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What factors led to the rise of political parties in the United States?

What factors led to the rise of political parties in the United States?


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I know that at the time the Constitution was drafted partisan political parties did not exist, not in the way that we conceive of them today, and George Washington did not have a political party. However, John Adams was a member of the Federalist Party, and the Federalists were the first political party in the US. What factors led to other political parties taking shape in the US?


The Federalists and Anti-Federalists started around the Constitutional Ratification, during the adoption fight but eventually grew under Hamilton to the political party that they became during the first few presidential administrations. Afterwards you had like-minded groups grow because the only way to get elected, or names on the ballots because of the way the political system was structured was through parties. Remember initially there was no direct vote, you elected your State Representatives and Senators were elected by State Legislatures so to get a sizable block you needed to get a sizable number of like-minded people into State government and the House of Representatives.

Since that time there have been the Democratic and Republican parties that we have come to know today, as well as others that rose out of the times. Others rose and feel depending on feelings on political power, such as Andrew Jackson and what became the Democrats where he favored the Executive branch while Henry Clay and the Whigs favored the Legislative. This was a time of political friction, and it is during times like these when partisan politics become intense (like the past few years in the US with the rise of the Tea Party) when new groups form.

A couple of short overviews can be found here:


Both the US and British legislative bodies underwent transformations in the last half of the 18th and first half of the 19th century, and it is useful to study them together. At the beginning of the period, neither had "political parties" as we understand them. They evolved political parties as a way of forcing a diversity of viewpoints into actionable legislation, of dealing with issues, and most importantly of securing and maintaining a hold on power long enough to carry out a legislative program.

Each of the other answers has supplied the core facts; I quibble with the emphasis given in various places, but I agree with the other respondents. The fascinating aspect of the question is that both the US and British systems, operating independently, evolved similar structures despite the fact that both systems claimed to vehemently oppose those structures.

A couple of other notes. First, the founding fathers not only opposed parties, they opposed campaigns. Candidates were supposed to be "disinterested"; their supporters could advocate on their behalf, but public service was an obligation suffered honorably, not something to be sought. That meant that political activity in the sense of modern political parties was shameful and effectively disqualified the candidate from office. Obviously that ethical position was eroded and destroyed by the forces that create political parties.

I think the second fascinating trend was appointments/patronage/placement. One of the primary reasons for the revolution was the British system of "placemen" that failed to either effectively include/coopt Americans or exclude/disenfranchise Americans (depending on your point of view). The first couple of administrations tried strenuously to avoid creating this system. One of the Presidents (I believe it was John Quincy Adams, but I will welcome corrections from H:SE) inherited an administration full of his political opponents, but refused to dismiss them and appoint replacements who would work with him. He did not want the reputation of someone who would appoint his political friends. Again, this ethical position was eroded away by the forces of political parties. (One of my revelations while watching the movie Lincoln was the direct line between British placemen and the "shady dealings" of Mr. Bilbo and his ilk.)

I haven't studied it in depth, but the dominant individual seems to have been Martin Van Buren, who created the first recognizeable political machine. He was backed by a political party and allocated patronage jobs to members of the party. Note that there was a key difference; the British placemen received their positions in return for loyalty to the crown; Van Buren's political machine offered patronage in exchange for loyalty to the party. That meant that anyone could elect to be a member of the party, work for the party's benefit, and receive patronage. That's a big part of the power and the justification of the American political machine.

I've cited Gordon Wood's Radicalism of the American Revolution; the last third of that book has a fairly decent (albeit unfocused) history of the rise of the American political party. Reaching back into my memory I believe my other favorite source on this topic was "Adams vs Jefferson: the tumultous election of 1800".


