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Islamism is a concept whose meaning has been debated in both public and academic contexts. The term can refer to diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles, or more specifically to movements which call for full implementation of sharia. It is commonly used interchangeably with the terms political Islam or Islamic fundamentalism. In Western media usage the term tends to refer to groups who aim to establish a sharia-based Islamic state, often with implication of violent tactics and human rights violations, and has acquired connotations of political extremism.
Different currents of Islamist thought have advocated a "revolutionary" strategy of Islamizing society through exercise of state power or a "reformist" strategy of re-Islamizing society through grass-roots social and political activism. These movements have "arguably altered the Middle East more than any trend since the modern states gained independence", redefining "politics and even borders" according to Robin Wright.
Islamists may emphasize the implementation of Sharia (Islamic law);pan-Islamic political unity, including an Islamic state; or selective removal of non-Muslim, particularly Western military, economic, political, social, or cultural influences in the Muslim world that they believe to be incompatible with Islam.
Graham Fuller has argued for a broader notion of Islamism as a form of identity politics, involving "support for [Muslim] identity, authenticity, broader regionalism, revivalism, [and] revitalization of the community." Some authors hold the term "Islamic activism" to be synonymous and preferable to "Islamism", and Rached Ghannouchi writes that Islamists prefer to use the term "Islamic movement" themselves.
Central and prominent figures of modern Islamism include Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Abul Ala Maududi, and Ruhollah Khomeini. Some Islamist thinkers emphasize peaceful political processes, whereas Sayyid Qutb in particular called for violence, and his followers are generally considered Islamic extremists. However, Qutb, unlike modern extremists, denounced the killing of innocents. Following the Arab Spring, some Islamist currents became heavily involved in democratic politics, while others spawned "the most aggressive and ambitious Islamist militia" to date, ISIS.
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