Representing Islam

Naima Bouteldja“Timothy Garton-Ash is obviously right in his assertion that ‘what has characterised the Muslim world throughout history is the great diversity of what Muslims say and do under the banner of Islam’. One could even afford a smile, if it was not so worrying, that this idea, considered self-evident for any other ethnic or religious group, is proclaimed as if a groundbreaking discovery. What it shows, yet again, is that when it comes to issues related to Islam and Muslims, the world has gone slightly mad.

“Take the word ‘Islamism’, which represents a political momentum that emerged in the Muslim world within the context of western colonial expansion during the 19th and 20th centuries. Islamism, when used by politicians or media pundits, is rarely defined and is often rashly substituted for terrorism. Yet, most in-depth research on political Islam illustrates that Islamism is not a monolithic, static, insular movement but one with multiple threads and tendencies that varies from country to country, depending on internal political and economic characteristics, as well as the wider, regional and international geopolitical environment….

“The question of who represents the true version of Islam is not as interesting as the answers indirectly supplied by the mass media and what they reveal about the ‘us’, as opposed to the ‘them’. For instance, it would be naive to attribute the dizzying ascension of a figure like Ayaan Hirsi Ali in politics and the media solely to her talent or the popularity of her struggle. Today, like yesterday, the ruling elites choose from the side of the Other the pawns best-positioned to support their own visions of the world and their interests.”

Naima Bouteldja at Comment is Free, 16 March 2007