Review: How Fundamentalists are dividing Britain

For our June meeting, we were very pleased to be joined by Chris Moos to talk about Fundamentalism in the UK and what to do about it. 

Chris started with the question: What makes someone so driven by their beliefs that they would kill someone? As humans we have natural empathy, so to kill means supressing our natural instincts.

The answer is ideology: fundamentalist ideology.

Fundamentalism is defined by Altemeyer and Hunsberger as

“The belief that there is one set of religious teachings that clearly contains the fundamental, basic, intrinsic, essential, inerrant truth about humanity and deity; that this essential truth is fundamentally opposed by forces of evil which must be vigorously fought; that this truth must be followed today according to the fundamental, unchangeable practices of the past; and that those who believe and follow these fundamental teachings have a special relationship with the deity.”

Fundamentalists are also against equal rights, they want to control women, they are homophobic, and have strong views about who is in, and who is out of the fold. There is a hierarchy – those who are in are superior, and those who are out are inferior.

Chris described racist fundamentalism as the other side of the same coin. He cited Hindutva fundamentalism as embodied by the BJP in India, which sets up the idea of Hindus as a unified, homogenous majority, culturally superior to other groups, with a sense of grievance against past injustice and a rejection of rational arguments against this interpretation. The BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) its parent body have overseen anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence. Christian fundamentalist groups including the DUP in Northern Ireland and the Christian Legal Centre campaign against abortion and equal rights.

Chris described how the MEND organisation – Muslim Engagement and Development – which says it stands for “a Britain in which all members of society are valued and respected whatever their religious, racial or ethnic background, gender or sexual orientation” and aims to “empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities to be more actively involved in British media and politics”, is actually using its campaign against Islamaphobia to propagate fundamentalist ideas. Chris said its star speaker Aby Eesa Niamatullah says women should not be in the workplace whatsoever, and that he advocates the death penalty for blasphemy.

Chris described how British political parties and figures including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are not consistent in condemning fundamentalism. They sometimes stand with groups or supress reports critical of groups because of political expediency. He pointed out that fundamentalism is not normal in religious circles and not normal among Muslims. It needs to be called out and exposed wherever it is.

When we say “No to Racism” we should also say “No to fundamentalism”. It concerns us all and we need to tackle it.

Chris Moos is a secularist activist. He has successfully campaigned for the right to free expression and against gender segregation at universities, as well as the accommodation of religious codes in the British legal system. He was a nominee for the Secularist of the Year 2014, and is a member of the Council of the National Secular Society

You can follow Chris Moos on Twitter.