Fundamentalism is the belief in old and traditional forms of religion or the belief that whatever is written in a holy book is true. It was particularly evident in the 20th century, which seeks to recover and publicly institutionalised aspects of the past that modern life has obscured.
The 21st century has witnessed a phenomenal rise in fundamentalism and fanatism and global terrorism on the rise. The fundamentalists see the secular states as their primary enemy because their goals do not tend to align with each other.
The socialist society believes in education, democracy, reforms, modernisation, liberalisation and economic reforms. The fundamentalists believe all these goals as hindrances to their objective of preserving the spiritual dimension of life.
The ideology of fundamentalism has not only gripped the poor and underdeveloped countries but also hijacked the developed, liberal and democratic nations. Many factors such as imperialism, poverty, lack of good governance, corruption, political instability and poor economic conditions have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism.
Lately, the concept of fundamentalism has taken a bad shape with rising militancy, violence and terrorism. The religious consciousness not only among the elderly but also among the youth is increasing in today’s time. This is the by-product of modern life, which has become synonymous with stress, pressures, competitiveness and uncertainty.
This conspicuous religiosity has led to the growth, spread and strengthening of fundamentalism. However, among the most distinguishing features of today’s situation are the leaps that are occurring in globalisation, linked to an accelerating process of capitalist accumulation in a world dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system. This has led to significant and often dramatic changes in the lives of huge numbers of people, often undermining traditional relations and customs.
Throughout the developing countries, the people are being driven away from the farmlands where they have lived and tried to eke out an existence under oppressive conditions but now can no longer do even that. They are being thrown away into the urban areas that surround the core of the cities.
Almost half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, including the massive and ever-growing shanty towns. Being uprooted from their traditional conditions and the traditional forms in which they have been exploited and oppressed, they are being hurled into a very insecure and unstable existence, unable to be integrated in any kind of ‘articulated way’, into the economic and social fabric and functioning of society.
In many of the countries, a majority of the people in the urban areas work in the informal economy. To a significant degree, because of this, many people are turning to religious fundamentalism to try to give them an anchor in the midst of all this dislocation and upheaval.
In developing countries, these massive changes and dislocations are occurring in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists, which is associated with local ruling classes. These classes are economically and politically dependent on and subordinate to imperialism and are viewed as the corrupt agents of an alien power, who also promote the decadent culture of the West.
This, in the short run, can strengthen the hands of fundamentalists religious forces and leaders who frame opposition to the corruption and Western decadence of the local ruling classes and the imperialists to which they are beholden, in terms of returning to and enforcing with vengeance, traditional relations, customs, ideas, and values which themselves are rooted in the past embody extreme forms of exploitation and oppression.
Many fundamentalist organisations have been established, and it should be clearly noted, they are restricted to Islamic fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is viral across many religions, including some liberal religions. Fundamentalism in the U.S.A. has roots in Niagara Bible Conference related to Christian fundamentalism. Jewish fundamentalism has been used to characterise militant religious Zionism. Similarly, Hindu fundamentalism is discernible in Hindutva, Ayodhya verdict, Gujrat riots etc.
The origin of Islamic fundamentalism can be traced to the 7th century. The Shia and Sunni religious conflict also created a wedge and aggravated Islamic fundamentalism. Al-Shabaab’s Boko Haram, Ansar-al-Sharia, ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc., are Islamic fundamentalist organisations endangering peace and harmony, giving rise to terrorist activities.
The rising fundamentalism not only leads to the loss of lives and property but also the displacement of millions of people from the homeland. The rising terror attacks and migration crisis in Europe are caused due to increasing fundamentalism in Middle and West Asia. The peace, harmony and prosperity have been overpowered by fear, apprehension and hatred.
A democratic government that has the greater participation of people needs to form the backbone of good governance. People need to be educated so that their employability is enhanced. This leads to an improved standard of living. The people need to be provided more religious freedom.
There is a need for greater international cooperation and collaboration in order to check the rising fundamentalism. The United Nations has an important role in improving the deteriorating global environment.