Political Islam is the major force shaping the Middle East region today, and a dangerous one at that. The real question is if it can be tamed, and, more pointedly, what the West can do to bring about positive change during this pivotal time in history. But first, we have to understand what we're dealing with.
Political Islam, or "Islamism" as we call this phenomenon in the West, is an armed political ideology similar to Bolshevism and Maoism. It's essentially religiosity cloaked as a movement which operates as a virulent ideology of warfare (jihad.) It demands radical reorientation of Muslim societies to comply with Sharia Law that repudiates modernity in all its forms and it has brought death and devastation both within the Muslim world as well as outside its borders. In some ways, Islamism is more dangerous than outright terrorism, as terrorism can be identified by violence, while Islamism is a war of ideas. It is essential to note that historically this aberrant thinking has only been espoused by marginal groups and kept in check for centuries. However, there was one pivotal moment in world history when they were not. In 1926, a marginal sectarian movement inside Arabia, the Wahhabis, allied with the Saudi tribe, captured power, and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It now serves as the bastion of Islamism, most notably spawning Osama bin Laden and various militant youth groups that spread the ideology.