Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.
For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, religious fundamentalism has dominated public debate as never before. Policymakers, educators, and the general public all want to know: Why do fundamentalist movements turn violent? Are fundamentalisms a global threat to human rights, security, and democratic forms of government? What is the future of fundamentalism?
To answer questions like these, Strong Religion draws on the results of the Fundamentalism Project, a decade-long interdisciplinary study of antimodernist, antisecular militant religious movements on five continents and within seven world religious traditions. The authors of this study analyze the various social structures, cultural contexts, and political environments in which fundamentalist movements have emerged around the world, from the Islamic Hamas and Hizbullah to the Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries of Northern Ireland, and from the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition of the United States to the Sikh radicals and Hindu nationalists of India. Offering a vividly detailed portrait of the cultures that nourish such movements, Strong Religion opens a much-needed window onto different modes of fundamentalism and identifies the kind of historical events that can trigger them.
Read an Excerpt
The Rise of Fundamentalisms around the World
By Gabriel A. Almond R. Scott Appleby Emmanuel Sivan
The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2003 The University of Chicago Press
All right reserved.
The Enclave Culture
[T]his is an age of demons and amoral angels and all sorts of deep fears. Like the first centuries of the Christian era, it's an age of extreme solutions.
Iris Murdoch, The Message to the Planet
Just after World War I, Dr. Nathan Birnbaum, formerly a Jewish secularist thinker (Zionist, then cultural autonomist) who had recently returned to the faith, took stock of the state of Judaism. It was almost a century after the early proponents of ultra-Orthodoxy such as the Hatam Sofer (d. 1839) had been alarmed to discover an "unheard of phenomenon: the father being still God-fearing and knowledgeable in the Talmud while the son desecrates the Sabbath." Birnbaum assessed the impact of fourteen decades of Jewish Enlightenment and produced a gloomy diagnosis: most Western European Jews have ceased altogether to be mitzvot (precepts) observant and are indifferent to divine Providence; the mass immigration from Eastern Europe to the United States brings hundreds of thousands to a land of greed and licentiousness; and they are bound to lose their religion in this treifene medina (defiled country), as it was commonly dubbed by Orthodox rabbis. In Eastern Europe, Birnbaum thought, most Jews still observed the Halakah in both ritual and social relations, but there was no mistaking the fact that the curve was on the decline and defections from the faith were on the upswing. The observant, or haredim, live "in exile among Jews" (in Galus bei Yidn), that is, among nominal Jews, Jews by birth only. Even this diagnosis may have been too sanguine. The great Halakhic authorities of the day-the Hafetz Haim (Rabbi I. M. HaCohen), and Rabbi E. Wasserman-expressed grave doubts as to the quality of observance and belief among Eastern Europe's Jewish plain folk. In the post-World War II era, with these masses having been annihilated in the Holocaust, Birnbaum's diagnostic formula seemed to haredi activists more poignant than ever. As Rabbi E. Dessler, who had escaped to England (and then to Israel), put it in an incisive pun, virtually all Jews replace the injunction "thou should be qdoshim [sacred]" with a newly concocted one, "thou should be qaddishniks," thus reducing their Judaism to the act of saying the prayer for the dead (qaddish) on the memorial days of deceased family members. Small wonder that "in exile among Jews" is indeed one of the most common terms the haredim use, in sermons as much as in informal conversation, in order to denote their sense of being a tiny minority, marginal and alienated.
In the fall of 1990 an ultra-Orthodox weekly, Ha-Mahane ha-Haredi, was sentenced by an Israeli court to pay heavy punitive damages for calling a left-wing member of Knesset, a long-time critic of the haredim, a Nazi. The haredi press saw this libel verdict as further proof that "we live in exile among Jews," and, irony of ironies, in the Holy Land. The demographic growth of the ultra-Orthodox community and of its political clout in the 1980s and 1990s barely mitigated the gloomy, defensive gloss they tended to put on reality.
At about the same time that Birnbaum coined this term, Rashid Rida, a Syrian-born thinker living in Cairo, pondered the question, "How fares Islam?" He found most so-called believers to be mere "geographical Muslims" (muslimun jughrafiyun), people who belong to the faith merely by virtue of living in an Islamic land and performing certain rituals. Their belief is tepid, and worse still, they acquiesce to the European-inspired laws introduced by their ostensibly Muslim rulers who "forsake what was enjoined upon the believers by Allah.... They abolish allegedly distasteful penalties such as cutting off the hands of thieves or stoning adulterers and prostitutes. They replace them by man-made laws and penalties."
Terms like the "eclipse of Islam" were already frequent in Rida's day and age, especially after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the abolition of the caliphate (1924), and the imposition of atheistic Communist rule upon Muslim Central Asia. Coining a powerful metaphor to depict this decline was a task left to an Indian Muslim, Maulana Maududi, in the late 1930s, and to an Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb, a decade or so later. They saw a relapse of Islam to a state of jahiliyya, that is, to that of pre-Islamic pagan Arabia. Mid-twentieth-century Muslims, like their ancestors thirteen centuries earlier, were a tiny and harassed minority, surrounded by idolaters and the groupies of modernity cults as well as by nominal and hypocritical "believers."
