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Islamic extremism is any form of Islam that opposes "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs". Related terms include "Islamist extremism" and Islamism. Some people oppose the use of the term, fearing it could "de-legitimize" the Islamic faith in general. Some have criticized political rhetoric that associates non-violent Islamism (political Islam) with terrorism under the rubric of "extremism".
The UK High Courts have ruled in two cases on Islamic extremism, and provided definition.
Aside from those, two major definitions have been offered for Islamic extremism, sometimes using overlapping but also distinct aspects of extreme interpretations and pursuits of Islamic ideology:
There are two UK High Court cases that explicitly address the issue of Islamic extremism.
The judge refers to several grounds: section 20 of the 2006 Act; the definition of "terrorism" in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the decision of the Supreme Court in R v Gul.
Begg, a prominent Muslim public figure and Imam at Lewisham Islamic Centre since 1998 lost his 2016 court case of Libel against the BBC. This case is noteworthy because the judge lists a 10-point definition of Islamic extremism that he used to determine the case:
Extremist Islamic positions
118. In my view, the following constitute "extremist" Islamic positions (or indicia thereof).
- First, a 'Manichean' view of the world. A total, eternal 'Manichean' worldview is a central tenet of violent Islamic extremism. It divides the world strictly into 'Us' versus 'Them': those who are blessed or saved (i.e. the "right kind" of Muslim) on the one hand and those who are to be damned for eternity (i.e. the "wrong kind" of Muslim and everyone else) on the other. For violent Islamic extremists, the "wrong kind" of Muslim includes moderate Sunni Muslims, all Shia Muslims, and many others who are "mete for the sword" and can be killed, and anyone who associates or collaborates" with them...
- Second, the reduction of jihad (striving in God's cause) to qital (armed combat) ('the Lesser Jihad')...
- Third, the ignoring or flouting of the conditions for the declaration of armed jihad (qital), i.e. the established Islamic doctrinal conditions for the declaration of armed combat (qital) set out above...
- Fourth, the ignoring or flouting of the strict regulations governing the conduct of armed jihad, i.e. the stipulations in the Qur'an and the Sunna for the ethics of conducting qital set out above. Thus, the use of excessive violence, attacks on civilians, indiscriminate 'suicide' violence and the torture or the murder of prisoners would constitute violation of these regulations of jihad...
- Fifth, advocating armed fighting in defence of Islam (qital) as a universal individual religious obligation (fard al 'ayn)...
- Sixth, any interpretation of Shari'a (i.e. religious law laid down by the Qur'an and the Sunna) that required breaking the 'law of the land'...
- Seventh, the classification of all non-Muslims as unbelievers (kuffar)...
- Eighth, the extreme Salafist Islamism doctrine that the precepts of the Muslim faith negate and supersede all other natural ties, such as those of family, kinship and nation...
- Ninth, the citing with approval the fatwa (legal opinions) of Islamic scholars who espouse extremist view...
- Tenth, any teaching which, expressly or implicitly, encourages Muslims to engage in, or support, terrorism or violence in the name of Allah.
According to some contemporary Muslim commentators, extremism within Islam goes back to the 7th century to the Kharijites. From their essentially political position, they developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to Takfir, whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death.
Some of the proponents of Islam emphasise peaceful political processes, whereas Sayyid Qutb in particular called for violence, and those followers are generally considered Islamic extremists and their stated goal is Islamic revolution with the intent to force implementation of Sharia law and/or an Islamic State Caliphate.
