The most important concept in the Johnstone text is that on religious fundamentalism. This can be defined as a style of religion that applies an uncompromising attachment to certain fundamental tenets of a faith. Fundamentalists generally are reactionary in nature, seeking to restore the aspects of traditional religious life that have been lost, or rejected in modern times, and to bring about a return to the old days, which may be real or imagined.
For this reason, fundamentalism has been grouped among the predictable responses to the changes and challenges of modernity. In his book, Religion in Society, A Sociology of Religion, Johnstone focuses mainly on three forms of religious fundamentalism; Protestant fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, and Islamic fundamentalism (Johnstone 5).
The term fundamentalism was first used to describe a conservative strain of Protestantism that developed in the United States roughly from 1870 to 1925. Protestant fundamentalism emerged in the early twentieth century as a reaction to broad changes in the American society, which was arguably the world leader in modernization at the time.
It was a rebellion against the liberal effects of modern education on historic Protestant denominations. The fundamentalists defended what they believed were the authentic orthodox beliefs. Also, they believed these beliefs were under attack by the modernist liberals. Some of the beliefs they cleaved to were biblical inerrancy, the reality of miracles such as the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, the deity of Christ, as well as his atonement and (Marsden 15).
Unlike many fundamentalist movements today, U.S. Protestant fundamentalism of the early twentieth century was not so much a battle with the secular state as it was an intra-religious fight with other U.S. Protestant organizations.
These other U.S. Protestant organizations were attempting to modernize their religion to be, in the progressive Protestant view, relevant for a new time. Fundamentalists of this era were militantly opposed to modernizing the Christian faith, and militantly opposed to cultural changes endorsed by modernism (Marsden 4).
Since the ancient times, Hebrew prophets and other devotees were constantly trying to bring the people back to the right worship of their God. When Israel came under the Greeks and then Romans rule, this created a new fundamentalist dynamic as they were now faced with cultural as well as religious assimilation and syncretism.
Some Israelites adopted the culture of the foreigners, as prestige or as defiance of traditional Jewish authority while some mixed old and new cultures, and molded something locally unique from the mixture. However, there were those who held firmly to the old religion and even became militant champions of orthodoxy against outside and inside challenges. Many followers were willing to die for their religious truths.
The Essenes and the Maccabees are two classic examples of fundamentalist groups in ancient Judaism. After centuries of foreign rule, Judas Maccabeus led a Jewish revolt and temporarily established a Jewish state in the late 60s which was the restoration of not just the State but also of the religion.
The Essenes were surprisingly modern in their attitudes, which included their denunciation of the priests of Jerusalem as being hopelessly corrupted by their tolerance to Gentile ways, and by collaboration with the Roman occupiers, as well as their doctrines of repentance and Gods coming judgment. They believed that Jews must separate themselves from such polluting influences and return to strict observance of Gods law (Marsden 29).
Modern Jewish fundamentalism can be traced to the early 1700s as a response to the modernist shifts in Jewish culture. A major distinction between Christian fundamentalism, and the non-Christian ones is that in the non-Christian cases, modernity seems not only secular but also foreign, a force or culture of the alien West, often associated with colonialism.
Among early modern Jews, the modernist/Westernist members, the maskilim or enlightened men were opposed by traditional religious teachers or Rabbis as well as a new breed of more orthodox leaders who called themselves zaddikim (righteous men) or rebbes.
These men founded the movement known as Hasidism, an ultraorthodox form of Judaism which identified itself with the Maccabees and ancient Judaism. For these rebbes, the greatest threat of modernism was the separation of Jews from their observance of the commandments of the Torah (Lawrence 126).
The opposition by the haredim to the formation of a Jewish state was yet another case of fundamentalism. While many would welcome this development, some of the more traditionalist elements, including the haredim, did not.
The haredim (those who tremble), is a collection of organizations and communities, including Neturei Karta and Toldot Aharon, who share some ideas and values, like a strict observance of all scriptural laws and a theological opposition to Zionism and the secular state of Israel. They have attempted to purge foreign, secular learning from their religious schools (yeshiva) and to purify their culture, as much as possible withdrawing from the wider society.
Their level of fundamentalism went as far as having institution known as Miahmarot Hatzniut or The Chastity Guards who policed the sexual behavior of the community. Politically, they interpreted the formation of Israel as a betrayal of eschatology, an indication of deviation from divine history.
Other groups and movements have emerged in contemporary Israel, with varying agendas and methods. A small but effective group is the Gush Emunim (The Bloc of the Faithful), which emerged in the early 1970s following the Israeli success of the Six-Day War in 1967.
