Why militant fundamentalism is post-modern, not orthodox



It may sound ironic, but religious fundamentalism is a fairly modern phenomenon, sui generis. 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 predominantly metaphysical and esoteric dimensions of religion.

By rejecting the subtleties of metaphor, fundamentalism clings to a literal defense of Scripture that invariably lends its arguments a reductionist, absolutist and intolerant tendency.

In his pursuit of minimalism to ostensibly attain the primitive purity of faith, he opposes intellectualism, aestheticism and mysticism, and so he finds few scholars, thinkers or artists among his followers. obscurantists.

Fundamentalism in our time is remarkably innovative in that it has transported religion out of its spiritual realm and introduced its distorted version into socio-cultural, political and even economic realms.

Dr Adil Rasheed

Metastatic threat

The term fundamentalism originated at the end of the 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 regression in recent times.

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Although simplistic in its vehement adherence to “inviolable fundamentals,” the fundamentalism of our time is remarkably innovative in that it has transported religion out of its spiritual realm and introduced its distorted version into the sociocultural, political and even realms. economic.

Surprisingly like neoliberalism, fundamentalism rejects tradition and “cultural specificity in favor of abstract universalism”. Thus, Muslim fundamentalist movements generally reject all orthodox schools of jurisprudence or religious doctrine. In this, they are remarkably anarchists, even post-modern.

Post-modern moorings

In an article entitled “Post-Modern Jihad”, published in The weekly standard shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Waller Newell (professor of political science and philosophy at Carleton University) wrote: perversion of religious beliefs. Osama’s doctrine of terror is in part 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.

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He writes: “The relationship between postmodern European leftism and Islamist radicalism is a two-way street: not only did the Islamists draw inspiration from the heritage of the European left, but European Marxists took courage from the Islamist terrorists who seemed on the verge of achieving the long-awaited revolution. against American hegemony.

According to recognized expert on Islamist terrorism Olivier Roy, “In the 1960s, in Western Europe, we had a tradition of radicalization of young people resulting from the Marxist revolution. Suddenly, around the 1990s, the dream of the Marxist revolution disappeared and al-Qaeda and ISIS filled the void ”.

Likewise Ofri Ilani writes: “Individualism, establishment hatred and a 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 right from wrong as well as restrictions on bestial and carnal instincts. With the advent of European enlightenment, 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 religious truths essential to an almost complete collapse of any ethical construct it claimed to cling to.

Like the postmodern Marxist revolutionaries, the bestial took precedence over the spiritual and the rational, leading to a near collapse of faith and any semblance of common sense. Borrowing ideas from their post-modern ideological mentors, groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS have violated the most basic injunctions of their avowed faith.

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As Newell puts it: “For Foucault as well as for Fanon, Hezbollah and the rest up to Osama, the purpose of violence is not to alleviate poverty or to adjust borders. Violence is an end in itself … This is how Al Qaeda can ignore mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of non-combatants, and slaughter innocent people in the name of creating a new world , the latest in a long series of severely punitive collectivist utopias.

One could certainly add the name of ISIS to the list of these post-modern, neo-fundamentalist purveyors of violence. Not surprisingly, militant fundamentalism strives in places of chaos and utter confusion.

The remedy for this clearly lies in restoring religion to its legitimate and exclusive domain of spiritualism, while leaving socio-political questions to the institutions of national and international politics. There can be no place for religion in politics.
Dr Adil Rasheed has been a researcher at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense and Strategic Analyzes (IDSA) since August 2016. For over 20 years, he has been a journalist, researcher, political commentator for various international think tanks and media organizations. in the United Arab Emirates and India. He was Principal 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 in 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 of this section are their own and do not reflect the views of Al Arabiya English.


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