As I watched the news today, the group known variously as ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) or simply Islamic State takes up a good half of the news cast. Was the creation of an Islamic State inevitable? Islam and politics go hand in hand. Throughout the centuries, the Muslim faith has been a major part in Islamic politics. Since the time that the Prophet Muhammad was invited to Medina to arbitrate between feuding families in the town, Islam became the basis of local law and politics. As the laws of the west are influenced by Christian ideals, so too is the Middle East. Muhammad based the laws he gave the citizens of Medina came from the revelations of the Quran. He therefore became both the secular leader, as well as the spiritual leader of the community.
Firstly, in Iran, in 1979 the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini took over the political scene in Iran. Using audio cassettes, the Ayatollah, a Twelver Shia, preached an ultra-conservative version of Islamic philosophy that inspired university students to riot and take hostages at the United States Embassy. With the Shah in exile, the Ayatollah took political power. Although Iran still has a president, according to its 1979 constitution, still answers to the Supreme Leader, who at this time is Ali Khamenei. In the case of Iran, fundamentalist Islamic leaders tend to have more influence on the community than the secular government, thus creating a nation under political Islam.
Secondly, although the group Hezbollah is not the ruling power in Lebanon is the largest political party in Lebanon. Starting as a revolutionary Islamic group, then, throughout time, Hezbollah became more political. Hezbollah is the main defender of Lebanon during the Israeli wars. Hezbollah’s military arm has equal or more power than the Lebanese Army. The government, while at odds with Hezbollah uses the group, as its country’s pit-bull in defense from attacks from Israel.
Finally, political Islam takes form in Palestine where Hamas governs the area as the Palestinian Authority before them with an Islamist bias. The goal of Hamas is politics based on the Muslim religion in establishing a Palestinian state, which is now Israel. The leaders of Hamas use Muslim ideology to further their cause politically in working to win support of other Islamic nations.
Modernization in the Middle East has shown to be difficult and unlike the Western world, religion still plays an import part in their lives. While attempts to secularize life in the Middle East, including government, leaders, and thinkers have attempted various forms of Western Ideologies to no avail. The further, a country works to modernize, Islam reemerges to settle in deeper. For instance, in Turkey, in the early part of last century, Atatürk’s reformations slowly gave way as Islamic clerics gained power. In Iran, after many years of the Shah’s modernization policies, the country’s youth revolted looking for a return of a hard line fundamentalist Islamic cleric. The Ayatollah’s return marked a new era of Islamic politics. When the current political situations seem less than favorable, returns to the good old days of releasing your responsibility for your choices by letting religion dictate your life.