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Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and North Africa

This thesis analyses the impact of Islamism in the Middle East and North Africa. In the name of Islam, Islamist groups have embarked upon a path of violence and terrorism. The primary objective of the thesis is to critically analyse the ideas, approaches and implications of Islamism. Firstly, by examining whether economic despair breeds Islamism or what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa, which is a revolt against its own decay and humiliation, has taken the form of a return to the roots of radical Islam. Secondly, the way in which few Muslim governments dare to challenge the Islamists on theological, political and economic grounds. Thirdly, the manner which this influences modernisation and development in the region? Fourthly, the way which regimes respond to the challenge? The second objective of the thesis is to analyse the compatibility of Islam with democracy. It is argued that Islam has difficulty absorbing the idea that mankind is destined to progress, and that innovation can bring improvement to life. This argument is further explored in the light of cultural, theo-political, and socio-economic issues. The thesis also provides a terminological definition of Islamism and Fundamentalism. It analyses the activities of Islamist organisations in the Middle and North Africa, and argues the potential threat, which they present. In this manner the circumstances of the Islamists religious justification for their actions are analysed. At the same time the thesis examines the complexities underlying the concepts of jihad, holy war, and terrorism. The thesis also analyses the confrontation between the rhetoric of Islamist activists and the reality of Muslim politics. It is suggested the growth of these extremist organisations may be linked first and foremost to the social and economic problems created by underdevelopment and economic stagnation. Moreover, it is argued that lack of good government and corruption, which have characterised large parts of the Arab and Muslim world in the past few decades have played a significant role in this confrontation. It argues these hardships have led many ordinary Arabs and Muslims to embrace radical Islam, which offers them an escape from the difficulties of daily life, hope for social justice and the expectation that religion would provide the answer to all their aspirations. It is argued that the general trend of ‘returning to Islam’ aims to correct society in a step-by-step process to instil the values of the religion as a way of life, while the Islamist organisations have turned the phenomenon into a lever to fulfil their political aim through violence and terrorism. The thesis examines a country-specific case study of the activities of Islamist groups in seven countries of the region: Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This approach enables conclusions to be reached that Islamism presents a genuine danger to the stability of many regimes in the region, and involves a tireless struggle to subvert government authority by employing terrorism aimed at destabilising and toppling the regime. The thesis concludes that in the likely trend of Islamist influence in the Middle East and North Africa, one would need to pay more attention to those variables that are in constant change in a period of rising Islamisation.
Type of thesis
Siyad, M. H. (2003). Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and North Africa (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13926
The University of Waikato
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