Muslim Fundamentalism a Threat to the West?

By Arar, Nadwa | The World and I, November 2008 | Go to article overview

Muslim Fundamentalism a Threat to the West?

Arar, Nadwa, The World and I

After the end of the Cold War, the West began to perceive Muslim fundamentalism as the new threat to their stability. Recent fighting between Georgia and Russia has brought back specters of that Cold War.

In the West's views Muslim fundamentalism is associated with barbarism and fanaticism. Some Western scholars and academics have even defined Islamic fundamentalism as 'revolutionary neo-traditionalist Islamic radicalism.'

The concept of fundamentalism is not an easy one to grasp but what should be established at the very outset is, that it has been universally acknowledged, that fundamentalist movements have been formed by social, economic and political hardships. Muslim fundamentalists who have in the past suffered from a colonial experience and are suffering today from illegal occupation, whether in Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq, have felt a threat to their core individuality. They believe that to reinforce their selfhood, to build defenses, one has to fight back against challengers. The alternative, in their eyes, to political domination.

If there is no law that is based on the principles of justice then the best solution, they believe, is to take up arms against their aggressors and fight for security in a very insecure world. Fundamentalism is not restricted to Islam only, but can be found everywhere. Christian fundamentalism is found at the heart of American Power. Jewish fundamentalism is found in Israel.

Up until today Palestinians are suffering daily oppression from Israeli security forces. Palestinians are being branded as dangerous terrorists and fundamentalists, but the West has failed to explain why Muslim and Arab terrorism exists in the first place. Just the fact that Israel has never complied with U.N.-Resolutions 242 or 425, that call for the complete withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967, or Israel's illegal holding, settlement and construction in East Jerusalem, has inflamed Arabs to put up a fight against cold injustices. Many Arab and Muslim states believe that the creation of Israel is one of the reasons for instability in the Arab world. To understand Muslim radical behavior we have to dive deeper into Muslim history and also look into the roots of violence.

Muslim fundamentalism has until today not been properly understood by external observers. Only a few Western academics, scholars, journalists and public officials have made an effort to unmask the reasons for such violent movements. They have now just recently begun to relate to the problem, examine it more carefully and disclose facts which have been hushed up deliberately by certain groups, particularly eminent policy makers and heads of states.

Today, however, trends are slowly beginning to change. Westerners are slowly coming around to understanding what has led to the sudden expansion of radical Islamic movements. Let us take the case of Algeria, once a secular state, where its people have turned to Islam and established a state based on Islamic law.

The Algerian revolution of 1962 brought to an end 130 years of French colonial rule in North Africa. It was a violent struggle that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Algerians. The first conquest of Algeria began in 1830. Christian Europe was unprepared to deal with Islam, its aim was to make Algeria less Arab and destroy the power of Islam.

The French were increasing their wealth at the expense of the Algerians. They were denigrating Islam and made it appear in the most humiliating form. The rights of Algerian Muslims were constricted and Islamic courts were rejected in favor of French secular courts. The military in Algeria was controlled by the French and therefore there was not much that the natives could do. Western civilization was spread to the Algerians and as a result of this, the Algerians were bereft of their language, their Muslim belief and their culture.

Absorbing Western culture, the natives tried to become as French as possible. …

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