Sunni Islam and Islamism

Authored by: Andrea Teti , Andrea Mura

Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138826991
eBook ISBN: 9781315643922
Adobe ISBN:


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One of the most common misunderstandings about Islam is that it contains some kind of essential ‘core’ which dictates the fundamental nature of political movements adopting its banner. Such misunderstandings are nowhere more obvious than in Western reactions to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and to Khomeini’s followers, who eventually dominated the post-revolutionary government, which saw frenzied talk of a ‘Green Peril’ rising in the East, describing the Islamic Republic and its regional sympathisers as a new and unprecedentedly dangerous ‘Pan-Islamic’ revolutionary movement, ‘state terrorism’ without boundaries, which was somehow quintessentially ‘Islamic’. However, during the revolution, slogans such as ‘neither East nor West, [only] an Islamic Republic’, or the adoption of religious symbols such as veiling, were simply straightforward and highly visible ways of protesting against the US-backed Shah’s policies and the Superpowers’ twin attempts at ‘imperialist’ influence. Moreover, religion as the hijacked banner for politics was not a new phenomenon, even then. In its ‘modern’ guise, it has its roots at least a century earlier, at the peak of European imperial influence, when, throughout the Ottoman Empire, debates raged about whether religion could provide a solution to the Empire’s weakness. In the twentieth century, religion provided a rallying point for opponents of authoritarian regimes, both monarchic and ‘secular’ nationalist. The Iranian Revolution simply thrust these movements to the forefront of the West’s political attention.

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