Posted by: bahareiran | February 24, 2011

Series of Myths: Myth #1: Religious fundamentalisms are about the fundamentals of religion

I want to bring to your attention a series of explanations about fundamentalism, written by Cassandra Balchin, published by www.awid.org.

Myth of today: “Religious fundamentalisms are about the fundamentals of religion”.

The myth and how it works

Many religious fundamentalist organizations claim that their work only involves promoting religious teachings. This myth gives religious fundamentalisms the image of a legitimate social force that rises above politics and power. It also suggests that it is only natural that all “good” followers of a religion share the fundamentalist viewpoint and that one who resists religious fundamentalisms is not a “true believer”. Forty percent of women’s rights activists have been labeled “atheist” or “unbeliever” by religious fundamentalists due to their work for women’s human rights. Moreover, in the experiences of nearly 60% of women’s rights activists, people from the same religion but with different political opinions are targeted for physical and verbal attack by religious fundamentalists.

Speaking with the support of God is something very different from speaking without it; God is an important source of legitimacy. They are speaking from the Good and for God. It puts you on the side of sin and the Devil. (Susana Chiarotti, Argentina)

Some women’s rights activists seem to agree with the religious fundamentalists’ claim that it is all about religion. In the AWID survey, about 18% of women’s rights activists from across the world, as well as some working in United Nations agencies, provide definitions of religious fundamentalisms such as “[b]elieving and acting by the basic principles of a religion”, or “[t]he use of or reference to deeply-seated and underlying religious beliefs, values, notions and/or practices.”

Not all religious people are fundamentalists!

Being religious and being a religious fundamentalist are two separate matters. What distinguishes religious fundamentalists is their far right political views, along with the conviction that they are divinely mandated to impose on others what they believe to be the singular truth. There are many rights activists who take a strong stand against religious fundamentalist viewpoints from within a religious framework. Examples include groups such as Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC)/Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD), the Metropolitan Community Churches, Kolech-Religious Women’s Forum, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), and Sisters in Islam, as well as individuals working within the Hindu tradition.

We work with sheikhs and religious scholars to show the people that the interpretation that is offered by religious fundamentalist groups is not the only one available. In most cases when people are offered an alternative interpretation, they take it, because they say it’s a suffocating life to live as is preached by those religious fundamentalists. (Azza Soleiman, Egypt).

I urge us not lump together as [a] negative phenomenon every time religion and politics have something to say to each other – Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, they are heroes for humanity.

It’s not all terrible when religion has something to say in the political sphere: it is a question of what it has to say and how it says it. (Debbie Weissman, Israel)

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