Jefferson and Adams' policy debates over Revolutionary War debts and relations with France and Great Britain became very public and personal throughout Washington's presidency and into the Presidential election of 1796. Their surrogates circulated vicious personal attacks during Adams' Presidency, while Jefferson served as Vice President. Their followings became more and more divided as precedent was being established for America's stance on issues including naval, fiscal, and diplomatic policy. The conflict came to a head during the debates of the Alien and Sedition Acts. The the election of 1800 was decided by congress, which Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton manipulated, and sharply defined party lines, creating a victory for Vice President Jefferson over President Adams. The 12th Amendment regarding the election of Vice Presidents then precipitated the need for more organized national campaigns.


What led to the rise to political parties was the fact that Hamilton and Jefferson had conflicting views. Also the fact that Washington favored Hamilton's ideas which made Jefferson very mad because he wanted to have his ideas favored also. Last but not least the two parties fought over governmental issues also played a part in the rise of political parties.


It boils down to simple mathematics. The US electoral system is mostly based on a winner-takes-all approach (BTW, that's mostly not written into the Constitution, but rather evolved ad-hoc, for similar mathematical reasons).

In a winner-takes-all system, only the two biggest vote-getters will ever have meaningful influence, so it is natural for a dualism to evolve.

The other factor is that in politics, nothing can be accomplished by yourself, only by teaming up into some form of coalition and alliances. For the most part, long term coalitions and alliances are far more valuable to all participants (because they allow calling in favors far in the future). Take that together with the natural dualism inherent in the electoral system, and you have the making for a very stable two-party system.

Interestingly, the same mechanism is also driving another aspect: diversity within each party. Many European democracies don't use a winner-takes-all system, and as a result have more parties participate in the democratic process. The price for it, though, is that parties are far more homogeneous internally than US parties, to the point that party leaders can enforce party-line votes by controlling who will even be on the ballots.


Political parties exist in every country that has elections. America has elections, and there is nothing special about America.

The question that you should ask is why does a representative system always lead to political parties? A few dictatorships don't have them, but there is no election-based country that has no parties, even if the country is not fully democratic.


Reasons for the Rise of Political Parties in The US.

"One side appears to believe that there is a serious plot to overturn the State governments, and substitute a monarchy to the present republican system, the other side firmly believes that there is a serious plot to overturn the general government and elevate the separate powers of the States upon its ruins." (Out of Many, 203) Simple suspicion and a clash of political ideology led to the first division within a united party. This party was originally united under one common cause- the freedom of a new and growing nation. However, as the nation began to spread its wings, conflicts arose and two parties formed from one. This dichotomy was inevitable because of the contradicting ideologies each founding "brother" fought to uphold. Each had a different idea, each had a different vision, and each sought to make his vision a reality. Although the seeds of discontent were sown early on, they began to sprout during the process of the ratification of the constitution.

The seeds began to grow as issues after issues came and fertilized the growing plant of division. Eventually, the plant had grown so large a dichotomy formed between the two groups originally divided between opinions about the creation of a government.

The issue that had always divided the nation was the creation of a large, omnipotent executive government opposed to a government, where local governments would reign supreme. Jeffersonians, later known as the Democratic Republicans, favored an agrarian society, where the yeoman farmer would have his voice heard, and a central government would not be in existence. Hamiltonians or Federalists, believed in a strong, central government to control the masses and avoid a feared "mobocracy." The leaders of these two opposing factions were none other than the infamous Alexander Hamilton and the notorious Thomas Jefferson- two men.

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What factors led to the rise of political parties in the United States? - History

Presented during the 20th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 20, 2018 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Organized factions were something that did not arise with the creation of the United States. Rather, they slowly emerged during George Washington’s presidency. Initially, the Founding Fathers were highly resistant to the idea. There was resistance to political parties partly because of their association with the perceived dysfunctionality of England, and also because major influential thinkers like John Trenchard or David Hume were strongly against them. Soon, however, conflicts began to emerge. These stemmed from the conflicting views the Founding Fathers had on human nature. While Hamilton and Adams were both highly dubious about the trustworthiness of the common people, Madison and Jefferson believed they could prove worthy and should be respected. Conflicts on the economy, how to handle Revolutionary France, and negotiations with England all grew from this fundamental opposition. Ultimately, these conflicts led to a fracturing and by the time Washington had left office, political factions were poised to consume the nation.


