Judaic and Islamic Fundamentalism: Similarities and Differences.
Three themes that Judaic and Islamic fundamentalists share are (1) the belief in the absolute supremacy of religious law; (2) the contention that secular regimes, though they may pay lip service to religious law, have rejected this law and rely instead on outside and particularly western influences to guide the state; and (3) the insistence that the only way to restore the people to its rightful status is to wrest control and implement a "return" to the divinely-inspired code
1. God's law is supreme: Sharia vs. Halakha:
Both Judaism and Islam are religions based on rituals (‘works’ to use the Christian term) rather than faith. In this way these two religions are closer to each other than either is to Christianity.
Both former Sephardic (Jews from Arab Lands) Chief Rabbi Mordecai Eliahu and former Chief Ashkenazic (Jews from European lands) Rabbi Avraham Shapira have called for an Israeli state governed by Halakha in the same manner that Islamists have called for Islamic states to be governed by Shari'a, Islamic law. Each group goes so far as to say that, without their particularistic imprimatur, the state has no lawful authority. So far as they are concerned these are God’s laws, and when the state doesn't live in accordance with the sacred law, state laws are not valid.
Abul A'la Maududi, a major Pakistani and Islamic leader has written: "The principle of the oneness of God altogether negates the concept of the legal and political sovereignty of human beings, individually or collectively... God alone is the sovereign and His commandments are the law of Islam... Legislation in an Islamic state will be restricted within the limits prescribed by the law of the Shari'a."
Rabbi Avraham Shapira: "All aspects of our lives are determined according to the Torah. It is clear to every Jew that religious observance is above any directive or law that contradicts Torah law... and it is unthinkable that an act forbidden by Halakha shall be made permissible because of a military order of one kind or another. In every debate between the majority and minority, the majority decides. However, in decisions which contradict Halakha, there is no force in the world which the majority can muster against the minority to compel it to act against Halakha." Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu agreed. He wrote that the state cannot pass laws that contradict the Torah, and that, in order to be considered binding, any law must be ratified by "a highly reputable contemporary Torah scholar."
Sayyid Qutb of Egypt, the second leader of the Muslim Brotherhood: "We pay little heed to our native spiritual resources and our own intellectual heritage; instead, we think first of importing foreign principles and methods, or borrowing customs and laws from across the deserts and beyond the seas... we turn our eyes to Europe, America, or Russia, and we expect to import from there solutions to our problems."
all Rabbis (or Sheiks) agree: Rabbi Aharon
Lichtenstein (son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, perhaps the
Jewish theologian of the second half of the twentieth century) stated
has to obey every letter of the Bible, but also has to obey every
letter of the
law of the land". Professor Chaim
Miliowsky, Chairman of the Talmud
Department at Bar Ilan University (the only Orthodox University in
noted the right wing have ‘attempt[ed] to hijack the system of halakha
political purposes’. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva
school dedicated to the
2. My land - Your land:
land is a very important issue for
Muslims as well as Jews. Dar al-Islam [areas under Muslim control] and
al-Harb [areas under foreign control] are determined by control of the
Islamists believe Muslims must first control the land and then their
kind of Muslims
must be in charge. Qutb wrote about the invasion of the
believe God gave the
Jewish fundamentalists concentrate their energies on the holiness of land while Islamic fundamentalists concentrate on Sharia law. It is obvious that Sharia law can only be implemented in lands controlled by Muslims.
Given the similarities it is not surprising that individuals who live their lives according to Jewish law will have ideologies that overlap with those who live their lives according to Islamic law.
Moshe Feiglin has stated "I reject this term 'Religious Zionist,' I am not 'religious' and I am not a Zionist. I am Jewish." The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan Al Banna stated: 'We are not socialist, we are not capitalist, we are Muslim."
Feiglin rails against the government, its
military might and its "corrupt" leaders, for example, he uses the
same language that Abul A'la Maududi used in urging an Islamic
While these sentiments are similar to other, non-religious revolutionary ideologies, they are unique in that they present Judaism and Islam as comprehensive political, rather than religious systems. They claim that the modern secular societies are sick and inherently evil, and that the only solution is a state guided by religious elites who can put it on track toward a messianic utopia.
Maududi and Qutb both blame the state and its institutions for every ill in society, from the lack of physical security to all kinds of moral depravity
stated: "The Zionist movement, which
founded the modern State of
Qutb: "We should not despair of the ability of the Sharia to govern modern society. Rather, our summons is to return to our own stored-up resources... Our mission is to call for a renewal of Islamic life, a life governed by the spirit and the law of Islam, which alone can produce that form of Islam that we need today, and which is in conformity with the genuine Islamic tradition."
There are differences; Gilles Keppel, a French expert on the modern Middle East identified three core groups that are vital to the success of political Islam (Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam). "Islamist movements are in fact clusters of different social groups with different social agendas. They are strong when they manage to mobilize or coalesce these different components, until they actually seize power . . . [But] the Islamist groups will never seize power if they cannot unite these social groups."
The first group Keppel cites is the young urban poor – people who have been exploited by their own ‘establishments’. In Arab countries, the jobless and restless young people provide an impressive mass from which an anti-government revolution can draw strength.
Religious Zionism most of its modern proponents
are well-educated, social elites of the middle class. The settlements
never been portrayed or perceived as magnets for the poor or
second group Keppel designated are the westernized
middle-class Muslims. What makes
them incompatible with the equivalent Religious Zionist demographic
that their dissatisfaction stems from undemocratic regimes based on
and family ties. In
far right wing of Religious Zionism also have a
difficult time trying to make the case that Judaism itself is being
by the government. It would be difficult for any Jew to condemn
Keppel's third group is the religious intelligentsia – people like Rabbis Shapira and Eliahu and Feiglin who can be compared to Qutb and Maududi. The difference and it is significant is the Rabbis (with very rare exceptions) do not preach violence.
One of the
root causes of
fundamentalist behavior is feelings of humiliation. How can those
God as His holy remnants not be understood by all the world? What they
understand is that God’s logic has no relation to human logic. Why did
his favorite person in the world Job suffer and his ten children die?
God let Rabbi Akiva, one of his favorite Sages, be horribly tortured
martyred? We cannot know, but that is not acceptable to
insist on not only understanding God’s logic but that His be theirs.
Fundamentalism, whether violent or not, is a political ideology and not a religion. Religion, at least those descended from Abraham believe in a Universal God who created the world and all of its children. Why He should choose one religion to give his Truth and to the others Falsity seems beyond Reason. There are those in each religion who recognize that Truth comes from many sources. The great Jewish scholar Maimonides accepted that Aristotle (whom he read in Arabic translation) had Truth to offer the world. He also became a doctor studying medicine from Arabic sources.
Fundamentalists from all religions exhibit a similar mutant strand of a religious disease, a virus which sometimes seems like a pandemic. In Christianity this virus became anti-Semitism; in Islam they became suicide bombers. The reason different strains of fundamentalism seem so alike is to paraphrase Louis Claude de Saint- Martin they speak the same language because they come from the same country.