Sometimes the terms Islamism and political Islam seem to be used interchangeably and sometimes not.

I appreciate the fact that these concepts may not have a precise consensual definition just yet and journalists may erroneously use them synonymously. Have scholars or political scientists distinguished the two ideas or are they merely the same thing?

  • The answer wholly depends on who is using which term in what desired context. There are no single, uncontroversial, scientific definitions of either term.
    – user4012
    Jan 3, 2019 at 14:57
  • 4
    Since you are attempting to delineate between facets of Islam, wouldn't it be fair to qualify the other aspects outside of "Political Islam" you are referencing? Is this Religious Islam, Cultural Islam, Social Islam, Theological Islam, Familial Islam. etc.? This question would be infinitely enhanced if it called out examples of how journalists may use the terms in error. Or other examples to help define and clarify the goal of this question.
    – David S
    Jan 3, 2019 at 15:16
  • As a Muslim I'd say it is actually opinion-based: One may call a practicing Muslim "Muslim" while another person may call him/her an "Islamist" it depends on how people judge other people's looks and behaviour. Also note that Islam includes politics in its teachings even if the interpretation itself is rather opinion-based as different scholars and sects have a somewhat different interpretation
    – Medi1Saif
    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


The definition is very different from different sources. However, there is a difference according to some sources: according to Oxford, Islamism represents a form of Political Islam that relates to "Islamic militancy or fundamentalism." Meanwhile, Oxford Bibliographies calls political Islam "any interpretation of Islam as a source of political identity and action." Thus, political Islam can be any form of political ideology based around Islam, which can include Islamic democracy, Islamic socialism, and other political ideologies that aren't necessarily militaristic or fundamentalists. Again, some sources use the term interchangeably, but many in academia use one for extremist Islamic ideologies and the other to describe all Islamic political ideologies.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .