Islamic Fundamentalism Essay
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20 March 2007 Introduction On September 11, 2001, the United States of America experienced the worst act of terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil, as major targets in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania were the scenes of the massive slaughter of innocent civilians. From the moment that the first act commenced, the rumor mill flew into overdrive, conveniently blaming the terrorism on “militant Islamic” people, and implying that this movement had suddenly sprung up out of obscurity to strike at the heart of America like a thief in the night.
The reality is much more complex, for fundamentalist Islam has a much longer history, and the threat it continues to pose to Western Democracy, even today, had been growing and mutating for generations prior to 9/11. In this paper, the very definition of fundamentalism at its beginning will be presented, as well as the perversion of it that has led to the challenges and threats the West now has come to bear. Roots of Fundamentalism.
To begin, one needs to understand two very different and specific terms: followers of Islam and Islamic Fundamentalists, as the two groups are vastly different, yet both claim legitimacy under the same doctrine. In its purest form, Islam is based upon the ancient teachings of the prophet Muhammad, who was said to have been given the Quran, or holy book of Islam, by God himself, with Muhammad as the messenger and deliverer of the Quran and its teachings to the masses (Davidson).
If one were to follow the teachings of Islam in a more traditional sense, as Muhammad is said to have received the word from God, they would be peaceful, obedient servants of God, and Muhammad, thereby enriching their lives, raising solid families and leaving the world a better place than what is was when they were born into it. Eventually, however, political turmoil distorted this message and gave rise to a strain of Islam that is known as Fundamentalism or Extremism, depending upon the source of the material.
This interpretation of Islam and the Quran takes the inflexible view that those who do not believe in Islam, and follow the Quran, are characterized as “Infidels”, and the price of their infidelity to Islam is death. Of course, the Christian ideals of the West make America a convenient target of this sort of massive hatred, but this hatred has also been fueled over the years by America’s defense of other enemies of the fundamentalists/extremists such as the people of Turkey and Israel (Mustikhan).
Eventually, the rage of these Islamics would erupt against the US on a large scale, beginning in the 1970s. The Islamic Terrorist is Born It is generally agreed that those who are today termed “Islamic Terrorists” were first given that moniker by the West in 1979, when the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran was seized by terrorists, taking hundreds of American diplomats and their support staffs hostage in a siege that ultimately lasted 444 days, and brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran.
The group of Iranians and assorted others who were in essence the foot soldiers who undertook the plot, led by the extremist leader Ayatollah Khomeini, came to be called Islamic Terrorists (Hoveyda). From there, the stereotype of what a terrorist is, and their potential to wreak havoc on innocent people, began to grow in the minds of the world community. Threats to Western Democracy Due to the widespread presence of Islamic Extremists/Militants, the threat to Western Democracy has become very real, and of course has manifested itself in such tragedies as the Iran Hostage Crisis and 9/11.
Given the humble beginnings and admirable teachings that are found in the Quran, and were exhibited by Muhammad and carried down by his disciples, it is a wonderment as to exactly how/why Islam eventually spawned a militant faction which goes against the foundations of the faith itself. In a word, the violent offshoot is the byproduct of fanaticism. Fanatics are those members of the Islamic community who have taken the position that any government, or religion (in their mind, they should be one in the same) that does not practice the teachings of the Quran are the equivalent of parasites that must be eradicated for the good of the human race.
The defense of this attitude, and the resultant violence which comes out of the attitude, is due to misinterpretation of the Quran, hence making these individuals worthy of the extremist label. Because the Islamic Extremists have convinced themselves that they are doing the will of God, as laid out in their creative interpretation of the Quran, there quite literally is nothing stopping them from continuing to launch attacks against the Western Democracies, as well as other “infidels” who hold views and practice lifestyles which are contrary to theirs.
One particularly chilling reality of the threat against Western Democracy is the fact that Islamic Extremists, while found in large numbers in some nations more commonly than others, really do not have a nation with borders, do not fly an identifiable flag, or wear a uniform that indicates that they are Islamic Extremists, despite what the leadership of the United States may choose to claim in the present day. Rather, the Extremists have the ability to move freely about the globe and do not have a set territory where organized armies can pursue and battle them.
This sort of an invisible threat, not centered in a geographic location but highly organized and well financed as well as armed to the hilt, holds the potential to destroy their enemies, such as the Western Democracies, which are somewhat restrained by physical borders and the need to engage in conventional warfare. Because of this, the paradox is clear- how can an enemy be fought if it cannot be readily seen or tracked? Also, the inability to negotiate with Islamic Extremists closes another avenue of resolving differences and stopping the bloodshed.
Conclusion- What is the Future Threat? This paper has shown that Fundamental Islam has the means, mindset, and determination to bring Western Democracy to its knees, as well as the point of annihilation. What this will mean for the future is anyone’s guess but one thing is for sure- without some sort of decisive action against Islamic Fundamentalists, many more innocent lives may be lost, and hard lessons may be learned too late and at too high of a price.
Davidson, Lawrence. Islamic Fundamentalism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. Hoveyda, Fereydoun. The Broken Crescent: The “Threat” of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. Marin-Guzman, Roberto. “Fanaticism: A Major Obstacle in the Muslim Christian Dialogue. the Case of Twentieth Century Islamic Fundamentalism. ” Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ) 25. 3 (2003): 63+. Mustikhan, Ahmar. “The Roots of Islamic Extremism. ” World and I July 1999: 74.