“Islamic Fundamentalism is indeed a prominent, controversial and destabilizing political ideology in the modern world. ” In order to understand and support or refute this quote by Dr. Paul Orogun, it is necessary to look at the causes, goals and mechanisms embedded in religious fundamentalism, as well as the similarities and differences between it and other similar ideologies such as ethnonationalism and Liberation theology. The term “fundamentalism” can be applied to many religions, including but not limited to Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Catholicism.
Its cause and beginnings lie behind the fact that many followers of these religions share hostilities toward the modern world. They want things to get back to “God’s word,” and view women’s rights, divorce, and secular values as ills in modern society (Macridis, 231). Fundamentalists also do not believe that church and state should be separated, and that religious leaders should rule whenever possible. Regardless of the religion they follow, all fundamentalist sects share certain characteristics, values and beliefs. These are the mechanisms by which religious fundamentalism survives and is implemented as an ideology.
The first characteristic is strict dogmatism. This authoritarian view of religion holds that the beliefs of people who do not follow the religion are wrong and will not be tolerated. The second is otherworldliness or the Messianic spirit. According to Macridis, fundamentalists are not concerned with matters other than those of the religion (232). All other activities are considered irrelevant and are frowned upon. Third, as I mentioned before, fundamentalist groups also believe that political power should have less influence that religious power, and that church and state should not be separated (Macridis, 232).
In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, religious fundamentalists share a belief that their God is sending them messages to believe certain things or do certain things, and that the written word of their respective holy scriptures is not to be questioned. They also believe that science is evil when it goes against the word of God, that women should be subordinate, and that their leader is the messenger of their God and is infallible (Macridis, 233). The use of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity carries severe punishment.
It is this collection of characteristics that form the foundation and lay out the goals for the ideology of religious fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism is a particularly dangerous form of religious fundamentalism. Not all Muslims are fundamentalist, but the ones who are hate any kind of Western influence. They believe they are engaged in a never-ending holy war, or Jihad, to eliminate non-believers. Islamic fundamentalism has existed in its most pure form in Iran, under the power of Ayatollah Khomeini.
He imposed strict Islamic fundamentalist ideology upon Iranian society in the late 1970s and into the 1980’s, forcing women back into traditional roles and executing drug addicts, prostitutes, and anyone else who dared to go against the grain. In order to understand the magnitude and power of Islamic religious fundamentalism, it is helpful to compare it to other similar ideologies, like Liberation Theology and Ethnonationalism. Liberation Theology is a unique ideology.
It is aimed at poor Third World countries, primary Latin American countries, and preaches the Catholic gospel as a basis for political reform and change. In other words, it says that poor people need to realize their situation and redress it according to the word of God. It stresses the importance of correct action as opposed to simply that of correct belief (orthopraxis). Liberation theologians use tools of the social sciences and sometimes Marxist thought to critically reflect on present social, political, and economic realities of the poor countries (Macridis, 227).
This ideology is similar to Islamic fundamentalism in that it encourages violence and counterviolence when necessary between the sinners (to use Marxist terminology, the “bourgeoisie,”) and the believers (the “proletariat”) as a means for political change. It is different in that Liberation Theology is basically aimed at making the poor and exploited aware of their situation and giving them a reason to fight for upward social mobility. Islamic fundamentalism operates under the principle of Jihad, which is more reactionary.
It uses violence as a means to get back to the “good old days” and traditional values, rather than spur a revolution of a new and different kind. Ethnonationalism is also an important ideology in the Modern International System. Ethnonationalism can be defined as the ideology of smaller ethnic and nationalist movements within a larger republic, fighting for political autonomy or recognition (Macridis, 210). It is similar to liberation theology in that it is fueled by uncertainty about employment and technology, poverty, and a general feeling of discontent among a group of people.
It is similar to Islamic fundamentalism in that it aims to provide a safe and secure home, a common center of loyalty, and a feeling of togetherness and a desire to return to traditional values (Macridis, 210. ) It is different in that although some ethnonationalist movements are linked with religious fundamentalism, they are not all as violent. Ethnonationalism is more dedicated to political freedom and recognition than it is to fighting non-believers or “sinners” in the name of God.
However, ethnonationalism often has fundamentalist undertones, as evident when the Bosnian Serbs proclaimed their independence and participated in ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population (Macridis, 210). Now that I have discussed the basic foundations of Islamic fundamentalism, liberation theology and ethnonationalism, I feel it is safe to say that I support Dr. Orogun’s quote. Islamic fundamentalism is a prominent, controversial, and destabilizing political ideology in the modern world.
We are all too familiar with its prominence since the 9/11 attacks on America, and we have been forced to recognize it as a powerful and dangerous threat. It is controversial in that we as Americans find it very difficult to understand or sympathize with the followers of Islamic fundamentalism, but we don’t realize that there are crucial differences between American and Islamic cultures that prevent us from doing so. Also, America has very nationalistic tendencies in that we think that our way of doing things is always right, and that we are doing Islamic countries a favor by attempting to spread democracy.
This will cause eternal conflict because the followers of Islam will always believe they are in Jihad with non-believers, so I don’t see the situation improving any time in the near future. In my opinion, the crucial divide between individualistic Western cultures and collectivist Islam religious fundamentalism will continue to exist, and Islamic fundamentalism will continue to be a destabilizing and dangerous political ideology within the Modern International System.