Interviewed in the current edition of Islamica, famed theologian Karen Armstrong is asked “What has made Fundamentalism, seemingly, so predominant today?” She answers
“The militant piety that we call “fundamentalism” erupted in every single major world faith in the course of the twentieth century. There is fundamentalist Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, as well as fundamentalist Islam. Of the three monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam-Islam was the last to develop a fundamentalist strain during the 1960s. Fundamentalism represents a revolt against secular modern society, which separates religion and politics. Wherever a Western secularist government is established, a religious counterculturalist protest movement rises up alongside it in conscious rejection. Fundamentalists want to bring God/religion from the sidelines to which they have been relegated in modern culture and back to centre stage. All fundamentalism is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation: whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, fundamentalists are convinced that secular or liberal society wants to wipe them out. This is not paranoia: Jewish fundamentalism took two major strides forward, one after the Nazi Holocaust, the second after the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In some parts of the Middle East, secularism was established so rapidly and aggressively that it was experienced as a lethal assault.”
I am concerned that the implication in the penultimate sentence is that postwar Jewish fundamentalism was a revolt against the attempt at annhialation by secular/ liberal society. Either I have misread this or Armstrong has got her facts shockingly wrong – the Nazis were quite clear that European Jewry, atheism, liberalism and communism were all interelated and corrupting influences on the Reich (which co-opted and corrupted a version of Christaianity to meet their needs).
Anyway the more interesting point here for me is highlighting the shortsightedness of uncomprimising hardline secularism. It is not to say that extremists should be pandered to but unless a secular state (neutral, nondiscriminating, protective of religious freedom) is sensitive and respectful of the religious beliefs that are so important to many people, acknowledging the role it cna play inindividuals’ lives and in civil society, such a state will never be accepted willingly.