Fundamentalism: The belief in old and traditional forms of religion, or the belief that what is written in a holy book, such as the Christian Bible, as being completely and literally true. The Cambridge International Dictionary of English Fundamentalism: a: a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as Fundamental to Christian life and teaching; b: the beliefs of this movement; c: adherence t such beliefs. Webster’s English Dictionary. Fundamentalism is a religious phenomenon which has taken 20th century politics by storm.
As defined by Webster’s English dictionary fundamentalism has a direct correlation with Protestant Christianity; however, it has in the past, and is currently, impacting many other forms of religion. Since the 1970’s many religious movements have emerged into political governments and ideologies all over the world. The dominating religion in Europe is Catholicism; Hinduism is very strong in eastern Asia; Judaism is the ranking religion in Israel and Israeli’s political decision; and finally, Islam is the principal religion in the Middle East.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, second only to Christianity which has been the main religion in the United States and is actually making a strong comeback in America. According to Kepel (1994) all of these religions share the characteristic of challenging the way society is organized: either its secular foundation, or the way it has deviated from a foundation based upon religion, as in the United States for example. When the American government was constructed by its founding fathers, the guidelines for America’s laws and ideas where based on what Biblical principals, Christian values and morals.
The founding fathers wanted their Christian faith to play a major role in the American government and law, but they did not want government to rule over the church or the church to rule over government. Therefore, they added a clause in the constitution that discusses the separation of church and state to ensure that the church and the people attending those churches could worship freely without the will of government hindering their worship.
In the past thirty years separation of church and states has come up in many court proceedings through many cases brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU believes the concept of separation of church and state means that no government building or place of business can display or have within its contents of instruction anything that would be of a religious connotation. For instance, the Supreme Court in Washington, D. C. displays the words “In God We Trust” and many City Halls throughout America have displayed the manger scene at Christmas time.
The ACLU’s argument is that these symbols are a violation of church and state. Another example, is the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade, a court decision which gave women unlimited rights to abort their unborn child. Many believe that the decision in favor of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court was a strong indicator that government will not allow religion to play a role in their decisions. Another decision made by the Supreme Court which gave rise to Christian Fundamentalism in America was when the Court decided not to allow prayer in public schools.
Because of these types of decisions being made in America, several organizations were formed to activate Christians to get involved in the political world to combat the liberalism they believed was becoming prevalent in politics and developing government policies. In the late 1970s, an organization that was created to activate a moral foundation in government was the Moral Majority developed by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Later, Pat Robertson, founder of Regents University and the 700 Club TV program in the United States, established the Christian Coalition.
These organizations were the outlets used for Protestant Christians to get involved and provided a platform to campaign on a variety of moral issues. Issues such as the “right-to-life,” not giving preferential treatment to homosexuals just because of their sexual orientation, ending sexual education in schools, banning pornography, and putting prayer back into the public school system. These organizations have also been influential in campaigning to seeing that Christian men and women get elected to office on local community, state and national levels.
These organizations established strong lobbying grassroots in all areas of government to influence government policies and getting good people elected to office who share similar moral views. With this group now activated in the political realm, many consider theses groups to be on the far right of the political spectrum. Other names and labels which have been put on this group are names like the radical, the religious right or conservatives. This resurgence of a more fundamentalist approach to government decisions has not been without controversy.
There are similarities of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States with other religious fundamentalists through the world. All fundamentalisms reject “liberal” attitudes to morality, lifestyles and politics. Fundamentalists appear to favor a more traditional view regarding social morality and social order. There continues to be a battle for fundamentalism and liberalism in the United States. Political leadership continues to try to balance decision-making on these considerations. The definition of Fundamentalism differs even through each religion.
Within Christianity the definition of Fundamentalism is based the Protestant Churches firm belief in the Holy Scripture of the Bible, which Christians believe to be the divine and infallible word of God. Within Islam the definition of fundamentalism is based off of the belief is some old form of religion and that of a holy book, which Muslims refer to as the Koran given to them by god through Mohammed. Like Christianity modern Islam wishes to see a return to government with a religious foundation, but unlike Christianity in the US Muslims wish to see the government practically run by the basic Islamic law and that of the Koran.
