Islamic fundamentalism: a brief survey

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By Bruce Gourley

Dr. Claudia Liebeskind

History 7640

Spring 2003


“Religious fundamentalism fits uncomfortably into this world,” declares one scholar.1 To fundamentalists, notes another scholar, “religious enemies are important.”2

The twentieth century witnessed the maturing and globalization of the modern Western world. The century, characterized by increasing secularization, large corporations, growing wealth and consumerism, technological progress, military might, and global communications, threatened “traditional”3 religious views both within and without the Western world. Religious individuals and faith groups responded to and interacted with modernity in a variety of ways, ranging from integration to resistance. During the course of the twentieth century, religious groups and individuals who clung to strict orthodoxy and whose response to modernity was centered in militant resistance became known as “fundamentalists.”

Religious fundamentalists in general have much in common in terms of worldviews. In short, all fundamentalists view modernity as the enemy, that is, the representation of evil. First and foremost, modern Western thought is the embodiment of a secularized and pluralistic mindset, resulting in an intellectual challenge to traditional religious constructs of a God-centered universe. For all fundamentalists, modernity poses a profound moral crisis of faith, culture and society. Some scholars point to Islamic fundamentalism, in particular, as a revolt of bewildered young people caught between traditional values and complex modern choices.4 Others note that whereas fundamentalism per se is a reaction to the failures of modernization, the formation of fundamentalist movements has primarily been in response to the failure of political leaders (both religious and political) in dealing with the failures of modernization.5

Secondly, modernity as expressed in society and government is understood to be in active opposition to traditional religious values and structures, thus necessitating a defensive response for the protection of traditional values and structures within an increasingly secular culture. The defense is based on the concept of “enclave,” that is, the preservation of the pure faith by harboring it within the protective walls of the true faith community. The enclave, representing God, holds the evil world at bay intellectually and socially.6

Finally, a defensive response is viewed by fundamentalists as only a partial response. Ultimately, the “world” must be conquered (or transformed) by true believers (or by God Himself) and forced to adhere to the one pure faith.7

Before proceeding further, a brief discussion of the actual definition of the term “fundamentalist” is in order. Although characterized by rigid religious beliefs and militant resistance to modern world views, “fundamentalist” is a word which is difficult to precisely define. For example, although all religious fundamentalists are conservatives, not all religious conservatives are fundamentalists. One distinguishing characteristic of religious fundamentalists as opposed to religious conservatives is the fundamentalist’s intolerance of opposing worldviews.

In addition, although some religious conservatives may join fundamentalists in adhering to an inerrant or perfect text (referred to as the “Word of God”), the reactionary (or militant) manner in which fundamentalists utilize their particular interpretation of the “Word of God” (both within their larger faith group and in relation to society at large) typically sets them apart. Some scholars of religious fundamentalisms oftentimes distinguish between “scriptural” fundamentalism and “political” fundamentalism, particularly in terms of Islamic fundamentalisms. Most scholars of Muslim history, however, reserve the term “fundamentalist” to refer to political movements which seek to establish Islamic law at the state level. Islamic movements which are scripturally strict but avoid politics are viewed as “revivalist” movements.8

Accordingly, for the purposes of this paper, “fundamentalism” (as applied to Islam) will be reserved for the political expression of the Islamic faith which seeks to impose Islamic law upon the state. “Revivalist” will refer to Islamic movements which adhere to a strict interpretation of the Quran, but which are not engaged in politics.

Historically, religious fundamentalisms as a whole did not emerge from a vacuum. Political, cultural and intellectual pressures in the late nineteenth century created a foundation upon which fundamentalisms would build and develop increasingly organized responses to the pervasive secularization of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A brief survey of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism will allow us to place the movement within the larger context of Muslim history.


“The most prolific rhetoric of fundamentalism … is reserved for Islam, and especially for the depiction of contemporary events in the Middle East.”9

It should be noted up front that many Muslims reject usage of the Western terms “fundamentalism” and “fundamentalist,” instead preferring the terms “Islamism” and “Islamists” when speaking of groups advocating Islamic political law. Both the Western roots of “fundamentalist” terminology and the extremist perception associated with the term are reason to resist usage of the term.10 Nonetheless, “fundamentalism” is now a commonly-used term in describing the ultra-conservative expressions of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish faith groups, among others. This terminology is useful in that it recognizes, as noted previously, that similarities do exist among ultra-conservative expressions of various faith groups. In addition, the term is employed across faith groups by a growing number of religious scholars worldwide, scholars who note the differences among faith groups while also recognizing that opposition to modernity is an instrumental, shared element of certain ultra-conservative expressions within a variety of faith groups.11 Accordingly, for the purposes of this paper, “fundamentalist” terminology will be employed, although with the understanding that it is, in some respects, a contested terminology.

Although Islamic fundamentalism is indeed a modern phenomenon, it cannot be properly understood apart from the larger context of Islamic faith and Muslim history. Ultimately, Islamic fundamentalism is religious in nature, and in approaching the subject one must examine “the dynamics of the expansion of Islam as a world religion of salvation.”12

Fundamentalist Islamic ideology is based upon two “pillars”: the conviction that Islamic law (the sharia) is the only valid system for regulating human life (individual, social and political), and the conviction that a true and faithful Muslim society can only be achieved through an Islamic state.13

The Prophet Muhammad is the founder and central figure of the Islamic faith. In 610 C. E. Muhammad received his first revelation from God. Over time, the Prophet received a number of revelations which were transcribed into the text of the Quran. Received and recorded as God’s direct revelation (or Word), the Quran became the written text of Islam and the authoritative source of law. Over the course of ensuing generations, statements and actions attributed to Muhammad and transmitted orally by his followers were compiled and written down into the accepted hadith (many sayings and actions attributed to Muhammad were disputed). The hadith revealed the sunna (or path) that Muslims should follow in the daily living of their lives. Taken together with the Quran and the consensus of learned scholars within the Muslim community, they eventually formed the sharia, Islam’s sacred law.

