One of the world's big three religions, Islam manifests in different ways in different corners of the globe. Some societies have secular governments while a sizable portion of the population are Muslim, while other countries are shaped around Islam and use tenets of the Quran in governing. And still some countries are experiencing power struggles between secular and Islamist figures or parties in the government. Here are some stories related to Islamism.
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To find the roots of this centuries-old tension, let's start with the basic regional points of contention. Iran is Persian; Saudi Arabia is Arab. Iran is Shiite Muslim; Saudi Arabia is Sunni Muslim. Geographically, the countries face each other across the critical transportation route of the Persian Gulf. The tensions reflect some regional fears, such as those expressed by Jordan's King Abdullah II in 2006, of Shiite influence spreading from Iran and Lebanon through Iraq (where sectarian tension has marked the period since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein) and Syria, into regions like Bahrain where Saudi Arabia helped the government tamp down on Shiite protests during the Arab Spring.
Blasphemy is addressed in Pakistan's penal code, and has been since British colonial laws in the mid 19th-century. The addition of capital punishment or life in prison as a penalty came under hardline Islamist dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq: "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles a sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), or any of the righteous caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) or companions (Sahaaba) of the Holy Prophet description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both."
The Twelver beliefs have raised concern in conjunction with Iran's steeped interest in furiously pressing forward with its nuclear program, combined with threats against Israel and the West. Critics of the Islamic Republic allege that Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader would even go so far as to hasten a nuclear showdown and cataclysmic strike -- perhaps an attack on Israel and inevitable retaliation -- to hasten the arrival of the 12th Imam. Ahmadinejad has even called for the reappearance of the 12th Imam from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly. During his speeches within Iran, Ahmadinejad has said that the main mission of the Islamic Revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam.
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In the wake of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lead a lifting of the ban on headscarves in universities -- and a charge by his party, the AKP, to ban booze in restaurants -- the 11-member Constitutional Court agreed at the end of March 2008 to hear the case charging that the AKP (Justice and Development party) is dragging Turkey away from secularism.
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Morsi's presidency is seen as a critical test for Egypt's future. Did the revolutionaries who filled Tahrir Square calling for democracy and a country free of tyranny trade autocratic Mubarak for a theocratic regime that would implement Sharia and squeeze out Egypt's Coptic Christians and secularists? Morsi has tried to allay some of these fears by promising to have a representative government and saying in his victory speech that he would honor all of Egypt's international treaties -- which includes a peace treaty with Israel.
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The Supreme Leader of Iran, career cleric and leader of Twelver Shiite Muslims. The last word on all dealings in the Islamic Republic, even the confirmation of an elected president, and an international mouthpiece for the Islamic Revolution as the second ayatollah to serve as the conservative figurehead since 1979.
On March 22, 2012, 23-year-old Algerian Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah was killed by police bullets after a 32-hour standoff at his home in Toulouse, France. Reportedly inspired by al-Qaeda, Merah had gone on a killing spree that took the lives of three Jewish children, a teacher and three soldiers. The murders only intensified the debate over extremism in French society, and about what role Islamism plays in the western European country.
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Much attention has been drawn to the plight of women in Saudi Arabia thanks to both social media campaigns waged in order to attain greater rights and by King Abdullah's efforts to buck the more conservative religious elements by incrementally allowing women more rights. But what is women's place in Saudi society as deemed by law and custom?
The Muslim Brotherhood was started in Egypt in 1928, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as an anti-colonial, transnational Sunni Islamist movement to integrate Islam into politics and governance. Thus, the group believes that the Quran and Sunnah should be the basis of government, and Islamic governments should strive toward the caliphate. This, according to its founders, is a conservative practice of Islam that segregates male and female students, cracks down on dress code, includes "the prohibition of dancing and other such pastimes," and prohibits women or Coptic Christians from being president of Egypt.