Jahiliyya was an emotion-laden metaphor, redolent of historical connotations. The present-day idols-such as nationalism-were Western-imported but rendered all the more insidious for being cloaked in indigenous garb. In the 1980s another metaphor emerged: "Islam is in exile [ghurba] in its own lands," much like it was in Arabia when Muhammad had to flee pagan and hostile Mecca for Medina. As the Hadith has it, "Islam began in exile and will return in exile in the [end of history]. Blessed are the exiled."
Idols more openly inspired by European culture also made blatant inroads. By the late 1950s the Iraqi mullah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr would voice grave concern over the lure that communism and the Ba'th Party held for youth, including Shi'ite madrasa students. Such jeremiads would soon be echoed in Morocco and Egypt and were no different in a way than those of al-Sadr's Roman Catholic contemporary, Luigi Giussani, also a theology professor. Giussani, the future founder of the Italian Catholic movement Comunione e Liberazione, worried that the nominally Catholic students in Italian high schools and universities were signs of the ultimate victory of the Enlightenment in an increasingly de-Christianized and individualistic Italian society in which some Catholic rituals still subsisted but were increasingly devoid of any real significance. The upshot of this mass defection, Giussani felt, was the marginalization of religiosity. Even a good many of the church's adepts, following theologians like Jacques Maritain and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, had made their peace with modernity and accepted the autonomy of the world vis-à-vis the faith.
As for those who remained loyal to Islam, their state of mind was expressed by al-Sadr as well as by his Lebanese counterpart, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. Faced with this seemingly unstoppable decline and defection, Muslims felt despair and humiliation, impotence and disgrace.
After three decades as a missionary in Africa, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre returned to France in 1962, at the time of decolonization. He discovered to his dismay a similar mood in French Catholic circles. He attributed this to a substantial dwindling of attendance at Mass, a steep decline in new priestly and monastic vocations, and the growing republican liberalism of Catholic political groupings. (These were phenomena no different in nature yet wider in scope than those deplored by Giussani in Italy, which had not known the ravages of the French Revolution.) Troubled by this crisis, Lefebvre was soon to suffer a shock when the Second Vatican Council introduced what he considered the wrong type of response to the crisis. Instead of greater discipline, a closing of the ranks, stronger hierarchy, and a more aggressive stance, the council seemed to be moving toward "a conversion of the Church to the World [of modernity]." Lefebvre deplored the accommodative attitude of the council, an attitude based upon the "heretical" principles of collegiality (power sharing among the bishops), freedom of conscience, and ecumenical dialogue. This was not, he thundered, the remedy needed for an ailing church operating in a "society governed by a liberal and hedonistic mentality."
Even before Birnbaum and Rida wrote their own pessimistic diagnoses of Judaism and Islam, Protestant America was already deeply worried by the late-nineteenth-century expansion of Romanism (a euphemism for "garlic-eating" Catholic immigrants from southern and southeastern Europe). Protestants experienced their own doubts as to the solidity of the Bible-believing bloc early in the twentieth century. The faithful, who took the name Fundamentalists (ca. 1910), detected a takeover of this bloc (especially of its Baptist and Presbyterian parts) from within by liberal modernism. They saw everywhere the hidden hand of modernist Protestants with their devotion to the higher criticism of the Bible, to the German philosophy of the Enlightenment, to the progress-oriented social gospel ("that Godless social-service nonsense"), to accommodation with secularism, and not least, to the discoveries of science.
By the 1960s the heirs to Protestant fundamentalism began to view the danger as much broader, as coming from a more alluring and external force-secularism, later called secular humanism (or scientific humanism), a full-fledged alternative to religion per se. This social force, said to be predicated upon the twin doctrines of atheism and evolution as well as upon an amoral way of life appealing to humanity's baser instincts (permissiveness, promiscuity, pornography, feminism, etc.), seemed to have usurped cultural hegemony. By controlling the media and the educational establishment and wielding influence upon the intrusive federal government, secular humanism was spreading its facile credo into every nook and cranny and drawing in the naive masses.
Die-hard American Bible believers confronted with this "disintegration of our social order," in Jerry Falwell's terms, came to see themselves as outsiders, aliens in their own land. In the words of the popular revival hymn, they were "stranger[s] here, within a foreign land" or, in the words of Reconstructionist thinker Gary North, prisoners of a "new Babylonian captivity." The same metaphors recurred among Catholic Pentecostalists in the United States, who lamented that "[w]e are in a post-Catholic society and in some ways we are Christian exiles in it." The similarity of these statements to Birnbaum's diagnosis of Judaism is evident, as is the adage of Muslim militants: "We are in one ravine [wadi], and life is in another." The diagnosis was also shared by European Catholic theologians in the midsixties such as Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar (who inspired Giussani), who noted the marginalization of the old faith by the hegemony of the "atheistic humanism" bred by the Enlightenment.
