Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction

By Lawrence Davidson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Western Perceptions of Islamic
Fundamentalism

HISTORICAL ROOTS

Western perceptions of Islam and the concerns that arise from them are rooted in a long period of Judeo-Christian and Muslim historical interaction. A brief description of that history will help provide answers to some important questions. How have Western nations such as the United States reacted to Islamic fundamentalist movements? What particular concerns have been expressed thereby? Are all Westerners of one mind in their reaction to Islamic fundamentalism?

Relations between the Judeo-Christian world (or what is now popularly termed “the West”) and the Islamic world (popularly thought of as part of “the East”) have had a long and often confrontational history. From the time of the prophet Muhammad (570–632), the religions of these two civilizations have come into conflict, despite the fact that Muhammad conceived of Islam as heir to the two great monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Christianity. However, he considered Islam not only as an heir but also as a culmination and fulfillment of those faiths. Thus the Quran did not just stand in the line of the Old and New Testaments, but being God’s final revelation, it also adjusted and “corrected” the supposed erroneous interpretations and uses Christians and Jews had made of them. Given that Christians and Jews refused to accept Muhammad as the final prophet (the “seal of prophecy”) and the Quran as God’s final revelation, a great rivalry was bound to develop. And, in an age

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