Neo-Fundamentalism

Linked with Olivier Roy – France.

Published on Social Science Research Council SSRC, by Olivier Roy, not dated.

2 excerpts: More than twenty years after the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran, the wave of Islamic radicalism that has engulfed the Middle East since the late 1970s is taking a different course. The mainstream Islamist movements have shifted from the struggle for a supranational Muslim community into a kind of Islamo-nationalism: they want to be fully recognized as legitimate actors on the domestic political scene, and have largely given up the supranational agenda that was part of their ideology. On the other hand, the policy of conservative re-Islamization implemented by many states, even secular ones, in order to undercut the Islamist opposition and to regain some religious legitimacy has backfired. It has produced a new brand of Islamic fundamentalism, ideologically conservative but at times politically radical …

… While Islamists do adapt to the nation-state, neo-fundamentalists embody the crisis of the nation-state, squeezed between infrastate solidarities and globalization. The state level is bypassed and ignored. The Taliban do not care about the state – they even downgraded Afghanistan by changing the official denomination from an “Islamic State” to an “Emirate.” Mollah Omar does not care to attend the council of ministers, nor to go to the Capital.


In fact, this new brand of supranational neo-fundamentalism is more a product of contemporary globalization than of the Islamic past. Using two international languages (English and Arabic), traveling easily by air, studying, training and working in many different countries, communicating through the Internet and cellular phones, they think of themselves as “Muslims” and not as citizens of a specific country. They are often uprooted, more or less voluntarily (many are Palestinian refugees from 1948, and not from Gaza or the West Bank; bin Laden was stripped of his Saudi citizenship; many others belong to migrant families who move from one country to the next to find jobs or education). It is probably a paradox of globalization to gear together modern supranational networks and traditional, even archaic, infrastate forms of relationships (tribalism, for instance, or religious schools” networks). Even the very sectarian form of their religious beliefs and attitudes make the neo-fundamentalists look like other sects spreading all over the planet. (full text).

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