What Led to the Rise of Political Parties in the 1790s

There are a few different reasons for the rise of political parties in the 1790’s, but the main reason is people had different views. There were many disagreements on the way that things should be interpreted from the constitution. There were two different parties, the Federalist and the Democratic Republicans. Despite their different views of the government and the economy, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were two great leaders in United States history.
Throughout their political lives, they never stopped debating and representing what they believed in. People disagreeing with the government and the government’s different views on issues led to the rise of political parties in the 1790’s. Thomas Jefferson spoke out in the early 90’s with a strict interpretation of the Constitution and his views on the bank. It is clear that powers are delegated based on the Constitution and accepting those limits is the foundation of the United States. He believes the bank is not favored by the Constitution.
Jefferson obviously had different opinions than Alexander Hamilton. In 1790, Jefferson wrote, “… Hamilton was not only a monarchist, but in support of a monarchy based upon corruption” (Document 1). Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, has a more loose interpretation of the Constitution. He basically believes that proof is needed that the government is sovereign because, he said, “the power which can create a supreme law of the land, in any case, it doubtless sovereign as such case”.

He believes that all laws made in the United States under the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land. Hamilton also accepts the growing tension. “Mr. Jefferson is at the head of a faction, decidedly hostile to me and my administration… Mr. Jefferson displays his dislike of funding the debt… Jefferson and his supporters are unsound and dangerous… ” (Document 2).
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The Rise of Political Parties

Political Parties Today

In 2008, the United States witnessed the election of its first African-American president, Barack Obama – a Democrat. His opponent in that election was John McCain – a Republican. Americans who voted for Obama most likely considered themselves to be Democrats and were happy with the results of the election while those that voted for McCain most likely considered themselves Republicans and were unhappy with the results. The mere fact that we have political parties indicates that the citizens of the United States do not all agree about how to handle the issues that affect us. As a result, every time there is an election, citizens supporting the winning political party will be happy and citizens supporting the losing political party will be upset. Why is this the case? The answer lies in three constitutional principles – Representative Democracy, Majority Rule, and Federalism.

Representative Democracy – A system in which government decisions that affect an entire group of people are exercised by elected representatives.

Majority Rule – A pattern of decision making where decisions are made by vote and a decision requires the support of more than half of those voting. The decisions then affect the entire group of people whether they supported the decision or not.

Federalism – A political system in which a national or federal government shares powers with state governments. Each level of government has definite powers and may make, execute, and interpret laws for individuals within its jurisdiction (national government – all citizens of the country, state government – only citizens within that state). In the United States, some powers are given to the federal government, some are given to the state governments, and some powers are shared.

Class Discussion: In what ways do these constitutional principles create division in our country following an election?

The Rise of Political Parties

Shortly after the creation of the Constitution, differences began to develop over the direction that rival groups believed that the new country should go. These rival groups quickly solidified into rival political parties or organizations of people that supported specific social, economic, and political goals for the country – the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson. Select the link below to read quotes by Hamilton and Jefferson in order to determine what the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans believed about government. Specifically, look for their opinions on who should be in control of the government in the United States and how much power the government should have. Use the Venn Diagram tool to illustrate the similarities and differences between the two philosophies of government power and authority. Print your diagram when finished.


Class Discussion: What were the similarities and differences between Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s philosophies of government?

Journal: Based on your analysis of the text and the class discussions, respond to the following in a comment that you post below:

1. Which political party would you have most likely supported? Why?

2. Make a text-to-self connection. (A connection between the text and something in your own life experience)

  • What do these quotes remind you of?
  • Can you relate to the anything in these quotes?
  • Does anything in these quotes remind you of anything in your own life?

3. Make a text-to-text connection. (A connection between the text and other things that you have read)

  • What does this remind you of in another book you have read?
  • How is this text similar to other things you have read?
  • How is this text different from other things you have read?

