10.3.1 Religious Fundamentalists

Gregory Millard

Extreme religious fundamentalist politics flourished from the late 1970s onward around the world and have sometimes been labelled “fascist” (such an argument about Christian fundamentalism in the USA; and an analysis of this approach to radical Islamism). Such politics do share the totalitarian tendencies of fascism, insisting as they do that the religious ideology infuse all aspects of life and be enforced by the state. But totalitarianism is not, in itself, reducible to fascism; otherwise, communist totalitarians such as Mao and Stalin would be fascists (on this debate, see Passmore, 2002, pp. 18-23). And despite a contemporary vogue for framing fascism as a “political religion,” it seems useful to distinguish an ideology rooted in religious belief systems as such from fascism, which is rooted in the secular beliefs of nationalism. We should be mindful, too, of the polemical motivations involved in labelling a phenomenon “fascist.” The real appeal of collapsing religious fundamentalist politics into fascism may be rhetorical more than analytical. It provides a way of sounding the alarm and mobilizing opposition to religious fundamentalism by giving it the same name as one of the most reviled political ideologies of modern times.


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