THE WISDOM FUND: Issues & Answers

Fundamentalism and Islam

The Quran
We have made of you a middle nation. -- (II:143)
Karen Armstrong, Muhammad - A Biography Of The Prophet
The West must bear some measure of responsibility for the development of the new radical form of Islam, which in some hideous sense comes close to our ancient fantasies. Today many people in the Islamic world reject the West as ungodly, unjust, and decadent. . .

The new radical Islam is not simply inspired by hatred of the West, however. Nor is it in any sense a homogeneous movement. Radical Muslims are primarily concerned to put their own house in order and to address the cultural dislocation that many have experienced in the modern period. It is impossible to generalize about this more extreme form of the religion. It not only differs from country to country, but from town to town and village to village. . . . Michael Gilsenan has argued that the differences are so great from one district to another that the term 'Islam' or 'fundamentalism' is simply not useful in defining the current attempt to articulate the experience of people in the Middle East during the post-colonial period.

We constantly produce new stereotypes to express our apparently ingrained hatred of 'Islam'. -- p. 42 to 43

Another theme of the new fundamentalism has been an attempt to get Islamic history back on the right tack and to make the umma [Muslim community] effective and strong once again. The Iranian revolution was not just an atavistic return to the past, but an attempt to impose decent values in Iran again. -- p. 265

Akbar S. Ahmed, Living Islam
Western commentators often use -- or misuse -- terms taken from Christianity and apply them to Islam. One of the most commonly used is fundamentalism. As we know it, in its original application it means someone who believes in the fundamentals of religion, that is the Bible and the scriptures. In that sense every Muslim is a fundamentalist believing in the Quran and the Prophet. However, the manner that it is used in the media, to mean a fanatic or extremist, it does not illuminate either Muslim thought or Muslim society. In the Christian context it is a useful concept. In the Muslim context it simply confuses because by definition every Muslim believes in the fundamentals of Islam. But even Muslims differ in their ideas about how, and to what extent, to apply Islamic ideas to the modern world. -- p. 18 to 19

Mainstream Sunni Islam is possibly the most broad-based, tolerant form and certainly the one with the largest number of followers -- almost ninety percent of Muslims are Sunnis. However, the Wahabi school within the Sunnis believes in a strictly literal interpretation of the Quran. It dominates Saudi Arabia, which has a small population of about ten million but huge influence because of its oil revenues and as guardian of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. This school would interpret everything in the Quran literally: thus the chopping off of hands, death for adultery, and so on. -- p. 208

Paul Merritt Bassett, Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia
Fundamentalism is a term popularly used to describe strict adherence to Christian doctrines based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. This usage derives from a late-19th- and early-20th-century transdenominational Protestant movement that opposed the accommodation of Christian doctrine to modern scientific theory and philosophy. With some differences among themselves, fundamentalists insist on belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth and divinity of Jesus Christ, the vicarious and atoning character of his death, his bodily resurrection, and his second coming as the irreducible minimum of authentic Christianity. This minimum was reflected in such early declarations as the 14-point creed of the Niagara Bible Conference of 1878 and the 5-point statement of the Presbyterian General Assembly of 1910.

The name fundamentalist was coined in 1920 to designate those "doing battle royal for the Fundamentals." Also figuring in the name was The Fundamentals, a 12-volume collection of essays written in the period 1910-15 by 64 British and American scholars and preachers. . .

. . . In the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, however, fundamentalism again became an influential force in the United States. Promoted by popular television evangelists (see RELIGIOUS BROADCASTING) and represented by such groups as the MORAL MAJORITY, the new politically oriented "religious right" opposes the influence of liberalism and secularism in American life. The term fundamentalist has also been used to describe members of militant Islamic groups.

Leon T. Hadar, The Green Peril: Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat
University professor, and former bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, describes the creation of the bogey of Islamic fundamentalism by the US foreign policy establisment.

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