Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

An essay on Globalization and Islamic Fundamentalism

by Amir Hussain Nihal

The term Islamic Fundamentalism has frequently been used in recent times to define the phenomenon of the rise of radical groups across the broad spectrum of the so-called Islamic world. Islamic fundamentalism refers to a complex whole of burgeoning extremist political ideologies, which purport to be defiant of the political, cultural and economic domination of the West by their assertions of being the sole spokespersons of the miseries of Muslim societies. Contrary to the general understanding of describing this political activism as Islamic fundamentalism, it has never been a monolithic and uniform phenomenon.

Our definition of Islamic fundamentalism is partly informed by the Orientalist mode of analysis of defining the West in contrast with others through a system of binary opposition. The system of binary opposition tends to explain the foundations of the whole theoretical edifice of oriental scholarship which advocates the superiority of West as being rational, tolerant, democratic, and scientific and so forth. This mode of Orientalist thinking places the East in contrast with the West through attributes of irrationalism, dictatorship, intolerance and traditionalism that are associated with the East. In this context, Islamic fundamentalism is seen as a product of the East that, as orientalists would argue, has haunted the civilized nations of the world because of the tendency of the East to germinate obscurantism in its womb. Does this Orientalist argument carry weight in the era of globalization particularly? I will come to this point later.

Apart from this geographical determinism of orientalists, Islamic fundamentalism is defined by the political elites of Third World states, specifically those dominated by Muslim populations. The political elite of Muslim societies are obsessed with the Western concepts of secularism, democracy and liberalism etc. They repudiate these fundamentalist groups as representatives of obscurantism and traditionalism and the real enemies of modernization. They see Islamic fundamentalism as the root cause of backwardness of Muslim societies.

Another strand of thought that originates from the middle-class, petty bourgeois circles of the liberal intelligentsia, who turn down Islamic fundamentalism as reactionary and fascist. The rise of these radical Islamic movements has been an enormous shock to the liberal intelligentsia who have lined up with state to persecute fundamentalist groups. Some of the Marxist intellectuals are also misled by this abrupt phenomenon of Islamism, which according to them is a “Reaction Incarnate” as a form of fascism, which, as they argue, should be countered by building political alliances with other forces of status quo. In the wake of this ambiguity about the nature of the rise of Islamism it is not easy to find any comprehensive theoretical framework of analysis that could substantiate with cogency the whole logic of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

To me neither of these definitions and theories about Islamic fundamentalism provides a sufficient account of the very nature of the phenomenon itself. My major emphasis in this essay is that Islamic fundamentalism can only be understood in the broader terms of globalisation that has generated many marginalized groups in the developing world. Also, I will attempt to identify the class character of the groups that are vulnerable to the appeal of Islamism. The political implications of the rise of Islamism are not focused on in the essay due both to the complexities involved in its multifaceted nature and the constraints of space.

Globalisation and Islamic Fundamentalism <<<<<

Click on the link above to download complete essay. A very interesting read.

5 thoughts on “An essay on Globalization and Islamic Fundamentalism

  1. The year was 1798 and Napoleon Bonaparte who had invaded Egypt in pursuit of his imperial ambitions to reach Indian subcontinent had set in motion a powerful wave of change coming mainly form the European continent. This invasion, though short-lived, was a watershed event in the history of the long and often violent encounter of Muslim societies with those of the West. While setting foot in the historic city of Cairo, Napoleon was so conscious of the grandeur of Islamic culture and civilisation that he told the stunned congregation that he had come not to conquer their land but to understand their culture. The Egyptians were not to be fooled so easily yet Napoleon had brought along with him hundreds of scientists, scholars, and artists in the hope establishing a permanent military settlement in the garb of promoting French culture. Soon French troops were ousted not by Egyptians but by Great Britain. This pattern of imperial rivalry among European empires was repeated elsewhere on the Mid-eastern soil for the next two centuries. The Balfour declaration, Sykes-Picot agreement, and many other dark episodes of early 20th century history is a testament of the exploitative ambitions of the Western powers.
    The whole point of revisiting some Mid-eastern history was to draw attention to the important background that continues to feed the imagination of contemporary Muslim radicals, and hence the whole sense of domination and exploitation of the West in Muslim lands. Bin Laden’s argues along similar lines and I think al-Qaeda political ideology is compelling enough to give it a try, and hence we have a pan-Islamic resistance movement that continues to challenge Western hegemony, this hegemony being led by the brute force of USA.

