Islam is one of the three world religions, prevailing in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia. Today, nearly a billion people worldwide profess Islam. In most countries the number and impact of Muslims have increased in recent decades. In addition, a specific phenomenon of the modern world, which has become influential in recent decades, is fundamentalism, a kind of religious fanaticism, having a strongly marked political orientation. Being associated with Islam, it reflects the aggressive resistance of militant Islam’s fanatics to the attempts of modernization of Islam under the influence of contemporary world tendencies (Rippin 123-27).
Islamic fundamentalism is characterized not only by self-defense, but by frankly aggressive ideology, striving not only for preservation, but for global expansion of both religion and Islamic way of life (Knysh 3-26).
The most sensual modern manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism is considered to be its branch known as Wahhabism, characterized by implacability and extremism and serving today as the ideological basis of terrorism. The belief that their opponents are infidels justifies cruelty towards them and evolves ideological preconditions for declaring a holy war (jihad) (Kepel 223-234; Knysh 3-26). In modern terms the ideology of Wahhabism is an essential tool for consolidating separate groups of Islamic radicals, operating in different regions of the world and denying Western values. The most typical representatives, implementing the idea of Wahhabism are the supporters of the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida, which is the most structured element of the Wahhabism movement having a wide network of representative offices in many countries of the world (Burke 43-46).
The most striking examples of fundamentalism are Iran in 1970-1980s, Afghanistan under the Taliban rule, Chechnya in the period of “independence”ť from Russia, etc. In Muslim countries these movements (the vivid examples of which are Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in Egypt, etc.) are usually referred to political Islam, and are controlled by Islamists. It is in connection with these movements that such international issues as terrorism, illegal arms sales, and the danger of spreading the weapons of mass destruction are manifested most vividly (Radu 35-45).
Meanwhile, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that killing of any living soul is equivalent to killing all mankind. No matter how noble the motives of this crime could be, murderers cannot be called Muslims. However, basing on the events occurring in the world in recent years, it is possible to argue that Wahhabism ideology will play an increasingly important role among different social groups living not only in the poorest regions of the world, but also in most developed countries, in which the Islamic population increases annually (Ali 50-65).
Living in the environment of Western civilization and taking advantage of its benefits, many supporters of radical Islam are not only denying its values, but also become organizers of terrorist attacks and other radical measures aimed at its overthrow. The examples of this are the events of 9/11 terrorist act in the United States, and disorders, arranged by young Muslim radicals in late October-early November 2005 in France.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran 1978-1979 was in many ways a push for the above-mentioned international processes, especially relevant today, to obtain an appropriate scale and unique character. It influenced not only the Muslim world, but also became an example for the entire third world, as evidenced by close ties of IRI, for instance, with Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela. The notion of “Islamic revolution”ť reflects the impact of the process of “politicization of Islam”ť, for both Iran itself, and, under the direct influence of the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979, for the entire “Muslim world”ť (Radu 51-60).
1980’s became a turning point. After the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979 throughout the following decade, there were qualitative changes in various aspects of international relations, directly or indirectly provoked by the revolution: new international organizations emerged (e.g., GCC), new escalation of international conflicts started (e.g., the 20th century longest Iran-Iraq war), the problem of international terrorism was widely discussed along with a number of other issues. It was in 1980’s that the “Islamic factor”ť became an integral part of international relations and foreign policy both of Muslim and other countries.
1994 was a kind of a frontier: the Taliban emerged on the political arena of Afghanistan. In a highly unstable Afghanistan, Taliban movement quickly turned into the main force in the country. Pakistan is Talibs’ homeland, where in madrassas (religious schools) orphans of Afghans killed during the civil war were taught, which became the backbone of the movement. They were brought up by extremely reactionary, extremist dogmas of the Koran, intolerance of any dissidence, rejection of other cultures and teachings except the teachings of Allah (Venkatraman 229-248). Army of the Prophet in Pakistan (Sipah-e-Sahaaba) had one purpose only – to kill as many Shiites as possible.
Cooperating with other militant organizations, it obtained enthusiastic support of Pakistan’s spy service ISI. On the other side of the mountains of Afghanistan, Sipah-e-Sahaaba incites the Taliban to attack the Shiites. Another player in this campaign is Osama bin Laden, the instigator of international terrorism in the name of Islam.
