Reverend Doctor Sathiyanathan Clarke is a renowned professor of Theology at the Wesley Theological Seminary. In his epoch making work ‘Competing Fundamentalisms’, he analyzes fundamentalism in Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
‘Religious fundamentalism in the 21st century is a beast with many heads’. Clarke seeks a dialogical interpretation of fundamentalism. The aim of religious fundamentalism is to generate violence and breed terror. There is a strong link between religious fundamentalism and terrorism.
Four Theories that underestimate the Role of Religion
Clash of Civilizations
In the Clash of Civilizations theory the author draws patterns of conflicting cultures. There is an interpretative analysis on how religions clash with culture on the one hand and there is a growth of multiculturalism and hybridity on the other.
Resistance to Empire
Resistance to Empire thesis proposes that religious fundamentalism arose as a resistance to the big powers imperialistic designs. There is a clash of interests between the commercial and the religious world. Religious fanaticism can be seen as a protest to challenge neo-colonial interests.
It’s the Economy Stupid
Here the author looks at the economic interpretation of history. From the Marxian point of view, religion and culture belong to the super-structure of the society. There is a paradox here, of poor economies and its people being driven to religious zealotry and at the same time the big rich like Osmana Bin Laden being driven to Islamic extremism.
The writer makes crucial point in formulating psychological theories to analyze religious bigotry. Lack of self esteem, hatred towards the other, belief in reward of heaven all are contributing factors in driving people towards radicalism.
Christian Fundamentalism was a reaction against secular world view. Under the New Christian Right NCR, evangelists used digital and social media. After September 11, Christian fundamentalism grew its claws to claim American Society
Throughout centuries American missionaries have worked globally to proselytize people to Christianity. Absolutism in Christianity can be traced to the Scripture—the Bible being the infallible world of God. A charismatic pastor in America burned the Quran. The absoluteness of Christ God being a redemptive savior and being an agent that will surpass evil with good forms an important ingredient in theo-politics. Christian fundamentalism started as a thorough rejection of enlightenment.
I would like to disagree with the author whether Christianity is a fundamentalism. Christian evangelists spread peace and love and work independently without being contextual in the geo-political scenario.
It is not an irony but a celebration to point out that in the 21st century there has not been a single instance of Christian terrorism. Conversion is a protestant culture and aims at winning souls rather than winning battles.
The author begins to explain that Western societies are suffering from Islamic-phobia. Amongst the various strands of Islam, there are the Sunnis who cover predominant parts of the world and have a deep rooted fundamentalism in their character. The Shya Muslims on the other hand possess a liberal theology.
Islamic militancy has two fold objectives: one, using Islamic laws as a solution to social, cultural and economic problems and two, creating a community of Islamic believers.
The attack of USA’s Twin Towers by Sunni Muslims and the retaliation made by America’s invasion of Iraq increased the storm and rage the Jihadists. The concept of an all global Islamic State remarks one scholar is psycho-pathological.
Islamic fundamentalists adhere submission to the one and all powering God Allah and obedience to the Sharia. They carry a bitter hatred for the otherness of people. The diehards also embellish the view that Quran is the voice of God conveyed by the angel Gabriel and recited by memory (Muhammad did not know to read and write) and written down by its faithful adherents.
Modernity and Globalization have transformed fanatic devotees of Islam into a worldwide movement.
There are two forms of Jihad—the lesser Jihad and the greater Jihad. Greater Jihad is waged against people who are un-Islamic and who threaten the religious order of Islam.
It’s a moot question to ask which of these fundamentalisms Christianity, Islam or Hinduism is the worst. The answer is left to the discretion of the reader.
Hindu Fundamentalism is oxymoronic. Hinduism is a paradox—on the one hand it is diverse, tolerant and permissive and on other hand it is veering towards violent extremism.
The beginnings of Hindu fanaticism can be traced back to the Mughal invasions in India and systematic destruction of temples. Mughals also had the aim of conversion of infidels to Islam.
Hinduism in the 21st century involved the resurgence of what is popularly known as the Hindutva or violent, terrorizing Hinduism.
Savarkar a Hindu extremist said : ‘I want all Hindus to get themselves reanimated and reborn into a martial race’.
Savarkar defined India as being Hindutva’s sacred space. Savarkar’s ideas were greatly admired by the RSS (a militant wing of the Hindus) chief and founder Hegdewar. Hindu militancy acquired fire during the 80’s
The RSS and the VHP both being militant outfits conjoined with the BJP, the political party of India which came to power in 2014. Its chief driven purpose was to create a Hindu state for India.
The Hindu zealots want to change Nehruvian Indian secularism to a hard faceted Hindutva ideology.
The mosque that was built by Babar at Ayodhya which is considered to be the birth place of Lord Rama (Holy for the Hindus) was desecrated and demolished by Bajranglal (militant Hindus) activists and it created animosity between the Hindus and the Muslims.
The BJP government also plays a sinister role of infusing Hindu ideology into the curriculum of schools.
It is because of the prevalent caste system in Hinduism, that the subaltern, pariahs like the Dalits and the Adivasis get converted to Islam and Christianity.
There was violent attack on a railway carriage leading to the killing of scores of Muslims that too women and Children during the Modi (now Prime Minister of India) regime in Gujarat.
Bible burning, rape, murder and humiliation of Christians (a Christian missionary and his wife were paraded naked) became the disharmony of the day.
The VHP Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (a fanatic Hindu organization/ Trump are you listening) allocated 55 Million dollars for promoting Hindutva.
To conclude I would like to say that we need dialogic theologies of all religions that would harness peaceful coexistence and sustainable democracies for the future of hope and peace in the world.