Islamism is a concept whose meaning has been debated in both public and academic contexts.[1] The term can refer to diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles[1][2] or more specifically to movements which call for full implementation of sharia. It is commonly used interchangeably with the terms political Islam or Islamic fundamentalism.[3] In academic usage, the term Islamism does not specify what vision of "Islamic order" or sharia are being advocated, or how their advocates intend to bring them about.[4] In Western mass media it tends to refer to groups whose aim is to establish a sharia-based Islamic state, often with implication of violent tactics and human rights violations, and has acquired connotations of political extremism. In the Muslim world, the term has positive connotations among its proponents.[3]

Different currents of Islamist thought include advocating a "revolutionary" strategy of Islamizing society through exercise of state power, and alternately a "reformist" strategy to re-Islamizing society through grass-roots social and political activism.[5] Islamists may emphasize the implementation of sharia (Islamic law);[6] pan-Islamic political unity,[6] including an Islamic state;[7] or selective removal of non-Muslim, particularly Western military, economic, political, social, or cultural influences in the Muslim world that they believe to be incompatible with Islam.[6]

Graham Fuller has argued for a broader notion of Islamism as a form of identity politics, involving "support for [Muslim] identity, authenticity, broader regionalism, revivalism, [and] revitalization of the community."[8] Some authors hold the term "Islamic activism" to be synonymous and preferable to "Islamism",[9] and Rached Ghannouchi writes that Islamists prefer to use the term "Islamic movement" themselves.[10]

Central and prominent figures in twentieth-century Islamism include Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Abul Ala Maududi,[11] and Ruhollah Khomeini.[12] Most Islamist thinkers emphasize peaceful political processes, which are supported by the majority of contemporary Islamists.[13] Others, Sayyid Qutb in particular, called for violence, and his followers are generally considered Islamic extremists, although Qutb denounced the killing of innocents.[14]According to Robin Wright, Islamist movements have "arguably altered the Middle East more than any trend since the modern states gained independence", redefining "politics and even borders".[15] Following the Arab Spring, some Islamist currents became heavily involved in democratic politics,[15][16] while others spawned "the most aggressive and ambitious Islamist militia" to date, ISIS.[15]


The term Islamism, which originally denoted the religion of Islam, first appeared in the English language as Islamismus in 1696, and as Islamism in 1712.[17] The term appears in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in In Re Ross (1891). By the turn of the twentieth century the shorter and purely Arabic term "Islam" had begun to displace it, and by 1938, when Orientalist scholars completed The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Islamism seems to have virtually disappeared from English usage.[12][18]

The term "Islamism" acquired its contemporary connotations in French academia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From French, it began to migrate to the English language in the mid-1980s, and in recent years has largely displaced the term Islamic fundamentalism in academic circles.[12]

The new use of the term "Islamism" at first functioned as "a marker for scholars more likely to sympathize" with new Islamic movements; however, as the term gained popularity it became more specifically associated with political groups such as the Taliban or the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, as well as with highly-publicized acts of violence.[12]

"Islamists" who have spoken out against the use of the term, insisting they are merely "Muslims", include Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah (1935-2010), the spiritual mentor of Hezbollah, and Abbassi Madani (1931- ), leader of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front.[12]

A 2003 article in the Middle East Quarterly states:

In summation, the term Islamism enjoyed its first run, lasting from Voltaire to the First World War, as a synonym for Islam. Enlightened scholars and writers generally preferred it to Mohammedanism. Eventually both terms yielded to Islam, the Arabic name of the faith, and a word free of either pejorative or comparative associations. There was no need for any other term, until the rise of an ideological and political interpretation of Islam challenged scholars and commentators to come up with an alternative, to distinguish Islam as modern ideology from Islam as a faith... To all intents and purposes, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism have become synonyms in contemporary American usage.[12]

The Council on American–Islamic Relations complained in 2013 that the Associated Press's definition of "Islamist"—a "supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam [and] who view the Quran as a political model"—had become a pejorative shorthand for "Muslims we don't like".[19] Mansoor Moaddel, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University, criticized it as "not a good term" because "the use of the term Islamist does not capture the phenomena that is quite heterogeneous."[20]

The AP Stylebook entry for Islamist as of 2013 reads as follows:[21]

"An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists. Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi."

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Islamismus
العربية: إسلاموية
asturianu: Islamismu
বাংলা: ইসলামবাদ
Bân-lâm-gú: Islam-chú-gī
беларуская: Ісламізм
български: Ислямизъм
brezhoneg: Islamouriezh
Cebuano: Islamismo
čeština: Islamismus
Cymraeg: Islamiaeth
dansk: Islamisme
Deutsch: Islamismus
eesti: Islamism
Ελληνικά: Ισλαμισμός
español: Islamismo
Esperanto: Islamismo
euskara: Islamismo
français: Islamisme
Frysk: Islamisme
Gaeilge: Ioslamachas
galego: Islamismo
한국어: 이슬람주의
हिन्दी: इस्लामियत
hrvatski: Islamizam
Bahasa Indonesia: Islamisme
interlingua: Islamismo
íslenska: Íslamismi
italiano: Islamismo
עברית: אסלאמיזם
қазақша: Исламизм
Кыргызча: Исламизм
Latina: Islamismus
latviešu: Islāmisms
lumbaart: Islamism
magyar: Iszlamizmus
Bahasa Melayu: Islamisme
Nederlands: Islamisme
norsk: Islamisme
norsk nynorsk: Islamisme
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਇਸਲਾਮੀਅਤ
polski: Islamizm
română: Islamism
русский: Исламизм
Scots: Islamism
shqip: Islamizmi
Simple English: Islamism
کوردی: ئیسلامەتی
српски / srpski: Исламизам
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Islamizam
suomi: Islamismi
svenska: Islamism
Tagalog: Islamismo
Türkçe: İslamcılık
українська: Ісламізм
Tiếng Việt: Chủ nghĩa Hồi giáo