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By Bob Brier

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However, despite mounting a vigorous Islamic-based ideological and politically combative campaign against Western domination, al-Afghani’s achievements in practical terms were limited. He died a frustrated reformer and anti-colonial campaigner, but he left behind a number of distinguished followers. One of them was the Mufti of Egypt, Mohammed Abdu (1849–1905), who was a seasoned and shrewd Islamic thinker. While in some ways like al-Afghani, impressed by the political, legal and educational institutions of the West and feeling very much at home in Europe and with Europeans, he intensely disliked British colonial control of Egypt.

This is not to claim that defensive jihad has not on occasions involved offensive actions, but it is the defensive nature of jihad which is given primacy in Islam. In this case, Muslims are empowered only in a qualified sense to engage in self-sacrifice, without intending or actually harming non-combatant civilians of the opposite side. It is important to emphasize that it is with reference to the notion of ‘self-sacrifice’ that the concept of martyrdom has also evolved in Islam. But not all forms of self-sacrifice result in martyrdom; only those carried out in defence of Islam, and when the defenders are killed by the enemy.

They conclude from this that it is possible to have a secular state in a Muslim society. Two Islamic liberals who have moved in this direction in recent times, although with different emphasis, are Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia and Mohammed Khatami of Iran. After coming to power in 1997 through democratic procedures, Wahid made it abundantly clear that he considered it legitimate to have secular politics in a predominantly Muslim Indonesia. Khatami, who has been elected to the presidency of Iran twice in landslide victories since 1997, has argued that Islam is compatible with Shared Values and Conflicts 29 democracy, and has pushed for the creation of ‘Islamic civil society’ and ‘Islamic democracy’, which in their manifestations are the same as those in the West.

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