Fundamentalism comes from the root word fundare, which means “a base or foundation.” The definition of fundamentalism in reference to religion is “religious beliefs based on a literal interpretation of a religious text.”
If you ask a Westerner, “What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Muslim’?” many answer, “Terrorist.” This may be due to the fact that the word Muslim is often paired with the word “terrorist” in the media. If a Jew or Christian were to take part in an act that is clearly considered terrorism, one would not hear that person called a “Christian terrorist” or a “Jewish terrorist.” Just as Jim Jones (who claimed to represent Christ) is not considered representative of Christianity, terrorists should not be considered representatives of Islam.
Two phrases often used interchangeably are “Muslim terrorist” and “Muslim fundamentalist.” “Muslim terrorist” is an oxymoron; one who truly practices Islam cannot be a terrorist. And if we were to refer to the definition of fundamentalism, we would know that these two phrases are mistakenly or intentionally being used interchangeably, and that they actually have opposite meanings. A true Islamic fundamentalist is one who strictly adheres to the fundamentals of Islam, which can only be defined by the Qur’an and the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammadp. This is the opposite of what people commonly call “Islamic fundamentalism.” Within true Islamic fundamentalism one would never see crimes against humanity, heinous acts of hatred, political killing, terrorism, oppression, religious extremism or zealotry, or the forcing of one’s religion on others. All of these acts are clearly forbidden in Islam. Muhammadp was a pinnacle of humanity’s generosity and compassion.
When it comes to the media, the spotlight is shining on dramatic murderers who are repeatedly referred to as “Islamic fundamentalists.” This is in total contradiction to the definition of the truly practicing Muslim fundamentalists. It is a tragedy that many people have an enormous and unfounded fear of Islam and what is mistakenly thought to be Islam’s fundamental beliefs. From the time of the Crusades, there are still some people who have taken an aggressively hostile and demonizing stance toward Islam.
It is distressing when one reads a newspaper article or hears a broadcast report that takes quotations from the Qur’an out of context to create fear or divisiveness. Misrepresenting or twisting any religious text is despicable, whether it is done by “terrorists” or by “evangelists.” Fear mongers who misrepresent religious principles to create alienation, fear, and hatred are another type of terrorist. Terrorism can be physical, emotional, or psychological. At the very least, it is the duty of all people who wish to counter any kind of terrorism to become informed about one another’s true beliefs. Unfortunately, polarizing propaganda has been relentlessly spun into the sensationalism of today’s media, unjustly fueled by the fear of this “unknown and strange” faith. Today’s mass media, which is controlled by few, appears to be the most researched, refined, and powerful mind-control instrument ever devised by man to shape “world opinion.” Alienation is escalating. It often seems that all governments need enemies to fuel the military and to bring about “national unity.” During the Cold War, “the enemy” was “Communism.” Today, Muslims globally often find themselves in the cross hairs, cast as “the enemy.”
Unfortunately, across the globe those Muslims who are practicing true Islamic principles are becoming an “endangered species.” As Muslims struggle to practice their beliefs many are challenged, not only by their own government or Western governments, but they also find themselves caught between secularists and narrow-minded extremists. The subjective corporate media spotlight is not shining on the true Islamic fundamentalists.
Pressure Cooker: Today there are millions of people living under great oppression. Their future looks hopeless as their families and homes are being crushed by humiliating injustice and violence. When such conditions are ignored or viewed with callous indifference by the rest of the world, it can and does produce a desperate rage that transcends all culture and religion. These are the conditions in which many Muslims find themselves today. Lacking hope and having lost patience with the dysfunctional options placed before them, they seek relief or justice in desperation. Thus we are seeing more and more of them willing to take extreme measures, willing to react in violent ways, even to kill themselves, in order to deliver a militant or political act of defiance. Committing suicide and killing civilians are both forbidden in Islam. Those living in the Muslim world who are in this “pressure cooker” of oppression may seek any nonreligious or religious justification for their desperate, violent, and extreme actions. If they look long enough, they sometimes find what they are looking for, as there are people of an extreme mindset in every religion who do not truly practice and represent the actual tenets of their faith.