Rel

 

          In this essay, I will be discussing
the intrinsic links between religion and politics for the two religious
expressions: Pentecostalism and Islamism. Pentecostalism is a restoration
movement within protestant Christianity and it focuses on a personal level of
interaction with God through Baptism with the Holy Spirit (1). Islamism is a
set of beliefs that are implemented in accordance to the concept of Islam in
the religion and the political system where the government is revolved around
the basic teachings of Islamism (2). The believers of Islamism are called
Muslims.

          As mentioned by Kim & Kim (2008),
“Christianity is spread across the globe and is not just the religion of one
region” (3). Around one-third of the world population consists of Christians
and they are spread all over the world. Out of the four Christian traditions:
Orthodox, Pentecostal, Protestant and Catholic, Pentecostalism is progressing
at the fastest rate since the Azusa Street Revival which played a pivotal role
in the birth of modern Pentecostalism (4). Pentecostals are also getting
increasingly interested in getting involved in politics. According to a survey,
more than half of the Pentecostals would like America to move towards being a
Christian country while only a quarter of American Christians have the same
views (5). Similar to Christian ideologies, Pentecostals are also absolutely
against moral issues such as abortion, alcohol, homosexuality and euthanasia.
This sparked off interests in Pentecostals to see the United States as an
“ideological constituency for conservative politicians” (5). Pentecostals have
also been increasingly involved in Guatemala, Zambia and Brazil.

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          On the other hand, there has been a
steady decline of Islamism. The disappearance of the Ottoman Empire and the
abolishment of the Islamic Caliphate as an institution played a pivotal role in
the downturn of Muslim powers (6). Other reasons would include the rising
domination of Western powers and the failure of Muslims to adhere strictly to
the path of Shariah, Islam’s revealed divine law. Some speculate that if
Muslims were to follow the true Shariah, the glory of Islamism would be
bestowed (7). Strong followers of Islamism envision to use the Islamic State as
an avenue to instil the Shariah back in Muslims and restore Islamism as a
religion among the people. There are several political parties in the Islamic
sphere that is attempting to restore Islam as a global force and one of the
more involved political party is the AKP conservative political party in
Turkey.

          In terms of approach to the State,
Pentecostalism uses democratic means, one of its distinct characteristic. For
example, when a Pentecostal president proclaims Zambia to be a Christian
nation, they do not indoctrinate dogmas into people (8). They also do not
establish churches that fervently aim to achieve the goal of being a Christian
country and neither do they frown upon other non-Christian religions.
Pentecostals were not supportive of the war in Iraq. On the other hand,
Islamism is seen to be more radical. During the Arab Spring in 2010, there were
a series of violent protests and demonstrations before political Islam finally
started coming to power in 2012 (9).

          Next, both Pentecostalism and
Islamism paid increasing attention to the education sector. Several Pentecostal
churches focused on creating model school environments by reducing class sizes
that were previously at 100 children per classroom (8). They also had programs
laid out that engaged young children in pre-school education. Most of the
Pentecostal churches also conducted drug treatment programs which were based on
supernatural powers that seek help from the holy spirit to get rid of drug
addictions. Similarly, Islamism also attempts to influence the
religious-political sector through educational reforms, secular legal education
and the religious inculcation of ‘ulama’ that was administered by the state (10).  In primary schools, children were similarly
offered small class sizes for more effective teaching and they were also
indoctrinated with Islamic religious values and beliefs. The fact that both
Pentecostalism and Islamism focused on early education among the children shows
that they feel that childhood is an important time to instil their
corresponding values and beliefs into these kids. This is also very similar to
the film “Jesus Camp” that we have watched during lecture where young children
were made to go to bible camps and indoctrinated with Christian values and
beliefs since young.

