Religionism: A Better Term than Extremism

JihadI have for some time been advocating the new term RELIGIONISM to designate the ideology of groups such as Al-Qaeda and jihadist organizations. Largely based on the teachings of Osama bin Laden, religious extremism has been the glue connecting a wide array of violent jihadists worldwide. The ideology is frequently referred to as “extremism.”

It should be noted, however, that ‘extremism’ is not unique to Islam. Any religion can be the basis for extremism. It is for this any other reasons that I have been suggesting the term RELIGIONISM to designate what is called ‘extremism’ today. I believe ‘religionism’ is a better term, and I have several reasons for this suggestion:


  • ‘Extremism’ is too broad and too vague. It can refer to a tendency to adopt views that are far from what is usual or conventional, such as in politics. Thus, we have ‘extreme right’ and ‘extreme left’ in the political spectrum. Thus, the term ‘extremism’ does not convey the religious aspect of organizations such as Al-Qaeda. I suggest, then, ‘religionism’ as a better term.
  • The term ‘extremism’ can be applied to Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Militarism, and other isms. I contend, however, that the potency of the ideology taught by Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and others surpasses that of political ideologies for its religious content. Thus, the term ‘religionism’ is more appropriate.
  • ‘Extremism’ may also sound like an euphemism, as way to avoid mentioning the religious content of an extremist ideology. This religious content is, however, of the very essence of religious extremism and must not be expunged from its content. Thus, ‘religionism’ is a better term than ‘extremism.’
  • The term ‘religionism’ makes a clear distinction between ‘religion’ and the exploitation of religion as an extremist ideology, in other words, an -ism related to religion. Thus, the term ‘religionsim’ is appropriate.
  • The term ‘religionism’ brings out the fundamental justification for all sorts of violence, including the ultimate violence of death, on the basis of various types of holy books, such as the Koran or the Bible. Thus, ‘religionism’ is a better term.
  • It is true that extremist movements also have political ambitions, but their ultimate justification rests always on the basis of religion. Thus, the term ‘religionism’ is appropriate.

On further reflection, other reasons will surely surface for using the term ‘religionism’ instead of ‘extremism’ to designate the type of violent ideology taught by Osama bin Laden and other ideologues. Thus, I submit the term ‘religionism’ to designate all kinds of ideologies, all types of isms that one way or another find their justification and motivation on the basis of religion.


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