Muslims and Islamists: What’s the Difference Between Them?


In recent decades, many Muslim countries have been plunged into the chaos of war, are the source of world terrorism and have significantly spoiled the image of Islam. Religious fanatics, Islamists, have become ready to defend their principles, even if they contradict common sense.

Who are Islamists, what is their fundamental difference and what are they trying to achieve?

Islam as a religion took shape in 610 under the influence of similar monotheistic religions — Christianity and Judaism. In the 7th century, the territory of Western Arabia was going through hard times. The region was dominated by paganism, each tribe had its own gods and was at enmity with each other.

Islam was conceived as a force that unites and reconciles these tribes. The new religion was based on Judaism and Christianity, but taking into account local traditions and environmental conditions.

The founder of the religion, the prophet Muhammad, began to preach popular ideas in society: social equality, condemnation of usury, brotherhood among people and progressive moral norms for the Middle Ages.

The concept united the lower strata of the population and, as a result, ended in a political union of the tribes. On the basis of religious principles, a new state arose, which ousted the Byzantines in the west and the Persians in the east and successfully expanded in all directions.

The two largest movements in Islam, Sunnis and Shiites, emerged after the death of the prophet. The Shiites insisted that the direct descendants of Muhammad should inherit the throne. The Sunnis argued that consanguinity is not necessary, the main thing is that the successor is worthy. Power disputes led to a new war and religious schism.

In general, Islam positions itself as a peaceful religion. In general, until the 18th century, Muslims were quite tolerant of other religions: paid the tax — and confess what you want. Faith forbids killing people, including gentiles.

The concept of «jihad», contrary to popular belief, is completely unrelated to war. From the point of view of the clergy, this is any struggle against illiteracy, poverty and ignorance. Jihad is carried out by teachers who have taken a free additional load in schools, builders who erect hospitals in remote villages for free, etc.

The concept of «Islamism» appeared in the 1970s in France. The term means a religious and political ideology aimed at returning society to the moral and legislative foundations of the Early Middle Ages — the creation of a state where everything would be decided according to the norms of Sharia.

Among these ideas are the abolition of the secular court, a return to traditional values, the banning of universities and the media, and other rejections of the modern achievements of society. In other words, it is proposed to return to faith and decide everything through the prism of religion.

Poverty and unemployment in most Muslim countries gave rise to these ideas. Usually, representatives of the lower strata of the population become radicals, seeking to rebuild the world and find their place in the world. Their leaders often position themselves as new prophets.

Thus, Muslims are ordinary believers, Islamists are the common name for various parties, military organizations and associations, often terrorist, with radical goals that run counter to the challenges of modern society.