Fundamentalisms are extreme right movement or views, which are designed to manipulate religion or cultural practices in an endeavor to achieve certain political aims. Essentially, fundamentalisms attempt to disregard opposing opinions on societal issues like abortion, homosexuality, as well as religious and political representation. Fundamentalist views are shaped by the society on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion and culture. Tackling the issue of fundamentalism requires more than mere tolerance. The manner in which several critics address the phenomenon and the associated intolerance cannot present a viable solution. As such, there is a necessity to strengthen responses to the question of fundamentalism in the society so as to address the entire spectrum of the problem (Almond & Sivan, 2003).
Facilitating the freedom of choice, practice and belief in a particular religious or political doctrine is, basically, an obligation of the state. Moreover, the state is obliged to ensure that non-state-actors respect individuals’ freedoms of choice and thoughts. In this regard, acts of intolerances ought to be taken as violations of human rights. Although such a view is an important deterrence, human rights need not be centered on issues of tolerance or intolerance as such bigotry is, as pointed out earlier, defined as par the societal norms. The norms can, therefore, be prejudicial due to their encapsulation ethnic, religious, and cultural practices. In this regard, the current definition of human rights on the basis of pure acts of intolerance has made them ineffective while dealing with the subject of fundamentalism. The main derailment is the lack of ideology amongst anti-fundamentalists (Hargreaves, 2007). In most instances, their ideas are void, and cannot, therefore, provide an effective remedy to the problem at hand. Human rights activists and other anti-fundamentalists lack effective alternatives to the ideas that they condemn. Some of them are concerned about the challenge that may emanate from their proposals; hence they opt to offer ambiguous alternatives.
Fundamentalisms and Human Rights
Generally, human rights are meant to safeguard the rights of individuals to live as human beings. However, fundamentalists’ assertions are different. Fundamentalists define humanity and human rights with regard to certain religious, political, and ethnic claims which, according to them, are legitimized by certain doctrines or authorities. They, therefore, proceed into laying down sets of interpersonal relationships and obligations requiring self and others to abide by certain aspects of a regime. As such, human rights activists ought to focus beyond the obvious criteria of assessing violations during their core criticism of fundamentalism (Gustafson & Juviler, 1999). Going deeper into frameworks that define human rights, would enable them evaluate values and principles that constitute the locus of human rights projects as well as the ethnic and religious universes around them. Until the interpersonal relationships and obligations have been considered carefully, human rights will not offer an effective remedy to the challenge of fundamentalism.
Societies have been faced with several challenges as they endeavor to define fundamentalism in the context of human rights. Fundamentalism poses threats to human rights, especially when there are political or religious aims behind it. In such a case, fundamentalism transforms the manner, in which identities are negotiated and ascribed. Moreover, specific acts resulting from fundamentalism are, at times, identified as usurpations to individuals’ human rights (Kelsay & Twiss, 1994).
On many occasions, human rights laws have been found to be inefficient in criticizing religious fundamentalists. The reason behind this is that a big portion of the international rights laws is negotiated so as to establish a compromise between conflicting interests amongst various entities and authorities. While confronting religious fundamentalists, rights activists are necessitated to re-order their relationships with others. This challenges their autonomy, as it defines a new form of associating with others. Therefore, there is a need for one to establish a firm moral criticism as the rights issues become profoundly personal (Helie, 1989). Such a scenario necessitates the establishment of an ethical universe in order to challenge various forms of fundamentalism on the basis of a distinguishable set of rights. This means that as much as the international rights laws endeavor to respond to the religious fundamentalism, there is a need to utilize deeper moral resources in responding to the religious fundamentalism. This goes beyond the general understanding of lawmaking and politics (Maina & Juma, 1998).
Fundamentalism and Women Rights
Feminists and human rights organizations regard ethics as insufficient responses to fundamentalism. They, therefore, advocate on strengthening moral philosophies in an endeavor to boost their capacity to tackle intolerance. There has always been some form of tension during the organization of responses to human rights violations. Consequently, the evaluation of the causes of violations is demanding and, at times, difficult to attain. As such, there is a need to advocate for behavioral, legal, as well as institutional changes so as to facilitate responses to a wider variety of ethical questions. This is because the violation of rights is just a symptom of an underlying the political or religious fundamentalism (Moghadam & Badran, 1991).
Even though women are not always on the minority, policies that help establish ethnocracies and fundamentalism results into devastating impacts on them. In such circumstances, their voices are subdued by those of fundamentalists who claim to have the authority and will to promote and protect citizens’ rights. As much as the fundamentalists face victimization, their actions advance violations and abuse of integrity in the society. In some cases, elected regimes may turn out to be undemocratic. This usually results from the entrenchment of the fundamentalist ideas, which ends up denying citizens their freedom and rights as human beings. These ideas are hatched from political ideas that are of the extreme right nature. They are, therefore, based on the concepts of superiority which, as such, are established on the aspects of the mythical past (Marty & Appleby, 2004). They recognize the presence of heretics and campaign for their elimination, marginalization, and silencing.
