Islam modernity fundamentalism

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Both contexts encourage violent variants of fundamentalism bent on replacing the state as the Taliban did in Afghanistan or overthrowing it as the Shiites did in Iran and as radical Islamic groups have hoped to do in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. American Christian fundamentalists would argue they are and always have been law-abiding citizens. But that may have more to do with the character of their society — open, pluralist, governed by the rule of law, and tolerant of moderate expressions of fundamentalism — than with their principled rejection of violence.

Many hard-bitten policymakers assume there is no such thing as a moderate fundamentalist — especially in the Islamic cases. Such a view allowed the U. The Islamic form of democracy, according to the conventional wisdom in the State Department, means "one man, one vote — one time.

Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity

There is insufficient evidence to support such a conclusion. Indeed, the majority of fundamentalist Muslims, including Islamists who serve in the parliaments of Jordan, Indonesia, and Malaysia, have consistently refused to identify their movements with the terrorist fringe. Deadly violence does occur, however, when brands of fundamentalism clash, as in the case of religiously motivated Jewish settlers and Islamic militants fighting for the same territory on the West Bank and Gaza.

In Africa, a bitter contest for souls between Christianity and Islam has led to the torture, murder, and, reportedly, the crucifixion of Christians by Islamic extremists. In Pakistan, blasphemy laws putatively based in Islamic law are used to justify the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.

Fundamentalists are dedicated to changing a world they see as godless, but their remedy is not to preserve or recreate the past. Amish they are not. In an odd way, they are "progressives," not conservatives; most people simply do not agree that the world they envision could be called "progress. How does this profile of the thoroughly modern, change-oriented fundamentalist square with the image of the angry rebel?


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Fundamentalists are, indeed, reactive: Their independent churches, mosques, and yeshivas and their cadres, networks, and movements originated in heated, defiant opposition to some trend — be it the invasion of Bible criticism and evolutionists into Protestant seminaries and churches, the narrowly secular vision borne out in Israeli policies, or the corruption of "establishment" imams in Cairo and across the Sunni world. But notice how they reacted. Not by yearning for the return of the golden age of medieval Islam, but by transforming the Prophet into an icon of global jihad who delivers modern nation-states to Islam.


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  • Not by hiding out in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, but by forming political parties and playing power politics in the Knesset. Not merely by invoking 16th-century Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who defended the supreme authority of the Bible, but by inventing the concept of strict inerrancy.

    Likewise, Sayyid Qutb, the major ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood before his execution in Egypt, claimed that reputed Muslim societies had descended into a state of jahiliyya pre-Islamic barbarism and ignorance. It would be comforting to think so. Unfortunately for those who would like to see their influence diminished, fundamentalist movements are not cults.

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    Thus, fundamentalist leaders, even the firebrands, must be perceived as acting and interpreting within the bounds of the tradition. And although Osama bin Laden pushes the envelope in this regard, he still argues his case on traditional grounds.

    They claim the ancient prophecies are being fulfilled in their persons; apocalypse is now, and because they say so. Cult leaders have a problem, then, that most fundamentalist movements avoid. When cult leaders die, sometimes at their own beckoning, and the End does not arrive, most of their movements flare out as well. Fundamentalists, by contrast, aspire to be fixed stars in the firmament.

    Fundamentalism is modern

    Accordingly, Fadlallah may deliver a radical ruling and support it with a fiery homily, but he always genuflects in the direction of Islamic law. And when he departs the scene, the Shiite community will raise up another leader, authoritarian, yes, and charismatic, perhaps. Certainly many of the early leaders of U. Protestant fundamentalism — Curtis Lee Laws and J. Gresham Machen — lacked charisma. Most congregations have relied on their local pastors to decree what "the Bible says. It is true that electronic communications make it easier for leaders to reach many congregations.

    But technology is not the primary impetus for such movements. Fundamentalism appears almost as if by spontaneous combustion, or as if spread by capillary action, under the guidance of leaders who mumble, stumble, and falter but who are tagged as authorized agents of God because they properly interpret "the word.

