21st century religious fundamentalism also possess other aspects in their ideology that is absent in 20th century European Fascism. Some of these attributes are otherworldliness and messianic spirit (where fundamentalists are concerned with the sacred and devote energy only in activities consonant with the words of God), against science (rejecting critical interpretations of the Bible and Darwin’s evolutionary theory), belief in the supernatural, moralism and the subordination of women.
After showing the differences between 21st century religious fundamentalism and 20th century European Fascism, I will like to conclude that to brand the former as “new fascism” is not only unfair but incorrect. Next, this paper shall argue for 21st century religious fundamentalism to be accorded its rightful status as an ideology. Before I start defending my belief that religious fundamentalism is an ideology, I will like to provide the definitions of political theory and political philosophy.
This is because of the commonly interchangeable usage of ideology, theory and philosophy and thus a clear distinction between the three terms will be helpful to my argument. Political philosophy is defined as a “disinterested search for the principles of the good state and the good society. “13 Political theory has been defined as “disinterested search for knowledge of political and social reality.
“Thus many scholars claimed that political philosophy is a normative theory while political theory is an empirical theory. 15 Political ideology contains both the normative and empirical propositions. 16 Thus, I will now start my argument by looking at the characteristics of an ideology and how religious fundamentalism actually fits these characteristics and rejects any suggestions that religious fundamentalism is only a ‘philosophy’ or a ‘theory’.
“Ideologies arise in conditions of crisis and in sections of society to whom the hitherto prevailing outlook has become unacceptable”17 This accounts for the resurgence of religious fundamentalism in the late 20th to 21st century(similar to how European Fascism evolved) where social problems in western countries such as Britain and America have caused evangelicals to organize pressure groups to petition against abortion laws and other problems such as pornography. This further explains the popularity of political Islam in the Middle East as it is the only other viable solution to the secular ideologies propagated by the West.
“An ideology is more than just ideas; it is also actions based upon those ideas. “18 21st century religious fundamentalism can be seen to fulfill this criterion as many examples show this. One example will be the establishment of Iran as an Islamic state and in its latest issue of Iran daily; Iran reiterated that it will still maintain its fundamentalist ways despite pressures from the United States. 19 Another example will be Evangelicals forming pressure groups to translate their ideas into actions.
“Ideology includes both empirical and normative elements-empirical assertions that certain conditions exist, and normative assertions that a certain political order is to be preferred. “20 21st century religious fundamentalism does possess this quality and one instance will be how Islamic fundamentalist view the Israel issue where they see Israel as a western creation due to no fault of their own and sought not to recognize the status quo but to take steps to revise it. Another example will be Islamic fundamentalists’ view of the United States role in the Middle East.
“Ideology tends to be exclusive, absolute, and universal. ” 2121st century Religious Fundamentalism contains various different sects, for instance, evangelicalism and Islamic fundamentalism and thus could not lay claim to this criterion. However, there are indeed common attributes within religious fundamentalism such as the inerrancy of the “Written Word” and the subordination of political power. Furthermore, within the different varieties of religious fundamentalism, one can points out that evangelicalism and Islamic fundamentalism is by itself, exclusive, absolute and universal.
Lastly, “Ideologies seek to elicit a response of commitment and obligation on the part of the adherents. ” Again, this criterion is easily satisfied by 21st century religious fundamentalism. This can be seen in the 911 suicide bombing of the twin towers by terrorists inspired by Political Islam. To pursue ‘jihad’, Islamic extremists are willing to give up their lives for a greater good. On a more moderate note, ideologies certainly influence evangelicals who try to fight against social laws that their ideology deem inappropriate.
After showing the ability of 21st century religious fundamentalism of fulfilling the various criteria of an ideology, I can safely conclude that 21st century religious fundamentalism is an ideology and not a political philosophy or a political theory. In this last part of the paper, I will provide the basis of its mass appeal. The basis of 21st century religious fundamentalism’s mass appeal must be its political vision of the world and the kind of a new society that it can bring to the world.
Faced with social problems such as rising crime rates, teenage pregnancy and abortion rates in the Western countries, evangelical activists draw strength from its ideology and attempt to fight all these social problems through the formation of pressure groups pressuring and cajoling the government to make improvements in all realms of lives, from abolishing abortion to anti-pornography laws to religious education in school. These actions by evangelical activists from their perspective can be seen not only as morally rewarding but also efforts made that adhere to their religious beliefs.
Political Islam’s appeal in the Middle East can also be attributed to the erosion of traditional values brought about by modernization. 22 Furthermore, complicated by the colonial experience, the failure of secular nationalism, the Israel creation and unhealthy US interferences in the region, political Islam remains a very attractive alternative to western ideas. ( the reason been that Islam cover all aspects of lives and offer solutions to just about everything)
In conclusion, this paper has shown the similarities and the differences between 21st century religious fundamentalism and 20th century European Fascism and also argued that to call religious fundamentalism “new fascism” is not only incorrect but unjustified. This paper has also argued for 21st century religious fundamentalism to be considered as an ideology through the demonstration of it fulfilling the various criteria of an ideology. Lastly, this paper has provided the writer’s perception for the basis of 21st century religious fundamentalism mass appeal.
Andrew Heywood, “Politics”, second edition, palgrave foundations, 2002 Aristotle A. Kallis, “The Fascism Reader”, first edition, Routledge, 2003 Graham E. Fuller, “The Future of Political Islam”, palgrave, 2003 J. Christopher Soper, “Evangelical Christianity in the United States and Great Britain”, Macmillian, 1994 Reo M. Christenson, “Ideologies and modern politics”, first edition, Fletcher and Son Ltd, 1972 Roy C. Macridis and Mark Hulliung, “Contemporary Political Ideologies, Movements and Regimes”,sixth edition, HarperCollins College Publishers, 1996 http://www.iran-daily.com/1384/2526/html/