Muhammad developed a small following in his hometown of Mecca, but his new religious views eventually put him at odds with city leaders. Forced to flee, Muhammad and his followers settled in the nearby city of Medina in 622. He soon rose to political and military prominence, negotiating a treaty with Mecca in 628, then breaking the treaty and capturing Mecca in 630. For the next two years, Muhammad expanded his power throughout the region of Arabia.14

After Muhammad’s death in 632 C.E., his followers were left with the task of trying to determine who should succeed the Prophet (Muhammad had left no instructions in terms of successors). Initially, the struggle was of a political nature. Abu Bakr, an early convert to Islam and trusted advisor and close friend of Muhammad, was selected as the first caliph (successor to Muhammad). His selection was controversial and came at a time when the Muslim state was expanding into southern Syria and Iraq. Tribes throughout Arabia openly revolted against Abu Bakr, while proclaiming loyalty to Muhammad. Near death, Abu Bakr appointed Umar b. al-Khattab as his successor. Umar successfully expanded the Muslim empire, quickly conquering Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Armenia and Egypt. The conquered peoples were given the status of dhimi (“protected peoples”) and were treated well. Umar utilized local administrators under the rule of Muslim governors.

Umar’s assassination in 644 led to the appointment of Uthman b. Affan as the third caliph. Uthman continued Umar’s expansionist policies in the midst of growing opposition, at the same time hiring many of his own kin as administrators, to the point of straining the treasury. In addition, he took religious authority upon himself, burning all copies of the Quran other than the one version he deemed the official version. Uthman was also assassinated, and civil war broke out under his successor Ali b. Abi Talib. Ali, who had been part of the opposition to Uthman, refused to punish Uthman’s murderers, in the process alienating supporters of the first three caliphs. In the meantime, Syria appointed a rival caliph, Muawiya, who went to war against Ali and became caliph of the entire empire following Ali’s murder, thus ending the original reign of caliphs (all four of whom had been related to Muhammad in some manner) and beginning the reign of the Umayyad dynasty.

Supporters of Ali were Shiite Muslims, who devoted themselves to preserving the house of Ali and seeking to amend the wrong done to him. To the Shiite, the first three caliphs were not legitimate, and the caliphate ended with Ali, as testified by both the end of Muhammad’s lineage and the evil acts which took place among the Umayyad dynasty.

On the other hand, Sunni Muslims embraced all four caliphs as orthodox, viewing their collective reign as the golden age of Islam, while also recognizing that all the descendants of the Arabian Quraysh tribe (which included the Umayyad clan), despite being marked by some periods of evil, were nonetheless legitimate caliphs.15

Shortly after Ali’s death, as Arab Muslims sought political organization following decades of expansion, two rebellious movements, the puritanical (Sunni) Kharijism and millenarian Shi’ism, arose advocating Islam as a universal religion of salvation. The Shi’ite millenarian rebellion of the 680s proclaimed a coming messiah (the Mahdi), a belief later incorporated into popular Sufism. Kharijism, on the other hand, rejected the present world by separating itself and advocating a rigid application of Islamic law as espoused in the Quran, proclaiming that nominal Muslims were infidels.16

The tension between Sunnis and Shiites has remained to the present time. Although the Shiites showed the earliest orthodox tendencies, the vast majority of Muslims today are Sunni, and fundamentalism is more common among Sunnis than Shiites.17

By the end of the ninth century, Islamic law was in the process of expanding to include not only the Quran, but also the hadith. Together, the Quran and the accepted hadith came to comprise the authoritative Scripture for the faith community. The establishment of the Sunni Hanbali school of law in the same century, a reaction against rational theology, provided the medieval archetype of later Islamic revivalism. The Hanbalites held to the Quran as the literal, unquestioned, and uncreated Word of God, while affirming the Tradition (or customs) of Muhammad (Sunna, and hence Sunni) and the consensus of the Muslim community (jama’a).18

The Hanbalite tradition, in turn, produced the strict Wahhabi tradition in Arabia in the late eighteenth century. The founder of the Wahhabi tradition was Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a religious scholar who formed an alliance with Muhammad bin Saud, the first ruler of what would become Saudia Arabia, and who traveled throughout the Muslim world and journeyed to Medina and Mecca. Distraught by the compromises the Islamic faith had made with popular religious practices (as expressed in the mystical faith of Sufism), Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, seeking to revive the Islamic faith, taught the transcendent unity of God (tawhid) and strict obedience to the Quran.19

The Wahhabis, believing that modern Islam had become corrupted and polluted from within, were a revivalist movement which sought to return Islam to its pure roots. In 1766, Wahhab’s doctrinal views won recognition among the scholars of Mecca. The Wahhabi movement became very influential, leading to the founding of other similar movements. Properly speaking, the Wahhabi movement was a revivalist movement based on orthodox Islamic law.20 Ironically, the Wahhabis ideological opposites (the more liberal Sufi expression of the Islamic faith, based on popular spirituality) provided the organizational model for Islamic revivalism.21 The Wahhabi movement was one of a number of Islamic revival and reform movements in the eighteenth century.22 In the twentieth century, Wahhabi Islam would provide the theological foundation for a political fundamentalist state.23

The 1857 Sepoy uprising in India, in which both Muslims and Hindus revolted against British rule, provided the impetus for the next ideological stepping stone in the history of Islamic fundamentalism. The British reacted to the uprising by persecuting Muslims. In an attempt to prevent suspected Muslim disloyalty from getting out of hand, the British destroyed Muslim holy sites in Delhi. The persecution, in turn, led Muslim ulama (theologians) to found private madrasas (colleges) over which the British state would have no control. The first such school was located in the town of Deobandi, about 90 miles northeast of Delhi. The Deobandi schools taught adherence to strict interpretations of Islamic law, based on the Quran and the hadith. Intellectually, via publications and debates, the Deobandi scholars sought to establish Islam as the one true faith. Socially, the Deobandi school of thought rejected the shrine elements of Islamic mysticism (Sufism) which had developed in the ninth century as Islam sought to accommodate the faiths of conquered lands. In the place of mysticism, the Deobandis taught careful personal adherence to morality and piety as spelled out in the Quran and hadith. The Deobandi tradition thus served to provide a highly intellectual, socially structured, and overtly evangelical scriptural foundation for an Islamic faith which was facing growing pressure from Western influences.24