4. Make a text-to-world connection. (A connection between the text and something that is happening in the world today)


Domestic conflict

In the summer of 1798, Federalists were not content to merely purge dissent from the army they wanted it removed from the nation. Capitalizing on war fever, the Federalist Congress passed a series of four laws, known as the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were intended to crush the Democratic-Republican political opposition. Three dealt with aliens—immigrants who had yet to become naturalized American citizens and who overwhelmingly voted Democratic-Republican. The Act Concerning Aliens and the Alien Enemies Act established a registration and surveillance system for foreign nationals and allowed President Adams to arrest and deport aliens who might endanger the nation's security. The Naturalization Act increased the period of residence required to become a citizen, and thus to vote, from five to fourteen years.

The Sedition Act stifled the possibility and practice of opposition politics by prohibiting "scandalous and malicious" writing or speaking against the United States government, the president, or either house of Congress. Under a fiercely partisan application of the act, Federalist judges indicted fourteen Democratic-Republican editors and convicted and imprisoned ten of them. In an era when newspapers and their editors connected political leaders to their popular base, this constituted a major attack on the viability of the Democratic-Republican Party.

Democratic-Republicans looked to the states themselves to protect basic rights. Madison and Jefferson authored the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which held that the states could declare null and void new federal laws they believed to be unconstitutional. Southerners would use similar arguments in the nineteenth century to defend secession. In 1798, Democratic-Republicans went so far as to suggest that Virginia prepare to defend itself militarily against the Federalist-controlled federal government's enforcement of the Alien and Sedition laws.

Some extreme Federalists were ready for a fight, but President Adams disappointed them, refusing to press war against Virginia or France. He reopened negotiations with France in 1799. Although the negotiations were initially deadlocked, in the final Convention of 1800 France agreed to allow the United States to break the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 in exchange for dropping $20 million in claims for France's seizures of American shipping. With the success of the negotiations, the Federalist program from the summer of 1798 began to collapse, mired by infighting between the moderate Adams and Hamilton's more extreme wing of the party. Adams dismantled Hamilton's army, the Alien and Sedition Acts began to expire and were not renewed, and Democratic-Republicans fared well in the national election of 1800.

The turmoil surrounding the Quasi-War has had long-lasting repercussions on American political life. The Quasi-War marked the high point of the decade-long conflict over foreign policy that solidified the first national party system. In that era of extreme political polarization, partisans on both sides denied the opposition's legitimacy, believing that their party alone could protect America's republican experiment. In an ironic encore to the Federalists' attempt to destroy the French-sympathizing Democratic-Republicans during the Quasi-War, the Federalists themselves were eliminated as a political force because of their support for England during the War of 1812. In spite of, or perhaps because of, these political battles to the death, the first parties democratized American politics by using print culture and public gatherings to connect ordinary citizens to leaders in the government. Most fundamentally, the Quasi-War introduced the nation to the difficulty of protecting civil liberties and open political debate during wartime. These issues would continue to challenge America in times of national emergency into the twenty-first century.


Theodore Roosevelt

With the assassination of President William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the 26th and youngest President in the Nation’s history (1901-1909). He brought new excitement and power to the office, vigorously leading Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.

With the assassination of President McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation’s history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.

He took the view that the President as a “steward of the people” should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution.” I did not usurp power,” he wrote, “but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.”

Roosevelt’s youth differed sharply from that of the log cabin Presidents. He was born in New York City in 1858 into a wealthy family, but he too struggled–against ill health–and in his triumph became an advocate of the strenuous life.

In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother died on the same day. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. There he mastered his sorrow as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game–he even captured an outlaw. On a visit to London, he married Edith Carow in December 1886.

During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, which he led on a charge at the battle of San Juan. He was one of the most conspicuous heroes of the war.

