Saturday, January 25, 2003

Fundamentalism: The real enemy

Conservative commenators who like to pit American liberals in the same camp as the right-wing Islamists reponsible for 9/11 are in many ways trying cover their own tracks.

Let's face it: When right-wing propagandists and pundits natter on about how Islamists hate Western culture, how they hate modernism and freedom and our supposed decadence, they're talking about those parts of our society that are decidedly liberal. Indeed, many of these chatterers specifically point out how Islamists are known to put homosexuals to death, in stark contrast with their supposed sympathizers in the American antiwar crowd. Others blame liberals from the other direction -- like Jerry Falwell, saying our cultural depravity caused God to raise his protective hand from us.

All of this, of course, begs the question whether American liberals in truth have any sympathy whatsoever for Islamists. The majority of their objections to the looming war are not based in any empathy for the enemy, but on the utter failure of the Bush administration to make a case for attacking Iraq. How, exactly, is Saddam connected to 9/11 anyway? If we're only going to war to flex our muscle in the world, then damned straight the majority of Americans are against it. Sympathy's got nothing to do with it.

The truth is, however, that there is a substantial portion of the American population that feels the same way about modernism and liberal America's supposed "moral relativism" as do the Islamists. There is even a subset of these folks who likewise openly hope for the overthrow of the government and who argue for the death sentence for homosexuals. Another subset is working actively to penetrate the halls of U.S. government and take over its reins from within, transforming the nation into an open theocratic "Christian" state that structurally will resemble nothing so much as those Islamic states we now officially despise.

They're called fundamentalists. They're a global problem -- particularly in the USA. Conservatives, of course, don't really want to talk about the problem in this context, since their movement's ranks resound with the thunder of a million thumping Bibles.

The reality is that America -- indeed, Western civilization generally -- in confronting the Islamists is not up against Islam itself (contrary to what the Paul Weyrichs of the world may tell us). There is nothing innately anti-modern about Islam (no more so than any other ancient world religion).

We are up against all the many faces of fundamentalism. It is this movement that is explicitly anti-modern. Religious scholars, such as Karen Armstrong in her excellent The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, like to point out that the movement arose specifically as a reaction to modernism, or more specifically, as a reaction against the many failures of modern society. (This likewise suggests the real solution to the problem, that is, to find ways to mitigate those failures as a way of blunting the appeal of fundamentalism; but heaven forfend such suggestions be made, since they have roundly been denounced by conservatives as "anti-American." See, e.g., Patty Murray.)

This is not to argue that everyday fundamentalists are necessarily equivalent to Islamist footsoldiers. But it does underscore the fact that the extremists among Christian fundamentalists -- particularly those from the Christian Identity movement -- are every bit as dangerous to our national well-being as those from Al Qaeda.

There's a new front that poses a fresh danger as well: Hindu fundamentalism.

Here's an excellent piece from the latest Searchlight:

Hindu fundamentalism -- why we are concerned

This easy acceptance of anti-Muslim propaganda reflects a wider set of concerns -- the growth of Hindu fundamentalist, nationalist and anti-Muslim ideas within the Hindu community of Wellingborough, and indeed wider afield, where such ideas have become almost "common sense". Since the attack on the Twin Towers and the subsequent American led "war on terrorism", anti-Muslim sentiment and prejudice has grown significantly across all communities, both in the UK and abroad, and is certainly not confined to the Hindu community, although Hindu fundamentalist groups now have more credibility for their long-standing anti-Muslim views that predate recent events.

It's not too hard to see that the rise of Islamic terrorists is closely associated with American funding of such groups during the anti-Soviet uprising in Afghanistan in the 1980s. We have a history of loosing the "enemy of our enemies," only for the little monsters eventually to turn on us. (See also Saddam Hussein.) Let's not repeat the mistake.

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