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Post-Islamism is a neologism in political science, the definition and applicability of which has led to an intellectual debate. Asef Bayat and Olivier Roy are among the main architects of the idea.
The term has been used by Bayat to refer to "a tendency" towards resecularizing of Islam after the "exhaustion" of political Islam; by Olivier Carré to refer to a premodern era of Islamic history where the political-military and religious realms were separated; by Olivier Roy to a recognition that after repeated efforts Islamists had failed to establish a "concrete and viable blueprint for society"; and by Mustafa Akyol to refer to a backlash against Islamism in countries like Turkey, Iran, and Sudan.
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.
Bayat explained it as "a condition where, following a phase of experimentation, the appeal, energy, symbols and sources of legitimacy of Islamism get exhausted, even among its once-ardent supporters. As such, post-Islamism is not anti-Islamic, but rather reflects a tendency to resecularize religion." It originally pertained only to Iran, where "post-Islamism is expressed in the idea of fusion between Islam (as a personalized faith) and individual freedom and choice; and post-Islamism is associated with the values of democracy and aspects of modernity". In this context, the prefix post- does not have historic connotation, but refers to the critical departure from Islamist discourse. Bayat later pointed in 2007 that post-Islamism is both a "condition" and a "project".
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".
"Postmodern Islamism" and "New Age Islamism" are other terms interchangeably used.
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".
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 less religiosity among young Muslims.
In Iran, the Reformists and the group known as the Melli-Mazhabi (who are ideologically close to the Freedom Movement) are described as post-Islamists.
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, however scholars rejected that they qualify as such. A similar characterization applies to the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
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. 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. However, some scholars such as Bassam Tibi dispute this. İhsan Yılmaz argues that the party's ideology after 2011 is different from that of between 2001 and 2011.
The idea has been used to describe the "ideological evolution" within the Ennahda of Tunisia.
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".
In Turkey, the "moderate Islamist" AKP (Justice and Development Party) government of President Tayyip Erdogan has been in power for nearly twenty years and worked assiduously to cultivate a new “pious generation.” Yet a report by a local branch Turkey’s Ministry of Education recently warned of a “spread of deism among the youth” even in state sponsored religious schools. (Akyol does not include Erdogan or his AKP party in any post-Islamist configuration.) Akyol quotes religious conservative (Temel Karamollaoglu) who broke with Erdogan government and warns of “an empire of fear, a dictatorship in Turkey by those who claim to represent religion,” which is “pushing people away from the religion.” Sociologist Mucahit Bilici describes Turkey having undergone an "organic secularization, entirely civic and happening not at the behest of, but in spite of, the state. It is the consequence of a local, indigenous enlightenment, a flowering of post-Islamist sentiment."
In Iran, Akyol quotes Nicolas Pelham saying that from all visible signs in the capital Tehran, the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution has not re-Islamized Iranian society as much as the de-Islamized it. Islamic laws to enforce hijab and forbid alcohol all but openly flouted.
In Sudan, following the 2019 Revolution toppling Islamist dictator Omar al-Bashir "security forces found over $350 million dollars in cash" in his residence alone. According to Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Islamism has come "to signify corruption, hypocrisy, cruelty and bad faith" in that country. "Sudan is perhaps the first genuinely anti-Islamist country in popular terms.”
Polls taken by Arab Barometer in six Arab countries — Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq and Libya — found “Arabs are losing faith in religious parties and leaders.” In 2018-19, in all six countries, fewer than 20% of those asked whether they trusted Islamist parties answered in the affirmative. That percentage had fallen (in all six countries) from when the same question was asked in 2012-14. Mosque attendance also declined more than 10 points on average, and the share of those Arabs describing themselves as “not religious” went from 8% in 2013 to 13% in 2018-19. In Syria, Sham al-Ali reports "Rising apostasy among Syrian youths".