Islamism is the belief in the need to establish a political order organized around sharia (Islamic law). Islamists may advocate the establishment of a sharia-based society through violent or non-violent means. Both forms of Islamism work to establish societies that are discriminatory and intolerant of political and religious dissidents, as well as women and gays.

The modern Islamist movement was born in the mid-20th century, and spearheaded by Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb. The founder of the modern Islamist movement, Qutb argued that all of society’s ills could be rectified by replacing states with a sharia-based system of governance. Qutb’s ideology has since served as the foundation for the Muslim Brotherhood movement, as well as its ideological offshoots al-Qaeda and ISIS.

While organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood have worked to implement sharia from within countries’ preexisting political processes, groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS have openly embraced terrorist violence as a means to overthrowing local governments. Other Islamist organizations, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, have professed non-violence while promoting various military coups in Egypt and Jordan.

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Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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