Post-Islamism is a neologism in political science, the definition and applicability of which is disputed. Asef Bayat and Olivier Roy are among the main architects of the idea.[1]

The term has been used by Bayat to refer to "a tendency" towards resecularizing of Islam after the "exhaustion" of political Islam;[2] by Olivier Carré to refer to an era of Islamic history (following the decline of the Abbasids but before modernity) where the political-military and religious realms were separated;[1] by Olivier Roy to a recognition that after repeated efforts Islamists had failed to establish a "concrete and viable blueprint for society";[3] and by Mustafa Akyol to refer to a backlash against Islamism in countries like Turkey, Iran, and Sudan.[4]

Terminology and definition

The term was coined by Iranian political sociologist Asef Bayat, then associate professor of sociology at The American University in Cairo in a 1996 essay published in the journal Middle East Critique.[5][6] Bayat used it to refer "to the pragmatist orientation of Iran’s leadership after the death of Khomeini".[7]

Bayat describes it as "a condition where, following a phase of experimentation, the appeal, energy, symbols and sources of legitimacy of Islamism" becomes "exhausted, even among its once-ardent supporters", and a "fusion between Islam (as a personalized faith) and individual freedom and choice; ... with the values of democracy and aspects of modernity" emerges in its stead. As such, "post-Islamism is not anti-Islamic, but rather reflects a tendency to resecularize religion." It originally pertained only to Iran.[2] In this context, the prefix post- does not have historic connotation, but refers to the critical departure from Islamist discourse.[8] A decade later in 2007 Bayat described post-Islamism as both a "condition" and a "project".[1]

French politician Olivier Carré used the term in 1991 from a different perspective, to describe the period between the 10th and the 19th centuries, when both Shiite and Sunni Islam "separated the political-military from the religious realm, both theoretically and in practice".[1]

Olivier Roy argued in Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah in 2004 that "Islamists around the world" had been unable "to translate their ideology into a concrete and viable blueprint for society", leading "Muslim discourse" to enter "a new phase of post-Islamism".[3]

Peter Mandaville describes a evolution away from the "political Islam of the sort represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and the broader Ikhwani tradition" which failed to gain mass public support and "found it progressively more difficult to offer up distinctively 'Islamic' solutions to basic problems of governance and economy", and towards "a parallel retreat of religiosity into the private domain" and "the rise of Islamic hip hop, urban dress, and other popular culture forms as new spaces of resistance and activist expression", "working through platforms and network hubs rather than through formal, hierarchical social and political organizations".[7]

Mustafa Akyol (of the libertarian think tank Cato Institute) writing in 2020, postulates not just a "tendency to resecularize" or a moderation/mellowing/tiring of Islamism, but a strong reaction by many Muslims against political Islam, including a weakening of religious faith — the very thing Islamism was intended to strengthen. The backlash has arisen especially in places where Islamists have been in power (Turkey, Iran, Sudan), and extends to a decline in religiosity among young Muslims.[4]

According to Salwa Ismail, the terms "Postmodern Islamism" and "New Age Islamism" are used interchangeably.[9]


In Iran, the Reformist movement[10][11] and the group known as the Melli-Mazhabi (who are ideologically close to the Freedom Movement)[12] have been described as post-Islamist.

The advent of moderate parties Al-Wasat Party in Egypt, as well as Justice and Development Party in Morocco appeared to resemble emergence of post-Islamism, although scholars disputed this.[13][14] A similar characterization applies to the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).[15]

A 2008 Lowy Institute for International Policy paper suggests that Prosperous Justice Party of Indonesia and Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey are post-Islamist.[16] According to Ahmet T. Kuru and Alfred Stepan (2012), many analysts consider Turkish AKP an example of post-Islamism, similar to Christian democratic parties, but Islamic.[17] However, some scholars such as Bassam Tibi dispute this.[18] İhsan Yılmaz argues that the party's ideology after 2011 is different from that of between 2001 and 2011.[19] Post-Islamism has also been used to describe the "ideological evolution" within the Ennahda of Tunisia.[20]

Further information: Criticism of Islamism § Failure of results

Writing in 2020, Mustafa Akyol suggests a backlash against Islamism among Muslim youth has come from all the "terrible things" that have happened in the Arab world recently "in the name of Islam" – such as the "sectarian civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen".[4]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Gómez García 2012.
  2. ^ a b Bayat 1996, p. 45.
  3. ^ a b Sinanovic, Ermin (2005). "[Book review] Post-Islamism: The Failure of Islamic Activism?". International Studies Review. 7: 433–436. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2486.2005.00508.x. JSTOR 3699758. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Akyol, Mustafa (12 June 2020). "How Islamists are Ruining Islam". Hudson Institute. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  5. ^ Mojahedi 2016, p. 52.
  6. ^ Badamchi 2017, p. 1.
  7. ^ a b Mandaville 2014, p. 1.
  8. ^ Badamchi 2017, p. 4.
  9. ^ Ismail 2008, p. 626.
  10. ^ Fazeli 2006, p. 169.
  11. ^ Badamchi 2017, p. 3.
  12. ^ Shahibzadeh 2016, p. 103.
  13. ^ Stacher 2002, p. 432.
  14. ^ Lauzi`ere 2005, p. 242.
  15. ^ Muller 2013.
  16. ^ Bubalo, Fealy & Mason 2002, p. 51, 76.
  17. ^ Kuru & Stepan 2012, p. 172.
  18. ^ Hale & Ozbudun 2009, p. 148.
  19. ^ Yılmaz 2016, p. 115.
  20. ^ Cavatorta & Merone 2015.