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To fight these reactionaries we must tackle the crisis that they feed off

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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 08:40 PM
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To fight these reactionaries we must tackle the crisis that they feed off
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1854938...

Fundamentalists of all kinds only thrive when their communities feel besieged. Understanding why is not an indulgence

Gary Younge
Monday August 21, 2006
The Guardian


.....
Every identity has its fundamentalists - the gatekeepers of what is and isn't permissible for those who share that identity. Since we all have access to multiple identities - race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, class - these fundamentalists usually have their work cut out trying to keep everybody in line. As the guardians of authenticity, their job is to deny complexity and impose uniformity.....One thing all these fundamentalisms have in common is that they are, ultimately, reactionary. They exploit identity not as a starting point to connect with the rest of humanity but an end point, from which the rest of humanity is excluded. Devoted to eternal and exclusive truths, they brook no dissent and tolerate no debate. What matters most to fundamentalists is not what you do but who you are. Regardless of how many good deeds you perform, a Christian fundamentalist will only recognise you as a fellow human being up to a certain point unless you too are a Christian fundamentalist - beyond that you are just one more sinner.

For fundamentalists insist that we privilege just one identity above all others all the time. Since this is not how must of us live our lives, we tend to ignore them. The price for breaching their codes, they warn us, is banishment; the prize for conforming to them is belonging. But since, under normal circumstances, they are not a part of a community to which most of us would want to belong and they have no power to deliver on their threats, they have nothing we want or fear.

So, for the most part, they stalk the borders of our communities - the pamphleteers and proselytisers, who harangue and harass. But at moments when an identity feels itself besieged, they will move to centre stage. Fear will polarise people and send them scuttling into crudely constructed camps. When faced with a threat, either real or imagined, the fundamentalists who sounded simplistic will be praised for their clarity; views that were once dispelled as narrow-minded will be embraced as principled. The marginal gradually becomes mainstream.

Identities do not exist in a vacuum but are rooted in material conditions that confer power and privilege in relation to one another. They are not static and fixed but dynamic and fluid, constantly shifting according to time and place......There is no point being in denial about the obvious reasons for this. Muslims will be more likely to organise around and identify with their religious identity, both at home and abroad, so long as they feel attacked as a result of their religious identity. There is no sensible conversation you can have about Islamic identity that does not address what is happening to Muslims locally and globally.....Fundamentalists only thrive at times of crisis. At certain moments for certain identities they offer not just the easy way out but what can seem like the only way out. To be serious about combating them one must first be serious about tackling the crisis that gives them leverage. Only when you offer an alternative and more attractive route out of that crisis can you isolate the leaders and win over the followers. To do so is not indulgent but intelligent.

g.younge@guardian.co.uk


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