Radical fundamentalism

January 24, 2013 — 1 Comment

What comes to mind when you read the phrase radical fundamentalism? Write it down.

My list is Al-Qaeda, 9-11, and Islamist. Reading that list makes it fairly obvious what an impact the 2001 attacks had on my worldview. I have a bias against the Muslim religion; my earliest memory of hearing about the Islamic religion is in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. It’s important to be aware of your biases and how they affect your thinking.

Between 1980 and 2000 which terrorist organization committed the most suicide attacks Which terrorist organization first started using women in terrorist attacks? Which was the first terrorist organization to assassinate a sitting prime minister and president?

One organization was responsible for all of these attacks, the mostly Hindu Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). What if this group had pioneered the 9-11 attack? They certainly had the resources; a navy, airforce, and an extensive budget. They lacked the motive, as the US was one of the more involved parties in the Sri Lankan Civil War. But say they had, I can imagine how my list would be different.

My motive for writing this post is to understand the complexities of religious fundamentalism. Every major religion has fundamental groups which have shed blood in the name of their deity. I was really shocked this week to see examples of this in Sri Lanka, with Buddhist fundamentalism sparking riots and fighting in Colombo.

You may have read a story in the news about a Sri Lankan girl being beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Bodu Bala Sena, or the Buddhist Power Force, began boycots of Muslim stores in Sri Lanka in reaction. A 400 year old Arab shrine in Anuradhapura – one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals – was destroyed in reaction to the beheading. A Colombo outlet Muslim owned clothing chain, NoLimit, was the site of a rally led by Buddhist Monks that turned violent.

Muslims have lived in Sri Lanka since the 8th century, when Arab traders first landed on the island then known as Serendip. About 10% of the population in Sri Lanka practices Islam, and the green in the nation’s flag represents this minority. The Muslims faced some of the harshest treatment during the war, as they were targeted by the LTTE and forced out of their traditional homes on the island. In 1990 the LTTE provialimed that all Muslims had 24 hours to vacate Jaffna, the largest Northern city, or face death. It is estimated that there are nearly 250,000 Muslims still living in temporary shelterer since 2009.

Muslims have been the victims of terrorism at the hands of Hindus and Buddhists. Is that surprising?