In the years that preceded the Arab Uprisings, the term "Islamist," particularly in the West, often carried connotations of a monolithic movement. The word served as shorthand, but it blurred significant distinctions that have long existed within the movement. Political Islam has always included a variety of views, particularly regarding timing and tactics. Islamists have long held differing positions regarding the acceptability of violence, and they have stood at numerous points along an ideological axis that ranges from gradualism and moderation to fast-track radicalism.
Since the fall of a number of Arab dictatorships, however, it has become even more apparent that Islamists come in a wide variety of tactical and ideological flavors. That was on prominent display in the aftermath of the recent attacks against American diplomatic missions in the Middle East.
What has become increasingly clear is that Islamists themselves are engaged in a fierce political battle to determine their own identity.