There is a tendency, found among secular leftists as well as liberals, to take a conspiracist view of the emergence of "Political Islam": the empire, its comprador ruling classes, or both implanted it among the innocent masses who were previously "just Muslims," just like that. That is a simplistic view. Islam as a mass political movement cannot be implanted from outside, just as socialism as a mass political movement cannot be implanted from outside. The ruling classes, foreign or domestic, can only help develop and deform what already exists among the masses, just as socialists can only help develop, reform, and revolutionize what already exists among them.
A conspiracist view of "Political Islam" slights empirical examinations of political and economic, social and cultural, conditions of working people who consent to it and make it their own. This neglect does not help secular leftists at all in any approach they may take toward any variety of Islam, in giving critical support to it, as the Lebanese Communists have been doing for Hizballah for instance, or in combating voluntarist and adventurist terrorist sects of Al Qaeda varieties as they must be, or in dealing with anything else (like the AKP, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) in any way.
Secular leftists must come to terms with a fact: varieties of Islam are an essential part of the culture of the national-popular masses of many nations, especially those who are the most crucial to the Great Game of the 21st century (an energy hunt in the context of the declining dollar hegemony), just as varieties of Christianity are in Latin America. And within the same religious worldviews of the masses there exist seeds of both liberation and reaction. When organic intellectuals on the Left, secular or religious, who are "conscious of being linked organically to a national-popular mass" fail to arise and create a national-popular ideology that does justice to the seeds of liberation in the religious consciousness of the masses, the ruling classes take advantage of the seeds of reaction in the very same consciousness.
Secular leftists must learn to discard the illusion that religious working masses must be first secularized, and then and only then they will be receptive to the radical idea of revolution. Those who are tempted by this illusion need only look at Japan: the working class of Japan are perhaps the most secularized in the world, and yet they are also among the least revolutionary, as they have been for a long time.
History shows that authentic social revolution may come about through a secular ideology (France), a religious ideology (Iran), or a creative combination of both (Venezuela). Experiences of authentic social revolutions, whether they are religious or secular, Jacobin or Bolivarian, are more important in schooling the masses in democracy and republicanism than authoritarian secularism imposed from above by enlightened despots (whether they are nationalists or socialists) or secularization molecularly effected by consumerist capitalism (the former tends to first pacify the masses and then eventually invite reaction when enlightened despotism degenerates into mere despotism, and the latter depoliticizes people and makes them passive more than any other ideology, religious or secular). And it is democracy and republicanism that we should aim for -- after all, what is socialism but the highest stage of democracy and republicanism?
Yoshie Furuhashi, "El socialismo, el estadio más alto de la democracia y el republicanismo," Traducción Julio Fernández Baraibar, Critical Montages, 25 October 2005.