exactly is ‘Islamism’ and what forms can it take? For Florence Gaub, the term embraces any political project that’s ‘inspired’ by the Muslim faith. That being said, she also believes Islamism comes in three basic varieties – revolutionary, electoral and authoritarian.

By Florence Gaub for European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS)

This Issue Brief was originally published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) on 17 October 2014.

Islamism today has many faces: militant groups in Iraq and Lebanon, political parties in Tunisia and Egypt, and regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia. But this umbrella term conceals the fact that these groups use different tactics, tap into different grievances and have different political goals. Lumping them together is a gross oversimplification – it is time for an overview.

Although often associated with terrorist groups, the term Islamism simply denotes a political project inspired by Islam. Current streams of political Islam all belong to a wave of Islamist revivalism, the likes of which was last seen on several occasions between the 11th and 14th centuries. Their goal is the re-Islamisation of their respective societies, and ultimately a state based on theprinciples of Islam. The three major currents belong to this wave, however, differ starkly on religious doctrine, on what kind of state to establish, and how to fulfil their objectives. In contrast to adherents of authoritarian Islamism, who believe they have already accomplished the goal of creating an Islamic state, advocates of both revolutionary and electoral Islamism are ‘changists’, seeking to replace incumbent regimes. The latter two disagree, however, on the means to bring about the desired change, as well as on the form of the Islamic state to be achieved. Continue reading


Arrests fuel jihad fears in Spain’s African lands

Arrests fuel jihad fears in Spain's African lands

A picture taken on December 4, 2014 is a general view of El Principe district in Ceuta.

CEUTA, Spain – Aisha has lived all her life in one neighbourhood in Spain’s African territory of Ceuta, but now she is willing to move – even to the war zone of Syria.

“I would go and live with my family in the Islamic State in Syria, and if my husband died there in combat, I would accept it,” said the mother-of-four, dressed in a black hijab, who asked for her real name to be concealed.

Her home district of El Principe in this European enclave of 87,000 people on the tip of Morocco has a reputation for hardship – and a new, growing one for Islamic radicalism.

Police on Tuesday raided a gang they suspect recruited 12 women online and sent them to join the violent extremist group calling itself Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

Five of the suspects were arrested in Barcelona, Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other north African territory, to the east. Two were detained in Morocco, close to the border with Ceuta.

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Islamic State recruits broadly, not just fighters

FILE - In this Oct. 22,2 104 file photo, the apartment building in Aurora, Colo., which police say is the home of two of the three teenage girls who, according to U.S. authorities, were en route to join the Islamic State group in Syria when they were stopped at an airport in Germany. The three teenage girls from Colorado swapped Twitter messages about marriage and religion with recruiters for the Islamic State group, then set out for Syria with passports and thousands of dollars in stolen cash. Authorities intercepted them in Germany, then returned them to their families without criminal charges.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As it looks to expand its territorial base across broad swaths of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group is recruiting for more than just fighters

The extremist organization also has been targeting its sophisticated propaganda to entice potential wives and professionals such as doctors, accountants and engineers in its efforts to build a new society.

Among those it has lured were three teenage girls from Colorado, who set out for Syria this fall after swapping Twitter messages about marriage and religion with IS recruiters, and a young woman who sought to fight there — or failing that, to use her nursing skills. It’s a diverse pool of recruits whose motives perplex Western governments seeking to combat the flow.

The group “is issuing a bit of a siren song through social media, trying to attract people to their so-called caliphate,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters. “And among the people they’re trying to attract are young women to be brides for these jihadis.” Continue reading

Another century, another long war

Tuesday, 21 October 2014   By: Peter Leahy

Australia is involved in the early stages of a conflict that may last for the rest of the century and potentially beyond. Terrorism is but a symptom of a broader conflict in which the fundamental threat is from radical Islamists who are intent on establishing Islam as the foundation of a new world order.

While the violence, so far, is mostly confined to Islamic lands, some of the radicals are engaged in a direct war against Western secular nations. The home-grown threat from terror remains and is likely to worsen as radicals return from fighting overseas and the internet dumps unconstrained radical propaganda across the globe. If the caliphate in Iraq and Syria established by the Islamic State survives, it will be a worrying portent of worse to come.

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The Balkanization of Al Qaeda

The "black flag of jihad" as used by...

The “black flag of jihad” as used by various Islamic terrorist organizations (since the late 1990s) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles E. Berger   February 21, 2014

This month, Al Qaeda officially disenfranchised one of its affiliates, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In fact, ISIS is now in open warfare with al Nusra Front, another Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. These events reveal an Al Qaeda more Balkanized than unified. They also undermine the generally accepted view of a global Al Qaeda network expanding its reach. As opposed to a single organization bound by a common ideology, we should view the Al Qaeda network for what it is: a loose coalition of separate terrorist groups with their own individual causes. Our current strategy to defeat the Al Qaeda network by countering its ideology will likely fail. These other groups will continue on, perhaps under different names, long after Al Qaeda is militarily defeated.

