This question is often
hurled at Muslims, either directly or indirectly, during any discussion on
religion or world affairs. Muslim stereotypes are perpetuated in every form of
the media accompanied by gross misinformation about Islam and Muslims. In fact,
such misinformation and false propaganda often leads to discrimination and acts
of violence against Muslims. A case in point is the anti-Muslim campaign in the
American media following the
Oklahoma bomb blast, where the
press was quick to declare a ‘Middle Eastern conspiracy’ behind the attack. The
culprit was later identified as a soldier from the American Armed Forces.
Let us analyze this
allegation of ‘fundamentalism’ and ‘terrorism’:
1. Definition of the word ‘fundamentalist’
A fundamentalist is a
person who follows and adheres to the fundamentals of the doctrine or theory he
is following. For a person to be a good doctor, he should know, follow, and
practise the fundamentals of medicine. In other
words, he should be a fundamentalist in the field of medicine. For a person to
be a good mathematician, he should know, follow and
practise the fundamentals of mathematics. He should be a fundamentalist
in the field of mathematics. For a person to be a good scientist, he should
know, follow and practise the fundamentals of
science. He should be a fundamentalist in the field of science.
2. Not all ‘fundamentalists’ are the same
One cannot paint all
fundamentalists with the same brush. One cannot categorize all fundamentalists
as either good or bad. Such a categorization of any fundamentalist
will depend upon the field or activity in which he is a fundamentalist. A
fundamentalist robber or thief causes harm to society and is therefore
undesirable. A fundamentalist doctor, on the other hand, benefits society and
earns much respect.
3. Dictionary meaning of the word ‘fundamentalist’
According to Webster’s
dictionary ‘fundamentalism’ was a movement in American
Protestanism that arose in the earlier part of the 20th century. It was a
reaction to modernism, and stressed the infallibility of the Bible, not only in
matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record. It stressed
on belief in the Bible as the literal word of God. Thus fundamentalism was a
word initially used for a group of Christians who believed that the Bible was
the verbatim word of God without any errors and mistakes.
According to the
Oxford dictionary ‘fundamentalism’
means ‘strict maintenance of ancient or fundamental doctrines of any
religion, especially Islam’.
Today the moment a person
uses the word fundamentalist he thinks of a Muslim who is a terrorist.
4. Different labels given to the same individual for the same action, i.e.
‘terrorist’ and ‘patriot’
India achieved independence
from British rule, some freedom fighters of
India who did not
subscribe to non-violence were labelled as terrorists by the British government.
The same individuals have been lauded by Indians for the same activities and
hailed as ‘patriots’. Thus two different labels have been given to the same
people for the same set of actions. One is calling him a terrorist while the
other is calling him a patriot. Those who believed that
Britain had a right to rule
India called these people
terrorists, while those who were of the view that
Britain had no right to rule
India called them patriots
and freedom fighters.
It is therefore important
that before a person is judged, he is given a fair hearing. Both sides of the
argument should be heard, the situation should be analyzed, and the reason and
the intention of the person should be taken into account, and then the person
can be judged accordingly.
5. Islam means peace
Islam is derived from the
word ‘salaam’ which means peace. It is a religion of peace whose
fundamentals teach its followers to maintain and promote peace throughout the