Did Ghulam Nabi Azad understand his own condemnation of Religious fundamentalism?
Let us visit United States of America, a hundred years ago. According to this Wikipedia article, the term Fundamentalism was coined by Baptist editor Curtis Lee Laws in 1920 to designate Christians who were ready “to do battle royal for the fundamentals”. Lee Laws had actually borrowed this term from a collection of articles published under the name “The Fundamentals“. The book which housed a collection of articles demanding return to the fundamentals of Christianity was published by Bible Institute of Los Angeles between 1910 to 1915. Various streams of Christianity, Princeton theology in particular, urged adherents of Christianity, especially Protestants to get back to the old and original forms of Christianity. In short, the Fundamentalist movement was floated to save Christianity from its critics, liberalism and modernism. Slowly, there was a clash between the Fundamentalists (aka the ones who wanted to get back to the roots of Christianity) and ones who opposed the Fundamentalists. The war is still going on for a century, in the form of Creationism vs Evolution at school. In short, Christian Fundamentalism means ‘getting back to how Christianity was when it originated’.
The term Fundamentalism came to Islam very much later. The prime reason being, there was no need for Muslims to return back to their roots until the collapse of Caliphate in 1920s, because they were very much attached to the core Islam all along. There was a strong Wahhabi presence in the land of Arabs, which was a more stricter interpretation of Islam. But with the modernism appearing slowly in Iran, Afghanistan and several other Islamic countries due to Western influence, calls for returning back to fundamentalism grew shrill. Cold war happened. America did all in its might to prevent Russia from exerting its muscle in Middle East. Funds and Weapon flew to the Islamic mujahideens, who later used it to propel forward the calls for getting back to the Islamic roots. Establishment of Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan were just the beginning point of this. The term Fundamentalism seeped into the world news rooms at this juncture. It became more strong as Taliban grew more strong in Afghanistan. Many fundamentalist groups started appearing on the scene, with ISIS re-establishing a Caliphate, giving the dream of Islamic fundamentalism a reality. In short, Islamic fundamentalism means ‘getting back to how Islam was when it originated’. The word Fundamentalism took a violent connotation because the Islamic fundamentalists were using bombs to achieve their dream.
The conception of Israel which too had its own share of violence by Zionist extremist groups also shaped the Jewish fundamentalism. As per Jewish fundamentalists, creation of Israel brought them back to their fundamentals.
So, the Abrahamic religions, namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, can bear the name of fundamentalism because it has fundamentals. The fundamentals of Judaism lies in Torah. The fundamentals of Christianity lies in Bible. The fundamental of Islam lies in Quran, Hadiths and Sunnah. Only when a religion has a defined fundamental, it can call for fundamentalism, that is living the life as how their god had revealed via the respective holy books. If a Jew or Christian or Muslim is not shaping their life based on their Holy books viz their fundamentals, how can they be considered adherents of their respective religion? A fundamentalist is someone who lives as per the fundamentals of his religion. Simply put, if you are not a fundamentalist in Abrahamic religion, you are not following your religion properly. And, by not following your holy book properly, you might be on your way to your hell (as per the same book). So, if you are not a religious fundamentalist, you better re-read your whole holy book and think twice before saying that you are either a moderate or liberal and not a fundamentalist.
If you are not going to believe me, you are free to look upon the meaning of the term ‘fundamentalism’ in dictionaries. Fundamentalists are not just violent or extremist religious members. Fundamentalists constitute the religion in its real form. Like Secularism has a separate meaning in India, fundamentalism also acquired a separate meaning in world media.
Islamic or Christian or Judaic fundamentalists must act as per the fundamentals of their religion and that is why they are called fundamentalists in the first place. Being moderate and liberal are not the other side of spectrum of religious fundamentalism, but it forms the other end of extremism. An extremism in ideology occurs when you take extreme steps to enforce it. So, a religious fundamentalist who takes extreme steps to enforce the fundamentals of his religion is called a religious extremist. A religious fundamentalist who takes liberal steps to enforce the fundamentals of his religion is called a liberal Muslim or Christian. What if taking liberal steps are not suggested in your fundamental? What if the fundamental was written by people who had taken extreme steps and you had to follow the fundamentals ‘by hook or crook’? So, you cannot cherry pick a portion of verse and sell your fundamentals, when you are supposed to implement it with the help of your sword.
Let us now construct the fundamentals of Hinduism. What can you call as the fundamental book of Hinduism? Vedas? Upanishad? Puranas? Bhagavad Gita? Ramayana? Mahabharata? Do all Hindus exactly follow the central tenets of Hinduism? What can be the fundamentals of a religion that has so many gods, unlike the single god of Abrahamic religion? What about Hindus who worship local gods and do not follow any of the above mentioned Hindu texts? Muslims, Christians or Jews praying a local saint or god are considered apostates, but is not considered so in Hinduism. This just conveys the point that Hinduism does not have defined set of fundamentals. Anybody is free to create their own god, own rituals and own texts but still remain under the umbrella of Hinduism. During the Islamic invasion, anyone who was not a Muslim got the term Hindu. And that name got stuck until now. With no fundamentals recognizing what makes one a Hindu and with no single central text authorizing duties of every other Hindu, how can there be a Hindu Fundamentalist in the first place? There can only be a Hindu extremist, Hindu moderate and Hindu liberal, but a Hindu fundamentalist is impossible to exist.
In 1920s, V.D. Savarkar introduced the term Hindutva which called for creation of Hindu nation encompassing anyone who considers himself Hindu. RSS and later BJP adopted Hindutva for its political expansion. The works of Savarkar, Golwalkar and Hegdewar serves as the fundamentals of Hindutva. Thus, Hindutva has fundamentals, but Hinduism doesn’t. So, going forward, a Hindu calling for Hindu nation must be labeled a Hindutva fundamentalist and not Hindu fundamentalist. RSS, BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena and any other Hindutva groups are Hindutva fundamentalist and not Hindu fundamentalist. Hope, the International media stops labeling anyone as Hindu fundamentalist.
I had painted a clear picture about the term fundamentalism, which just means ‘following the religion and its central book properly’. Being religious can only be synonymous with being fundamentalist, condemning fundamentalism is equal to condemning religion.
Getting back to the tweet of Ghulam Nabi Azad wherein he has condemned Fundamentalism of any religion, did he just condemn Islam along with Christianity and Judaism? Does he not know that condemning those religions amounts to blasphemy and even apostasy? Or, is Azad an atheist? Because, only atheists condemn fundamentalism of any religion.
In the same tweet, Azad had said ‘Fundamentalism cannot bring peace to society’. Does he imply that the three Abrahamic religions do not bring peace to society?
Also, the first step towards fighting fundamentalism of any religion in India is by implementing Uniform Civil Code. Will Congress and Left which had opposed it by tooth and nail in the past, allow it to be implemented now to fight religious fundamentalism? If no, do they have the right to talk about fighting fundamentalism ?