Dyab Abou Jahjah
The debate over Ihsane Haouach in recent weeks has been much more meaningful than many think. I do not want to analyze the reasons that led to her dismissal here. What I want to do is explain what woke-Islamism is and how it manifests itself in Europe.
Let me be clear about one thing. When we talk about Islamists, there are many variations, and in the Arab world, democrats have to remain in dialogue with the most moderate versions in the hope that one day they will evolve into some sort of Muslim democrats. For example, what appears to be the case with the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Annahda Party, which lost elections and peacefully handed over power.
Yet here in Europe we are further than that. Europe should not be complacent with a movement that seeks to place the sovereignty of the people under the umbrella of divine rules. Regardless of all demographic evolutions.
And yet, the Haouach case revealed a serious lack of insight in the debate about the presence of Islam in Europe and about what 'Islamism' is. This deficit must be situated within the space between the narrative of 'Islamization, grand replacement or repopulation' on the one hand and that of 'there is nothing wrong, except racism and Islamophobia' on the other.
The fault of both logics is that they are oversimplifications that make 'Islam' and 'Muslims' a monolithic item. The first camp sees 'Islam' as an ideology of conquest and 'the Muslims' as agents of that ideology, the second camp sees 'Islam' as a religion of peace and 'Muslims' a community of victims of Islamophobia.
Islam, like any religion, is a house with many rooms. It is therefore misleading to speak in such general terms, whether positive or negative.
At the same time, we must emphasize that there is a political movement that sees in Islam not only a religion - a combination of ritual, moral and spiritual guidelines - but also a political blueprint for society. We call this movement political Islam or Islamism.
Islamism itself is a general term that includes rival factions of every Islamic orientation. But the common denominator is that all Islamists agree that the ultimate goal of politics would be to rule according to the divine principles revealed by God in the Qur'an. Some Islamists want to apply these principles literally, others interpret them according to time and context.
Islamism, like all other Islamic tendencies, is present among European Muslims. I mainly recognize two types of Islamists in Europe. The first type is often found in the first or second generation of Muslims. They are focused on the Arab and Islamic world. They see themselves as a diaspora. In Europe, they are often apolitical or only interested in being able to practice their religious rites and develop their activities in relation to their country of origin. Among them, you can place the Muslim Brotherhood, but also the supporters of the AKP of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Gülenists, Hezbollah supporters, the 'Adl wal Ihssane' supporters and dozens of other tendencies.
The second group are Islamists who are invested in European politics. They are often Muslims of the late second or third generation. They belong to the same Islamist families, but have less affinity with their countries of origin and more affinity with Europe. And even though they sympathize with the cause of their brothers in the countries of origin, their political gaze is inward and not outward.
Their struggle is often limited to creating as much space as possible for Islam and Muslims in Europe. Most of them today are part of a large network of 'activists' and active people who bring them into contact with ultra-progressive circles who are open to their discourse about reasonable accommodation and 'being themselves'. If they have the intellectual depth, they usually articulate their Islamism as a decolonial and emancipatory narrative, contesting modernity through a postmodern lens.
This synergy between Islamism and extreme progressivism can be called woke Islamism. It has been a growing trend in recent years. Woke Islamists can now be found in left-wing and progressive political parties in Flanders and Brussels. Within the ranks of these parties, they are part of the most radical progressive wing.
Now, let me be clear about one thing. The fact that a large proportion of Islamists now embrace ultra-progressive politics is better than that they embrace jihadist fascism.
Nevertheless, the attack on modernity and most of its values, including secularism, is carried out in a more refined and efficient manner and within a broad alliance with serious potential to mobilize. This strategy is not aimed at creating an Islamic state, but it can lead to a fragmentation of society along identity lines so that everyone can 'be themselves'.
This new woke Islamism, along with the rest of the extreme progressive movement (often called 'woke'), dreams of an archipelago of 'Safe spaces' that interact in justice and equity. It is in this colorful and beautiful utopian painting of society that the toxic nature of European Islamism resides today. Along with the other woke trends, the woke neo-Islamists deconstruct 'universalism' in favor of the 'intersectionality' of exceptions. Thus, one day, all exceptions may eventually become the rule.
When exceptionalism, not universalism, becomes the cornerstone of citizenship, who will then dare to challenge calls for separate tribunals and even separate laws?