University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Islam and Islamic Fundamentalism
the lingering fear of terrorist attacks and threats to US homeland security. Indeed, the prejudice against Muslims and Islam adherents has become more pervasive in a post-9/11 America, where the racial stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists or suicide bombers endanger not only those who are cast in such a negative light but also those whose paranoia renders them insensitive and unable to fully grasp the roots of the conflicts based on faith. In his analysis of the roots of Islamic fundamentalism, Hashemi (2004) asserts that there is nothing particularly Islamic about Islamic fundamentalism.
Instead, Islamic or any other form of religious fundamentalism for that matter should be examined not from the context of the religious ideology per se but from the social, political, and economic factors that shape and continue to affect the history and current events in Muslim societies. Indeed, Hashemi points to the ongoing social transformation and transition of Islamic societies from the traditional to modern that have been characterized by growing restlessness among the lower ranks of society especially with the connivance between the elite and foreign interests.
To be able to understand how and why Islamic fundamentalism thrives and flourishes in a world that is supposedly dominantly democratic therefore requires an examination not only of the inherent characteristics of Islam as a religion and the entire cultural and economic spheres of Muslim life but also the influence of foreign policies of powerful nations on the development of these countries.
It also entails an examination of the role of gender and class in the creation of socially acceptable standards for religious adherence and how attitudes and preconceived notions of religiosity affect the individual and collective decision to engage in hostile and violent religious activities. Thus, while religious fundamentalism may superficially appear to be the product of Islam’s teaching, Hashemi argues that it is the general tendency of extremists to take things literally; referring to the latter’s justification of violent actions as the “holy war” or jihad.
Likewise, the rapid urbanization and modernization of these societies owing to the intervention of highly-industrialized economies and the subsequent imposition of foreign development paradigms on their own culture and way of life promotes the feeling of being threatened by the West’s tendency to homogenize cultures, ideologies, and economies, which give rise to the perceived need to defend Islam and the Muslim world in general.
It could be, as Hashemi posits, that many individuals in the Muslim countries are attracted to the highly messianic premise of fundamentalist beliefs especially at a time when most of these countries are under attack from neo-liberal interests and the developed world is keen on its pursuit of strategic business interests in these regions.
In the end, the motivations and driving force of Islamic Fundamentalism, as Hashemi says, may be likened to the very same social forces that have sparked the conflicts, upheavals, and revolutions at the eve of the birth of every new social order. Only this time, these forces happen to be bonded by their common allegiance to the Islamic faith and their pursuit for self-determination.