Three Dangerous Fundamentalisms

James Adler

Recently, Jeff Jacoby had an OPED in the Boston Globe called "Scenes from Jihad," about "Jihadists," that is, Islamic fundamentalists, around the world. 

People used to note that the Communists couldn't stamp out religion because, as they said, religion is like a nail-- the harder you hit it, the deeper it goes in.  But for decades we've been pounding the nail of fundamentalist religion ever more deeply into the Islamic world. Muslims used to feel friendly towards the United States, and even fundamentalists were only interested in their part of the world, but now we have helped the Israelis to occupy and settle the tiny part of Palestine still remaining to them.

It is wrong and foolish and indeed dangerous to ignore what the Islamists are doing, but Jacoby ignores (or supports) what the Israeli fundamentalists have done, and also ignores the signal fact that fundamentalism has spread over all three main monotheistic religions of the world.

And if both Jewish and Christian fundamentalists around the world and their allies (like Jacoby) are so concerned that the occupation and settlement of Palestinian land continue and accelerate (and even, like Jacoby, are opposed to any Israeli withdrawal),  then this explains why also Muslim fundamentalists around the world are so concerned about the same region.  Christian fundamentalists have just as much invested in it as do Islamic fundamentalists, which explains why the United States gives 1/3 of its foreign aid to the entire world to Israel-- more than to all of Latin America and sub-Sarahan Africa put together.    

So the problem is fundamentalism in general, in all three religions, not just in Islam.    

And they have many of the same concerns-- not only (from opposite perspectives) in the Middle East, but (from similar perspectives) abortion and gay and women's rights,  so that, while Jacoby accuses Islamic fundamentalists and their conservatives allies of wanting to execute gay people, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists and their allies themselves oppose many rights of these peoples, only not in as extreme a way-- from opposing gay marches in Jerusalem to Jacoby's opposition to marriage rights in Massachusetts. 

During the recent election campaign, Jacoby's Republican Jihadist commercials were gay bashing, scaring voters that a Democratic win in the House would give gay congressman Barney Frank a major Committee chair, and so appealing to a similar, only less extreme, Christian fundamentalist base as the base of Islamic fundamentalism to which Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also appeals.  

Jihadists are everywhere, beginning with Jacoby himself-- in his opposition gay marriage rights and to last year's Israeli withdrawal from Gaza-- and its future withdrawal from the occupation and settlements.

As for American security, if we put it first and foremost over Christian and Jewish fundamentalists' interests, we would remove ourselves from the Middle East-- in other words, would discontinue our financial and military aid and sales of weapons and "security" training to all Mideast states--  especially to Israel and Iraq, but also to all of the many repressive Arab governments -- after which there is little doubt that the result would be the virtual disappearance of Islamic fundamentalist agitation against the United States.

As we warily watch the Islamic fundamentalists, let us also take note of the damage the Christian and Jewish Fundamentalists are doing -- including provoking and fertilizing Islamic fundamentalism -- to our own national security, and to human rights both of gays and women in America and Israel and Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

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Harvard Square Commentary, November 20, 2006