Fundamentalism / Fundamentalists

Fundamentalism / Fundamentalists

In “The Battle for God,” Karen Armstrong claimed, “The dynamic of fundamentalism has not changed.” The fundamentalists of 1900 are the same as those of 2018, even though they may have become more ferocious in their offensive conduct. Armstrong made the attack of September 11, 2001, when 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four jetliners. They carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States, where two planes were flown into the towers of the world trade center in New York City, and a third plane hit the pentagon just outside Washington.

To Armstrong, this was the logical outcome of the history of Fundamentalism. This attack, often called 9/11, resulted in the extensive death of over 3,000 people and the destruction of property worth triggering major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism. To Armstrong, Fundamentalism has always been an intra-societal dispute. She pointed out that Fundamentalism will not disappear, that it is part of the modern scene, and that it is a reality the people must face. The history of Fundamentalism shows that militant piety does not fade away if ignored; that history also shows that attempts to suppress Fundamentalism simply make it more extreme. It is essential to decode the fundamentalist imagery to understand what fundamentalists in all three monotheistic ‘Faiths’ are trying to express.

These movements express anxiety and disquiet that no society can safely ignore. It is important to note that only a tiny proportion of fundamentalists participate in acts of terror and that most are simply trying to lead a religious life in a world that seems to them inimical to faith. Armstrong agreed that fundamentalists gun down worshippers in worship centers, killing doctors, nurses, and other professionals, shooting presidents and political leaders, and toppling powerful governments. She claimed that only a tiny minority of fundamentalists commit such acts of terror. Still, even the most peaceful and law-abiding are perplexing because they are adamantly opposed to many of the most positive values of modern society.

To Armstrong, fundamentalists do not care for democracy, pluralism, religious toleration, peacekeeping, free speech, or the separation of church and state. The religious resurgence had taken many observers by surprise. In the middle years of the 20th century, it was taken for granted that secularism was an irreversible trend and that faith would never again play a significant part in world events. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby’s arguments at the outset of their six-volume fundamentalist project concluded same that:

Fundamentalisms all follow a specific pattern. They are embattled forms of Spirituality that emerged as a response to a perceived crisis. They are in conflict with enemies whose secularist policies and beliefs seem inimical to religion itself.

 Fundamentalists do not regard the battle as a conventional political struggle but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. The fundamentalists withdraw from mainstream society to avoid contamination and create a counterculture, which explains the attitude of the Boko Haram group in Nigeria. In the Battle for God, Armstrong concentrated on a few fundamentalist movements that have surfaced in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She traced the three monotheistic faiths’ development chronologically, side by side. She extensively dealt with American Protestant Fundamentalism, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, and Muslim Fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran. A common thread in the author’s narration of the fundamentalist movements is that they have all been motivated by common fears, anxieties, and desires that are usually responses to some of the peculiar difficulties of life in the modern secular world.

Gush Rabbi Eleazar Waldman explained that Israel is engaged in a battle against evil on which hung the fate of the entire world:

The Redemption is not only Israel’s Redemption but the whole world’s Redemption. But the Redemption of the world depends upon the Redemption of Israel. From this derives our moral, spiritual, and cultural influence worldwide. The blessing will come to all humanity from the people of Israel living in the whole of its land.

Fundamentalism is just one of the modern religious experiments that have succeeded in putting religion squarely back on the international agenda. Still, it has often lost sight of some of the most sacred values of the confessional Faiths. fundamentalists had turned the mythos of their religion into logos, either by insisting that their dogmas are scientifically valid or by transforming their complex mythology into a streamlined ideology. The Jews and Muslims who have presented their faith in a reasoned, systematic way to compete with other secular ideologies have also distorted their tradition, narrowing it down to a single point by a ruthless selection process. As a result, all have neglected the more tolerant, inclusive, and compassionate teachings and have cultivated theologies of rage, resentment, and revenge.

Occasionally, this has even led a small minority to pervert religion by using it to sanction murder. Fundamentalists’ fury, according to Armstrong, reminds us that modern culture imposes challenging demands on human beings. Fundamentalists see conspiracy everywhere and are sometimes possessed by demonic rage. In a demonstration of her in-depth research into Fundamentalism, Armstrong said attempts to exploit Fundamentalism for a secular, pragmatic end are counterproductive. There are examples of Sadat and Israel: Sadat courted the Muslims of Egypt and wooed the jamaat al- Islamiyyah to give legitimacy to his regime and to build his power base. Israel supported HAMAS initially as a way of undermining the PLO. In both cases, the attempt to manipulate and control recoiled tragically and fatally on the secularist state.

Armstrong gave two points to clarify her statement on Fundamentalism & Fundamentalists:

1. To recognize that their theologies and ideologies are rooted in fear.

It is impossible to reason such fear away or attempt to eradicate it by coercive measures. Armstrong suggested a more imaginative response by trying to appreciate the depth of this neurosis, even if a liberal or a secularist cannot share this dread-ridden perspective.

2. To realize that these movements are not an archaic throwback to the past; they are modern, innovative, and modernizing.

Islamic reformers cite the pragmatic tasks of government within a religious and mystical framework, which is also part of the fundamentalist rebellion against secular hegemony. It is a way of bringing God back into the political realm from which he had been excluded. Fundamentalists reject the separations of modernity (between church and state, secular and profane) and try to re-create a lost wholeness. When alternative societies are created, fundamentalists demonstrate their disillusion with a culture that could not easily accommodate the spiritual. The campaign to re-sacralize society becomes aggressive and distorted. It lacks the compassion that all faiths have insisted is essential to religious life. Instead, it preaches an ideology of exclusion, hatred, and even violence. Fundamentalists do not have a monopoly on anger and their movements have often evolved in a dialectical relationship with aggressive secularism that shows scant respect for religion and its adherents.

 If fundamentalists must evolve a more compassionate assessment of their enemies to be true to their religious traditions, secularists must also be more faithful to the benevolence, tolerance, and respect for humanity which characterizes modern culture. They should address more defined fundamentalist movements as “embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis.” This concern is also shared by fundamentalist Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and others. The media generally use the term to refer to the most conservative wing of the religion.

In Christianity, the term fundamentalism refers to the Conservative part of evangelical Christianity, which is itself the most conservative wing of protestant Christianity. Fundamentalism, radicalism, and extremism lead to violent conflicts. Religious Fundamentalism is juxtaposed with political extremism in most cases, and all breed violent conflicts.

 Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram in Nigeria, was a product of madrassa education who preached the withdrawal doctrine. He believed western education should be moderated through Islamic scholarship, so he established an Islamic complex within the mosques and schools. By 2009, there were increased sectarian fights and conflicts with the police that culminated in raiding one of the group’s hideouts. It set off four days of riots across four states, which were finally quelled by the arrest of Yusuf.

In a so-called extrajudicial killing, the police, while in custody, killed Yusuf, his father-in-law, and several others, and hundreds of followers were jailed. Since the beginning of 2011, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for several bombings, attacks, and assassinations that have come with increasing regularity against the U.N., Nigerians drinking alcohol and playing cards at beer gardens, government offices, and churches. From reports in all the news media, the group has killed far more Muslims in its purification campaign than Christians. Targets of its assassination include political figures, secular opposition figures, prominent clerics, and preachers. Until the outbreak of violence in 2011, some analysts believed that Boko Haram only received inspiration from the global jihadist movement and eschewed closer patronage to al-Qaeda because of its historical Sufi tradition.


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