Boss Tom Platt, needing a hero to draw attention away from scandals in New York State, accepted Roosevelt as the Republican candidate for Governor in 1898. Roosevelt won and served with distinction.

As President, Roosevelt held the ideal that the Government should be the great arbiter of the conflicting economic forces in the Nation, especially between capital and labor, guaranteeing justice to each and dispensing favors to none.

Roosevelt emerged spectacularly as a “trust buster” by forcing the dissolution of a great railroad combination in the Northwest. Other antitrust suits under the Sherman Act followed.

Roosevelt steered the United States more actively into world politics. He liked to quote a favorite proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick. . . . ”

Aware of the strategic need for a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, Roosevelt ensured the construction of the Panama Canal. His corollary to the Monroe Doctrine prevented the establishment of foreign bases in the Caribbean and arrogated the sole right of intervention in Latin America to the United States.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War, reached a Gentleman’s Agreement on immigration with Japan, and sent the Great White Fleet on a goodwill tour of the world.

Some of Theodore Roosevelt’s most effective achievements were in conservation. He added enormously to the national forests in the West, reserved lands for public use, and fostered great irrigation projects.

He crusaded endlessly on matters big and small, exciting audiences with his high-pitched voice, jutting jaw, and pounding fist. “The life of strenuous endeavor” was a must for those around him, as he romped with his five younger children and led ambassadors on hikes through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

Leaving the Presidency in 1909, Roosevelt went on an African safari, then jumped back into politics. In 1912 he ran for President on a Progressive ticket. To reporters he once remarked that he felt as fit as a bull moose, the name of his new party.

While campaigning in Milwaukee, he was shot in the chest by a fanatic. Roosevelt soon recovered, but his words at that time would have been applicable at the time of his death in 1919: “No man has had a happier life than I have led a happier life in every way.”

The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

Learn more about Theodore Roosevelt’s spouse, Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt.


Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in the 1920s

While Germany has had violent flashpoints of Anti-Semitism throughout its early history, it had largely been eliminated from political life after the formal emancipation of Jews across a united Germany in 1871. During this period, Anti-Semitic political movements were largely ineffective at garnering support from the masses, and faced much opposition from liberal political parties in the German Reichstag. Unfortunately, with the humiliating defeat of Germany in the first world war, anti-Semitic parties began to gain more popularity among the common masses. This entire situation was then utilized by Hitler and the Nazi party to propel themselves into power and forward their agenda of racial purity. Ultimately, it was the defeat of Germany, coupled with post-war political and economic situation, that led to increased anti-Semitic sentiments among the population.

Jewish communities have resided in Central Europe since the High Middle Ages and has since suffered injustices and persecution at the hands of their predominantly Christian neighbors throughout history. Jewish communities throughout the German states suffered particularly hard during the crusades a time of radicalized Catholicism, that led to the deaths of countless Jewish people, and the destruction of many Jewish communities in the cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz [1] . During the Black Death, Jews were often blamed for bringing about the plague, and thus large numbers of German Jews were forced to migrate in large numbers Eastward, or faced death and persecution where they stayed. [2]

Staring from the mid-1800s, the Jewish communities in a various German states received questionable degrees of rights and equality throughout the period, local government support for the Jewish minority was fickle, to say the least. Anti-Semitism was still very popular among the population, although it was largely propagated by simple reasons, as Peter G. J. Pulzer argues: “Among farmers and traders there was economic discontent among aristocrats and climbers there was snobbery among some of all classes there was religious prejudice, dating from a pre-Liberal, pre-capitalist era.” [3] The eventual unification of Germany in 1871 by Otto Von Bismarck allowed for the formal emancipation of Jewish communities across the fatherland.

