There are different ways of perceiving a religion, or it would be better to say that there are different degrees of perceiving a religion. There are people who strictly adhere to the basic teachings of religion and are reluctant to make any compromise regarding even the slightest deviations from those teachings. The people with strict adherence for the particular fundamental teachings of the religions can be termed as fundamentalists and the act as a whole can be called as fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is basically a reaction against the changes that are intended to be brought in the basic teachings of a religion. In fact fundamentalism can not be limited to a particular religion; rather it has been used for different religions.
There are terms like Christian Fundamentalism, Islamic Fundamentalism and Hindu Fundamentalism. These terms have been used for describing different movements and inclinations in the religions mentioned.
Modernist theologians and thinkers believe that the term fundamentalism has a pejorative sense and consider it responsible for different sorts of extremist movements and even terrorist ambitions. Currently, the term fundamentalism like the term terrorism has been dominantly linked with Islam, but in reality it is not necessary that there is fundamentalism in Islam alone.
Sociologists of religion, like Tex Sample, consider fundamentalism as an attitude rather than outcome of religious teachings. It is the way the religions are perceived that develops fundamentalism. If the attitude is narrow and strict, the beliefs regarding any religion may turn into fundamentalism; therefore, it is not suitable to fix fundamentalism for any of the religions - Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any other religion.
Howard Thurman was interviewed in the late 1970's for a BBC feature on religion. He told the interviewer, "I say that creeds, dogmas, and theologies are inventions of the mind. It is the nature of the mind to make sense out of experience, to reduce the conglomerates of experience to units of comprehension which we call principles, or ideologies, or concepts.
Religious experience is dynamic, fluid, effervescent, and yeasty. But the mind can't handle these so it has to imprison religious experience in some way, get it bottled up. Then, when the experience quiets down, the mind draws a bead on it and extracts concepts, notions, dogmas, so that religious experience can make sense to the mind. Meanwhile religious experience goes on experiencing, so that by the time I get my dogma stated so that I can think about it, the religious experience becomes an object of thought."
It is really weird to note that there is term like Atheist Fundamentalism, which is basically used to mean strict adherence to the principles of Atheism – a religion-less ideology. However, the term used in this article would mean religious fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism, in certain phases of history has taken the form of movements, basically initiated by the changes that are introduced in the religions or that are strived to be included in the religious principles by the modernists. The fundamentalists, fearing changes in the basic principles of the religions have always launched opposing movements.
Most of the religions of the world have a large degree of sanctity attached with their basic beliefs, sacred books and teachings of their prophets, therefore, changes in the ideas regarding them are not welcomed at all.
In Christianity the term fundamentalism rose as a movement in the United States in late 19th century and earlier 20th century. The movement was basically launched by the conservative theologians to safeguard Christianity from modern criticism and changes.
The term fundamentalism got famous because of the collection of twelve books, "The Fundamentals" on five subjects regarding Christianity funded by the brothers Milton and Lyman Stewart. The collection proved to be the representative of "Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy". Afterwards the term kept on being used for the tendency to oppose modernist ideas regarding the Christian beliefs.
The term fundamentalism has been used for Islam in different ways. The term has been used to talk about the radical elements and movements in both Shiite and Sunni sects. In particular the term has been used for Wahhabi version backed by Saudi Arabia and the Shiite version backed by Iran.
The term Islamic fundamentalism was dominantly used by media that strived to transmit the information regarding the ideology of Ayatullah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution. But recently it has been vehemently used to talk about the Taliban version of Islamic interpretations.
There is the term Hindu fundamentalism as well that has been used to talk about the hard-line political Hindu movement in India. Ambitious to counter Muslims, many Hindus got motivated to launch aggressive movement in the late 1980's.
Their movement got harsh and after eight years of agitation the Hindu fundamentalists destroyed 450-years old Babri Mosque in December 1992, which resulted into clashed between Hindus and Muslims in India. Political parties like Shiv Sena are in the support of Hindu fundamentalism and have been vehemently propagating their views.
Afghanistan has been one of the countries that have been largely dominated by fundamentalism. The fundamentalism in Afghanistan was inculcated in Afghanistan by Taliban. Opposing every sort of compromise in the fundamental teachings of their version of Islam, Taliban have always demanded total adherence to the teachings that were true hundred of years earlier.
Afghanistan during their rule resembled a country in 6th and 7th century and was totally cutoff from modern trends. Even the people's way of living and their clothing were emphasized to be old fashioned.
Women, in this regard had to suffer much. As they were asked to observer complete hijab, It was not uncommon to find patrolling Taliban beating women with stick on as slight a divergence as an unintentional display of naked feet.
There were incidents when women were publically stoned and even shot because of having relations with men out of their family members. Besides, there were restrictions on modern education and the use of modern inventions as well.
There were occasions when television sets were destroyed and hung on the electrical wires and posts to show that there was no place for addition even in the material aspect of the Taliban version of Islam. There were many such incidents and beliefs that can be considered nothing else except pure fundamentalism, which proved detrimental for Afghan society and had made it suffocate in the tight circle of bondages and restrictions.
Fundamentalism is a concept that has to be condemned in its every form. It is against the natural growth of human mind and human society as it considers human life stagnant and tries to keep it intact.