The shift from revivalism to fundamentalism initially took place through the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (“The Society of Muslim Brothers”) movement in the 1930s. Although originally based in Egypt, the movement has exercised formidable influence throughout the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood, as R. Hrair Dekmejian notes, “more than any other organization, has been the ideological and institutional epicenter of fundamentalism in the Arab sphere and the Islamic world … it is impossible to comprehend contemporary Sunni Islamism and its Arab manifestations without a firm understanding of the origins and evolution of the brotherhood.”25

Founded in 1929 by Hasan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood tapped into popular unrest against British rule, local political turmoil, and the corrupting influence of the West. Banna, a Sufi spiritualist, Islamic scholar, and activist leader, was the “avatar” of modern Sunni revivalism. His movement, which was more successful than previous revivalist movements, possessed an activist ideology, an organizational structure, charismatic leadership, mass following and a pragmatic orientation. The movement was based on the Quran and the hadith, and translated doctrine into social action at a time when Egypt was in social unrest.26

Initially espousing non-violence, the Brotherhood quickly became one of Egypt’s most powerful organizations. The group was effectively organized, made extensive use of propaganda, and appealed to a cross-section of Egyptian society. However, Banna’s efforts to use politics to enact Islamic law in Egypt led to state persecution of the group by the late 1940s, which in turn led to the assassination of the Egyptian monarch by a Muslim Brother, for which Banna was assassinated in reprisal.

The following decades witnessed escalating clashes between the increasingly violent Brotherhood (as well as the many new fundamentalist groups it spawned) and Islamic secular states. Israel’s victory in the 1967 war was a crucial event. Islamic fundamentalists proclaimed that the Arab world lost the war because of a lack of religious faith, and fundamentalist calls for the imposition of shariah (Islamic) law found even greater reception in the Arab world. Anwar al-Sadat, who ascended to the Egyptian presidency in 1970, sought to co-opt the rising fundamentalist tide through the 1971 establishment of Islam as the official religion of the Egyptian state, and sharia law as a source of legislation (in 1980, sharia law was made the main source of legislation). Nonetheless, Sadat’s openness to the West and Israel, as evidenced by the 1979 Camp David Accord with United States President Carter Israeli Prime Minister Begin, resulting in peace with Israel, was scorned by the multiplying Islamic fundamentalist organizations. In September 1981, realizing that he had underestimated Islamic fundamentalists, Sadat led the government in taking direct control of all mosques and arresting thousands of militants. One month later he was dead, assassinated by members of the Islamic fundamentalist group Tanzim al-Jihad. Since Sadat’s assassination, a variety of Islamic fundamentalist movements in Egypt have increasingly turned to violence against the state, unacceptable social conduct, and even one another.27

A parallel transition from scriptural fundamentalism to political fundamentalism took place in South Asia via the Jama’at-i Islami (Islamic Party), founded by the Deobandi-trained Sayyid Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979) in 1941. Concerned with the decline of Muslim power in India in the early twentieth century, Mawdudi determined that diversity, in the form of interfaith mixing and a growing liberalization of Muslim faith, had weakened Islam. The answer was to sever social and political ties with Hindus and other non-Muslims and take up arms against non-Muslims.

Mawdudi looked to the Quran for a scriptural rationale for his militant views:

“Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the sacred mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (s. 2:190-193)

Mawdudi also found parallel justification in the hadith.
The Jama’at-i Islami was thus formed as a political movement to transform society via strict Islamic ideology, considering itself as the “vanguard” of an Islamic revolution. Yet within two decades of its founding, the party became more pragmatic in approach, advocating a constitution for Pakistan that included a commitment to democracy and individual rights. However, faced with Communist encroachments in Pakistan in the late 1960s, the Jama’at-i Islami eventually abandoned cooperative efforts and sought to establish a strict Islamic state identity in opposition to the Bhutto regime. Ultimately failing in this regard, and losing significant grassroots political support in the process, the party fell back to trying to accommodate both ideology and pragmatism. The rebirth of democracy in Pakistan in 1988 has since forced the Jama’at-i Islami to recognize the importance of further compromise if the party is to have a meaningful voice in the political structure of Pakistan.28

In short, by the 1980s the legacy of Islamic revivalism, as expressed in Wahabbi Islam and the Deobandi madrasa tradition, had found firm fruition in a milieu of political fundamentalist organizations which were actively seeking to impose sharia law in states throughout the Arab world and beyond, a subject which will command our later attention.

The proliferation of Islamic political fundamentalism, in turn, has been characterized by certain behavioral characteristics, ranging from passive to militant. The following characteristics are indicative of modern Islamic fundamentalism:
Characteristics of Individualistic Passive Fundamentalism

1. Regular mosque attendance (five times a day).

2. Strict Observance of the Five Pillars of Islam:

a. Profession of faith (shahadah)

b. Prayers (salat)

c. Fasting (sawm)

d. Almsgiving (sakat)

e. Pilgrimage (hajj)

3. Strict adherence to Quranic prohibitions (such as abstaining from alcohol and

sexual immorality)

4. Regular religious meditation, reading of the Quran, and reading of other

Islamic literature.

5. Participation in religious group activities within and without the mosque.
6. Participation in neighborhood self-help and mutual assistance societies
7. Growing full beards (lihya) and thin moustaches as a sign of devotion and

8. Wearing distinctive clothing (including a facial and head veil for women)

Characteristics of Individualistic Activist Fundamentalism

1. Pursuit of passive characteristics listed above with great rigor.

2. Tendency to live together in specific neighborhoods, sometimes in physical

and social isolation from passive fundamentalists.

3. Frequenting of specific mosques that cater to activist agendas.
4. Engagement in acts of “purifying” violence directed against sinful institutions,
including nightclubs, movie theatres, and governments.

