The term Fundamentalist has been extensively misused by the media to refer to terrorists who happen to be Muslim, or who are anti-American Muslims. This is not accurate. Fundamentalist Islam is simply the conservative wing of Islam, just as fundamentalist Christianity is the conservative wing of Christianity. The vast majority of Muslmi fundamentalists are pious individuals who strictly follow the teachings of Mohammed, promote regular attendance at mosques, and promote the reading of the Qur'an.
Most Middle Eastern terrorists are probably fundamentalist Muslims, but they share little with their fellow fundamentalists. They represent an extremist, radical wing of fundamentalist Islam, which is composed of people who believe that the Islamic state must be imposed on the people from above, using violent action if necessary.
Islam and politics have always been inseparable, as Islam is a political religion in the etymological sense of the word. Thus, the demand for the separation of religion and state in Muslim countries is more than . secularist: it is openly anti-religious. This helps explain why none of the major currents of bourgeois or petty bourgeois nationalism on Islamic soil, with the exception of Kemalism in Turkey, have called for secularism.
The common denominator of these different movements is Islamic fundamentalism, that is, the wish to return to Islam, the aspiration to an Islamic utopia, which incidentally cannot be limited to a single nation but must encompass all Muslim peoples if not the whole world.
The contradictions of imperialism. Islam has been a political religion since the beginning. When Arabs invaded other countries, the rationale was jihad (holy war) against infidels, although these wars had economic motives. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Muslim countries, one after the other, were colonised by the imperialist countries, the resistance movements used religion as well as nationalism as a launching pad for independence struggles. In countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, the national liberation movement was begun in the name of religion.
The inability of capitalism to solve the basic problems. Islamic fundamentalism is spreading especially rapidly in those counties where capitalism has failed to fulfill the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution, where it has failed to eliminate poverty and ignorance and where class contradictions are sharpening. Poverty and ignorance are concomitant. A society ridden with ignorance is fertile soil for the growth of fundamentalist ideas.
Providing an alternative society. The fundamentalists, through their massive network of social services, have built alternative societies in the Muslim countries where they are strong. They provide hospitals, orphanages, schools and many other facilities, which weak capitalist governments have failed to provide to the masses. This adds to their influence as a social force. Their schools (seminaries) are the most influential tool. These seminaries not only provide religious education but also guarantee food and shelter to the children of poor parents who cannot afford education and food.
When Khomeini became the leader and the Imam, as a first step words were sacrificed and left empty of substance and meaning. Such noble words as "Islam," "freedom,'" "republic," etc., were systematically debased and cheapened. They called the most savage tortures "religious punishment." They mutilated prisoners' bodies, gouged out their eyes, and stoned people to death under the banner of religion.
An apostate in this perspective is a traitor. He is punished, not for what he believes in, but for what he does and which could be harmful to the interests of the state.
But Dr Shahin says the mere fact that someone goes public with his apostasy "amounts to fitna (sedition, or civil strife), he is thus like someone fighting Islam, and should therefore be killed."
Religious fundamentalisms arose in the twentieth century and have spilled over into the twenty-first century. By nature, religious fundamentalisms oppose modernity as expressed in contemporary Western morals and social values. Of the various faith groups which contain fundamentalist elements, Islam has provided the most vibrant and politically active expressions.