Every ideology, whether economic, political, social, or religious, is based on certain characterizing features or the least common denominators so to speak. These features of a given ideology are its fundamental principles. Rationally, then, fundamentalism would mean an attitude, an effort or a movement wich adheres to or tries to promote these fundamentals. For instance, when we speak of a free market economy and private ownership of property, we describe the fundamentals of modern capitalism; and those who conduct thier economic affairs accordingly may aptly be called Capitalists. When we talk of the goverment “of the people, for the people, and by the people”, we point out the fundamental principles of modern Democracy; and those who practice and promote this form of polity may be called democratic people or nations. Also, when some believe in the principle of trinity and the Gospel as the inspired word of God, they are declaring the fundamental principles of Christianity and are known as Christians. Likewise, there are certain essentials that characterize Islam and diffrentiate it from other systems or ideologies of the past and the present. Those who believe in this as unviolable aspects of Islam are the ones called Muslims.
Described in these terms, fundamentalism means the core of all that the adherents of an ideology believe in and are expected to practice. However what appears to be surprising is that we never hear of democratic fundamentalism, capitalist fundamentalism, socialist fundamentalism, or secularist fundamentalism. The term fundamentalism is used exclusively in the context of religion. What is even more disturbing is that whenever used in this particular context, fundamentalism is spoken of in a highly value laden manner almost invariably with negative connotations- some thing highly dogmatic, something that does not belong in the modern world, and something that has to be reckoned with. More popularly, the term is used to corner and attack the followers of a particular ideology or religion in order to bring down their morale and to force them to comply with the dictates of the western imperialism, because adhering to the fundamentals of one’s own religion or ideology means not confirming to the norms laid down by the modern western dictators for their own interest, which is highly undesirable and, therefore, the term ‘fundamentalist’ is being made infamous to such an extent so as to be abhorred by the ignorant masses, so that there will be left no room to practice anything other than those approved by them to make way for the cultural and ideological imperialism of the West.
To the sensitive Muslim audience, then, the term ‘fundamentalism’ or, to be more precise the ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, seems to carry a message,loud and clear: You can believe in Islam if you will, but cannot practice it.
Such negative interpretitions of the term and the propaganda against it also provides cover to the intolerant attitude of the so-called ‘secularists’ and ‘liberalists’ towards those particular religions and ideologies which they fear to be true and powerful enough to replace them. And the world is so blindly carried off by their propaganda that it cannot see their own fundamentalism manifested through their disguised intolerance.