Traditional Salafis criticise Islamists who seek change either through embracing political action or resorting to violence.
For them, both methods lead nowhere because problems can only be resolved by correcting appreciation of the faith. However, Abdel-Aziz Kamel, editor of Al-Bayan (a Salafist magazine published in London), believes that from a Salafist perspective political activism means “changing the status quo in favour of Islam” and considers “resistance to occupation” as the highest degree of political activism.
Political activism, Kamel argues, should not be confined to the ballot box alone. One of the weaknesses of the Salafist movement, he has written, is that history and intellectual movements have been central to its discourse and vision, leaving no space for political activism.
A second approach to politics has been taken by a second group of Salafis. In his 1985 book Muslims and Political Action, Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Khalek argued that politics was at the heart of religion and political activities covered more than just governance. He defended “the democratic system” and urged political followers to “invest in it” because the alternative was “a tyrannical system”.
He held that “the system which allows Muslims to form political parties should be supported,” and he supported participation in parliamentary democracy because this could help to guarantee that legislation would not be passed that was contradictory to Islamic law.