The Obama administration’s 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism distanced itself from Bush’s “Global War on Terrorism” by accurately describing terrorism as a tactic, not an enemy. The enemy is now defined as Al Qaeda core (the organization established by Osama Bin Laden now largely located in Pakistan), its affiliates (other groups aligned with Al Qaeda) and its adherents. “Adherents” includes individuals who are inspired to take action based on the ideology of Al Qaeda. Adherents includes any terrorist or group who claims to share Al Qaeda’s ideology, leading to the conclusion the only way to defeat such a networked organization is to destroy this one common link—the ideology. While terrorist organizations can be destroyed and individuals can be imprisoned or killed, it is unlikely that we will ever achieve victory defined as stamping out an objectionable creed.

Terrorist groups are paramilitary organizations and behave as rational actors. Their strategies are directed specific political end states, or “causes.” While a group’s end state and ideology are related, they are not synonymous. For example, Al Qaeda and the Palestinian group Hamas share similar Islamist ideologies, but their end states are completely different. Likewise, the causes of most of the Al Qaeda’s affiliates are regional, differing from Al Qaeda core’s focus on the West. When these groups assume the Al Qaeda moniker, they anticipate a predictable counterterrorism response from the United States; however they do so to attract funds, recruits and media attention. Continue reading

A Post-Mortem Analysis of Turkistani Amir Emeti Yakuf: A Death that Sparked More Questions than Answers

Publication: Volume: 3 Issue: 10 October 31, 2012 06:04 PM


Emeti Yakuf (Ministry of Public Security, People’s Republic of China)

In late August, a series of drone strikes in Northern Waziristan were reported to have killed a number of jihadist leaders. Most media attention focused on the possible demise of Badruddin Haqqani, son of the fabled mujahedeen leader, with conflicting reports about whether he had died or not. Almost as an afterthought, some of the stories highlighted that the strikes were believed to have also killed Emeti Yakuf, the current leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) (Dawn, August 24). This overshadowed death reflected the generally low profile that TIP is often given amongst jihadist groups, and highlighted once again the difficulties in obtaining information about the mysterious China-focused terrorist organization.

Emeti Yakuf first achieved prominence in the wake of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) published a list of eight individuals it identified as members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). [1] Considered by the government as a “key member” of the organization, he was reported to also use the aliases Aibu Adubureheman and Saifula. According to Chinese MPS information, he was born on March 14, 1965, and was reported to have fled Xinjiang for “a South Asian country” (believed to be Pakistan) in November 1996. Once there, he is believed to have risen rapidly in the ranks of the organization and by 1998 was a leader in the group. By 2001, he was directing operations, recruiting individuals and generally serving the organization in a leadership role (Xinhua, October 21, 2008).

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Iran News Round Up

An enlargeable map of the Islamic Republic of Iran

An enlargeable map of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


June 7,2012



JUNE 7, 2012  |  Author: Ali Alfoneh      Editors: Michael Rubin and Ahmad Majidyar
* (E) – Article in English Previous editions of the Iran News Round Up are accessible at
Nuclear Issue

  • Said Jalili, Supreme National Security Council secretary and nuclear negotiator, in a letter to Catherine Ashton, EU’s foreign policy coordinator, criticizes “delay” in negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the 5+1 Group at deputy level.
  • Jalili participates at the International Saint Petersburg Security Conference.
  • Deputy Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Baqeri, in a letter to Helga Schmitt, Catherine Ashton’s deputy, stresses the importance of expert level meetings prior to the Moscow negotiations.
    • As a spokesman of Ashton says Catherine Ashton has answered Baqeri’s letter, Media Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council writes that the letter not only fails to answer Baqeri’s letter, it is also “contrary to the Baghdad agreements.”
  • Ahmadinejad attending the Shanghai Pact’s Summit in Beijing meets the prime minister of China:
    • “Their opposition to the Islamic Republic’s use of peaceful nuclear energy is because of their conviction that Iran’s progress is not in their interest. They are always interested in Iran being backward and dependent on them in order to satisfy its needs… Iran is fully prepared to continue the negotiations in Moscow or even in China and has presented good proposals. However, since we, after the Baghdad negotiations and based on the agreements reached there, have on several occasions demanded continuation of the negotiations at the level of the deputies of Mrs. Ashton and the Supreme National Security Council secretary’s deputy and no result was achieved, we believe that the Westerners are making up excuses and are trying to kill time… The islamic Republic, despite the Western countries‘ lack of inclination to reach a result in the nuclear issue, is always ready to continue negotiations… My colleagues are following this issue within the framework of the law… most certainly, the policies of the government of China at the international level – to solve this issue as fast as possible – will help this issue. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not expect that the nuclear issue is solved at one meeting…”
  • Hossein Shariatmadari, Kayhan editor, warns that “whenever we do not consider negotiations expedient we will not hesitate stopping them.”

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