          Next, both Pentecostalism and
Islamism are moving towards the social aspects to gain increasing popularity
amongst the civil society. Since Pentecostalism has its roots with mostly the
poor and middle class, several churches have started establishing their own
health clinics which is made accessible and affordable for the poor (11). Some Pentecostalism
churches have even started partnering with non-governmental organization
projects that encourages people to kick off their own business. By doing so, they
are able to help the poor in society gain back their confidence. Pentecostalism
were also socially beneficial for woman. Hence, we see that there is an
increased support for social programs. Similarly, the Islamic movement also
directed efforts towards support for social services. However, these social
services are more than often revolved around Islamic norms. One instance of such
a social service would be the gender-segregated health care in Iran. The separation
of genders stemmed from the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and created massive
problems for the female majority (11). There is already a lack of resources for
tackling prevalent health issues such as AIDS and breast cancer among some areas
in Iran. Thus, segregation of healthcare services for the genders put a further
strain on the limited resources available. The grassroots has also tried to learn
the way of life of the locals to understand their needs and struggles in order
to implement programs that is in line with what the civilians need (10). The
minister of youth and sport in the Mubarak government has claimed that these
Islamic groups are “seeking to gain the support of the average Egyptian one by
one, inch by inch through the provision of welfare facilities, Islamic schools,
economics institutions for profit, social insurance, monthly payments for the poor”.
By being so involved and active in the social sector, Islamic groups were able
to highlight the failure of the current government’s ability to provide the
basic services to their people. Hence, through actualising their goals through
such social initiatives as an alternative to what the current government
offers, Islamists were able to boost their position in Egypt and gained
popularity amongst those who felt like they were left out by the current Egyptian
government. The scattered and localized nature of these Islamic groups makes it
hard for the Egyptian government to keep track of their activities. The success
of these social programs also undermines the ability of the local government and
hence they often refrain from criticizing the Islamic groups. As mentioned by Dr
Amani Kandil, the executive director of the Arab network for NGOs, “The
government could not curtail Islamic charity organizations because they are the
most dynamic organizations in civil society and they reach people and regions
that the state cannot.” (10) . Hence, the success of these social programs was used
by both Pentecostalists and Muslims to further highlight the failure of the
current political system.

          Next, I will be discussing about the different
approaches towards modernity and secularism for Pentecostalism and Islamism. According
to Madeley, modernity is the process where traditional societies evolves into
modern ones (13). Pentecostal churches do not see ‘religion’ and ‘development’
as separate entities (14). They are more democratic and believes in influencing
people’s beliefs, values and morals in a way that leads them in the direction
of development as opposed to indoctrination of ideas. Pentecostals usually come
from the poor or middle-class people (15) and Pentecostalism has different churches
according to their socio-economic background. Many poor people in Africa often
come to Pentecostal churches feeling hopeless as they struggle to survive the
new urban environment. Pentecostal churches encourage these people to start their
own business. As mentioned by Paul Freston, a Pentecostal pastor, he preached that
“It’s not enough just to give the ‘sacrifice’ and cross your arms. You have to
leave your job and open a business, even if it’s just selling popcorn on the
street. As an employee you’ll never get rich.”(16) Hence, many of these Pentecostal
churches catch on to the global wave of entrepreneurship and encourages people
to start their own business to get out of the financial state that most of the Pentecostals
were in. This forward-looking behaviour plays a pivotal role in shaping
business behaviour in today’s world. For Islamism, they are on a constant
struggle with modernity as the effects of modernity often contradicts with what
the Shariah preaches. However, in recent times, there has been efforts made by
Islamic states who wishes to evolve into more outward-looking society without
compromising on their religion. One example would be Qatar which allowed alcohol
to be served in international hotels (17). This allows the state to be
progressive while at the same time not losing any of its religious roots and
beliefs.
          It is also believed that Pentecostalism
is secular to some extent. Research on a Pentecostal church, His People in
Johannesburg concluded that the church is using secular symbols and practices
as they seek for improvements in the social and economic sectors (18). Hence, Pentecostalism
has taken a leap of faith away from traditional values to more modern ones
which are more real. On the other hand, Islamism is no longer secular after the
1979 Islamic Revolution (19). After Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shiite
Muslim Cleric, overthrew Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and overthrew the secular
government and preach the theocracy that is still in existence today.

          It is also important to note that modern
Pentecostalism flourished because of native initiatives and is far from being
traditional. Since Pentecostalism is mostly within the poorer areas, it is also
distant from power and wealth and the Western Academia. It is also a loosely
held organization and thus it is pointless trying to understand Pentecostalism
through fundamentalism as it does not follow global trends. On the other hand, Islamism
is stems from the Shariah and thus it plays an instrumental role in fundamentalism.

          In conclusion, it seems that while
Pentecostalism and Islamism have completely different theological ideas, they
still share some similarities when it comes to dealing with political issues.