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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent purchase!, 13 April 2010
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Dr. Malise Ruthven has written an excellent short introduction to Fundamentalism. He discusses the ambiguities and nuances of the concept, explains how "fundamentalism " did not first appear "as a term of criticism or abuse" and appeared, not in the "Bible Belt of the Old, but in southern California". The belief in the early return of Jesus "to rule over an earthly kingdom of the righteous after the defeat of the Antichrist" is an early Christian belief which has animated US Protestants from their beginning. While fundamentalism is used in reference to Islamic groups, both Christianity and Judaism are, and have been, associated with fundamentalist movements in one form or another. Dr. Ruthven gives a good treatment of these movements. In essence, religious beliefs, warped or otherwise, provide the basis for many contemporary fundamentalist movements in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies.

My opinion is that it is charismatic men (not women) who interpret their sacred texts to accord with their particular values and beliefs (or fears and prejudices). These interpretations then serve as the basis for further (mis) interpretation, with promises of reward and punishments for adherents. The emergence of a fundamentalist orientation in the Islamic world seems particularly associated with political movements that seek to revive dispirited and oppressed peoples with the dream of reclaiming past glories, to ensure a fairer distribution of the state's wealth, and to counter what is seen as an economic and cultural oppression by the West. I imagine that the US policy of unstinting financial and hi-tech military support to Israel,and of regularly vetoing any UN criticism of Israel must foster intense anger among Muslims. For Israel was founded on Arab land with the help of the Irgun and other Israeli terrorist groups, which managed to expel both the British and local Palestinians. The result is a 40+ year-old occupation of Palestine, the continual building of settlements on Palestinian land, and subjecting Palestinians both to discrimination and brutality on a fairly regular basis. You might like to read Noam Chomsky and Jimmy Carter on this last point of mine.

Dr. Ruthven is very objective and fair in his discussion of the relationship between fundamentalism and nationalism. Readers will benefit from learning that fundamentalist movements with political overtones can be found,not only in Islamic societies, but also in Israel and Christian countries. When we think of fundamentalism we often think of terrorism, and inevitably of Muslims; but the words of Noam Chomsky are worth remembering: "The terrorism of the weak is a response to the terrorism of the strong".

I strongly recommend the reading of this short text!
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