Since the unification, the Jewish communities throughout the German Empire enjoyed a period of relative equality and prospered until the Rise of the Nazi Party in 1929 . Professor Pulzer also indicates that it is during this time of political liberalism and enlightenment that the Jewish community made great progress in integrating with this new German culture, particularly through trade, finance, politics, and literature. [4] Regardless of their emancipated status, Jewish communities across Germany and Europe still faced a degree of prejudice in their day to day affairs, although in much minor forms. Political Anti-Semitism was also starting grow in popularity, although it was largely utilized as “a tool used by powerful groups to manipulate the middle class and thus gain political and economic advantage.” [5]

Despite the rise of political anti-Semitism during this period, it faced incredible resistance from Liberals and other political parties, this is made evident by the large numbers of political caricatures of Anti-Semites from the time. [6] Historian Richard Levy’s book describes in detail the demise of anti-Semitic parties in Imperial German politics in the late 1800s, he sums up the thirty-year lifespan of the anti-Semitic political movement: “The anti-Semites made impressive gains in the 1893 Reichstag elections, obtaining over 340,000 votes (4.4%). reduced to 130,000 votes in 1912” [7] , he claims that these early anti-Semitic political movements resulted in “no legislation and during the war, they were completely absorbed into the traditional right.” [8] Despite the high number of nationalistic-inspired anti-Semitism at the time, liberals and reformists alike made great progress in establishing religious equality and harmony.

Before the outbreak of the first world war, radical anti-Semitism was largely confined to the fringes of political discussion throughout most of Europe [9] regardless, anti-Semitic attitudes and stereotypes continued to exist throughout German Society. Amidst the growing sense of nationalism, Jewish minorities across the world were eager to demonstrate their loyalty to their respective home nations. According to statistics, at least 100,000 Jews served in the German Armed Forces during the first world war [10] it is interesting to note that more Jews fought in World War I than any other ethnic, religious or political group in Germany [11] But despite their commitment to the German war effort, Jewish communities continued to face discrimination and prejudice, although these sentiments were usually suppressed by the overall war effort. However, this was to change on the October of 1916.


Why The Sudden Rise of Political Islam?

Clearly it was the rapid spread of ISIS in Iraq and the capture of Mosul in June last year which made us all sit up and take notice. But we might not have been so surprised if we had known or remembered the history of the last 150 years and the last 40 years in particular, in which there have been so many different expressions of political Islam.

Have we forgotten the 58 tourists who were gunned down at Luxor in Upper Egypt in 1997, and how in Algeria in 1989 the army seized power after FIS, the Islamist party, had won a democratic election? We’ve had Muhammad Mursi attempting to impose a Muslim Brotherhood agenda on Egypt while he was in power from 2012 to 2013. We’ve had Ayatollah Khomeini creating the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AKP have turned the tide after decades of secularism imposed by Ataturk and brought Islam back into public life. Hizbullah was created in 1986 as a resistance movement against Israel’s occupation of South Lebanon. Similarly Hamas came into existence in 1986 as a response to 40 years of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. If we go back further to the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928, we find that Hassan al-Banna was driven by two clear goals – the revival of Islam and the ending of the British occupation of Egypt. And if we go back further still we find that in India Muslims played a significant role in the 19 th Century in opposing the British Raj.

Are there any common factors in all these different expressions of political Islam? In every one there are two main drives – the desire to see the public sphere ordered by Islamic principles and the refusal to be ruled by foreigners. As we shall see shortly, context is all-important. In every case there has been something specific in the context – a perceived injustice – which has driven Muslim to take action and often to resort to violence.

So we could argue, for example, that if Israel in 1967 had complied with UN Security Resolution 242 and withdrawn from the territories it had occupied in the Six Day War, Hamas might never have come into existence. If Israel had not invaded Lebanon in 1982 and stayed on as a occupying power in the south for 28 years, there might have been no Hizbullah. And if the US and its allies had not invaded Iraq in 2003, there probably would be no ISIS.

