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A Very Short Introduction

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How the ideas of the pivotally important fundamentalism movement are confronting and shaping

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Don’t be deceived by how short this book is. It is an intellectual powerhouse that cleverly presents the major developments and nuances of fundamentalism in its varied religious, political and social forms. Author Malise Ruthven is an exceptional guide on this semantic, religious and social journey as he delves into uncharted territories that a casual reader would never even begin to think are related to this complex subject. In this provocative book, Ruthven draws amazing links among conceptual beliefs and modern issues, including globalism, feminism, nationalism, modernism and politics. Given how well this little gem sustains its high level of intelligent investigation, getAbstract recommends it to readers intrigued by the subject. Even if you know what the newspapers say about fundamentalism, you will learn something here.


What Is Fundamentalism?

Fundamentalism is a global phenomenon with political, social and religious variations. While the most spectacular expression of radical fundamentalism in modern times was the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, not all fundamentalism is tied to religion. Some conflicts labeled as inspired by religious fundamentalism are actually propelled by tribal, ethnic and nationalist rivalries. While Marxist-Leninism, National Socialism and anticolonialism drew many fundamentalists, modern versions of fundamentalism have replaced these political ideologies.

One interpretation of fundamentalism is the unwillingness to compromise strongly held beliefs. Fundamentalist movements have been revived as a result of globalization, which challenges the traditionalist worldview. Some fundamentalists accommodate modernity by acknowledging religious pluralism, though they do so mostly for political purposes. This explains alliances among groups with different agendas who may agree on the need to be, for example, antiabortion. The dilemma inherent in pluralism is that it recognizes the role of choice in religious affiliation. Choice is antithetical to...

About the Author

Scholar Malise Ruthven has taught at universities on both sides of the Atlantic. A Cambridge Ph.D. and a former scriptwriter with the BBC Arabic and World Services, he is a renowned commentator about Islam and the Arab world.

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