Bassam Tibi: Islamism Is Incompatible With Democracy

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Dr. Bassam Tibi is Professor Emeritus for International Relations at the University of Goettingen in Germany. He is a scholar of Islamic politics and his newest book is Islamism and Islam. He is a leading advocate for reform in Islam and calls on Muslims in Europe to integrate into society.

His book is about “Islamism’s incompatibility with democracy, the reinvention of jihadism as terrorism, the invented tradition of shar’ia law as constitutional order, and the Islamists’ confusion of the concepts of authenticity and cultural purity.”

The following is Dr. Bassam Tibi’s interview with Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro:

Ryan Mauro: As a Muslim, how do you reconcile Sharia Law with Western secular democracy?

Bassam Tibi: Shari’a has three meanings, as explained in my books Islam’s Predicament with Modernity (2009) and Islamism and Islam (2012).

1. In the Qur’an, it means ethics, not law.

2. In traditional Islam, it means civil law and penal code.

3. In Islamism, it means the order of the Shar’ia-state.

A reform in Shari’a brings it to its Qur’anic meaning as ethics compatible with democratic governance.

Mauro: Can we trust "moderate" Islamists that talk about pluralism, democracy, freedom and human rights?

Tibi: Double-speak is a feature of Islamist discourse. We need to engage them in a democratic way, but need to beware of their behavior that does not match with which they vow/promise/declare.

Mauro: What role does multiculturalism and a lack of integration play in Islamism's growth in the West?

Tibi: Islamic-diaspora as a parallel society in Western society is opposite of integration of Muslim immigrants. Therefore, multicultural ideology palliates a threat to Western societies as it approves of these parallel societies. My concept of Euro-Islam disapproves of multiculturalism and their counter-culture.

Mauro: What must the West do to combat the spread of the Islamist ideology?

Tibi: There must be a real “war of ideas” that enlightens the distinction between Islamism and Islam and supports the school of enlightened Muslim thought in media and education.

Mauro: What recommendations do you have for Muslims and non-Muslims that want to stand against the Islamists?

Tibi: The most important recommendation is to allow free speech about Islamism and to delegitimize the prevailing narrative in the West that imposes limitations on this freedom. Only then would it be possible to reconcile the freedom to practice Islam with the necessary criticism of Islamism as a political ideology. Islamists say there is only one Islam, which is their Islamism, and they taint critics with “Islamophobia” in the war of ideas.


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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