In all these expressions of political Islam there is a real zeal for God, a passion to ‘strive in the way of God’ – to use a common Qur’anic expression. And of course the basic meaning of the word jihad is ‘to strive’, and has little to do with the idea of ‘holy war’. But it’s not just a passion to fight injustice and to create a just society that has motivated Muslims. I am tempted to relate all this to Kenneth Cragg’s simple sentence ‘Islam must rule’, since this is exactly how Sayyid Qutb, one of the most influential Islamist ideologues who was imprisoned and tortured by Nasser’s government, summed up this Islamist conviction in the sentence la budda li-‘l-islam an yahkum (‘Inevitably Islam shall rule’).

In the light of the example of the Prophet and in the context of 1400 years of Islamic history, it probably seemed very natural for Muslims to be ruling over non-Muslims – and especially over Christians and Jews who were treated as dhimmis, protected communities living under Islamic rule. But it’s not so natural and acceptable for Muslims to be ruled by non-Muslims. I suspect therefore that there is something uniquely Islamic about this, because I doubt if Hindus, Buddhists or Confucianists can find in their scriptures and history the same kind of clear, strong motivation to engage in political activity.

Once again, however, I would point out the danger of generalisation. The vast majority of Muslims in Britain and Europe would probably be shocked if you said to them, ‘We know that in your heart of hearts you Muslims want to rule the world.’ Islam is a missionary religion just as much as Christianity is, and for some Muslims jihad is the sixth pillar of Islam. But it simply isn’t true that all Muslims all over the world have clear political agenda and want the world to come under Islamic rule.

So why has political Islam become so significant in recent years? It’s partly because Muslims have faced so many situations of what they perceive to be injustice and oppression, and so many situations in which they feel that their own Muslim rulers are not running their countries in accordance with Islamic principles.

WHERE HAS IT COME FROM?
Patrick Cockburn of The Independent has been the best British journalist at explaining the origins of ISIS. And in March of this year Der Spiegel published some highly significant documents that had been captured from ISIS. Writers like these have shown that the 2003 war in Iraq and the civil war in Syria, which began in 2011, together created the vacuum in which ISIS came into existence. After bringing down Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘ath regime, the Americans disbanded the whole army, leaving 350,000 angry men without work or pay. Many of these soldiers together with officials from the government and the secret services who had been running Hussein’s police state joined forces with al-Qa‘ida in Iraq and brought with them many skills (including skills in running a state, finance and digital media) that were then used in creating the new Islamic state. So there was a kind of unholy alliance between Islamists and Ba‘athists.

The other important factor is that the Sunnis in Iraq, who are about 20% of the population, were always resentful of the way they had been excluded from power by Hussein, and then marginalised after 2003 in the new government by the Shi‘ites who numbered around 60%. The fear and hatred of the Sunnis towards the Shi‘ites is so strong that many Iraqi Sunnis would rather be ruled by ISIS than by the Shi‘ites.

This then was the political context in which al-Qa‘ida in Iraq developed into IS or ISIS. If Iraqi and other Arab Sunnis provided the main leadership and the tactical skills, it was the Wahhabi beliefs of al-Qa‘ida that provided the ideological basis for ISIS, which included four important strands:

  1. a desire to copy the beliefs and practices of the salaf, the first generation of Muslims, sitting lightly to the teaching of the four main schools of Islamic law
  2. a close alliance between Islam and the state so that the state must be Islamic and uphold Islamic law
  3. a strong antipathy towards Shi‘ites as heretical Muslims (this would include the Alawite regime of the Assads, the Iraqi Shi‘ites and Iran) and towards non-Muslims (which would include the West)
  4. a strong rejection of un-Islamic practices or beliefs.

The context and the ideology are therefore equally important for understanding the origins of ISIS. ‘ISIS is the child of war.’ Says Patrick Cockburn. ‘Its members seek to reshape the world around them by acts of violence. The movement’s toxic mix of extreme religious beliefs and military skill is the outcome of the war in Iraq since the US 2003 invasion and the war in Syria since 2011 … It was the US, Europe, and their regional allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates that created the conditions for the rise of ISIS.’


Watch the video: Factors that Accounted for the Emergence of Sociology (June 2022).