Fundamentalism

The contemporary Western understanding of fundamentalism often attaches negative assumptions about a return to the fundamentals of a particular belief system. Fundamentalism is not necessarily a negative form of religious identity. Religious fundamentalism is not confined to any one religious tradition, as there are fundamentalists among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. In recent times, religious fundamentalists are taking a progressively stronger stance to their way of life and beliefs; this includes a literal interpretation of religious texts and a commitment to conservative values. The increasingly pluralistic and secular nature of modern societies seemingly excludes religion from the public sphere. In response to this, some fundamentalists have self-segregated from mainstream societies, such as certain evangelical Christian groups in the US, while others have chosen to stay in the public sphere to address this concern through political means. The latter group has created concerns in some areas of the world because of the link between fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism (Neumann, 2009). Appleby (2011) highlights the distinct religious logic of fundamentalism by identifying the two characteristics to which Islamic fundamentalists react: (1) ‘Westoxification’ or the degradation of people brought about by the indulgent lifestyle of the West; and (2) women’s liberation and freedom, which fundamentalists blame for perceived increases in divorce rates, sexual depravity and crime. Some educators have argued that religious fundamentalism needs to be addressed in schools, which are important sites for the development of multiple values, attitudes and perspectives (Ghosh, 2014).