It is true that at certain moments, after investing in a huge counter-cultural endeavor, American fundamentalists saw a glimmer of hope: we have reversed the tide, we grow and expand, perhaps we are on the way to restoring our hegemony. This hope fueled the Moral Majority movement when it was launched in 1979. Tim LaHaye, among its other spokesmen, even performed intricate computations to prove that most Americans are not actually lost, being either silent believers or unwitting hostages of the devious secularist forces of moral decay. Once activated and regenerated, they would provide the troops of the coming majority and remake America into a City on the Hill. Some six years later, however, all hopes had evaporated. A mood of doom and despair returned.
Shi'ite radicalism followed the same curve in a shorter span. Fervent visions of Khomeinist insurrections across the Middle East were deflated in a matter of three years following the Iranian revolution. Sunni radicals proved to be lukewarm, if not hostile, to Khomeini's appeal; even Arab Shi'ite communities, whether cowed by repression or depressed by the peripeties of the revolution, were not ready to follow Iran's lead.
Haredim, who comprise 6 percent of Israeli Jews, also indulge sometimes in daydreaming about becoming a majority-or at least the second largest political bloc-due to their high birthrate and the "growing numbers" (actually no more than several thousand) of secular Jews who make their return (teshuva) to the Orthodox fold. For the shorter term, the haredi Jews fantasize that, thanks to the swing votes they control in the Knesset enabling them to make or break government coalitions, they may overhaul legislation and make Israel "Jewish" again. More often than not, however, they exceed the limits of their clout and find themselves rebuffed, as when Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir balked at the prospect of having to pass the "who is a Jew" bill. Rather than run the risk of incurring the wrath of American Jewry, Shamir broke off negotiations with the Agudat Yisrael and established a national unity coalition in December 1988. The "projects" of Orthodox political control having proved to be chimeric; the deep-rooted fear once again resurfaced. A haredi newspaper editorialized:
Some of us tended to forget that we are in Exile and pretended that we may become kingmakers in this secularist so-called kingdom. We rather have to be afraid of the resurgence of an anti-Orthodox consensus. If we do not close ranks and fight back, antireligious laws will, God forbid, be enacted, and the status quo [in religious matters] will disappear. We will be thrown into a rearguard battle for our very survival as haredi Jews in "religious autonomy," lest our own educational system, our sacred yeshivas, may not be immune from the claws of the powers-that-be.
This combination of loss of hegemony and mass defection represent, in Catholic parlance, "the worst danger to the church since Luther." Archbishop Lefebvre dubbed it a catastrophe more intimidating than the persecution of Catholics under the French Revolution's cult of reason. Haredi rabbis such as the Hazon Ish (d. 1953) and E. M. Schach (d. 2001) considered it the worst calamity in two millennia of life in exile. Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims see it as analogous to the infidels of Mecca falling upon Muhammad's tiny host, and in the Shi'ite case, as reminiscent of the encirclement of Imam Hussein and his few followers by the Umayyad army, ending in the infamous massacre of the late seventh century. Archbishop Lefebvre compared his tiny flock (perhaps seventy to one hundred thousand worldwide) with the seven thousand disciples of the Prophet Elijah in his fight against the prophets of the Baal. What makes the danger all the graver is its lure and insidiousness. The alternative, secular way of life certainly is alluring. It appeals to the instincts, promising instant gratification, better material conditions, and the experience of "marrying one's own times" in terms of scientific and technological achievement. How easy it is, and how common, to be addicted to it. Religious tradition is likely to be shed lightheartedly, often unwittingly. Tradition succumbs to a pleasant infatuation and dies a sort of sweet death, a painless euthanasia, if you will.
Images of addiction and infatuation crop up incessantly in the fundamentalist diagnosis. Nathan Birnbaum wrote of the "assimilation mania" (Assimilationgesucht) from which fellow Jews, especially the enlightened intelligentsia (maskilim), "these Jewish rebels," suffered. The Iranian Jalal Al-e Ahmad (d. 1969) coined the term West-mania, or rather, Westoxication (gharbzadagi), to explain the predicament of intellectual elites (rowsan-feur) drawn to modern culture. The Westernized (faranji-ma'ab) are in fact West-infatuated (the Arabic equivalent, in Sunni parlance, is mustaghribun). The secularists had fallen prey to a fit of insanity, said Jonathan Blanchard, while other Protestant polemicists identified the sexual obsession unleashed by permissiveness as the most enticing facet of the secular-hegemonic way of life. Marcel Lefebvre used the metaphor of AIDS-an insidious malady contracted through permissive behavior-as an apt description of the syndrome afflicting both society and the postconciliar church: a syndrome of pleasurable self-destruction.
Excerpted from STRONG RELIGION by Gabriel A. Almond R. Scott Appleby Emmanuel Sivan Copyright © 2003 by The University of Chicago Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Enclave Culture
Fundamentalism: Genus and Species
Structure, Chance and Choice
Wrestling with the World:
Fundamentalist Movements as Emergent Systems
Testing the Model:
Politics, Ethnicity, and Fundamentalist Strategies
The Prospects of Fundamentalism
Appendix to Chapter 2
Appendix to Chapter 3
Appendix to Chapter 4