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The Islamist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine participate in the democratic and political process as well as armed attacks.
In contrast, Abid Ullah Jan, writes "If Islam is a way of life, how can we say that those who want to live by its principles in legal, social, political, economic, and political spheres of life are not Muslims, but Islamists and believe in Islamism, not [just] Islam." A writer for the International Crisis Group maintains that "the conception of 'political Islam'" is a creation of Americans to explain the Iranian Islamic Revolution and apolitical Islam was a historical fluke of the "short-lived era of the heyday of secular Arab nationalism between 19", and it is quietist/non-political Islam, not Islamism, that requires explanation.Another major division within Islamism is between what Graham E.Fuller has described as the fundamentalist "guardians of the tradition" (Salafis, such as those in the Wahhabi movement) and the "vanguard of change and Islamic reform" centered around the Muslim Brotherhood.The strength of Islamism draws from the strength of religiosity in general in the Muslim world.Compared to Western societies, "[w]hat is striking about the Islamic world is that ...The Council on American–Islamic Relations complained in 2013 that the Associated Press's definition of "Islamist"—a "supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam [and] who view the Quran as a political model"—had become a pejorative shorthand for "Muslims we don't like." The AP Stylebook entry for Islamist now reads as follows: "An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.
Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.
There was no need for any other term, until the rise of an ideological and political interpretation of Islam challenged scholars and commentators to come up with an alternative, to distinguish Islam as modern ideology from Islam as a faith...
To all intents and purposes, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism have become synonyms in contemporary American usage.
Another source distinguishes Islamist from Islamic "by the fact that the latter refers to a religion and culture in existence over a millennium, whereas the first is a political/religious phenomenon linked to the great events of the 20th century".
Islamists have, at least at times, defined themselves as "Islamiyyoun/Islamists" to differentiate themselves from "Muslimun/Muslims".
Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc.