Fundamentalism is the belief in old and traditional forms of religion or the belief that whatever is written in a holy book is true. It was particularly evident in twentieth century, which seeks to recover and publicly institutionalise aspects of the past that modern life has obscured. The 21st century has witnessed a phenomenal rise in fundamentalism with fanaticism and global terrorism on a rise. The fundamentalists see the secular states as their primary enemy because their goals do not tend to align with each other. The socialist society believes in education, democratic reforms, modernisation, liberalisation and economic reforms. The fundamentalists believe all these goals as hindrances to their objective of preserving the spiritual dimension of life.
The ideology of fundamentalism has not only gripped the poor and underdeveloped countries but also hijacked the developed, liberal and democratic nations. A large number of factors such as imperialism, poverty, lack of good governance, corruption, political instability, poor economic conditions have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism. Lately, the concept of fundamentalism has taken a bad shape with the rising militancy, violence, and terrorism. The religious consciousness not only among the elderly but also among the youth is increasing in today’s time. This is the by-product of the modern life, which has become synonymous with stress, pressures, competitiveness and uncertainty. This conspicuous religiosity has led to the growth, spread and strengthening of fundamentalism. Among the most distinguishing features of today’s situation are the leaps that are occurring in globalisation, linked to an accelerating process of capitalist accumulation in a world dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system. This has led to significant, and often dramatic, changes in the lives of huge numbers of people, often undermining traditional relations and customs. Throughout the developing countries, the people are being driven away from the farmlands, where they have lived and tried to eke out an existence under very oppressive conditions but now can no longer do even that. They are being thrown into the urban areas that surround the core of the cities. Almost, half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, including the massive and ever-growing shanty towns. Being uprooted from their traditional conditions and the traditional forms in which they have been exploited and oppressed they are being hurled into a very insecure and unstable existence, unable to be integrated, in any kind of ‘articulated way’ into the economic and social fabric and functioning of society.
In many of these countries, a majority of the people in the urban areas work in the informal economy. To a significant degree because of this, many people are turning to religious fundamentalism to try to give them an anchor, in the midst of all this dislocation and upheaval. In the developing countries, these massive changes and dislocations are occurring in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists and this is associated with local ruling classes. These classes are economically and politically dependent on and subordinate to imperialism and are viewed as the corrupt agents of an alien power, who also promote the decadent culture of the West. This, in the short run, can strengthen the hand of fundamentalist religious forces and leaders who frame opposition to the corruption and Western decadence of the local ruling classes, and the imperialists to which they are beholden, in terms of returning to, and enforcing with a vengeance, traditional relations, customs, ideas and values which themselves are rooted in the past and embody extreme forms of exploitation and oppression.
The rise of fundamentalism is also due to major political changes, conscious policy and actions on the part of the imperialists in the political arena, which have had a profound impact on the situation in many countries in the third world, including in the Middle East. The hoard and greed of capitalist countries and the MNCS that followed them have changed the economic and social functioning of the society. So nowadays economic fragmentation can be seen where the MNCs are ruling over the local population. The traditional institution of family is fragmented. It is not only communism that the imperialists have worked to defeat and discredit. They have also targeted other secular forces and governments which to one degree or another have opposed or objectively constituted obstacles to the interests and aims of the imperialists, particularly in parts of the world that they have regarded as of strategic importance like oil rich Gulf region. In some parts of Middle East and elsewhere, over the past several decades, the imperialists have also consciously set out to defeat and decimate even nationalist secular opposition and in fact, they have at times consciously fed the growth of religious fundamentalist forces.
Many fundamentalist organisations have been established, and it should be clearly noted, they are not restricted to Islamic fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is viral across many religions, including some liberal religions. The fundamentalism in USA has roots in Niagara Bible Conference related to Christian fundamentalism. Jewish fundamentalism has been used to characterise militant religious Zionism. In the similar way Hindu fundamentalism is discernible in Hindutva, Ayodhya dispute, Gujarat riots etc. Origin of Islamic fundamentalism can be traced to the 7th century. The Shia and Sunni religious conflict also created a wedge and aggravated Islamic fundamentalism. Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Ansar-al-Sharia, ISIS, Al Qaeda etc are Islamic fundamentalist organisation endangering peace and harmony giving rise to terrorist activities.
This rising fundamentalism not only leads to the loss of lives and property but also displacement of millions of people from their homeland. The rising terror attacks and migration crisis in Europe are caused due to increasing fundamentalism in the Middle and West Asia. The peace, harmony, and prosperity have been overpowered by fear, apprehension and hatred.
A democratic government which has the greater participation of people needs to form the backbone of good governance. The people need to be educated so that their employability is enhanced. This leads to improved standard of living. The people need to be provided more religious freedom. There is a need for greater international cooperation and collaboration in order to check the rising fundamentalism. The United Nations has an important role in improving the deteriorating global environment.