    In similar vein, we need to make the effort to distinguish carefully which women we are either addressing or speaking or writing about. We need to clarify and nuance our own use of the term. This will make us self-conscious about our own power in speaking about women, because we are speaking FOR women.

    The study of fundamentalism

    This leads to an awareness that other women, more women, need to be enabled to speak or write for themselves. More importantly, we will become self-conscious about the diversity of the women we represent in our work, and thus more sensitive to 'women' as a constituency. This was a limited study conducted for the paper.

    As such, it is informal and is offered more as a springboard for reflection or for further work in this area. Forty Malaysian women, all Muslims and all Malay, were interviewed. Their ages ranged between 19 and 25 years. All of them were students at American colleges and universities in a large city in the northeastern United States.

    They agreed to speak frankly if I would ensure their anonymity. All of them were on scholar-ships from the Malaysian federal government, state governments or Malaysian institutions.

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    They were studying in a variety of disciplines and fields. The respondents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, in which the terms used in the survey were defined for them. For example, Islamic fundamentalism was explained as I did in the previous section of this paper. The women then participated in a substantial debriefing session that I held in each of the universities and colleges they attended. In response to the question whether Islamic fundamentalism was a new phenomenon encountered, 13 of the respondents said it was.

    Among the explanations offered were that they had never been restricted or disciplined as much by their religion previously, nor had their religiosity been questioned. They identified the sources of these 'restrictions' and 'discipline' as peer pressure from other Malaysian students, both male and female.

    They also identified these sources as the associations they belonged to, such as Muslim groups which are present on most campuses, and which include Muslims from other parts of the world. All the respondents described restrictions as covering their hair by wearing the tudong in arabic, the hijab ; having to cover all of their body except the face, hands and feet; checking on whether they prayed five times a day; and the segregation of men and women at gatherings for example, women sat on one side of the aisle at a talk on Islam, and men on the other.

    Being disciplined was described as ranging from the monitoring of their dress and behaviour, to actually being 'told off' by their peers and made to feel ashamed that they were 'not any more Muslim. They related that Malaysian male students often lived close by or even next door, and that many of them were 'protectors' of the women, but also exerted a dominance on them. At the debriefing, some of the women indicated that they would try to ignore or resist some of these attempts. Six of the respondents said that because of the influences and forces such as those described above, they had become more religious on their own after arrival in the U.

    However, they clarified that they did not feel 'restricted' or 'disciplined,' as it was acceptable to them. Two of them pointed out that in comparison to what they had read about women in Afghanistan or even Iran, Malaysian Muslim women had a great deal of freedom. Fifteen of the respondents said that they felt no pressure whatsoever that changed their lives significantly as Muslim women. One of them pointed out that what was 'fundamentalism' for some, was unproblema-tic for others.

    Many in this group said that they were only maintaining normal practices of their family and peers, such as praying five times a day, wearing modest clothes and the tudong. Six of the women said that from the definition of fundamentalism offered, they had experienced it already in Malaysia as policies, practices and laws that discriminate against women. Two of them pointed out that they were affected by the ruling that women who do not wear the tudong are fined in two states in Malaysia, and that men and women were constantly segregated.

    They said they did not resent wearing the tudong and had done so since puberty. What they resented was the fact that women's behaviour was being forced or legislated by men. All the women agreed that Malaysia was becoming 'more Islamic' in terms of the growing Islamisation of policies, laws and public discourse. All the women said that at various times they have been reminded that they must be good examples of Islam, or of being Malay. Responses to the question about how studying abroad intensified or lessened the influence and forces of Islamic fundamentalism in their lives were reflected in their answer to the previous question.

    In the debriefing that followed at one university, four of the women indicated that they were aware of other forms of fundamental-ism, such as Christian fundamentalism in the U. A lively discussion ensued. In response to the question about whether they encountered other forces such as racism, 20 or half of the women agreed that they had experienced some form of racial discrimination which, according to three, was worse than the disciplining fundamentalist tendencies of their peers.

    The experiences ranged from feeling treated badly because they were different, to the use of racial epithets. Of those who experienced racism, most agreed that it made them withdraw into their ethnic community.