Islamic Fundamentalism Feared, Misunderstood: Political Repression and Poverty Fuel a Religious Movement

By Patterson, Margot | National Catholic Reporter, October 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Islamic Fundamentalism Feared, Misunderstood: Political Repression and Poverty Fuel a Religious Movement


Patterson, Margot, National Catholic Reporter


Islamic fundamentalism has replaced communism as the enemy of the day. But despite the growing perception in this country that Islamic fundamentalism poses a threat to the United States, many Americans have only a minimal understanding of who Islamic fundamentalists are, what they believe and why their ranks continue to grow.

Misconceptions are common, with one-dimensional views of Islamic fundamentalists as violent extremists prevailing over more nuanced understandings of a movement that is complex and diverse.

In fact, most Islamic fundamentalists have much in common with their Christian counterparts, both perceiving reality through an interpretation of scripture that they view as inerrant. While some Islamic fundamentalists are recruited from the poor and uneducated, others come from middle class or prosperous backgrounds" and have university degrees.

"The vast majority are not violent, bomb-hrowing people. They are very much like your average very religious Catholic or Protestant," said Lawrence Davidson, professor of history at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and author of the book Islamic Fundamentalism.

For many Muslims, Islamic revival simply means becoming a more religiously observant Muslim. For others, being an observant Muslim is not simply more attention to prayer or fasting; it's also about creating a more just, moral, Islam-ased society, said John Esposito, a professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University and founding director of the university's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Context, say scholars, is everything, and the political and economic climate that pertains in many Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East, fuels Islamist movements that go beyond respect and reverence for the Islamic religion to adopt Islam as a political strategy or that refer to Islamic principles in calling for social and political reforms. These "Islamist" movements, as fundamentalism in the context of Islam is more properly called, have developed increasing popular support as other efforts at economic and political reform in Muslim societies have failed.

"If you held elections, in almost every single country in the Muslim world, Islamists would probably gain a majority. They would obtain a majority because they are highly organized, they have established an effective social base, and they are seen to be quite legitimate by a sizeable number of Muslims," said Fawaz Gerges, the Christian A. Johnson Chair in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of the upcoming book Jihadists:Unholy Warriors. "The point to keep in mind is that Islamism is here to stay."

Scholars say Islamism represents for many Muslims a last-ditch effort to better their situation after decades of living in impoverished states that have experimented with socialism, Arab nationalism, military dictatorships and monarchies--with little discernible improvement in living standards for the vast majority of their populations.

"The socialists, the free marketers, the nationalists, the monarchists have failed," said Stephen Zunes, associate professor of politics at San Francisco University and author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism.

Islam appeals because it is an alternative to the secular nation-state, to a Western, non-indigenous, non-Islamic form of social organization and political process, said R. Scott Appleby, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and co-editor of The Fundamentalism Project, a massive five-volume study of global fundamentalism.

Facing formidable obstacles

But to become successful, Islamists face formidable obstacles, Appleby observed. He said most Muslims are wary of Islam as a political movement, oppose Islam's manipulation for violent or revolutionary ends, and don't have confidence in extreme Islamic movements. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Islamic Fundamentalism Feared, Misunderstood: Political Repression and Poverty Fuel a Religious Movement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.