Manifestations of Collective Islamic Fundamentalism

1. Mosque building (both private and government sponsored).

2. Radio-television programming (provides religious instruction).
3. Observance of holidays (observed with great religious fervor).
4. Mosque attendance (faithful devotion).
5. The press (increase in religious instruction in newspapers).
6. Illumination of mosques (elaborate lighting at nighttime).
7. Religious literature (an unprecedented increase in printing copies of the Quran

and books on Islamic history and religion.

8. Displays of copies of the Quran (in public places).
9. Religious slogans (increasingly displayed in public places).29
Finally, terrorist activity against Western government and society has become a vivid expression of Islamic political fundamentalism in recent years.30


As has been noted, Islamic political fundamentalist movements are a twentieth-century development. Not surprisingly, the majority of these movements are of the Sunni variety. Of the 175 Islamic fundamentalist groups (mainly of the political variety) in the Arab world as identified by Dekmejian from 1970-1995, only 32 were Shiite fundamentalists (with an additional four having both Sunni and Shiite followers).31

Tracing the history of all the various Islamic fundamentalist groups is beyond the purview of this paper. Accordingly, an analysis of a few countries will serve as evidence of the varied manner in which Islamic political fundamentalism has clashed with secular Muslim governments, resulting in mounting tensions, but varying successes, in terms of political involvement.

The ongoing legacy of The Muslim Brotherhood is evidenced in Egypt’s central role in Sunni fundamentalism: 40 of the 175 identified Islamic fundamentalist groups are based in Egypt. Of those 40, three are major fundamentalist groups: Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party), Jama’at al-Muslimin (The Society of Muslims; also known as al-Takfir wal-Hijrah) and Tanzim al-Jihad (Jihad Organization). One figure, Sayyid Qutb, is the dominant link between the Brotherhood and all three of these Egyptian-based militant groups. In addition, Qutb links the Brotherhood and Pakistan’s Jama’at-i Islami (the two earliest expressions of Islamic political fundamentalism) and is the key to understanding modern expressions of Sunni fundamentalism which originated after his death.

Qutb, an Egyptian government official who was offended by the racism and the openness between sexes he witnessed during a visit to the United States in the late 1940s, became an ideologue and activist, influenced by the radical teachings of Sayyid Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi, founder of the Jama’at i-Islami. Joining the Muslim Brotherhood in 1952, Qutb led the Brotherhood’s shift from non-violence to violence. His influence led to the attempted assassination of Nasser in 1954, which in turn led to government suppression of the Brotherhood, including the internment of Qutb and other radical Brotherhood members. Influencing the Brotherhood movement from jail, Qutb garnered support from the military wing of the Brotherhood within and outside of Egypt, while continuing his opposition to Nasser’s regime.

By the 1960s, Qutb had formulated a structured, albeit not fully developed, ideology of modern society as evil and ignorant of Islam’s divine guidance. The duty of true Muslims was to purify the world by the internal transformation of Islamic society and militant jihad against the non-Islamic world. He published his views in Milestones in 1964. Qutb, echoing Mawdudi, called for a “vanguard” of dedicated Muslims to emulate the Prophet in separating themselves from society in order to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing God’s sovereignty throughout the earth. The book, along with Qutb’s martyrdom in 1966, spurred Islamic fundamentalists to rapid growth and splintering in the 1970s.32

The three main Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist groups are all influenced by Qutb and draw support from the midde and lower-middle class (bazaar merchants, clerics, teaches, professionals and burecrats), yet each is distinctive enough to prevent a unified front. Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (or ILP) has focused its attacks primarily on government structures, while al-Takfir has charged that all who are not part of the group are unbelievers. Both outsiders, the ILP initially sought to quickly capture political control of Egypt, whereas al-Takfir pursued a long-term policy of political takeover. Both groups were suppressed by the Egyptian government in the late 1970s, although they have not been driven out of existence. Al-Jihad, in contrast, quietly infiltrated military, security services and other governmental institutions. Their power was revealed in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in October, 1981. The group’s leaders cited the disparity between Egypt’s laws and Islamic Law, Sadat’s peace with Israel, and government persecution against Islamists in September 1981 (part of an effort to counter the growing fundamentalist presence in Egypt) as the rationale for killing Sadat. In the months that followed, the government arrested thousands of Islamic fundamentalists, thus curtailing the group’s effectiveness. Today, the Egyptian government continues to suppress militant fundamentalism through government force.33

In Syria, the Brotherhood’s influence is also drawn from the urban middle to lower-middle classes, comprised of educated small businessmen, professionals and clerics, the segment of the population which has benefited the least from the military and rural oriented Ba’thi party. In addition, the Brotherhood has produced a number of splinter groups. Syrian Islamic fundamentalists became more militant in the 1970s, turning to armed jihad by 1976. Numerous attacks on the government structure took place in ensuing years, leading to government efforts to suppress the fundamentalist groups. The Syrian government crushed an uprising of fundamentalists in Hama in 1983, leading to a period of decline for fundamentalists, who were unable to win the Sunni population to their cause. Despite ongoing repression, fundamentalism remains an ongoing threat in Syria.34

Algeria has also witnessed the growth of a strong fundamentalist presence. A combination of agricultural crisis, unemployment, rampant inflation, shortages in housing and basic goods, declining revenues from the oil and gas industry, and growing foreign debt led to social unrest and class cleavage. Militant fundamentalist demonstrations resulted, and despite the governments attempt to crack down on fundamentalist groups, mass rioting, led by fundamentalists, took place in 1988. After a bloody government reprisal against the rioters, the Algerian president began a process of democratization. The fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front then won major electoral victories in 1990 and 1991, only to have the election results cancelled by the military, and thousands of fundamentalists sent to prison. In the aftermath, the movement went underground. Islamic fundamentalism continues to exist in a variety of sometimes competing movements, and has been responsible, along with the Algerian government, for a period of violent civil war in the past decade.35

