New Login   

Theory and Praxis of Fundamentalism Unpacked

Sudha Pai

Edited by Carol Schick , Jo Ann Jaffe, Ailsa M. Watkinson 
Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 175, Rs. 500.00


The volume under review is a product of the intense debate on fundamentalism generated by the events of 9/11 in the US. Written by a group of scholars from Canada, its aim is to analyse not only “Islamic fundamentalism” to which much attention has been devoted, but to go beyond and to explore the meaning of fundamentalism so as to give it theoretical precision; and second, to work towards a project for contesting the claims of fundamentalism. Interestingly each chapter reflects some personal experience and involvement on the part of the contributors—due to connections with fundamentalist communities—including for some a feeling of vulnerability, which makes the book more than an academic treatise. The editors argue that it has immediate value because of the dangers of increasing violence that fundamentalism poses of which the invasion of Iraq is a significant example and the potential of creating a fascist state as in Europe where an extreme right-wing movement was an essential part of the rise of fascism.   The term fundamentalism is derived from the US Protestant Evangelical movement that began in the late 1800s. Explained as a reaction to the disruptions brought about by the Civil War, post-war Reconstruction, massive non-British immigration and urbanization, it was a revitalization movement aimed to save America and restore the true religion. However, the editors have a much broader and multidimensional view of contemporary fundamentalisms which can be “used to describe particular types of national pride, cultural exclusion, xenophobia, economic theory and other systems characterized by strongly held beliefs, group formation, boundary development and prescriptive practices” (p. 2). But more important, what all ‘fundamentalisms’ have in common is a set of hegemonic beliefs that can oppress social groups in many areas of life. Hence, in the volume the concept is expanded beyond the usual frame of religious experience to include market neo-liberalism and hegemonic masculinity. The common denominator is that fundamentalism is the enemy of rational debate and intellectual enquiry. As the various studies in the volume show, depending on the specific context it can be liberatory or oppressive. It is only extreme versions of any ideology that give rise to fundamentalism; as long as thinking remains open to criticism, suggestion and scrutiny and relationships are open to negotiation and difference, fundamentalism—including Islamic fundamentalism—can be kept in abeyance. The editors identify themselves as standing on a feminist, anti-racist and anti-oppressive platform. While fundamentalism is ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.