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What are moderate fundamentalists?

September 13, 2017

Even though at the time I wrote the book (2010-2016), I thought that I had invented a new term (which was minimally counterintuitive and therefore catchy enough to fit the title of a book!) to characterize the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at's belief systems, it turns out that it's not a new term.  Scholars of religion have been using it for decades. Similar to the term fundamentalism itself, it seems to have been first used to characterize a Christian belief system.  Robin Smith (2013) credits Moore (1990) for first using it:

Howard Edgar Moore argues that Rice was a “moderate” fundamentalist, but what does that mean? Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines moderate as “avoiding excesses or extremes; temperate or restrained” and “mild; calm; gentle; not violent.”  (p. 2: Smith, 2013)

Noor credits Moussali (1999) for its first use in the Muslim context:

Moderate Islamic fundamentalism as a term is not something new. Moussalli, in his attempt to explain the variety of fundamentalist movements, concludes that there are two models of fundamentalism, namely radical and moderate Islamic fundamentalism. Radical fundamentalism is a movement supported by a minority, has an exclusive nature and rigid attitudes. On the other hand, the moderate fundamentalists are to some extent, open to dialogue and demonstrate the intention to accept the Western system and political thinking as long as these are useful to support their larger goals and are not in opposition to Islamic teaching. (p. 61) Thus Moussalli concludes that "while radical fundamentalism proves resistant to dialogue and cooperation with the regimes and the West in general (moderate fundamentalism is open to dialogue and compromise". (p. 62)      (p. 15: Noor, 2006)

So I clearly can't take the credit for inventing the term and if I were to write the book today I would cite the scholars who have used it in the past.  The fact that the term has been used previously and used to characterize religious groups that were hard to neatly put into the standard bins of moderate and fundamentalists is lends is certainly encouraging.

 

References:

Howard Edgar Moore (1990) The Emergence of Moderate Fundamentalism: John R. Rice and ‘The Sword of the Lord.' PhD dissertation, George Washington University, 1990.

Ahmad S. Moussalli (1999) Moderate and Radicallslamic Fundamentalism, The Quest.for Modernity, Legitimacy and the Islamic State, Florida: University Press of Florida.

Firman Noor (2006) Moderate Islamic Fundamentalism in Indonesia: A Study of Political Thinking and Behaviour of The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), 1998-2005, Masters Thesis, Department of Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Robin Smith (2013) John R. Rice, The Sword of the Lord, and the Fundamentalist Conversation: Comparisons with J. Frank Norris ' s The Fundamentalistand Carl McIntire ' s The Christian Beacon, PhD Thesis, Wright State University.

 

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