To what extent is it true that religious fundamentalism arose as a reaction to the influences of the West?
It is true to the large extent that religious fundamentalism arose as a reaction to the influences of the West due to US backing for Shah, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the support for the Mujahedeen. However, Western influence may not be the only factor as globalisation and the failure of modernization and secularization also play a part in the rise of religious fundamentalism.
At that point of time, many Islamist organizations define themselves in opposition to the West, and particularly the United States, especially as the latter’s foreign policy has become ever more interventionist in the region. The death of the democracy in Arab states in combination with the collaboration between the US government and many regimes in the Middle East prevented certain opposition groups from expressing themselves. In effect, they have no say in the running of their countries. As a result, they turn to religion for divine validation.
The emergence of the overly anti-American Islamic Republic of Iran reflected the wave of popular discontent with US interference and influence throughout the region. The shah was restores to power by an army coup inspired and paid by the US and the UK, despite his lack of popular support. He pressed on with his ‘White Revolution’, which was ever more dependent of Western capital and political leadership. Therefore, due to US backing of the Shah, it provided aids and military supply to him thus making Iranian to resent the Shah and leading to the rise of religious groups.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan triggered international jihadism. As Muslims around the world, from the Middle East, Southeast Asia in the West volunteered to join the armed struggle. US and Saudi Arabia recruited Muslim volunteers around the world to aid in the jihad with the Soviets. The Afghan experience encouraged individuals such as Osama Bin Laden and Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan to use religious justifications for armed conflict. As the withdrawal of the Soviet Union mythologized as an ‘Islamic’ victory against a secular superpower and strengthened militant Islamism as an active, energized doctrine through which Islamic political aspirations could be attained. When other Muslims saw this victory, then began to want to be part of the Jihad and thus leading them to creating their own religious fundamentalist group. Therefore, due to the West influence of recruiting Muslim volunteer around the world to go to war, it actually influences the Muslim and thus leading to the rise of religious fundamentalism.
US supports for the mujahedeen in the Afghan war also lead to the rise of the religious fundamentalism. In its fight against the USSR, US not only trained the religiously influenced Mujahedeen elements but also provided arms, economic aid and gave diplomatic support for the Islamic fundamentalist. The jihadi mind set, propagated through training centres throughout the region, began to spread and gain credibility faster than the US had foreseen. The short-sighted nature of American foreign policy in this period helped to create the forces and leadership structures of militant Islamism, forces that emerged as the greatest challenge to US hegemony in the post-Cold War World. The American willingness to fund resistance movements created a cadre of professionally trained, combat-ready Islamists. As a result of its involvement in Afghanistan, the US inadvertently assisted in the creation of a network of highly trained militant.
For instance, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the consequent US support for the Islamic militants led to the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban spread its ideology to various other regions and as a result, there came into existence a number of organizations and groups championing the ideology of Jihad and other forms of extremist religious forms in different parts of the world. On the flip side, western influence is not the only factor that leads to the rise of religious fundamentalism as the effect of globalisation also plays a part in creating religious groups. In countries that combine some modernization with little or no democratization, religious fundamentalists experience official opposition. They may enjoy an increased capacity to formulate their own agenda and mobilize resources, but have little or no opportunity to promote that agenda in the formal political process.
Consequently, regions of the world that have experienced some modernization, little democratization and the widespread diffusion of militant political theologies have produced radical religious movements such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah. Globalization increased the capacity of religious actors to project influence, mobilize resources and attract followers across national boundaries. For example, millions of Christian around the world circulated bulletins via email and the internet detailing how their fellow believers were persecuted in far-flung, obscure locales like Orissa in eastern India, Kaduna in Nigeria and Sulawesi in Indonesia. Therefore, due to globalization it then leads to the rise of religious fundamentalism as through globalisation it has made the world a smaller place.
An effect of modernization and secularization is another factor that leads to the rise of religious fundamentalism. Modernization, be it gradual or rapid has challenge the religious tradition. Contemporary Islamic fundamentalists incline towards aggressive, politicized and ‘purified’ version of Islamic theology – such as Sharia, argued that the root of mounting social problems in Islamic societies lies in a lack of religious fidelity, corrupting “secular” elites, ceding to Western manipulation and the absence of a strong universal Islamic community.
Christian fundamentalist have made extensive use of political action to promote traditional biblical values and beliefs in the US society, to recreate the US as a Christian nation. Among the governmental secular measure that helped arouse Christian fundamentalism un the US were the proposed Equal Rights Amendment and some key Supreme Court measures, especially the outlawing of prayer in the public schools in 1962 and the granting of abortion rights in 1973. Fundamentalist Christian believes that the Bible forbids abortion and that outlawing the school prayer is an abomination. Therefore, due to the failure of modernization it actually leads to the rise of religious fundamentalism.
In conclusion, Western influence plays a big role in the rise of religious fundamentalism. However, the effects of globalisation and the failure of modernization also is one of the factors in the rise of religious fundamentalism.