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In the 19th century conflicts were wars between rival states. In the 20th century conflicts between states were driven by rival ideologies. Now, in this century, we are all, in every nation, being drawn into a conflict in which one ideology seeks to abolish states as we have long understood them, liberties as we have long enjoyed them and the idea of the individual on which our civilisation depends.


This ideology, while it threatens so much we hold dear, and has influenced so many to acts of violence across our world, is still, despite everything, remarkably poorly understood. This ideology animated the mass murderers of 9/11, inspired the Bali bombing, drove four men to kill 20 times their number in England in 2005, were behind the desecration of the Bamiyan Buddhas, attracted thousands from every nation to become born-again barbarians in the sands of Syria and binds together Hamas and Hezbollah, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the men who ran Birmingham Central Mosque. It is a clear and present danger to so much we hold dear. To counter it, we need to know its doctrines, its animating ideas, the organisations through which it works and the appeals it makes to potential recruits. But that understanding is neither as deep, or widespread, as it needs to be to meet the scale of the challenge. And until we develop that proper appreciation of the scale, and nature, of the threat we will not be able to mount the defence of civilisation that is so vital to the survival and spread of freedom.

The ideology that poses such dangers is Islamism. Not Islam. Islamism.

And it is vital, absolutely critical, that we maintain that distinction.

Islam is a great religion which provides spiritual nourishment and moral guidance to millions. Its essential doctrines — the importance it places on charity and self-discipline, reverence for life and joy in God’s creation — should inspire admiration in people of other faiths and none. Islamic civilisation kept alive classical learning during Europe’s Dark Ages and helped foster scientific and mathematical advances that spurred forward mankind’s progress. Islamic philosophers have provided ways of reflecting on man’s predicament which enrich our understanding of how societies grow and decay. And it should go without saying, but sadly does need to be repeated, that Muslim men and women across the world are inspired to teach, heal, create, lead, support, love and protect their fellow citizens by a love of all mankind.

Islam is one of the world’s youngest faiths, younger by seven centuries than Christianity and, of course, far younger still than Judaism or Hinduism. But it has also been one of the world’s most successful — the purity of its monotheism and the radicalism of its philosophy having proven attractive to many — especially those who have felt a sense of solidarity with the suffering.

Islamism has a very different history, pedigree and appeal.

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January 15th, 2017
6:01 PM
I don`t buy newspapers anymore but I`ll be buying the Times on Monday to read the Michael Gove interview with Donald Trump. Politics is becoming surprising since Brexit. Islam is actually the greatest atheism as well as a great blasphemy against Jesus. Having an adept of Islam read from the koran in a Glasgow cathedral is just dumb.

December 21st, 2016
10:12 PM
Mr Gove, it doesn't work. Your artificial distinctions are Jesuitical in extreme. The roots and seeds of Islamism are in Islam, and the fruits of it are violence, oppression, destruction, subjugation - after all "Islam" means "Submission". I refuse to submit. Call the spade a spade.

December 13th, 2016
7:12 PM
I watched the BBC Muslims Like Us last night. We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting (says Zizek). Isn`t the pro-Sharia,islamic state and superior so-called muslim character actually displaying his inferiority complex regarding western civilisation and our popular culture ? Is he a cartoon of the prophet? Is it Islam that`s actually Satanic ? Either that or he`s evil,egotistical and disgusting. Just like the BBC for giving him the oxygen of publicity. Broadcasting treason puts public security at severe risk. And the BBC `ponces` want paying to do it. No wonder 17.4 million voted for Brexit. So no BBC rushing to join the coalition to defeat Islamism ? A bloke goes into a muslim bookshop. He`s having a look around and the muslim assistant comes over and asks if he can help. The bloke says "Have you got the new Donald Trump book?" "Get out! Get out of here and never come back!" shouts the assistant. "Yes that`s the one," says the bloke, "How much is it?".

Ean Dorugh
November 25th, 2016
4:11 PM
I don't see how/why v intelligent and knowledgeable Gove has written this. I've lived amongst Muslim communities inc in M East and I agree with comments here (eg by Burdon, Saltzman) that most Muslims find it nearly impossible to denounce/disown Islamism, rather than only condemning its current murderous campaigns, because violence is condoned in the Quran - just as it is in the Bible. But most 'Christians' have never read large parts of the Bible and in any case they have been careful from the beginning to minimise/ignore bits that are inconvenient, even some that are stated to be the very words of God- from the 10 Cs. They won't even permit the law/State to punish those who grossly defame Jesus (Witehouse v Lennon 1977), unlike the violent protests and book-burning by ordinary UK Muslims over Rushdie, not to mention the fatwah encouraging his murder from one of the top and best educated Muslim 'clerics' and jurists. I would like all indoctrination of children (inc by their parents) in supernatural beliefs of all kinds to be banned. In a generation, we could hope to find mosques emptying like churches have.

