Technology, interconnectedness, ideas, and diversity–of all the things globalization has done for us, global terrorism is one I can not appreciate. Growing up in the information boom, with the creation of internet available and useful to the public, and the ability to get products my parents did without, my generation became spoiled. We however, were brought back to our humble selves after September 11th, 2001. My life changed. I became fearful. I disliked flying in planes, and it worried me to be in places of international importance i.e, the capitol, or New York City. I added subways and metros to my phobia list after the bombings in Madrid. This was the first time since the Cold War that people feared global attacks, and I cannot help but think that Reza Aslan either sensed the fears of others, or he himself felt these concerns, when writing Beyond Fundamentalism. In Beyond Fundamentalism, Aslan explores the effects of globalized religion and the history of violence religion has played a part in. By exploring these topics, Aslan is giving his explanation for the world’s current and fearful status, and his suggestions on how the world can change.
“The self,” Aslan writes, “Is composed of multiple markers of identity–nationality, class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and so on.” A loss of self is one explanation Aslan offers as to why young people join radical, religious movements. These particular people may feel as if they do not belong with a specific group, so they look for another group where they can be accepted and wanted. The worry of a young person trying to find a place to fit in is that that place that they may connect with, could be jihadist. Aslan writes, “This is jihad as a form of identity– a mere metaphysical struggle stripped of all political considerations.” Where jihad was traditionally used in defense, contemporary jihad has been twisted into an aggressive force that is approved of by God. Muslim radical groups use the term “jihad” to justify their violent actions.
One point that becomes clear when reading Beyond Fundamentalism is that Islam is not the only religion tied to acts of violence. “Religious nationalism is by no means a uniquely Islamic phenomenon,” writes Aslan. Both Christianity and Judaism have a history of using violence to get their way. By devoting one whole chapter to each Christianity and Judaism and focusing on their contributions to globalization and violence, I believe Aslan hopes to erase misconceptions about Islam and inform readers of every religion’s violent role in history. The chapters devoted to Christianity and Judaism are important because while erasing misconceptions, they are also spreading tolerance. The more we know about our selves, the less we can judge and blame others.
Aslan writes, “By transforming the countless cultures of the Arab and Muslim world–from Morocco to Malaysia–into a single, homogenous, and historically inevitable enemy…is a blatant assertion that the War on Terror is in fact a war against Islam.” As much as I would like to believe that this statement is false, and that the U.S would never wage a war against a religion, I can not help but think that there is a good portion of the U.S that would like to see Islam gone.
While at the Delaware State Fair, I saw a bumper sticker in a shop that simply said, “Infidel”. I thought it was wrong and it made me sick to my stomach to think about someone driving around denouncing Islam so flagrantly. I feel that many people (Islamic or Christian) are uneducated about the other’s religion. In high school my government teacher would complain that every year, a parent of a student in her 6th grade social studies class would ask that their child not learn about Islam, as if Islam is a contagious disease. People’s unwillingness to educate themselves about the world and people around them will cause the Clash of Civilizations to worsen.
The promotion of democracy in the Middle East is something that Aslan supports. Aslan writes, “Whatever risks there may be in promoting democracy in the Middle East, they pale in comparison to the risks involved in continuing to stifle political reform in the hope of achieving stability in the region.” I am all for democracy and educating other countries about the concept, but I do not understand how Aslan can jump from being seemingly embarrassed about president Bush’s plan to spread democracy in the beginning of chapter seven, and then go on to qualify Bush’s argument for democracy. Unclarity in Aslan’s point of view and stance on things is one of my criticisms of Aslan’s writings. I think Aslan wanted to allow the reader to explore their own opinion while reading his book, but I prefer to hear the author’s point of view clearly when reading a book that deals with politics. I look at Aslan as an expert, and was disappointed when I became confused as to where he stood in an argument. He does, however, offer his solution to end Global Jihadism and spread peace. Aslan writes, “It will not be the rollback of democracy but rather its continued promotion that, in the long run, brings peace and stability.” We cannot change our mistakes in the past that led to worldwide fear and tension, but we can change what happens in the future because according to Aslan, countering Global Jihadism, “Has, in many ways, just begun.”