Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fundamentalism - Radical by Choice

To define it first, “Fundamentalism” is a return to orthodox dogmatic principles, usually guided by tradition or religion, and rigid adherence to them as well as their imposition on the society as a whole. Intolerance, rabble rousing, extremism and even violence are various manifestations of it. While free to choose, people have often voted for fundamentalist parties over reformist ones in the developing world. This has puzzled intellectuals who believe democracy is the instrument that would deliver these societies from their backwardness. In reality the reverse has happened. Helen Keller once said, “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” Given that at any time orthodox elements are in a majority over the reformist ones, all decisions through votes would keep us grounded in the past. Democracy in its essence is rule by the will of the majority, which need not necessarily mean progressive or benevolent rule. In most conservative developing countries, retrograde attitudes and practices abound. There are reform minded leaders as well as progressive sections in each of these societies. But they are in a minority and power, prematurely, has been placed in the hands of the conservative majority, thus making democracy a basic tool of promoting fundamentalism. Genocides, civil wars, communal riots, hate crimes, gender based oppression and rising vigilantism bear testimony to this.

To give an example, American columnist Ben Tanosborn summed this up nicely in his observation of the Iraq elections, “And just as often, many of the characters involved in those elections turned out to be the same old autocratic rulers now dressed in democratic vestments, their faces painted as if white mimes. The same old cast of characters—good old commissars, tribal leaders, and other power-laden chieftains, their names appearing in the ballot box after a democratic whitewashing of sorts had been done to accommodate the apostles of the new political religion, said to be democracy.” Likewise, in Pakistan, post return to democracy in 2008, in many provinces like Punjab, several of the earlier banned militant groups have now become "elected representatives".


Democracy on Trial - The Book,
MWC News (Media with Conscience),
News Central Asia - (The Voice of Greater Central Asia)
Middle East Online

Ref - Iraq’s election results will confirm but not bestow power, Ben Tanosborn, Middle East Online, 2010,