In a recent essay for The Wall Street Journal on how to beat the Islamic State, Maajid Nawaz argues that Islam is a diverse religion but Islamism “is the desire to impose a single version of Islam on an entire society. Islamism is not Islam, but it is an offshoot of Islam. It is Muslim theocracy.” So too with jihad, which he says is a nuanced and multifaceted Muslim idea about struggle that’s been twisted by radicals into a doctrine “of using force to spread Islamism.”
Nawaz leaves it at that. He goes on to criticize President Obama and liberal commentators for oversimplifying the relationship between Islam and Islamism when they say the two have nothing in common. We shouldn’t refuse “to call this Islamist ideology by its proper name,” he writes, for fear that all Muslims will be blamed for the actions of a few.
That’s a great point, but it’s not enough just to call Islamism by its proper name. If Muslim theocracy is a distortion of Islam, Nawaz should explain why. But he doesn’t even try.