Fundamentals of fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is a political movement to capture power and acquire control over national resources in the name of religion. It’s apparent aim is to establish a theocracy based on a literal interpretation of religious laws by rejecting and outlawing all social, political and intellectual developments that have been evolved over the centuries and returning society to that ancient age which in the fundamentalist view was pure and uncorrupted by developments of any kind. The fundamentalist group wants to impose absolute, total and unchallenged rule of religious leaders in the state and society through enforcement of a selected set of religious edicts and commands.
In an excellent essay appearing in the latest (45th) issue of Irtiqa that goes into the real aims and objectives of the so-called fundamentalists, Wajahat Masood discusses the nature of the movement in as much as it has nothing to do with religion per se or observance of its higher principles, spiritual values of compassion, truth and justice. Therefore, he argues, opposing fundamentalists does not mean opposing religion as such.

Fundamentalist groups exist in all major religions of the world and in their political inclinations they are not very different from each other. Wajahat Masood discusses how fundamentalism rose in the wake of the renaissance that weakened the power of the clergy in European society, and in Asia and Africa on the arrival of the colonialists turning local religious authorities against modern thought and its liberating influence on society. Then the industrial revolution with its concomitant social and economic complexities drove people to yearnings for the lost simplicity of rural life. The fundamentalist stance derived much strength when at the end of colonial rule new representative national structures failed to bring about the promised betterment in the life of the people. The concept itself grew among a group of Christian sects in America that felt threatened by the forces of modern knowledge and related social developments.

Masood explains that the fundamentalist movement is basically a revivalist, reactionary and fascist programme with very little scope for changes in society that may come about through human effort or initiative. Human society develops with the evolution of an integral structure of institutions, laws and values and civilises human nature while on the other hand fundamentalism seeks to reverse the direction of change and feeds society on fascist ideals of power, war and conquest and ultimately towards a return to the raw human instincts. A fundamentalist rule necessitates an insecure world.

The definition of the 24 basic constituents of the fundamentalist agenda is as follows:-

1. The fundamentalists interpret religious commands, beliefs and principles literally and consider knowledge to be complete and final with no scope for discovery and change.

2. Fundamentalism does not believe in human equality. Those who do not share their belief system are inferior and deserve different treatment.

3. Fundamentalism does not trust human intellect and wisdom. It, therefore, admires compliance and conformity and discourages critical thought.

4. Fundamentalism prefers the group over the individual and holds ends sacrosanct over the means. To keep its supremacy and control it considers itself free to take even those measures that may clash with the basic tenets of their belief system. An example is the resort to suicide bombings which is repugnant in Islam.

5. Fundamentalism is basically misogynic. It restricts females to roles within defined boundaries under men’s control.

6. Fundamentalism denies to man his endowed possibilities and constant accountability kills human initiative and drive for progress.

7. Fundamentalism establishes the rule of a minority group over the majority.

8. Fundamentalist leadership is imposed from above.

9. Fundamentalist decision making is not transparent and there is no clear procedure for transfer of power. Things are done in the interest of the state.

10. Fundamentalists claim the right to interfere and have the last word in all matters.

11. Fundamentalist rule cannot give equal rights to unequal citizens.

12. Fundamentalist governance is undemocratic, does not seek consensus and rules by decree.

13. Fundamentalists rule out freedoms like speech, writing, assembly and organization.

14. Fundamentalism lacks the flexibility needed for political survival and the system ultimately collapses. (This is the good news.)

15. Fundamentalist regime permits torture, accountability and sectarian disharmony as state policy and governance principle. 16. Fundamentalist rule thrives on fabricated anti state conspiracies.

17. Fundamentalist regimes keep looking for super human characters: a character in a Brecht play says, “unfortunate is a people who do not breed heroes; another remarks, unfortunate is a nation which is always in need of a hero.”

18. Fundamentalist society uses secrecy and lies in place of transparent dialogue.

19. Fundamentalists rely on casuistry when faced with embarrassing facts.

20. Fundamentalists fan sectarian, racial, linguistic and cultural animosities.

21. Fundamentalists exploit cheap slogans and promote negative thinking.

22. Fundamentalist governments soon get packed with sycophants and mountebanks of all varieties.

23. Fundamentalists adopt isolationist policies instead of joining the world community.

24. Fundamentalist regimes are a threat to regional and international peace.

By Mushir Anwar, Courtesy Dawn, 17 July 2008: