Religious Fundamentalism Theory

  • Politics and religion are entwined. Fundamentalism is the liberal meaning taken from holy texts.
  • Linked to repression and tolerance – rejection of liberal values and western interpretations of ‘freedom’ in increasingly secular societies.
  • Politics is secondary to the revealed truths of the religious doctrine.
  • Global significance after 9/11 and 7/7, which has led to successive governments to bring in increasingly draconian restrictions on the rights and liberties of their citizens.
  • Western values seen to undermine fabric of society. There is no absolute freedom – Western think they have freedom of press – fundamentalists then say they have freedom to respond.
  • Effects of post-colonialisation resulted in suppression of indigenous cultures with little identity. Permissive societies have resulted in greater adherence to strict religious laws. This permissive nature has been focused on the West and its increasingly secular society.
  • Western approach to globalisation undermines ‘civic’ nationalism – West putting their values on the East – selfish/greediness/secularism. Teaching the wrong values. Religion gives a nation their unity.
  • Endorsement of traditional values – anti-modernity and a return to a time long ago where the reach of the church was pervasive.
  • Religious fundamentalism is selectively traditional – emphasis on sanctity of marriage and return to family values in Shari’a law, but modern in character.
  • “The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country” – Jerry Fallwell.

Different types of religious fundamentalism

Islamic Fundamentalism – Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan al Bana in 1928 based on his dislike of the continuing influence of the UK over Egypt. There was also a rejection of any capitalist or socialist system being applied to Islamic nations. Instead he sought to create unity by applying Islamic principle to not just personal morality but also to the economic and political life of the country. They furthered the cause of the Islamic Fundamentalism by spreading their message across the Middle East promoting ‘jihad’.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran – Forced into exile in 1964 he returned in 1979 sparking the Iranian revolution removing the shah and allowing him to be the supreme leader of the world’s first Islamic state until his death in 1989. Like the Muslim Brotherhood he rejected both capitalism and communism, preferring a system based on Islam, rejecting any form of occupation and corruption.

Taliban – They established their form of Islamic Fundamentalism in Afghanistan in 1997. A very radical group they rejected any outside influence, including other types of Islam. Their ideas were based upon an extreme form of Deobandism, a brand of Sunni Hanafi Islam. They enforced sharia law harshly, including the banning of women from education and public life in general and very strict censorship.

Christian Fundamentalism – Ulster Protestantism largely expressed through Ian Paisley and his Free Presbyterian Church, politically represented by the Democratic Unionist Party. Paisley fights against a united Ireland as he sees that as a victory for Catholicism and the Pope. However he has never advocated violence but knows that unification would result in armed struggle.

Christian New Right in the USA - This charts the rise of the 60 million born again Christians in the US and their fight against perceived erosions of their religion. With the rise of groups representing minorities, a reaction against the permissive nature of society and the desegregation of America, many in the conservative south wanted a voice. The Moral Majority formed in 1980 represented these views and called for a literal interpretation of the Bible, its leader was Jerry Fallwell. He gained political success when President Reagan was in office.

Other Fundamentalist groups

  • Sikh fundamentalism is associated with the struggle to found an independent nation state. They are opposed to Hinduism and have used violence to further their cause, for example the seizing of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1982 by the Damdami Taksal and in the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.
  • Zionism - Mainly associated with independent state of Israel first advocated by Theodore Herzl in 19th century. Gushmun Emunium “Bloc of the faithful” has pushed for further building of Jewish settlements in territory occupied in the 6 Day War in 1967. Other groups such as Katch proclaim that Jews and Arabs can never live together.
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