The word Islamism, which means Islam as a religion and a constitution for a state, is a fairly recent word in the Arabic language, because Islam began as religion and a constitution. Islam is not just a spiritual code of ethics, it is the law, and that’s what most Muslims in the Middle East and a big portion of Muslims in Europe (2) believe. Islam was divinely revealed to Muhammad in a cave, but it expanded under the guarding sword of a magnanimous army not via word of mouth, as the tradition dictated one thousand years ago. Needless to say, Islam is not a body that can enforce anything, Islam’s rule means men of god acting as demigods with the power to turn any citizen into a witch to be hunted and eliminated. Modern states should never have rulers endowed with divine authority.
Radical Islam, on the other hand, describes an unforgiving and fundamentalist or literal understanding of Islam, ranging from Saudi Arabia and Iran to ISIS, however, even the most moderate group of Muslims understands Islam is a state not just a set of beliefs and practices. Under the Islamic mantra, citizens from all over the world can be recruited to fight under Islam’s flag as it overrules allegiance to geographical countries.
The UAE, which is not an Islamist state by any means, every now and then surprises us with the prosecution of a man for a gay handshake and a couple for sexting.
When defending the peacefulness and modernity of Islam after a terror attack, the apologists often forget they are upholding their own interpretation of thousands of pages of ancient texts, some of which are very ambiguous like the Quran itself.
Apologists might tell you there are strict rules for engaging in jihad and Muslims must be transgressed upon first, ISIS argues the mere existence of the West and the morals and principles it stands for constitute war on Islam’s core beliefs. In fact, recent advances by the Iraqi army against ISIS were viewed negatively by Sunni Arabs because the fighting forces include large numbers of Shiites and Kurds, that’s how sensitive they are.
A modern state in a Muslim majority country will require a shift in perceiving what Islam is; transforming Islam from a state system to be imposed on citizens by men of god to a personal belief system is no easy task.