Let us not confuse Islam and the vast majority of the Muslim population, who want simply to live in peace, with Islamic fundamentalism, a fortiori with Islamic terrorism, says Gérard Donnadieu. He nevertheless proposes to analyse the factors within the religious ideas of Islam that might encourage violence, while also stressing that no religion is safe from extremism.
He goes on to explain that people can have widely differing attitudes to Islam, and then to outline the peculiar views of some fundamentalists, such as the Egyptian Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and above all the Pakistani Maulana Abul Maudoudi, the founder of Jamat-i-islami, a radical Islamic movement, whose book Understanding Islam provides valuable insights.
Gérard Donnadieu sketches briefly three topics discussed by Maudoudi that he finds especially revealing:
- the absolute preeminence of Islam, which preaches unfaltering obedience to everything prescribed in the Koran and the charia;
- the supreme position of the "good Muslim" who is promised a place in Allah's paradise as a reward for irreproachable behaviour;
- the justification for resorting to violence: every Muslim must be ready to defend Islam and if necessary to join in the jihad (holy war). This radical version of Islam believes in sacrifice, and justifies the use of violence and war.
In the last part of his article, Gérard Donnadieu highlights the strengths and weaknesses of Islamic fundamentalism. He argues that, faced with the modern world and the problem of controlling violence, it is deeply archaic and that "we are probably only seeing the start of its violent and spectacular manifestations".
He concludes that "We cannot rule out the possibility that a non-sacrificial, pluralist and secularized version of Islam will emerge in the future", but this would require a more modern reinterpretation of the basic texts; this would be a major challenge first of all for the Muslim world.