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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 20:30 GMT
How Islam Got Political
Protesters carrying the Koran
Demonstrating the faith
BBC Radio 4's Koran and Country: How Islam Got Political - An Analysis Special, was broadcast on Thursday, 10 November, 2005 at 20:00 GMT.

Frank Gardner, the BBC's Security Correspondent, traces the rise of political Islam in Britain and around the world.

As part of Radio 4's Koran and Country series, Frank Gardner, the BBC's Security Correspondent, looks at the growth of one of the most important ideological forces of the past century - political Islam. From the political Islamic movement founded in colonial India by Syed Abul Ala Mawdudi to the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, this special edition of Analysis traces the history of mainstream and radical political Islam.

"Even the term political Islam is a controversial one," acknowledges Frank Gardner. "Most Muslims see Islam as a whole way of life which, in addition to its spiritual aspects, encompasses politics, economics and a social system. However, what is clear is that in the past century a distinct Islamic political movement has emerged, based on the idea that Muslims should be ruled by a state which bases its legitimacy on Islam and implements Islamic law. The growth of this movement seems to have been fuelled in part by an increasing sense that much of the non-Islamic world is hostile towards Muslims."

As Frank Gardner's discussions with young British Muslims reveal, that sense of antagonism has meant that what started out as a project to create Islamic states in Muslim countries has turned into a broader movement which has played a part in politicizing ordinary Muslims, not just in the Islamic world, but here in the West.

Whilst Frank Gardner explores the theory behind political Islam, the story of the movement's development is told through those who have been inspired by the ideas. Dr Kemal Helbawy, a senior Muslim Brotherhood activist and a founder of the Muslim Association of Britain, talks to a mainstream British audience for the first time about the key role he played in setting up an international Islamist movement in Saudi Arabia, about his role in advising the mujahideen during the Afghan jihad of the 1980s and how he witnessed at close quarters the split between the mainstream Islamist movement and Osama bin Laden.

The story of political Islam in the UK is told by young British Muslims like journalist Ehsan Masood, campaigner Asghar Bukhari, Cosh Omar, a former member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Omar Faruk, a member of the Islamic Society of Britain. They describe how events like the war in Bosnia, The Satanic Verses affair and the Israel/Palestine situation have politicised British born Muslims.

Recommended Reading

Jason Burke, Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror
Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam
Anthony McRoy, Rushdie to 7/7: The Radicalisation of Islam in Britain (pub. The Social Affairs Unit, 2005)
Malise Ruthven, A Fury for God
Ziauddin Sardar, Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim

Presenter: Frank Gardner
Producers: Innes Bowen and Mukul Devichand
Editor: Nicola Meyrick




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