An educated friend explained that to me when I was telling him about another that was trying to convince me to become a vegetarian. He holds true for politics, for causes, for religion (even Atheism), and for ideologies. It validates their beliefs, if they can convince others to take it up. Religion is the most obvious we think of when it comes to conversions, but politics & ideology is equally if not more dogmatic.
Islamism, is a political ideology that preys upon a religion, and attempts to convert the "believers" to it, before oppressing them with it. There are many types of islamists and they don't agree on how best to achieve their common goal: a worldwide Islamist Caliphate. In Current Affairs, we see the rise of islamism in previously democratic nations of the Middle East. But, our own political leaders are downplaying the dangers of islamism as they focus on the means rather than the goals, in many of these efforts.
The most obvious of islamists, and the ones that are condemned most widely, are terrorists. Al-Qaeda is the most known of these and the Taliban are their junior partners. Islamist Terrorists are willing to kill anyone in order to further their goals of Islamist Emirates in the Caliphate (Islamist Empire). Strangely, Western Politicians are now suggesting negotiations with the Taliban, despite their knowledge that the Taliban desire to oppress women, and their continued attacks on Afghan & Paki Citizens and Politicians.
Hezbollah has tentacles around the world, including cells inside the United States and violent elements in South America. They are perhaps the most organized and dangerous islamist terrorist organization in the world, politically astute enough to have abandoned their (admitted) previous attacks on Americans. Nevertheless, until 9/11, the terrorist with the most American blood on his hands was the now deceased leader of Hezbollah, Mugniyah. Hezbollah maintains an Army and a shadow government in Lebanon, as well as terrorist cells, criminal cells, political wing, and welfare program funded by Iran. Even the UN, after 30 years of peacekeeping in Lebanon, won't cross Hezbollah.
The Muslim Brotherhood espouses the end goal of a Worldwide Islamist Caliphate as well, but they are less supportive of violence to attain it, publicly. The MB does support the use of violence against Israel and against secular governments of Muslim countries, but their preferred MO is to use the political spectrum as their platform for implementing the Islamist Emirates and Islamist Caliphate. The MB has ties to Nazi Germany, in old alliances, in praise of their old ally, and in shared propaganda. Apologists for the MB say it is "political Islam" rather than calling it islamism. Meanwhile, Islamist Iran praised the Egyptian turmoil. That alone should cause pause to Western Leaders.
But when "journalists" of the NYTimes are calling for a US-Iranian alliance, why would the politicians that benefit from the rag's slant worry that they're cheering the same things as Islamist Iran is? Something paralled in so many aspects by 1979 Iran.
Islamism has been growing in Turkey, which is a secular democracy in the Islamic World. Iran and Turkey were opposites, with an ideological battle fought for influence inside the other. Islamism grew inside Turkey to the point that an Islamist Political Party runs Turkish Government. As it has grown, so has violence against women and suppression of the press. Even the judicial and military are weakening as a counter-balance to the rise of Islamism in Turkey.
The protests by the Persian People, against fraudulent elections in 2009 & 2011 in Iran are the results of decades of abuse by tyrants, as well as Persians seeing the Freedoms and Economic Successes of democracy to the North of their border. It contrasts sharply with a top 3 producer of both Oil and Natural Gas which often cannot heat the homes of its own citizens. (Iran)
And then there are less obvious organizations inside Western Democracies. These islamists are likely members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but since the MB membership is secret, they're not likely to admit it. It is more difficult for them to openly state their goals, as they are minorities in the target country. The mullahs that caused a stink and then sued when they were thrown off a flight a few years ago fall into this group. This group of islamists are using Western Ideals, such as the 1st Amendment, to advance their causes against the West.
Their favorite tool is legal action. The typical method is to cause an outrage, then feign outrage at the reaction to their outrage, then sue to force their dictates. The Ground Zero Mosque fits their standard, as does the Mullah Flight Lawsuit.
But there cannot be a conversion to islamism with a conversion to Islam. One cannot believe in the rightousness of an Islamist Caliphate if one has not converted first to the religion that supports it. In this vein, we see a rise in the number of "Islamic Centers" in the West and attempts to convert, particularly within the jail system. The Islamic Centers contain a mosque, but offer other services in order to bring in potential converts, like the Ground Zero Mosque.
Islamists in the West do not live by the same rules as Islamists in the Muslim World. Even Al-Qaeda manuals have pre-authorized agents of terror to live in the decadent style of the West. Major Hassan is an example of an islamist who partook in "sinful" activities, like being a regular at strip joints, while at the same time preaching islamism, communicating with al-Awlaki, and planning his terrorist attack on American Troops he was sworn to help. Islamists in the West are often ordered to do everything they can to "fit in," including dancing, drinking, and promiscuity.
While the connections between Islamism and Nazism are historical, the alliance between Communism and Islamism is not only historical (Cold War Middle East policies of the Soviet Union), but also current (Venezuela/North Korea/Iran is the most obvious). It is not ideological but a marriage of convenience and driven by a mutual desire for tyrannical dictatorship. But the least intuitive is the mutually supporting sloganeering of an apologist standard by the far left of western politics for islamist parties in the Middle East. That is very strange and something to be addressed in another article.