Why militant fundamentalism is post-modern and unorthodox
It may sound ironic, but religious fundamentalism is a fairly modern, sui generis phenomenon. As her quest for truth is driven more by casuistry than spirituality, she strives to refute orthodox and traditional practices of various faiths, politics, and cultures.
Thus, fundamentalism is modern not only because of its emergence in relatively recent times, but because it attempts to impose a systematic structure on dogma and is generally opposed to the essentially metaphysical and esoteric dimensions of religion.
By rejecting the subtleties of metaphor, fundamentalism clings to a literal defense of scripture that invariably gives its arguments a reductionist, absolutist, and intolerant slant.
In his pursuit of minimalism to ostensibly achieve an immaculate purity of faith, he opposes intellectualism, aestheticism, and mysticism, and so he finds few scholars, thinkers, or artists among his obscurantist followers. .
Fundamentalism in our time is remarkably innovative in that it has taken religion out of its spiritual realm and brought its distorted version into the socio-cultural, political and even economic realms.
The term fundamentalism originated in the late 19th century when it referred to the extremist beliefs of certain Protestant sects in Britain and the United States, which insisted on the literal inerrancy of the Bible.
However, this mimetic threat has quickly spread to other religions, including some segments of Islam, although this trend has arguably shown signs of general decline in recent times.
Although simplistic in its vehement adherence to “inviolable basic principles”, the fundamentalism of our time is remarkably innovative in that it has taken religion out of its spiritual realm and introduced its distorted version into the socio-cultural, political and cultural realms. even economical.
Surprisingly like neo-liberalism, fundamentalism rejects tradition and “cultural specificity for the benefit of abstract universalism”. Thus, Muslim fundamentalist movements generally reject all orthodox schools of jurisprudence or religious doctrines. In this, they are remarkably anarchist, even post-modern.
In an article titled “Post-Modern Jihad”Posted in The weekly norm shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Waller Newell (a professor of political science and philosophy at Carleton University) wrote that “the ideology by which al-Qaeda justifies its acts of terror owes as much to the disastrous tendencies of Western thought than a perversion of religious beliefs. Osama’s doctrine of terror is partly a Western export.
In the article, the researcher traces the influences of the Nazi philosopher Heidegger and post-modern ideologues like Foucault on the Iranian revolution and al-Qaeda.
He writes: “The relationship between postmodern European leftism and Islamist radicalism is a two-way street: not only have Islamists drawn inspiration from the legacy of the European left, but European Marxists have been emboldened by Islamist terrorists who seemed on the verge of achieving the long-awaited revolution. against American hegemony.
According to a recognized expert on Islamist terrorism Olivier Roy, “In the 1960s, in Western Europe, we had a tradition of radicalization of the youth resulting from the Marxist revolution. Suddenly, around the 1990s, the dream of Marxist revolution disappeared and al-Qaeda and ISIS filled the void.”
Similarly, Ofri Ilani writes: “Individualism, hatred of the establishment and the cult of emotion activate the jihadists, just as they activated the anarchist assassins in the 19th century or the Red Brigades in the 1970s”.
The loss of meaning
Since ancient times, religion has instituted meaning in human consciousness through its spiritual injunctions, the ethical distinction of good from evil as well as restrictions on bestial and carnal instincts. With the advent of Enlightenment Europe, rationalism and science established new standards of personal, societal and universal values.
However, with the rise of post-modern philosophies, the certainty in the established institutions of faith, ethics and even reason began to crumble and so the very construction of meaning began to fade. A similar trend is noticeable in the descent of militant fundamentalism from its avowed pursuit of essential religious truths to an almost complete collapse of any ethical construction to which it claimed to cling.
Like post-modern Marxist revolutionaries, the bestial gained pre-eminence over the spiritual and the rational, leading to a near collapse of faith and all semblance of common sense. Borrowing ideas from their post-modern ideological mentors, groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS have violated the fundamental injunctions of their avowed faith.
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As Newell puts it: “For Foucault as for Fanon, Hezbollah and others up to Osama, the purpose of violence is not to alleviate poverty or adjust borders. Violence is an end in itself… This is how al-Qaeda can ignore traditional Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of non-combatants, and massacre innocent people in the name of creating a new world, latest in a long line of grimly punitive collectivist utopias.
One could certainly add the name of ISIS to the list of these post-modern and neo-fundamentalist purveyors of violence. Unsurprisingly, militant fundamentalism strives in places of utter chaos and confusion.
The remedy clearly lies in restoring religion to its rightful and exclusive domain of spiritualism, while leaving socio-political matters to the institutions of national and international politics. There can be no place for religion in politics.
Dr. Adil Rasheed is a researcher at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense and Strategic Analysis (IDSA) since August 2016. For more than 20 years, he has been a journalist, researcher, policy commentator for various international think tanks and organizations media, both in the United Arab Emirates and in India. He was a Senior Fellow at the United Services Institution of India (USI) for two years from 2014 to 2016, where he still holds the honorary title of Distinguished Fellow. He also worked at the Abu Dhabi-based think tank The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) for eight years (2006-14).
The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not reflect the views of Al Arabiya English.