September 13, 1996 (Rev. October 4, 1997)
The Wisdom Fund

Islamic Fundamentalism Greatest Danger To World Peace?

by Enver Masud

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- They won't tell you what it is or why it's so, but 'Islamic fundamentalism,' they say, presents the greatest danger to world peace.

picture from cover of 1995 World Factbook Israeli leaders are quoted as saying the greatest danger the world faces is 'Islamic fundamentalism.' Muslim leaders fearing opposition parties echo this refrain. Newspapers in the U.S. use the phrase 'Islamic fundamentalism' routinely. And the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, perhaps indicative of it's focus on Islamic fundamentalism, placed a Muslim monument on the cover of it's World Factbook.

Yet we doubt if any of the reporters using this term can define 'Islamic fundamentalism.' Neither do they make the effort to get opposing views, nor to explain why it poses a danger to world peace, nor to ask the obvious question, "Why is it that Rev. Billy Graham, a Christian fundamentalist, is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, appears on the cover of Time magazine, and dines with President Clinton, while Islamic fundamentalists are reviled in the US whose constitution guarantees the free exercise of all religions?"

Christian fundamentalism, according to Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia, is a term applied to doctrines which are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. These late-19th- and early-20th-century Protestant movements opposed modern scientific theory and philosophy. With some differences, Christian fundamentalists insist on belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth and divinity of Jesus Christ, the vicarious and atoning character of his death, his bodily resurrection, and his second coming as the irreducible minimum of authentic Christianity.

This minimum was reflected in such declarations as the 14-point creed of the Niagara Bible Conference of 1878 and the 5-point statement of the Presbyterian General Assembly of 1910. The Fundamentals, a 12-volume collection of essays, was written in the period 1910-15 by 64 British and American scholars and preachers. The name fundamentalist was coined in 1920 to designate those "doing battle royal for the Fundamentals."

The infamous Scopes trial (1925) diminished fundamentalism's appeal, and by the 1950's it had moderated and become evangelicalism. In the 1970's fundamentalism was revived by televangelists such as of the Moral Majority, and it is now represented by the 'religious right' such as the Christian Coalition.

To our knowledge there is no such doctrine, or accepted definition, of 'Islamic fundamentalism.' The best we can determine is the definition implicit in media statements: any Muslim opposition to establishment views constitutes 'Islamic fundamentalism.' Perhaps that is why the purveyors of propaganda are unable to tell us what 'Islamic fundamentalism' is, why it poses the greatest danger to world peace, and why they won't publish opposing views.

We are reminded of the words of Alfred McLung Lee & Elizabeth Bryant Lee in The Fine Art of Propaganda published in 1939, "Science flourishes on criticism. Dangerous propaganda crumbles before it."

Leon T. Hadar, "The Green Peril: Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat," Cato Institute, August 27, 1992

Margot Patterson, "Islamic Fundamentalism Feared, Misunderstood," National Catholic Reporter, October 8, 2004

Ruth Gledhill, " Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible," The Times, October 5, 2005

"Fundamentalism and Islam," The Wisdom Fund

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