I can’t say that they’re not done in the name of Islam, but I have observed that Islamism seems to be more prominent since around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union.
Using the PLO as an example, if you look at the Wikipedia article on them, it says that the group was founded in 1964.
The PLO is a group of groups, and if you look at the member groups, they all seem to be on the Left politically.
Under “Secularism vs. Adherence to Islam,” the article says:
The National Charter has no reference to religion. Under President Arafat, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority adopted the 2003 Amended Basic Law, which stipulates Islam as the sole official religion in Palestine and the principles of Islamic sharia as a principal source of legislation.
Egypt is another example. Nasser was, as far as I can tell, on the Left politically, and if I recall rightly, he jailed outspoken members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Under Mubarak, there was a military dictatorship, but it was overthrown and free elections were held. Pursuant to the elections, the Muslim Brotherhood gained control of the government. It seems that then, those that had earlier favored democracy now favored the military over the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The leader of the Algerian independence movement was called, in English, the National Liberation Front. It was founded in 1954, and it called itself a socialist organization. Algeria got its independence from France in 1962 (I think), and the NLF then set about getting rid of its enemies, most of whom, I think, were Muslims.
I remember that years ago, around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, the Algerian government held elections, and an Islamic party won.
However, a year or so later, the military took over the government, and a civil war followed.
When I was trying to learn how to read Arabic between beer-drinking sessions, in reading samples that were assigned us, I kept seeing the phrase “Alwatan AlArabi” (the Arab homeland). I asked my Iraqi instructor what that meant, and I think he said something on the order of “Iraq,” or whatever Arab country the text originated in. However, I had also read that phrase in a sample that originated in some other Arabic-speaking country. I also recalled from, I guess the sixties, or thereabouts, that Egypt and Syria had tried to unite to form the United Arab Republic, but that it hadn’t worked out. (I see now from Wikipedia that it was formed in the 1950s and broke up in 1961.)
I see the current Islamist movement as at least partially a filler of the vacuum left by the Left. (I also see Communism as a way to disguise nationalism, but that’s another subject.)
One more thing:
In the 1950s, Iran (not an Arab country, but a predominantly Muslim one) elected as its Prime Minister a secular sort of person named Mohammad Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh nationalized the oil company, whereupon the CIA (and perhaps others) somehow arranged for his government to be overthrown and replaced by the Shah.
In 1979 there was serious unrest in Iran, and President Carter persuaded the Shah to leave Iran. Shortly after that, Iran became an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khomeini.
I’m not blaming Carter, but it does look like my country first meddled in one direction under Ike, and then meddled in the other direction under Carter.
We just don’t seem to know how to leave things alone over there.