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Islam and Islamism may seem like interchangeable terms to many people, but knowing and understanding the difference between the two is important. Islam refers to the religion, whereas Islamism is more about the ideology. Many conventional Muslims therefore reject the term ‘Islamism’ as this is a political term that can be taken out of context of the basic tenets of the faith. Fiyaz Mughal believes everyone should know the difference between the two terms. Mughal founded the social enterprise Faith Matters as a platform for bringing people of all religious or non-religious beliefs together in cohesive communities. When individuals or groups are singled out for their beliefs, it can cause disharmony, and this is doubly true when people make assumptions based on incorrect terminology.

Separating Religion and Politics

As with any faith, the history of Islam has been shaped by the people, cultures and landscapes around it. Through adapting to entrenched local customs, Islam was able to spread throughout the Middle East and further. However, there is a difference between adapting in order to grow and imposing ideologies on unwilling or reluctant groups or individuals. Islamism occurs when certain groups of Muslims attempt to push their own interpretation of aspects of Islam onto others. Islamism demands the promotion of faith politicisation into structures of the State, taking religion away from the personal and into the public. The implementation of Sharia Law is one such example of how Islamism can aim to embed what should be a personal belief system into the law.

Controlling Ideology

Islamism takes the aspects of the Muslim religion that deal with politics, economics, law and the military and turns those aspects into a controlling ideology. The aim of Islamism is to impose these ideas on society, ultimately controlling the State and each individual human being. Islamism is territorial and disregards the individual’s right to adopt their own personal belief system or faith. In countries such as Iran and Afghanistan, Islamism is law and affects everyone. In the West, Islamists are more likely to be a minority than a controlling majority, but the repercussions are still felt by many. Many Muslim individuals living in the UK and other Western countries find it difficult to reconcile traditional Islamic values with the modern world. Views on issues such as gender equality are evolving, requiring Western Islamic leaders to adapt and evolve along with society.