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Unformatted text preview: The previous chapter sought to explain the shift throughout the Muslim world toward religio-political radicalism by presenting quantifiable data (such as population increase and mobility, education, shortfalls in eco- nomic performance, and military defeats) as well as insights incapable of measurement (such as massive disorientation, a search for certainties, and a sense of vulnerability in facing hostile forces). That chapter set out the underlying factors preparing the ground for the religio-political move- ments thriving today throughout the Muslim world. It did not, however, address why Islamist movements emerged instead of other alternatives, secular or religious. Nor did it introduce the ideas and ideologues of todays Islamist surge. Adopting two broad-ranging comparative approaches may serve to establish a larger context for studying the ques- tion. First, the case of Muslim fundamentalism in todays world is not all that distinctive. The economic, political, military, and social factors set out in the previous chapter have not been confined to Muslim states. This litany of woes sounds familiar for most of the Third World. Religio-political radical- ism is a global phenomenon. Movements strikingly similar to those found in Muslim countries exist among Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. From this many observers embrace the idea of a generic fundamentalism characterizing todays world. Such, for example, is the thrust of the multi- volume fundamentalism project directed by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Religious fundamentalisms, they write, 13. The Radical Muslim Discourse thrive in the twentieth century when and where masses of people liv- ing in formerly traditional societies experience profound personal and social dislocations as a result of rapid modernization and in the absence of mediating institutions capable of meeting the human needs created by these dislocations. Occasioned by mass migration from rural to urban areas, by unsynchronized social, economic, and cultural trans- formations and uneven schemes of development, by failures in educa- tional and social welfare systems, and ultimately by the collapse of long-held assumptions about the meaning and purpose of human exis- tence, the experience of dislocation fosters a climate of crisis. In this sit- uation people are needy in a special way. Their hunger for material goods is matched by a thirst for spiritual reassurance and fulfillment. If these needs are integrated and integral, so must be the power offer- ing fulfillment. Religion presented as an encompassing way of life sug- gests itself as the bearer of that power. 1 Yet this perceptive statement, emerging from an in-depth group research project involving scores of spets, is not beyond challenge. Do the rubrics formerly traditional societies or hunger for material goods explain, say, Christian fundamentalism in the United States or Jewish fun- damentalism in Israel? These American and Israeli exceptions suggest thatdamentalism in Israel?...
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- Spring '08