Michael Martin
November 25th, 2016
12:11 PM
I spent several years teaching at university or similar in Iran and Saudi, the leaders of the two sects of Islam, and there is no way you could separate the universalist tyrannical beliefs of these countries, esp Saudi, with those of Islamists. And, as for 'God’s will was undermined', I have never been able to get, even 'ordinary', Muslims to accepy that it is stupid, irrational and oxymoronic (and, I would have thought, listening to Saudis, blasphemous) to defend some action of theirs on the basis that omnipotent and omniscient Allah seemed not able or willing to accomplish its aim.

Arnie Ward
November 24th, 2016
4:11 PM
I lived for many years in Cape Town which has a large Muslim population. I didn't experience Islam as being admirable. It was a revelation how aggressively separatist many Muslims became following the Khomeini revolution.

Observer of the Scene
November 21st, 2016
10:11 AM
The idea that mainstream Islam is an admirable, moderate religion is somewhat undermined by the behaviour of Muslims in Rotherham (and elsewhere), and by the imam-sanctioned corruption seen in Tower Hamlets (and elsewhere). None of all that was inspired by Islamism. But the idea that Islam and Islamism are distinct doesn't hold water either. Lots of Mohammed's behaviour was "extremist" and he, to orthodox mainstream Muslims, was the most admirable human being who has ever lived, a model for imitation at all times and in all places.

Chris Slater
November 20th, 2016
2:11 AM
“The ideology that poses such dangers is Islamism. Not Islam.” I used to think that until I though it through. In Islam, politics and religion are the same thing. There is a difference in process between Islam and Islamism but the agenda is the same – bringing the world into submission to the will of Allah. Islam’s major internal conflict is between modernism and the essentialist pietism of al-Ghazali. But it is unified on its inexorable agenda which is overtly driven by the Islamists and covertly driven by multiple causes. It is an existential threat for the West and a monumental error of cognition to assume that Islam is OK and just Islamism is the problem.

Alan Burdon
November 19th, 2016
9:11 AM
I wish it was that easy; that there is a clear separation between Islam and Islamism. Regrettably, Islam is the sea in which the Islamist sharks swim and hide themselves, and when push comes to shove Islam is not going to give up those of a more violent bent whose rationale is founded in the core tenets of the ideology that all Muslims follow. Until the bulk of Muslims reject much of what Mohammed uttered there will be no easy diminution of the threat to our society enthroned in Islamic doctrine; and that isn't going to happen. I am pleased that a mainstream politician is finally uttering sentiments that move us towards dealing with this existential threat, but I fear that he is whistling in the wind.

John Coelho
November 17th, 2016
3:11 AM
It's clear that some Muslims are with us. There is a moderate Islam predominant in the Balkans, the Kurdish regions, India and some real moderates exist through out the Islamic World, although--for most of it--a distinct minority. The Pew polls make this clear. The key factor is how much do Muslims buy into Islamic Law with its totalitarian hold over society and how much do they see religion as being a personal matter not to be enforced over others. The regressive left carries on with its hear no evil see no evil response to Islamist outrages, seeing no connection between the terror and Islam. Trump is likely to take a meat axe approach that will driver moderates away from us. An effective response to Islamism would have a yin aspect that draws susceptible Muslim elements closer to us and liberal democracy and a yang aspect that expels and drives out elements that have no intention to give up their caliphate agenda. This would require a change to our immigration laws so that immigrants are on probation for their entire lives. The tide of immigrants from the ME poses a serious threat to secular democracy. The correct refugee policy would put the most at risk religious minorities on the top order of priority. Muslims would be less and heavily monitored.The general stance of Western liberals should be to promote liberal reform in the Islamic World and give easy access to the victims of Islamism: atheists, free thinkers, women fleeing genital mutilation and forced marriages, Muslim heretics and apostates. As it stands, by buying Saudi and Qatari oil for many decades we have been funding terrorism and feudal reaction.

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