Turkey provides an example of the influence of Islamic fundamentalism in an avowed secular state. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Turkey was a multi-party state, experiencing military coups in 1960 and 1970. Long-standing political unrest and instability led to a political coup in 1980, with the military regime giving way to a democratic, parliamentary government in 1982. In the ensuing years, the military has remained a powerful force within the parliamentarian structure, as Turkey has continued a program of modernization and remains on friendly terms with the West. Although the democratic political structure and relative freedom within Turkish society has allowed Islamic fundamentalism to flourish, the government and military have kept fundamentalist groups in political check. The main fundamentalist group, Turkish Hezbollah, has been responsible for hundreds of murders in recent decades. In January 2001, the Turkish government raided the organization, arresting scores of militants, and killing the group’s leader, Huseyin Velioglu. The raid, which led to the discovery of the corpses of hundreds of Hezbollah victims, dealt a significant setback to the militant group.36

Perhaps the most vivid example of Islamic fundamentalism within recent years is that of Afghanistan. In 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in a military coup. Allying with the Soviet Union, the PDPA began shaping Afghanistan along Marxist lines. With Islam thus threatened, the mujahideen, a loose alliance of Afghan nationalists, rebelled and took over many of the rural areas of the country. In response, the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 in an effort to shore up the PDPA, a move which swung popular support to the mujahideen even as millions of Afghans fled to neighboring Pakistan and Iran. The Pakistan government supported the refugee mujahideen with arms and military training, as did many other countries hostile to the Soviet Union, including the United States. Many Islamic fundamentalist groups were among the mujahideen factions, including Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden.

When the Soviet Union finally withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, leaving the PDPA in power, the mujahideen did not stop fighting. In 1992 they captured the capital of Kabul and overthrew the PDPA, only to lapse into infighting among the various factions. In 1996 the Taliban, having emerged as the strongest faction, seized control of Kabul. Although initially hailed by both the Afghan populace and the United States, who had hopes for a return of stability to the country, the Taliban, allied with bin Laden, soon forced their concept of Islamic fundamentalism upon Afghanistan. The result was a period of severe oppression as the Taliban, with their religious police, punished citizens who engaged in un-Islamic activities such as television, movies, music, kite-flying and chess. Men were forced to wear beards of proper length, and women were curtailed from public life and were severely punished if not properly clothed or accompanied by a male relative when in public. Punishment of offenders in the form of death was not uncommon.

The reign of the Taliban, however, proved short-lived. On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda operatives hijacked four U.S. commercial planes, crashing two of them into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center and one into the U.S. Pentagon. The fourth crashed in rural Pennsylvania as passengers struggled with the hijackers. The attacks killed nearly 3000 people, and the United States quickly launched a counter-attack, invading Afghanistan and installing a new government on December 22, 2001.37

Lebanon is another Arab country with a strong opposition fundamentalist presence. Since the 1970s, both Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists (such as the Islamic Unity Movement, the Islamic Association, and Amal and Ummat Hizb Allah) have been competing for political supremacy, fueled by opposition to the West and to Israel, as well as Lebanon’s religious establishment and government.38

Iran provides the sole example of the political triumph of Shiite fundamentalism. The Islamic revolution of 1979, led by the influential Islamic theologian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and fueled to a significant degree by restless young people, provided a model for how Islamic fundamentalism could takeover government structures. Khomeini’s widely disseminated speeches against the Shah and advocating Islamic law helped pave the way for the revolution. The new regime immediately banned alcohol, repressed women, and implemented the death penalty for adultery, all the while voicing open hatred of the West. By the end of the 1980s, however, revolutionary fervor was waning as Iranian businessman tired of isolation from the West. Although Islamic law yet governs Iran, the country has made various overtures to the West, and the current president of Iran defeated the conservative religious establishment in the last election.39

Saudi Arabia provides an example of a country governed by Islamic Law (sharia law). Long influenced by scriptural fundamentalism of the Wahabbi tradition, the Saudi government in recent decades has nonetheless faced opposition from many Muslims from both the right and left of the political spectrum. In a country in which women are openly repressed and crimes are dealt with according to a strict interpretation of the Quran, the Saudi ruling royal family has nonetheless maintained ties with the Western world for their own economic benefit and that of the country. Accordingly, many militant fundamentalists (both Shiite and Sunni), opposed to all Western influences, have long agitated for stricter application of Islamic law. The ruling family has responded in recent years by making some concessions to militant fundamentalists, but the Gulf wars have served to heighten the tension between the government and militant fundamentalist factions.40

Sudan’s distinction lies in being the first country to be governed by Muslim Brotherhood Islamic fundamentalism. The Brotherhood pursued a policy of gradualism in the 1970s, while Sudan struggled with socialism. The gradualist policy paid off in the next decade, leading to a period of significant political influence in the 1980s as Brotherhood leaders, including Dr. Hasan al-Turabi, formerly imprisoned by the government, were released and given cabinet positions. In 1989 a coup d’etat led to Turabi emerging as Sudan’s supreme ideologue and de factor ruler. Shraria law was imposed on the country, and Turabi began an ethnic cleansing campaign against non-Muslims. A strict Islamic state, Sudan’s government has been a haven for Islamic terrorists.41

Many other countries have been dealing with a growing Islamic political fundamentalist presence since the 1970s.42 Two examples in the non-Arab world are Malaysia and Indonesia. Since the 1980s, Malaysia has become an increasingly Islamic nation as Muslims have proliferated within a society which is open to a variety of beliefs. Although Islam is now recognized as the official state religion, the state itself is secular, and the constitution provides religious tolerance. Within this political paradigm, the influence of fundamentalist Muslims, initially finding expression in student activists during political and social crisis in the 1970s, is growing in significance.43

Indonesia, on the other hand, has the largest Muslim population of any country, yet is not an Islamic nation. Islamic fundamentalists, although increasing in influence somewhat, have been hampered by a wide diversity of Islamic faith traditions that are a result of long-standing religious syncretism.44

The current conflicts in the Arab world are magnifying the Islamic fundamentalist influence throughout the world. As such, a closer examination of Islamic fundamentalist responses to modern science, western society and the secular state is in order.


As has been noted, modern Islamic political fundamentalism is the product of a desire by some Muslims to return to a pure faith in order to counter and overcome growing pressure from an increasingly westernized world. Identifying and analyzing these pressure points is essential to understanding the rationale behind the often violent expressions of Islamic political fundamentalism whose ultimate purpose is to bring individual, country and world under the sovereign reign of Allah.