There are over 120 such groups active today. Below is a list of major groups active.
|Group Name||Banner||Home Base||Leaders||Strength||Casualties||Ideology|
|Al-Qaeda||Afghanistan/Pakistan Region||Abdallah Azzam (founder)
Osama bin Laden (1989–2011)
Ayman al-Zawahiri (present)
|300–3,000||4,400 casualties ||To restore Islam and establish "true Islamic states", implement Sharia law, and rid the Muslim world of any non-Muslim influences and other teachings of Islamic author Sayyid Qutb. The title translates to "Organization of the Base of Jihad".|
|al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb||Kabylie Mountains, Algeria||Abdelmalek Droukdel||800–1,000+||200+||AQIM is an Islamist militant organization which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state.|
a.k.a. al-Qaeda West Africa
|Mali, Niger, Libya||Mokhtar Belmokhtar||Under 100 (French claim)||Killed 27 in the 2015 Bamako hotel attack.||Affiliated branch of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb listed above.|
|Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen
a.k.a. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
|Yemen||Nasir al-Wuhayshi † (2011–15)
Qasim al-Raymi (2015 – present)
|2000+||Over 250 killed in the 2012 Sana'a bombing and 2013 Sana'a attack.||AQAP is considered the most active of al-Qaeda's branches, or "franchises," that emerged due to weakening central leadership. The U.S government believes AQAP to be the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch due to its emphasis on attacking the far enemy and its reputation for plotting attacks on overseas targets.|
|al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent||India, Pakistan, Bangladesh||Asim Umar||300||Claims 6 killed in assassinations. Naval frigate hijacking attempted in 2014.||AQIS is an Islamist militant organization which aims to fight the Governments of Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh in order to establish an Islamic state.|
|Boko Haram – West Africa Province of the Islamic State Caliphate||Northeastern Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon.||Mohammed Yusuf † (founder)
Abubakar Shekau (current leader)
|Estimates range between 500 and 9,000||Since 2009, it has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million||Title means "Western Education is Sin", founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect and influenced by the Wahhabi movement, advocating a strict form of Sharia law.|
(acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement)
a.k.a. Muslim Brotherhood of Palestine
|Gaza Strip||Khaled Meshaal||16,000+||Since 1988 numerous rocket attacks and suicide bombers targeting Israel||Founded as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Its 1988 founding charter, steeped in Islamic rhetoric, calls for jihad to take all of historical Palestine, resulting in the destruction of Israel.|
a.k.a. The Party of Allah
|Lebanon||Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah||1,000+||Since 1982 numerous rocket attacks and suicide bombers targeting Israel||Shi'a Islamist militant group with Jihadic paramilitary wing. Hezbollah was largely formed with the aid of the Ayatolla Khomeini's followers in the early 1980s in order to spread Islamic revolution.|
|Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Commonly known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh)||Syria||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi||15,000–20,000 inside Iraq and Syria||30,000+ killed including Shia Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, other minorities in the Middle East and many others around the world by ISIL or groups associated or inspired by ISIL. Includes Boko Haram||Salafi jihadist militant group that follows a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. Originated as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Gained large swathes of territory in Iraq in 2014 and is currently at war with Iraq, Syria and a coalition of 60 other countries including the United States, United Kingdom and France.|
|Jemaah Islamiyah||Southeast Asia:
||Abu Bakar Bashir||5,000 ||Over 250 killed in bombings throughout Indonesia since 2002||With a name meaning "Islamic Congregation", (frequently abbreviated JI), is a Southeast Asian militant Islamist terrorist group dedicated to the establishment of a Daulah Islamiyah (regional Islamic caliphate) in Southeast Asia.|
a.k.a. Pakistani Taliban
|Northwest Pakistan||Maulana Fazlullah||25,000||hundreds||TTP is an umbrella organization of various Islamist militant groups protecting foreign terrorists hiding in the mountains of Pakistan. (Not to be confused with Afghani Taliban.)|
|Jaish-e-Mohammed||Kashmir||Masood Azhar||Aim is to annex Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan. operates primarily in Jammu and Kashmir State.|
|Kashmir||Hafiz Saeed||Aim is to annex Jammu and Kashmir State to Pakistan and, ultimately, install Islamic rule throughout South Asia. Operational throughout India, especially in the north in Jammu and Kashmir State, since at least 1993.|