    In the article above Nihal sahip has put a little bit more attention on class structure of the radical movements and hence an attempt has been made to present a snippet of history.

    Anyway this a very good essay on the interplay of forces of globalisation and the expansion of Islamic extremism, and I think we should engage in an informed discourse to try and understand and explore various dimensions of Muslim extremism.

  2. The essay by Mr. Nihal is really thought provoking in which he has interpreted in a clear manner the various contemporary and historical dynamics of the so called phenomena of Islamic fundamentalism. I absolutely agree with the writer on his definition of Islamic fundamentalism however for a number of reasons, I would like to differ with premise of his essay that global capitalist system is responsible for the germination of Islamic fanaticism.

    Islam by its vary nature is a capitalist religion. Islam allows the individual proprietorship; it allows creating a market economy by encouraging a healthy competition. It is legitimate according to Islamic laws to generate and inherit wealth that believes in human entrepreneurship. The prophet of Islam himself was a businessman and Islam propagated cross the continents primarily because of the Muslim tradesmen who were eager to explorer new markets for their goods. In essence, Islamic ideology is already imbued with the characteristics of capitalism and globalization and that both are congruent in an absolute sense. All the Muslim states across the globe are staunch supporters of market economy except the crippling few which are recently freed from clutches of soviet Russia and are much eager to reap the fruits of capitalism after being deprived in isolation of their right to prosper for decades.

    One of the fundamental reasons for the rise of Islamic fanaticism is the loss of identity of Muslims in the hands of western powers and their inability to recreate it. The west draws its powers from its strong institutions whereas the East and Muslims in particular have successively failed to build institutions of high calibre. This failure has led Muslims to the phenomenon of impulsive, fundamentalist and reactionist mentality as a replacement for a bold and genuine response to the western hegemony.

    1. Assalâmu ‘Alaikum waRahmatu(A)llâhi waBarakâtuh

      “One of the fundamental reasons for the rise of Islamic “fanaticism” is the loss of identity of Muslims in the hands of western powers and their inability to recreate it.”
      It is not difficult to rec-created if English-speaking Muslims become ‘Ulamâ.All non-Islamic societies are suffering from a religious identity crisis due to anti-religious and anti-traditionalist attitude of Judaeo-Christian modernity which I consider Istidrâj in Islamic terms, and I believe Muslims are the least affected ones so far, although the foreign influence is growing.The solution I suggest that religion-illiterate English speaking Muslims should study their religious Arabic sources from the traditional Mullahs how much they abhor them, because as far as I understand they are the closest to Islamic history compared to all Muslims.I was contemplating at a sculpture of a classical Muslim scientist wearing ‘Imâmah(Sunnah head-wear) and sporting beard,so I understood the difference.Ibn al-Nafis says that Muslims were attacked by Tatars in Baghdad precisely due to not being Sunnah-abiding.Hence, the more Sunnah-abding which implicity means the more Qur’ân-abiding we become the more we can present to humanity a solution to their religious identity crises.

  3. Assalâmu ‘Alaikum waRahmatu(A)llâhi waBarakâtuh
    Fundamentalism in Western discourse refers to a simplistic approach to religion which includes treating Bible as the literal Word of God which it is not according even to Islamic Belief.On the other hand, there is no such “non-fundamentalist” Muslim who denies that Qur’ân-ul-Hakeem is not the literal Word of God.I studied even a Western scholar discussing the absurdity if the term fundamentalism as applied to Muslims.Hence, Muslims need an indigenous discourse to formulate a coherent and intelligible intra-Islamic dialogue.

  4. Assalâmu ‘Alaikum waRahmatu(A)llâhi waBarakâtuh
    “who denies that Qur’ân-ul-Hakeem is not the literal Word of God.”
    NOT is superfluous here.
    I meant to say:
    “who denies that Qur’ân-ul-Hakeem is the literal Word of God.”

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