One of the striking things that I notice is that the Islamist movement – the attempt to apply Islamic law in its entirety and its severity – is not doing well. I know this goes against conventional wisdom, which sees the radical Islamic movement, the Islamist movement, the fundamentalist movement, going from strength to strength in Iran, in ISIS, in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and in the West.
If you look closer, you'll see that there are several major problems within the movement.
One is that Muslims are repelled, repulsed, and scared of the most extreme manifestations, such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Taliban and other groups. These are scary to your average Muslim.
Secondly, Muslims who live under Islamist rule, for example in Egypt under Muhammad Morsi for a year, don't like it and are rebelling against it. You can see similar evidence in Iran, Sudan, Bangladesh, elsewhere. Muslims don't like to live under the severity of Islamist rule.
Thirdly, the Islamists themselves can't cooperate anymore. Something happened around 2012-2013 and their hitherto impressive cooperation ended. The best example is in Syria, where the Iranian-backed, Shiite oriented jihadis are fighting the Turkish-backed, Sunni jihadis. But there are other examples of Sunni-Shia fighting – for example, in Yemen, in Iraq, and beyond.
"The Islamist movement is weak on the inside, and I think it has peaked."
There are also other forms of dissent. The Salafis – the people want to return to the seventh century and live like Muhammad – are at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood – the ones who want to modernize Islamic law, the ones with the long beards against the one with the short beards. For example, in Egypt the Sisi government is focused on eliminating the Muslim brotherhood and the Salafis are part of the government coalition. In Saudi Arabia, one sees that for years the Saudis were backing the Muslim Brotherhood until some years ago, when they finally realized that the Muslim Brotherhood is Republican and anti-monarchical; The Saudis, of course, are monarchical. In Turkey, the now president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cooperated and got great benefit from his alliance with Fethullah Gülen, the leading religious figure. Now they can't stand each other, call each other terrorists, and are in political war, all-out political war.
So for these several reasons I think, despite its continuing apparent successes, the Islamist movement is weak on the inside, and I think it has peaked. I think we will be seeing fewer successes in the future. It is a movement in decline. Not so much because the outside world is defeating it, that is to say, the non-Muslims or the anti-Islamist Muslims, but because of the nature of the Islamist movement and in this regard, it's similar to fascism and communism. It has a shelf life. It can only last for so long until either external or internal enemies end it.