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Understanding Islamism

Nov 30, 2020


Today Policy Exchange launches a new project; Understanding Islamism. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph on the first anniversary of the 2019 London Bridge attack Sajid Javid—former Home Secretary and former Communities Secretary—has emphasised the importance of moving towards properly recognising and understanding the strains of thinking that Islamist ideology feeds off. As Sajid Javid has stated:

“A new project being launched today called Understanding Islamism is a helpful step in that direction. This initiative by Policy Exchange will document emerging trends in Islamist ideology and networks, unpack the meaning of the challenge they represent, and comprehensively explore the policy responses to it across Europe and beyond.”

Headed by Sir John Jenkins—former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia and co-author of the Government’s 2015 review on the Muslim Brotherhood—and Dr. Martyn Frampton, Understanding Islamism will provide an extensive and evolving documentary record of Islamist pronouncements and activities. This detailed resource will cover Islamist movements and their associated networks, both in the UK, and overseas.

Included as part of this launch, Policy Exchange is also publishing a new study by Sir John Jenkins, Dr Martyn Frampton, and Tom Wilson, providing an in depth account of what Islamism is, who Islamists are, and what the term Islamism itself does and does not refer to. The papers included in this study look at the origins of the term, as well as who has commonly used this phrase, and who more recently has sought to oppose its use.

Understanding Islamism seeks to deepen our comprehension of Islamism – seeing this as a distinct form of politics pursued by a range of socio-political movements.  The goal is to explore the multifarious debates around Islamism, highlighting the views of proponents and antagonists alike.

To this end, one purpose of this project is to provide ‘translation’ in a literal sense, to make available in English the words that Islamists use before non-English speaking audiences, in order to give the fullest sense of how they view the world. Alongside this, we also hope to use this project to explore and ‘translate’ the meaning behind Islamist discourse.

A further strand of this work, meanwhile, is the effort to understand how different governments – particularly in Europe – have responded to the challenges posed by Islamism. The hope is that in so doing, we can build a useful repository of the international debate around Islamism – one which can help inform the decisions of policy-makers in the UK.

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