What is Islamic fundamentalism?

We must first have a clear definition of what Islamic fundamentalism is, as the term is widely used, without a universally accepted definition. From a historical perspective, fundamentalist and reactionary interpretation of Islam began only a few decades after Islam first appeared some 1400 years ago. In modern times and during the twentieth century, too, fundamentalist movements sprang up in different parts of the world as isolated, weak movements. But what we call Islamic fundamentalism today came to prominence with the rise to power of Khomeini in Iran in 1979 and began to have an impact on the Middle East and the world by relying on the resources of a state as large as Iran. So even though Islamic fundamentalism predates the mullah’s regime, it never had the level of organisation and scale of activity that it has had since Khomeini rose to power 26 years ago.

Khomeini’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism is based on Velayate faqih, or clerical sovereignty. Khomeini first expounded this theory in his book Islamic Government. He wrote that "clerical guardianship is like having a guardian for a child. There is no difference between the guardian of a nation and guardian of a child as far as the guardian’s responsibilities and duties concerned."

The ideology espoused by Khomeini and his disciples regards gender as the most important line of demarcation in society. Regardless of historical and other differences between fascism and Islamic fundamentalism, the two share many common grounds: just as Hitler’s Nazi ideology was based on racial supremacy, Khomeini’s fundamentalist culture and ideology are based on gender apartheid and sexual discrimination.

If  Islamic fundamentalists ceased one day to believe in the eternal supremacy and domination of men over women, they would lose their identity and could not have this regime. In their value system, everything from piety and charity to sins and punishment is based on the ideology of patriarchy and gender discrimination.

The dogmatic and fundamentalist outlook of Islam is unable to comprehend the true essence of the teachings of the Quran and the prophet of Islam, i.e. mercy, liberty, and guidance of the individual and society towards moral and material evolution. To the dogmatic, compassion, love, freedom, and progress are not absolute values; the tendency is toward brutality, vengeance, intolerance, ignorance, and superstition. 

These qualities contradict the approach and practices of Islam’s great prophet. Fourteen centuries after the birth of Islam, Muhammad continues to symbolize to his followers all the sublime qualities of a human being. The hopes for the one who has been sent as "mercy for the world" and will intercede for his followers on Doomsday are extremely high, especially among the masses". It is a complicated story and an old story, using a beautiful and noble religion for cynical and diabolical goals. It is a story the West ignores at its peril.