The truth and impact of Islamist fundamentalism

Word for Peace

Islamic Fundamentalism is a strange phenomenon that needs to be interpreted. The challenge is to enter the worldview of the Muslim Fundamentalist, share its consciousness, explore its interior beliefs and values and look at the wider world through its windows, while at the same time retaining our own & quot; (Jabbour, 1994: 81).

A useful definition of the term fundamentalism (see Antes, 2000) is religious ideology that claims its own sacred texts to be the only authority and that they determine and decide on all processes of life. Fundamentalists interpret Scripture in the most extreme sense. A literal interpretation of Scripture is seen by many as being associated with fundamentalists. Other approaches consider the fundamentalists as representing the true ideology, or that fundamentalists represent an ideology which supports the establishment of a vanguard (see Qutb, 2006: 11, 27-28, 90, 311) that seeks to establish an alternative society, and which emphasizes the absolute power of God. Fundamentalists mainly focus on faith, family, state, and all the complexity that they represent (Zeidan, 2003: 51). To understand the roots of Islamic fundamentalism one must first understand the ideology of the Taqi al-din Ahmed Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), (see Sobhi, 2011), which is the foundation on which is based the development Islamic violence against the West. The innovation of Ibn Taymiyya was that he recognized an existential threat to Islam in the war-like conduct of the Mongols, whose actions aided by helping to strengthen the Sharia, as well as tribal aspects of Mongolian law, and which, as a result of these changes which initially were seen as an existential threat to Islam, Ibn Taymiyya stated that it was perfectly legitimate for every Muslim to begin a holy war against the Mongols. Today, Islamists see Ibn Taymiyya as a senior authority, particularly after local Muslim rulers had abandoned the Sharia. holy war was, therefore, an indispensable means by which they could be dismissed from power (Henzel, 2005: 71).

Modernity and secularism (see Marranci, 2010: 51-58, 99-109) are an integral part of the definition of fundamentalism. As noted, secularism as reflected in the eyes of the Islamists is seen as the greatest threat to Islam. Nationalism, socialism and liberalism are all forms of modern secularism which try to detach religion from politics, and which stand in stark contrast to Islam.

(On the tension between religion and secularism, see Khan, 2006: 201-202). Secular Islamic governments support the study of religion, on the one hand, but act completely contrary to the path of religion, on the other. States that operated this dichotomous behaviour were Turkey, Indonesia and Egypt, embracing on the one hand Islam as a state religion, but keeping their state completely secular. Arab nationalism which represented the secularism not only attached great importance to the Islamic culture and tradition, but considered the Islamic culture and tradition an important component of national identity. The inferiority of Islam, in relation to nationalism (see Abu Rabi, 2004: 77-80), led to growing frustration and a deepening controversy between secularists and believers. In contrast to secularism, the Islamic theory of modernization states that the religion must provide the ideological foundations for the faithful, while the goal here is to make use of the existing flexibility in Islam.

Likewise, the Islamic theory of modernization determines that there is a need to conduct dialogue with the West (see Akhavi, 2003: 553-554). This approach, called ijtihad, makes it possible in some cases to rely on four schools of Sunni-thought (madhahib) (see Pirbhai, 2009: 34-35). Scholars can go directly to the Quran and to the Sunna to receive new insights. Modernists have determined that there is a need for Islam to adapt to the spirit of modern times. The fundamentalists argue that Islam represents all aspects of life, both personal and social. They agree with the modernists that Islam is flexible, and they also agree that ijtihad is an important principle in modern times, although they are determined to make use of ijtihad to a lesser extent.

Abdul Ala al-Mawdudi was opposed to the idea of ijtihad, and claimed that the intention of ijtihad does not change the divine law, since it is merely based on man’s laws, the main goal of which was to give a better understanding of God’s law. In essence, however, he was not opposed to adopting Western values, and this on the condition that they be used to rescue the Muslim world from its predicament (see Marshall, 2010: 130). Sayyid Qutb stated that Islam was flexible but it cannot change.

He stated, moreover, that if there is a reliable text, that text cannot be changed. These statements of Abdul Ala al-Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb are often quoted by the fundamentalists, although they tend to ignore the failure of Islamic societies while emphasizing the injustice that was done by the West. In addition, the fundamentalists tend to oppose Islamic socialism, just as Khomeini opposed putting the word democracy in the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Abu Ala al-Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb saw the apologetics of Islamic modernists as being infected, and marked by an inferiority complex. The fundamentalists wanted to immediately apply the Shari'ah law. Consequently, they developed various types of extreme strategies. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood were elected as members of the "Wafd" party in the 1984 parliamentary elections (see Ghanem and Mustafa, 2011), while others acted as a revolutionary force within the framework of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, while yet others went so far as to assassinate the Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat in 1981. Shepard argues that the fundamentalists were modernists who adopted modern values from the West. According to Shepard the fundamentalists had no problems in adopting the West's material technology. Abdul Ala al-Mawdudi claimed that Muslims were a global revolutionary party which is managed by Islam, and that holy war refers to the revolutionary struggle. Sayyid Qutb argued that there was an urgent need to establish a vanguard of believers and described Islam as a global declaration of human freedom.