Islamists view the non-Muslim world, as well as the non-pure Muslim world, as morally evil, a perversion of the one true faith, and an affront to the one true God. Modernity can be understood in terms of both morality and science. On the one hand, the West, the embodiment of modern morality, is representative of that which is unholy in the world. On the other hand, modernity as symbolized by science and technology is willingly embraced by Islamists. Accordingly, despite the hatred which Islamic fundamentalists harbor towards the West’s modern morality, they have displayed a notable tendency to employ scientific instruments and technologies of modernity in their attempts to defeat Westernization and “reclaim” society. 45

Underlying Islamic fundamentalist attitudes towards science are two differing traditions of knowledge: religious sciences and rational sciences (i.e., philosophy and natural sciences). The former has long been viewed as ultimate truth, while the later has been considered as inferior, foreign, or secular.46

In short, all Islamic fundamentalists ultimately subordinate the scientific realm to the authority of a sovereign God as revealed in sacred text. In other words, human reason is in the service of revelation. In this context, fundamentalist attitudes toward science are a mixture of both acceptance and rejection, predicated on the religious context of the issue at hand. Sayyid Qutb, considered by many to be the foremost ideological authority among Sunni Muslims, wrote of the concept of a world “split between the domain of the jahiliyya (‘ignorant’) and a domain in which God’s method prevails.”47

Whereas Max Weber determined science to be a product of human reason, Qutb speaks for Islamic fundamentalists in locating science and technology in the Quran.48 Fundamentalists turn to the Quran for scientific guidance in reaction to nineteenth century Islamic accommodation of Western culture, an integration of faith and Western secularism viewed as a compromise detrimental to true Islam. Ironically, both Islamic modernists (borrowing from Western methodologies) and later fundamentalists (refuting Western influence) have sounded identical themes of Islam rising to repel the West while effecting internal reforms.49

In daily practice, Islamic fundamentalist opposition to Westernization has been expressed pragmatically. Whereas modern Western morality is viewed as an evil to be avoided, modern science and technology originating in the West has been absorbed and utilized in politics and society. Accordingly, many products derived from Western science and technology are readily adopted, while the worldview related to these products is rejected.50

In essence, in Islamic fundamentalist circles the overarching debate between science and religion is in the determination of “truth,” rather than in the usage of products. Not surprisingly, the most common place of contention is in the realm of education.51

Modern Islamist fundamentalism is characterized by competing claims for the orientation of Islamic education. One position argues that knowledge comes only from God, and that science and technology are neutral, and thus may be adopted from the non-Muslim world and utilized to benefit Muslims. According to this line of reasoning, the Quran is a “book of orientation” (kitah hidaya), including references to science, but not strictly a science textbook itself. As such, adopted innovations must be consistent with the truth of the Quran and its revelations.52

A second approach to orienting Islamic education posits that the Quran includes all sciences. Everything from natural sciences to modern medicine must be derived directly from the Quran. Every legitimate scientific achievement is understood to come from the Quran. Little distinction is often made between religious sciences and rational sciences in Islamic history, while European enlightenment (i.e., Descartes and Bacon) is considered to have been influenced by the Quran. As such, by embracing science and technology through the prism of the Quran, modern Muslims are reclaiming their rightful heritage.53

A third grouping of fundamentalists asserts the concept of the “Islamization of science.” This position affirms the exclusivity of the Quran in terms of science, yet goes further by insisting that Islam is the religion of science, and that to separate the two is a crime. Saudi Wahhabi fundamentalists support this line of reasoning, and have been using their financial resources to teach it throughout the Arab world.54

Ultimately, the teaching of an Islamic-centered scientific worldview is imperative in order to conquer and subdue that part of the world (the jahiliyya, or ignorant) which is not living under the authority of God and His revelation. To this end, holy war (jihad) violence against Western modernity is not merely acceptable, but is in fact necessary. Yet the weapons utilized in this holy war – guns, bombs, dynamite, airplanes, etc. – are themselves the products of western technology.55

In the end, Islamic fundamentalists’ only viable option for fighting Western modernity is to appropriate the very fruit of Western modernity, a tension which is seemingly unrecognized by many adherents.


Whereas the fundamentalist battle against Western thought, which is reflective of the whole of modernity, is largely an intellectual struggle against the non-Muslim world, the battle over the status of the family is a street-level campaign to resist Western influence by conforming Muslims to the strict commands and demands of sharia law.

Within the modern Islamic world, much of the ongoing debate between fundamentalist Muslims and secular Muslims has focused on the status of women, marriage, and family law. The Quran and hadith are explicit in addressing such issues; fundamentalists believe the demands of Islamic law are strict, divine, unchanging, and central to the vitality of Islamic society. Islamic faith itself is the key to Muslim social order; the term Islam literally means “obedience.” A just and holy society can be achieved only when Muslims live in obedience to God’s divine revelation mandating human relationships to God and to one another.56

Fundamentalist Muslims, in seeking to enforce the sovereignty of God upon the entire universe, begin with the individual and the family in obedience to God and His plan for the sexes. Only when families in a community are living according to Islamic law can the community be in harmony with God; only when all communities in a nation are living according to Islamic law can the nation be in harmony with God; and only when all nations are living according to Islamic law can the universe be in harmony with God.57

In the context of attempts to interject strict sharia law upon Muslim society and government, women have been, and remain, the primary focus of attention. Even as western influences led many Islamic states to reform the legal and political status of women in the mid-twentieth century, Islamic fundamentalists came to view the strict suppression of women’s “rights” as vital to the revitalization and purification of Islamic society.

