The Clash of Fundamentalism

The Clash of Fundamentalism

Whether you are geographically or ideologically in the East or in the West, you’ll be tempted or at least hard to resist the temptation to conclude and believe that the current brouhaha between the East (Islam) and the West (Christianity) as a result of Denmark cartoon controversy as a strong sign of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization thesis. If you think and believe so, you are wrong.

The truth is it’s the clash of fundamentalism: the the no less dogma-bound secular fundamentalism in the West and the religious fundamentalism in the East.

First, religious fundamentalism and the often violent censorship it seeks to impose, is certainly not limited to Islam. In Britain, Sikh agitators disrupted the staging of a play (written by a Sikh) which depicted a rape scene in a Gurdwara.

Hindu activists have risen up in arms over M F Husain’s–Indian most famous artist– portrayal of a nude Saraswati and American merchandise which has featured Rama and Krishna. The head of the Russian church has denounced ISKCON as a ‘demonic cult’.

But post-9/11, Islamic fundamentalism has increasingly, and tendentiously, been singled out by western ideologues, as the main threat to free societies the world over.

Secular fundamentalism is the opposite, if not the equal, reaction to religious fundamentalism and has perhaps been most noticeable in France, where the state has banned the use of ostentatiously religious apparel or insignia in the public sphere, such as government-run schools.

France is supposedly a free society which champions freedom of expression. But by proscribing the hijab, for instance, is it not denying the individual’s right to freedom of religious and cultural expression, which could also be manifested by the wearing of a turban, or a bindi on the forehead, or the skull cap and ringlets of Hasidism?

So what’s the answer to this conflict of fundamentalisms, neither of which fulfils the criteria of inclusiveness that any civilisation worth the name must aspire to?

I still have decent hope, that good moderate individuals, intellectuals and honest politicians around the world would speak out-loud against any kind of fundamentalism which seems to be growing in numbers.

Moderate to me stands for neutrality and unbiased opinion on any good and bad things done by anyone beyond the boundaries of any religion, culture, nationalities and ethnicities. For example, if you are an Indonesian and a Muslim you gotta have capability to see the bad things done by your Indonesian and Muslim compatriots and the good things in others. Similarly, if you are a Westerners, you can proudly call yourself as moderate and liberal if you can see with your naked eyes the wrong-doings of your other Westerners, and the positive values of other cultures. In other words, moderation in attitude should begin from looking at own-self, doing reflection, soul-searching and start inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue from there. Without all these, all we can do is blaming each other all the time without even bother to listen the other side perspective, not to say the other plus values.***

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