In addition to Pakistan, the establishment of the Taliban organization was supported by the Saudi Arabia, the center of the extreme religious fundamentalism, and the United States seeking to strengthen their position in the area. In fact, the Talibs are a group of mercenaries in the hands of Pakistan’s intelligence, used to manipulate people’s minds. In essence, they do not serve the basic principles and interests of Islam and contribute greatly to discredit of religion in the world (Whitehead 56-59).
Whatever the origins of the Taliban are, it has changed the face of Afghanistan in less than 4 years, introducing despotic military implication of Shariat dogmas and launching a network of training camps for international terrorists on Afghan lands. This regime was overthrown in the result of vengeance action organized by the US (Klein). However, the dissemination of ideas of the Taliban in the region still creates a dangerous precedent for the peoples of China, Burma, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan.
Leaving the Afghan front, Al-Qaida completely moved to Iraq. However, the Bush administration spent much time trying to recognize that the liberation of Iraq turned into the occupation, that American troops had to fight with internal rebellion, and that Iraq’s transition to democracy wouldn’t necessarily result in the emergence of the state supporting U.S. interests. Only in 2007, the Pentagon acknowledged that Iraqi inter-religious conflict escalated into civil war. War actions in Iraq transformed into a struggle for the protection of power in the state, whereas now they represent a war, the driving force of which is religion.
In general, after the collapse of USSR, the USA has become the only superpower, prone to unilateral actions, in the policy of which the decisive role is played by the Zionist Organization; thus, the state is perceived by Muslims as an enemy of Islam, not only in political, but also in its economic component. From the position of Islam, the country’s financial system is one of the most “perverse”ť by its nature. Interest bearing loans and securities it is built on, as well as discrepancy of the real sector to the sector of fictitious capital and many other factors put this country in a very disadvantageous position in front of Allah. Therefore, the modern crisis in the United States and in the rest of the world does not surprise the Ulemas of the world: greed and endless pursuit of money accompanied by withdrawal from moral and ethical values have to be paid for.
Still, after the terrorist attacks in the United States, almost all government and community leaders of the Muslim world claimed that they condemned those attacks, and many of them also approved the bombing of the Taliban (Hanson 115-117). However, the images of the Islamic world, appearing in the American and European media, are mainly negative and are associated with violence. The fact that the majority of Muslims leads normal life and professes quite reasonable religion with an emphasis on a sense of kindness, brotherhood, compassion, social justice and peace has been overshadowed by political events in recent years (Shane WK1). Similarly, the image of the West is distorted in the vision of Muslims, being presented as the world of exploitation, supporter of Islam’s enemies and oppressor of the poor. Muslims throughout the world feel resentment and hostility towards the West, which in its extreme form, is expressed in national and international terrorism.
However, Islam, as a traditional religion, preaches humanism and humility; focuses on human values; calls for piety and righteous way of life, respect for ethical and moral foundations. At the same time, being contradictory and nonhomogeneous, it doesn’t encourage the believer in his aspiration to become like God, but merely requires following the instructions of God blindly, which is likely to be the ground for the development of modern Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism (Powell).
Thus, first, fundamentalist Islam is characterized by the disadvantages inherent to Islam as such, and in particular by contradictory ideologies and heterogeneity of beliefs, which entails imperfections and inconsistency in the law. Secondly, this fact suggests the possibility of usage by political leaders only those aspects of Shariat that benefit in a current situation. In this case, Islamic fundamentalism is manifested not as a religious, but as a political movement, trying to seize the power by any available means, including forcible overthrow of the legitimate authority.
Apparently, the key concept for overcoming recurrence of Islamic fundamentalism, escalating on a wave of social and economic problems, lies not in direct struggle with it as with as kind of materialized evil, but in improving economy and people’s lives, which in turn conserves negative manifestations of Islamic fundamentalism (Ali 50-65).
Islam, as a culture of peace and understanding, should not become a weapon for destructing the world. Consequently, true Muslims (as opposed to those who have made religion the main weapon to achieve nefarious goals) must be vigilant to prevent the tragedy.