Many Muslims see today’s so called crisis of Islam’ as the willingness to follow the false’ ideas of the western world, and that what is needed is a reassertion of traditional values. From this point of view, the crisis of Islam is seen as the result of the corruption of nominally Muslim governments and the creeping growth of secularism and Western capitalist influence on the Muslim world. Frequently those who argue in this way use violence in the cause of overthrowing unjust and what they see as corrupt governments.
This very approach is what defines Islamic Fundamentalism. Modern Islam in this idea goes back centuries. Ibn Taymoyya is often cited since he argued for a purification of Islam from what he considered corruption’s which had entered in his day. Ibn Taymiyya influenced later figures such as Muhammad In Abd al-Wahhab, the father of Wahhabi, and it is maybe ironic that the Saudi kingdom which came to power as a result of Wahhabi in Arabia is now one of the most prominent targets of the charge of corruption and of serving as a vehicle for western influence in the Islamic world.
With the idea of breaking away from western influence, the first conventional Islamic organization started with the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1920’s. The founder of the brotherhood, Hassen al Banna believed that the Islamic world needed to be cleansed and purified of western influence and that a restored faith must be placed in the center of the nation. He also believed that the sharia, or divine law, must be the central authority and its principles be applied to every aspect of Islamic life. These principles include to ways of dressing, praying, eating relations with the opposite sex and children as well as education.
The general idea is to re-Islamize society as a whole. According to Banna the ending result would be an Islamic state neither capitalist nor socialist. One of the of their most influential theorists was Sayyid Qutb. Qutb wanted to see an extreme form of Islam take control with that of a break’ from what he referred to as the jahiliyya, a term used to describe non-believers or an impious society. Qutb was executed in Egypt before he could see his own idea take shape, but re-Islamization movements in the 1980’s followed his same idea.
Tat a struggle against the jahiliyya was going to take place, followed by a seizure of power and the inauguration of an Islamic State subject to the sharia. The means of doing this have very enormously, from alternative societies to that of terrorism, with the formation of Islamist political parties as an intermediate solution. In the recent decade an extreme case of Islam has emerged with a man born of Saudi Arabian decent. His name is Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia is a deeply religious country where Islamic practices are strictly observed.
In fact they have a religious police that inforce the prohibition of alcohol and he wearing of traditional female dress, and much else makes the Saudi society very conservative. So we have to ask what would make a Saudi born man turn to an extreme form of Islam within a strict Islamic country? Despite the country’s adherence to Islamic codes, its religious standing and its generous patronage of Islamic causes, the Saudi royal family has been under much criticism from fundamentalist saying they have to strong a tie with the United States and the western world as a whole.
Since the Iranian revolution in the late 1970’s the Saudis have relied greatly on the US for support and they in fact are one of the West’s largest suppliers for oil. Osama bin Laden believed in the idea that an extreme for of Islam needed to be established and need to break off from the western world. His extreme views and actions got him kicked out of his native country where he then found a safe harbour with an Islamic fundamentalist movement in Afghanistan known as the Taliban. The Taliban movement was created in 1994 by a senior Islamic priest by the name of Mohammed Omar in southern Afghanistan.
The Taliban movement emerged after years of civil war, as well as a war between the Afghans and Soviets. The war was fought mainly by mujahiden, or guerrilla fractions with assistance from other countries and governments the soviets finally withdrew, which left the Afghans to create a government of their own. The Taliban emerged out of one of these guerrilla fractions and promoted itself as a new force for peace and unity. Since the Afghan people had suffered through many years of war many supported the early efforts of the Taliban.
After the Taliban seized control of the capital Kabul they created the Ministry for Ordering What is Right and Forbidding What is Wrong, to enforce its fundamentalist rules of behavior. Most of their rules have little to do with Islam itself, and are more influenced by ancient tribal beliefs. Their laws particularly affected women, who where ordered to cover themselves from head to toe in burkas (long, tentlike veils showing nothing but their eyes), they were forbidden to work outside the home, and publicly beaten if improperly dressed of escorted by males not of their own family.
The Taliban also made murder, adultery and drug dealing punishable by death and theft punishable by cutting of the hand. Many of these laws have nothing to do with Islam and many Islamic countries do not recognise the Taliban as a form of government of religion. The Taliban have taken cleansing of the Islamic world’ to the most extreme. They want a society totally separate from the Western influence and try as hard as possible to rid the world of capitalism they believe that they will come into power across the world after a jihad, or holy war.