While analyzing the behavior of fundamentalists, Shepard states that they, on the one hand, accept modernity, but it seems that they also want to set- back modernity and bring it to an out-dated Islamic past. Such an assumption is only apparent, because the fundamentalists are very interested in modernity, although they see Islam as a tool in achieving modernization. Shepard cites W.C. Smith (1962), who declared that the Islamic system is a modern phenomenon, even though its roots are stuck in the past (Shepard, 1987: 307, 309-312, 314-316). According Radu, Nikki Keddie suggested that the term “fundamentalism” was not an accurate term, therefore proposing to change the term to “new religious politics” (see Keddie, 1998a). According to Keddie, although the term might not reflect the most accurate definition of a new political religion, it still presents a number of political traits that allow it to be categorized as such. These features include:

 A call to religious conviction, based on Islamic tradition, in response to the

infiltration of secularism.

 Establishment of political parties, with the aim gaining strength so as to be

able to sway their government's religiosity.

 Establishment of parties which espouse to conservative social views.

 

Notwithstanding, the thing that distinguishes the fundamentalists is that they present themselves as true believers, distinguished from the rest of Muslim society (see Renwick and Haddad, 1999: 28). Still, there are some of the young and educated who are interested in using Western technology in their fight against the West. Nikki Keddie identified a number of factors which have encouraged the intensification of violence by Islamists:

 The development of capitalism which has led to inequality, disparities in income distribution, a forced migration, and unemployment, all of which leading to extreme changes within Muslim societies and which haveled the Muslim society to examine the question of their identity.

 Damage to the economy, immigration and a degradation of personal security, encouraging many to support the power of right-wing parties.

 The improvement in women’s status which has led many conservatives to perceive that Islamic tradition is in a steady moral decline. Western culture is perceived as contaminating the values of Islam, and that Islam has since deteriorated and stands before a hopeless situation.

 The strengthening of secular governments in the Muslim world, which have offered secular solutions to religious problems, and deepening the frustration.

 The increase in life expectancy of young people, which has led many young people to join fundamentalist movements (Radu, 2008: 892-893).

Zeidan states that all acts of violence by fundamentalists are a modern phenomenon (see Kazemzadeh, 1998) and are directly related to the Islamic revival which appeared in the wake of the great ideological crisis in the Muslim world. In addition, he has determined that in order to escape from the catastrophe of modernization and secularism it is necessary to return to the roots of Islam. There is a controversy in the Muslim world, between the modernists and the Islamists (see the tension between these factions, Harmon, 2008: 179-182); on the one hand, modernists seek to achieve their goals through the local political system, while the Islamists seek to achieve their goals through terror. The main phase of the Islamists' plan is the establishment of the Islamic State, and although they are but small faction in Islam, their influence among Islamic populations around the world is enormous. In addition, Islamists are exploiting the failure of nation states to expand their influence among Muslim populations.

Sayyid Qutb gave a unique interpretation of this phenomenon, as regards Islamic tradition and how an Islamic state can be attained (see Qutb, 2006: 11-12, 131, 187-188, 194, 360). Sayyid Qutb's unique interpretation has since been espoused by many Islamists, as it explicitly instructs to resort to a violent struggle. One of the main approaches in Sayyid Qutb's thought is his determination that one must make a distinction between the forces that represent the good in the world, and those forces that represent the evil. According to the Islamic tradition, there are two meanings to the concept of the holy war, which many people have used in accordance with their own interests. The first represents the attitude of the great Jihad, which is the moral struggle; the second approach represents the lesser Jihad, which represents the physical struggle. The fundamentalists tend to see violence as the best way to protect the interests of the Islamic tradition from secularism and modernity. The fundamentalists see secularism and modernity as a post-modern- society that seeks the return of the latent period of ignorance (see Qutb, 2006: 11-12). Here is where a very important distinction is made, and a key to understanding the fundamentalists, viz., the distinction that anyone who represents secularism and modernity gives another individual the right to wage war against him; or put differently, the broad assumption in some that they are given an unlimited ability to wage Jihad against any person that they should choose. According to Sayyid Qutb's approach, Jahiliyya does not merely represent the pre-Islamic history, but rather represents an absolute denial of God’s sovereignty, and which replaces God’s sovereignty with that of human’s. Sayyid Qutb states, moreover, that there are two criteria that can be used to examine all existing regimes: Tawheed (oneness of God) and Hakimiyyah (sovereignty of God) (see, Qutb, 2006: 18) and that anyone who does not measure-up to these two criteria is in denial of God's sovereignty. From the '70s and '80s of the last century, most Islamists focused on their war against other Muslims who had fallen-away from the faith.

During the 90s, Islamists changed their strategy, following the extensive experience which they accumulated during the 80s, during the struggle of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Thousands of fighters have since returned to their nation-states (see Bakker and Boer, 2007: 8) and are now useing their experience and training against their own regimes, particularly in Egypt and Algeria. A different group of fighters who hadn’t been received in their own countries moved to the United States and Europe, creating there wide extended networks of terrorism, whose effects are felt by us to this very day (Zeidan, 2001: 26-28, 30, 39-40, 45-46).

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