Adherents of this group saw this as an apocalyptic event, a sign of Gods involvement and approval. Originating as a student movement out of the Yeshiva, they comprise of younger, better educated, and higher social class than haredim members, the products of the modern age. Another difference is their attitude toward the state of Israel. They are not hostile to it but rather seek to expand it, ideally from the Euphrates River in Iraq to the Brook of Egypt (Lawrence, 80).
They have, therefore, been particularly active in the settlement movement in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. They have opposed any plans to withdraw from conquered territories like Sinai, and have committed vandalism and harassment against local Palestinians. They also have at one time plotted to destroy the Muslim mosque, the Dome of the Rock, which sits at the top of the ancient Jerusalem Temple Mount.
For most people, the very quintessence of fundamentalism in the modern world is the Islamic version. Certainly, the most dramatic instances of recent religious violence have been meted out in its name. This had led some observers to the conclusion held by many that Islam is inherently prone to fundamentalist tendencies.
Certainly, others have separated the fundamentalism in Islam from the wider religion, branding it with the pejorative term Islamist. Beyond the judgmental tendencies, talking about Islamic fundamentalism is especially complex because Islam exists in so many different states and societies, with so many different internal variables (historical, political, and ethnic), and with such a contempt towards the West.
In addition to the foreign nature of secularism and modernization, we must understand the connection for many Muslim people and groups of these forces not only with Europe and the USA, but also with Christianity and with their own nationalist struggles.
Islam is also one of the few cases where fundamentalists have actually achieved political power, and established a religious social system. The founding of Islam can be considered a kind of fundamentalist movement, the recovery and re-establishment of an original and basic monotheism which continued but clarified and perfected.
One of the essential things to realize is that, from the beginning, Islam was ideally both a religion and a social system; in fact, the religious/secular divides did not really exist. Islam is not only a set of beliefs and rituals, but also a set of laws and a system of jurisprudence, established first in the sharia legal standards, then in the traditions of Muhammads rulings, and the history of interpretations and applications of both.
Islam has its unique history of movements and struggles for belief and power, dating back to the earliest years, and the controversy over the successor (caliph) to Muhammad. This led immediately to the split between the Sunnis and the Shiites (the Shia Ali or the partisans of Ali, kinsmen of Muhammad). Thus, Shiites tends to see themselves as the purifiers and reformers of a literally misguided Islam. However, the movements that have arisen since sustained contact with and colonization by the West interest us the most.
Wahhabism is one of the more familiar and important developments. Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, started a purist movement in Saudi Arabia characterized by opposition to popular superstitions and innovations, his insistence on informed independent judgments over against the role reliance on medieval authorities, and his call for the Islamization of society, and the creation of a political order which gives appropriate recognition to Islam.
Specifically, this entailed a return to the textual fundamentals of the Quran and the other main Islamic scripture, like the Hadith. To date, Wahhabism is still an influential school of thought in Saudi Arabia.
Islam was a medium of discourse, response, and resistance in all Muslim societies penetrated by Western colonialism and culture. The Brotherhood rejected the separation of the religious and temporal worlds, and called for an Islamic society and government, arguing that political neutrality was a crime against Islam.
Eventually, they established a secret military wing to defend the group and, they hoped to someday seize power; they even attempted an assassination of the Egyptian leader, Nasser. The Muslim Brotherhood produced other movements in Egypt, like Sayyid Qutbs takfir approach, which accused all existing Muslim societies of atheism (takfir literally means branding with atheism) and, therefore, rejected their legitimacy.
Some takfir groups advocated the overthrow of regimes, while others proposed withdrawal from them (e.g., Shukri Mustafas al-Takfirwal-Hijra or charging with atheism and emigrating view). By 1975, the Jihad Organization had formed to extend the vision, calling for obligatory holy war against any society or administration not ruled by Gods laws.
Indisputably, the most inspiring model for Islamic fundamentalism in the twentieth century was the Iranian revolution. A revolution in 1906 had led to a constitution that was not anti-Islamic but not based on sharia law either. In 1941, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi became ruler, after being reinstalled by the West following an insurrection in the early 1950s, and became a major supporter and champion of modernization, and political freedoms.
His modernizing policies and close ties to the West, together with the repression practiced through his secret police force, made the regime increasingly unpopular. From exile in France, Ayatollah Khomeini applied continuous pressure, calling for an Islamic administration which would rule but not legislate, since all of the laws were already provided by Islam.
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