Islamic fundamentalists see basic morality at stake in the fight over women’s rights. Wives are morally bound to be obedient to their husbands; social justice cannot be achieved if women are in violation of their proper sphere of existence. In Pakistan in the 1960s, for example, Mawdudi and the Jama’at-i Islami struggled unsuccessfully to reverse the trend towards the liberalization of marriage and divorce laws in the form of legal codes which gave more rights to women. In the 1980s, Muslims in India successfully influenced the government to retain Muslim Family Laws, despite the fact that such laws were opposed to the Uniform Civil Code. In many countries throughout the Muslim world, fundamentalists continue in their efforts to keep women out of the job market, to force women to remain fully veiled in pubic, and to keep wives in strict submission, if not virtual bondage, to their husbands. Such efforts take the form of seeking to enforce strict implementation of Islamic law in terms of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession. Fundamentalists have achieved varying degrees of success in these matters. Among the most notable instances are Afghanistan’s Taliban (now removed from power) and Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi-driven suppression of women.58

Although repulsive to modern Western societies, the strict suppression of women is pivotal to Islamic fundamentalists. Disorderly women signify a society apart from the will of God. Doubtlessly the coming years will bring repeated clashes between Islamic fundamentalists and the Westernized world concerning the role of women in society.

Islamic fundamentalists also see modern economic systems as a threat to faith. Although there are differences of opinion in terms of the specifics of market processes, Islamic fundamentalists are united in their belief that modern economic systems are at fault for inflicting “severe injustices, inefficiencies and moral failures.” For fundamentalists, the solution is to base economic activity on the Quranic verses which touch upon the subject. Reclaiming the ancient, pure social order is imperative; the economic changes that have taken place in the world since the seventh century are of no concern.59

Finally, in the larger context of perceived threats from Western society, the concept of freedom is resisted by Islamic fundamentalists. In the first place, the concept of obedience leaves no room for individual freedoms. Furthermore, Western ideals of self-individualism are anathema in the sense that they glorify the individual and his or her abilities and achievements apart from God. On the other hand, as already noted, Islamic fundamentalists have co-opted self-individualism, placing the concept within the framework of each individual having a responsibility to work for the ultimate securing of God’s sovereignty over the entire universe. Freedom is contained because it is opposed to social order predicated upon strict hierarchical structures of unbending obedience.60


The larger goal of Islamic political fundamentalism is to overthrow secular states and impose theocratic political law. Only under theocratic law can the dangers of Western science and society effectively be eliminated. Only under theocratic law can the sovereignty of God be extended into that realm of existence which is now controlled by the “ignorant.”

The Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979 provided a model of how Islamic fundamentalists could achieve national political dominance. Against the backdrop of rapid modernization on the one hand and a repressive state on the other, the masses in Iran, incited to action by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a fundamentalist Islamic cleric, revolted against Prime Minster Bakhtiar. When the military declared neutrality, Khomeini assumed leadership of the nation, installing a theocratic government based on his interpretation of Shi’ite jurisprudence.61 The manner in which Shi’ite law was imposed into state governance provides insight into the ongoing struggles between advocates of strict Islamic political law and advocates of secular rule.

In theory, Iran has been ruled by a constitutional monarchy for most of the twentieth century. Constitutionalism, however, was a political product of Western Europe. Thus when constitutionalism arrived in the Muslim world in the late nineteenth century, the concept underwent modifications which made it compatible with the Islamic faith. In Iran, the result was a constitutional monarchy more in name than in practice. By the late twentieth century, however, Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world, including Khomeini, were convinced that state constitutions were too accommodating of other faiths and were thus diluting the purity and power of the Islamic faith.

Iran’s new constitution as crafted by Khomeini dealt with this problem by radically breaking with all other modern constitutions. Entitled “The Fundamental Law,” it is an ideological and thoroughly Islamic document based on the “Mandate of the Jurist,” Khomeini’s belief that a religious jurist has the right to establish the governance of a nation-state and demand allegiance of other religious jurists. The constitution defines the purpose of the nation-state in terms of imposing the worldview of Islam, restricts the civil liberties of individuals, assigns sovereignty and legislative powers to the One God as interpreted by clerical jurists, and establishes social order based on a strict understanding of Shi’ite basic articles of faith.62

Islamic fundamentalist have met with varying political successes in other nations. As previously mentioned, Saudi Arabia with its Wahhabi revivalist heritage has long been ruled by a version of sharia law, while at the same time welcoming Western influence and the material benefits thus afforded to the ruling royal family. In addition, Afghanistan, under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, was governed by a mixture of sharia law and local tribal customs which sought to eradicate all Western influence and enforced strict Islamic law upon Afghan society in an effort to tightly control social behavior.63

Within many other countries, fundamentalist pressure on government structures has increased signficantly in the decades following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In Pakistan in 1977 General Zia, a devout Sunni, seized control of the country and immediately invoked an Islamization program to establish Islam as the official ideology and identity of Pakistan. His larger purposes were to legitimize his military dictatorship and quell calls for democracy. In so doing, he made alliances with Sunni clerics and fundamentalist groups, including the Jama’at-i-Islami. Although Zia sought to establish an Islamic constitution in Pakistan, he was ultimately unable to do so without destabilizing his regime, and thus settled for an informal common law system based upon Islamic law. In the 1980s, Pakistan’s government encouraged the military training of seminarians (“taliban”), who in turn created an Islamic state in neighboring Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal from that nation. Today, Pakistan is still a harbor for Islamic fundamentalists, although the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America’s World Trade Center has led President Musharraf to increasingly crack down on Islamic fundamentalists involved in terrorism.64

In Sudan, the Muslim Brotherhood has championed the imposition of sharia law since the country’s independence in 1956. Despite independence, civil war between Muslims in the North and non-Muslims in the South raged on into the seventies. Accordingly, political upheavals and attempted coups kept the issue of sharia law on the back burner. By the 1970s, Hassan al-Turabi, a local Muslim Brotherhood leader and high-profile spokesperson for the fundamentalist cause, had secured a prominent role in Sudanese politics. At the same time, the long running civil war came to an end, marked by the implementation, under President Jafar al-Numayri, of the 1973 Sudanese Constitution which recognized the rights of Islam, Christianity, and traditional religions, and forbad the usage of religion as a constitutional means of limiting citizens’ rights. However, ten years later Numayri did an about-face and began pursuing a policy of Islamization in an effort to co-opt the growing influence of fundamentalists. The tactic split fundamentalists in Sudan, with many supporting Numayri, who one year later, in 1984, proclaimed himself to be the nation’s Imam (supreme religious leader and authority). Numayri’s hastily implemented Islamization program had his own version of sharia penal law as its centerpiece. The hybrid sharia law code soon became unpopular and led to his downfall in 1985. Since that time, fundamentalists have continued to play a powerful role in the government. The Sudanese legal system is a combination of English common law and Islamic law, with the later being imposed on all residents of the northern states since 1991.65

