Radical Islam

Police trying to control a crowd

Sean Coughlan

Family and Education correspondent

Are we living in a time of intolerance? An anti-extremism commission expert says evidence can be misleading.

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The rise of Islamist Puritanism

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown charts the recent shift towards Puritanism in Islamist culture.
Writer and Broadcaster Yasmin Alibhai-Brown continues her charting of the shift from vibrancy to puritanism in Islamist culture, focusing on key events in the 20th century, as the colonial powers lost their world dominance and increasingly emboldened Islamic countries sought to re-affirm their religious and cultural identities. Yasmin asks if it was inevitable that this would lead to more Puritanical societies with women suffering ever greater restrictions. She hears from scholars, historians and those who witnessed these changes in Iran, Egypt and even in the UK, and she challenges the notion that a Puritanical approach to Islam is a sign of strength.  The increasing power of Saudi Arabia and Iran, the fundamentalist events that shook both nations and lead to an increasingly hard line approach to religious identity throughout the Muslim world, are discussed alongside signs that the tide may yet turn.

Producer:  Tom Alban

The vibrancy of Islamic culture

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown explores the increasingly austere nature of Muslim culture and art.
In the first of two programmes writer and broadcaster Yasmin Alibhai-Brown asks why the Islamic world that historically represented a vibrant, dazzling and even alluring cultural appeal to the more reserved and conservative West, is now reversing that perception.  While Islamist countries were initially understood as a threat to Christendom, increasingly close contact through trade and shared scholarship lead to an opinion expressed most vividly by Orientalists, that these cultures were places of great liberalism in art, culture and sexuality. The brighter the colour and culture from the East the more alarming it was for the Puritanical West. 
And yet it is, increasingly, a history that appears to have been forgotten both by the West as it sees the emergence of a more conservative manifestation of Islam and by Islamist states themselves who are increasingly puritanical in their religious observance and the culture that follows that.
Yasmin talks to scholars, historians, Imams and people who remember a less restrained Islamic identity which, in their lifetimes as been under increasing attack.  
This first programme takes us from the early history of Islam to events in the 20th century that saw a shift and a concomitant greying in the lives of Muslims, and most particularly in the lives of Muslim women.

Producer:  Tom Alban