Farouk A. Peru
‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ is a phrase that anyone who follows the discourse of global politics these days will be familiar with. Islamic Fundamentalism has been blamed for several terrorist incidents all over the world and the proof of its existence can be seen by the presence of its adherents, who call for a violent jihad for a number of reasons. The author agrees that Islamic Fundamentalism is a menace to global society and must be eliminated for the sake of world peace.
The purpose of this essay is to propose a new definition of Islamic Fundamentalism by including attitudes which are not usually considered fundamentalist. We must remember that words acquire meanings through usage and because of the huge media coverage terrorist acts get and the fact that ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ as a phrase is widely used in these reports, the phrase has come to have a narrow meaning. That helps to obfuscate the true breadth of Islamic Fundamentalism.
This brings us to the question of what is ‘fundamentalism’ and what is its opposite, which we identify from popular usage as ‘moderation’ (as in Moderate Islam).
What is fundamentalism if not only terrorism? For the term to accurately represent the reality of what it signifies in the world, it must also identify the potential sources of what brings about violent acts and not simply violent acts themselves. Therefore, fundamentalism is an exclusivist attitude. It revels in not only being right but being the only right. Because of this, it needs an ‘other’ on which it focuses feelings of negativity and this other is not usually not an ethical other but rather a nominal other. Islamic Fundamentalism cares not that the West has values that are very similar to the Quran but focuses on the nominal existence of something other than itself, that is The West as a separate existence.
Islamic Fundamentalism as an exclusivist attitude manifests in a few different forms:
1. The desire to resurrect the Islamic Empire. Fundamentalists believe that the Islamic empire is the most superior form of political expression and civilisational existence. They look to the historical Islamic Caliphate as the epoch of political existence and desire its return.
2. The movement towards the total implementation of Shariah Laws. They view Shariah laws as an absolute entity validated by God and thus obligated upon everyone . Their endeavour is to bring about Shariah laws as an exclusive legal system because every other legal system is viewed as man-made and thus illegitimate.
3. The attachment for the pan-arabic socio-culture called ‘The Ummah’. While Muslims share a common bond due to their cultural origins and this makes them an entity, Islamic Fundamentalists see this entity as absolute and is in a conflicting dynamic with people not from this cultural origin. Muslim Fundamentalists living with non-Muslims in a given polity will find themselves supporting any polity of a similar cultural origin over their own nation.
These three manifestations are attitudes held by Muslim individuals and organisations. They do not normally manifest in violent activities but certainly, their attitude of exclusivism brings about feelings of dissociation from the rest of the world and feelings of superiority with accompanied arrogance.
Therefore, by definition and behaviour, Muslim (by which we refer to those of a certain socio-cultural origin) individuals and organisations that exhibit these positions must be seen as Islamic Fundamentalists and treated accordingly.
What is the opposite of Islamic Fundamentalism if we adopt the aforementioned definition? A logical answer would be ‘Islamic Inclusivism’. ‘Islamic Inclusivism’ would be an attitude displayed by Muslim individuals and organisations that accept and embrace other organisations in the course of a common goal.
Does original Islam (Islam from its criteria and as practised by Mohamed) accept Islamic incluvism and if so, what are the common goal which Islamic inclusivism can share with the rest of the world? We will analyse that in the next article ‘Islamic Inclusivism and Original Islam’.