In other countries, Islamic fundamentalism has been historically active, but as of yet unable to achieve significant political gain. Egypt epitomizes the difficulties that fundamentalists face in their campaign to implement their radical agenda into government structures. Despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood originated in Egypt over seventy years ago, only in the past decade have Egyptian fundamentalists gained enough influence in parliament to raise the issue of sharia law on the national level.66

Religious fundamentalisms arose in the twentieth century and have spilled over into the twenty-first century. By nature, religious fundamentalisms oppose modernity as expressed in contemporary Western morals and social values. Of the various faith groups which contain fundamentalist elements, Islam has provided the most vibrant and politically active expressions.

Although originating in the twentieth century, the groundwork for Islamic fundamentalism was established during the course of the previous centuries. The Prophet Muhammad, upon receiving revelations from God which were compiled in the Quran, provided an authoritative perfect text. In the centuries immediately following Muhammad’s death, Muhammad’s teachings and actions (as compiled in the hadith) provided authoritative guidance for daily living, while Islamic legal schools established a tradition of strict interpretation of Islamic law. By the 19th century, in the face of pressures from Western civilization and recognized internal weaknesses within Islam, revivalist movements were calling Muslims to return to a pure faith based on strict interpretation and application of Islamic law. The revivalist movements, in turn, led to a focus on the utilization of political force in the twentieth century in ongoing efforts to establish Islamic law at the state level throughout the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Islamic fundamentalism’s response to Westernization finds form in a number of expressions. Modernization is embraced even as the West is vilified. Modern science is placed within the context of and subjugated to the Quran. The results of modern science (technology and weapons, for example) are utilized despite their Western origins. Islamic fundamentalists denounce and reject Western society and culture, while simultaneously seeking to purify Muslim society through the forceful implementation of Islamic (sharia) law. Women are the primary targets in fundamentalist’s vision of Islamic law, and are subjugated and persecuted in a variety of ways from clothing to appearances in public to roles in public life. In terms of secular states, the ultimate goal of fundamentalist movements is the overthrowing of secular governments and the implementation of theocratic government. The twentieth century to the present has witnessed rising tensions between secularized states and growing fundamentalist movements, as well as varied instances of compromise. In general, tensions continue to increase as the number and intensity of fundamentalist movements has risen sharply in recent decades.

1 John H. Garvey, “Introduction: Fundamentalism and Politics,” in Fundamentalisms and the State, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 3, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 15.

2 David C. Rapoport, “Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Movements and Groups,” in Fundamentalisms and the State, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 3, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 431.

3 “Traditional” religious views herein refer to widely understood pre-twentieth century theological constructs which placed God at the center of the universe. Following in the wake of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, the nineteenth witnessed scientific advances in the scholarly world. Disputing the traditional worldview of God as the center of the universe, modern science instead placed humanity at the center of existence. By the 20th century, this humanity-centered worldview was emerging from the realm of academia and rapidly becoming integrated into everyday life.

4 Valerie J. Hoffman, “Muslim Fundamentalists: Psychosocial Profiles,” in Fundamentalisms Comprehended, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 5, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 209-225. Remy Leveau, “Youth Culture and Islamism in the Middle East,” The Islamist Dilemma: The Political Role in the Contemporary Arab World, ed. Laura Guazzone (Berkshire, UK: Ithaca Press, 1995).

5 James Piscatori, “Accounting for Islamic Fundamentalisms,” in Accounting for Fundamentalisms, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 4, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 361.

6 Emmanuel Sivan, “The Enclave Culture,” in Fundamentalisms Comprehended, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 5, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 11-68.

7 See Gabriel A. Almond, Emmanuel Sivan, and R. Scott Appleby, “Explaining Fundamentalisms,” in Fundamentalisms Comprehended, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 5, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 425-429. Almond, Sivan and Appleby divide fundamentalists into four categories in terms of relating to the “world”: the “world conqueror,” “world transformer,” “world creator” and “world renouncer” (426). “Conquerors” take it upon themselves to eliminate the enemy (the world). “Transformers” and “Creators” actively fight the world but rely more heavily on the work of God in eschatological time. “Renouncers” (who are few in number) are primarily focused on inward purity. Other scholars would contend that Almond, Sivan and Appleby’s “Renouncers,” by not actually opposing the modern world order, are not true fundamentalists.

8 In terms of Islamic fundamentalism, see Said Amir Arjomand, “Unity and Diversity in Islamic Fundamentalism, in Fundamentalisms Comprehended, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 5, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 179-198. The comparison / contrast between “scriptural” and “political” fundamentalism is largely a construct utilized by scholars of fundamentalist movements, particularly in reference to the Islamic fundamentalism. Traditional scholars of Muslim history typically speak of pre-twentieth century strict Islamist movements (based on strict interpretations of the Quran and the hadith) as “revival” or “revivalist” movements, whereas the term “fundamentalism” (which many Muslims reject forthright) is reserved for Islamic political movements devoted to implementing strict Islamic law on the state level. In contrast, scholars of Christian fundamentalist movements typically apply the term “fundamentalist” to Christians who insist that the final authority in all matters of existence is the “inerrant” Bible. Unlike Islamic fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists typically do not overtly seek the establishment of a theocratic government.

9 Bassam Tibi, “The Worldview of Sunni Arab Fundamentalists: Attitudes toward Modern Science and Technology,” in Fundamentalisms and Society, The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 2, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 73.

10 Gabriel Ben-Dor, “The Uniqueness of Islamic Fundamentalism,” in Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, eds. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman and Efraim Inbar (London and Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass, 1997), 241.

11 In recent decades, scholarly literature on religious fundamentalisms has mushroomed. Although the purpose of this paper is neither to survey nor list such literature, the massive

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