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Rise of Islamic fundamentalism: Reason world powers sought to counter left-secular forces

By Bharat Dogra 

While fundamentalist and sectarian elements of all religions generally have violent tendencies and are harmful for peace, social harmony and democracy, in recent times more attention has been focused on Islamic fundamentalist and sectarian forces including the militants among them.
It is important to try to understand how many of these militants with fundamentalist beliefs increased in several countries in the middle of several modern influences. Partly this increase reflects a reaction against some harmful aspects of modernity which damage social relationships in significant ways, but in addition there are other factors too.
One of the biggest sources of funds for the spread of Islamic fundamentalism over the years came from Saudi Arabia royalty, while Saudi royalty got special support from the USA. In many countries the fundamentalist forces could be strengthened because of the financial support received from Saudi Arabia or some of its allies who had plenty of oil money at their disposal for this.
In due course this money was used by the USA and its CIA, using Pakistan in the important role of intermediaries, to collect Islamic militants from all over the world to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan which had come here to support a communist government at its invitation. This provided the biggest opportunity to these militants from many countries to get modern deadly weapons as well as the training to use these weapons effectively. After their use for ousting the Soviet army was fulfilled, these militants were by and large left free to roam to many places including their original countries and spread violent disruption there.
Earlier the Islamic fundamentalist elements were used widely to kill communists (who were also Muslims) on a mass scale in Indonesia, at the time of the US-supported coup to oust President Sukarno in the mid-sixties. Nearly half a million people were killed.
In Iran the democratically elected patriotic Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh was ousted by the USA and Britain when he tried to protect the national interests of Iran. In his place they brought back the monarchy of the Shah of Iran who established a regime characterized by suppression of people and torture. It was the repressive rule of this US supported regime which created the conditions for the arrival later of the regime of fundamentalist forces.
In Afghanistan it was the highly corrupt and inefficient regimes supported by the USA which created the conditions for the return of the fundamentalist forces led by the Taliban.
In Palestine the emergence of Hamas was supported with the help of Netanyahu during one of his earlier tenures as a counter to left and secular forces among the Palestinians. Netanyahu has received the maximum support from the USA in pursuing his sectarian agenda during his various tenures as prime minister of Israel.
Thus what we see in country after country is that Muslim religious fundamentalism grew either when a lot of funds and support became available for this from the forces of imperialism or its allies, or else militants among fundamentalist forces were directly recruited or supported to be used against left and secular forces. Communist forces and leftists among Muslims were regarded as the real enemies by the forces of imperialism but many idealistic and well-read Muslims had a tendency to be drawn towards the left ideology, and so the forces of imperialism used the forces of fundamentalism to curb them and sometimes to destroy them in very cruel ways, as in Indonesia. Sometimes secular Muslims who were not communists were also identified by hostile forces to be close to left forces, and hence they too were attacked.
As forces of imperialism supported many corrupt dictatorships and monarchies in Muslim countries, the youth had to find some channels of opposition. As the communists and left forces faced simply too much repression, the secular paths became more risky. For those still keen to oppose the corrupt and oppressive dictatorships, the mosque could still provide some protection and hence the forces of resistance also found a more convenient channel in fundamentalism.
This explains how Islamic fundamentalism could spread at a fast pace in many parts of the world, with imperialism playing an important supporting role in this, although later it was also forced to fight such forces, often of its own creation (directly or indirectly), in many places.
At the same time, imperialism has also played an important role in supporting (and getting supported by) fundamentalist forces of several other religions too at various levels in various contexts.
People should realize how they have been opportunistically used by various forces in narrow ways for their own interests, and come to enlightened , welfare-oriented, liberal path of religion that emphasizes peaceful co-existence, while giving up the sectarian and rigid, narrow path. In addition they should promote inter-faith harmony for the unity of their nation and indeed for the unity and welfare of all humanity.
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, When the Two Streams Met and A Day in 2071



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