Human rights actors are yet to perfect the manner in which they engage with women’s liberationists. On its part, feminism regards human rights as a complex set of relations between individuals. To some extent, religious fundamentalism has sought to redefine such relationships. The redefinition has, however, been dangerous due to its disempowering attributes. These attributes prevents individuals from learning, say, feminist practices, and, therefore, individuals and societies cannot be transformed in an empowering manner. To remedy these situations, observers propose the undertaking of projects aimed at accentuating human rights activities alongside the mainstream awareness of fundamentalisms (Witte & Green, 2011). They argue that it is in the interest of disaffected groups that organizations ought to undertake active roles in responding to any form of fundamentalism.
According to women’s movements around the world, matters concerning the family have been the subject of discussion standardization for several decades. As such, the main bone of contention is not deficiency of standards, but an inadequate regard for the standards during human rights activism. During their engagement with focus groups, human rights activists, therefore, find it challenging to sensitize on the need for reordering relationships with self and others (Kaufman, 1991).
Fundamentalism and Societal Norms
In most cases, fundamentalism of any form aims at redefining the human capacity to define and impose choices in a profound manner. As such, human rights that have been devised at a basic level cannot respond in a sufficient manner. Moreover, individuals find it difficult to retrieve themselves and their social relationships from fear-mediated settings of fundamentalism (Beitz, 2009). They, therefore, fail to challenge violations on proper ethical grounds, a situation that reduces their effectiveness. Powerful forces, local as well as international, seek to influence the operations of human rights groups for political or financial gains. For instance, some foreign governments and donors engage with groups that local human rights activists consider being fundamentalists. On being criticized for engaging with the leadership of Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami, the British government asserted that the group is a constituent of the country’s political process (Griffin, 2008). However, as much as they appear to be a political entity, their strategic goal is not to assure a mere political leadership. Unlike other political ideologists, fundamentalists endeavor to transform and theorize individuals’ relationships with their families, institutions, intimate relationships, community, themselves, and the state.
There are a variety of studies that aims at understanding fundamentalism. These studies empower human rights organizations in their endeavors to respond to and confront fundamentalism. The most notable study subjects revolve around political, religious, as well as reproductive and sexual rights. However, fundamentalism has a wider scope. There is, therefore, a necessity to widen the engagement with human rights organizations, especially on matters pertaining family relationships (Binamungu, 2002).
Studies have shown that fundamentalists utilize rights terminologies in an endeavor to justify their activities. They, therefore, understand the style of capitalizing on rights as well as the legal consciousness that is associated with it. For human rights to remedy fundamentalism, human rights activists and organizations ought to have deeper consciousness with regard to the subject. For instance, the activists ought to discuss the manner in which their organizations relate with the fundamentalists groups. They should also evaluate the likelihood of their staff associating with the officials of the fundamentalists. Such an association would enable the human rights activists assess the manner, in which fundamentalists utilize human rights languages. Additionally, human rights groups ought to comprehend their political and moral preferences as they address human rights issues (Newsom, 1986). They need to evaluate the manner, in which fundamentalists influence relationships before formulating their responses.
Effective response to fundamentalisms calls for an informed, detailed, and sincere reflection on the manner, in which social relationships and individuals’ autonomy ought to be constructed in the contemporary fundamentalist world. Individuals engaging in human rights activities ought to strive harder in their endeavor to comprehend the nuanced social and political realities, which shape relationships amongst individuals within communities, families, and societies. Workshops touching on the bare meaning of fundamentalism may not be effective. The activists ought, therefore, to reflect deeply on the forces that shape social and individual relations in a variety of contexts. This would enable a human rights activist to feel comfortable while dealing with issues relating to fundamentalism (Donnelly, 2003).
The full extent of fundamentalism can only be understood by the members of the society under consideration. For this reason, everyone else who is based outside the society under focus ought to establish links with those on the ground for there to be an effective remedy. The locals ought to minimize their reliance on the international human rights groups. Their political directions may not work as effectively as they do in their home countries. However, international human rights groups present important frameworks that facilitate the definition of relationships amongst people, between the people and the state, as well as amongst states. Nevertheless, the frameworks do not necessarily become instrumental in the activities of the local group. In fact, rights ought to be regarded as ends in themselves (Mullerson, 1997). The rights groups that are engaged in reflections of the manner in which the world can be improved, ought to reflect deeply on all aspects that influence the change that they envision.
Research studies have indicated that it would be better to approach the issue of fundamentalism in a style that unmasks specific individuals, i.e. instead of labeling people as fundamentalists; it would be more profitable to focus on the agendas they represent. When activists challenge the main actors, they, indeed, challenge what they represent or stand for, i.e. the agendas that they transform into action (Caplan, 1987). The studies unveil that focusing on the agendas facilitates building of alliances. Additionally, there are some countries, where individuals pursue fundamentalist agendas while portraying a secular appearance. In some cases, they may also be operating in a framework that is predominantly secular. As such, labeling or focusing on individuals may not be as effective as focusing on agendas (Fields, 2003). In fact, labeling such individuals as being fundamentalists results into intense debates over mere definition, a situation which makes reformers lose focus, thereby forgetting the impact of their engagements.
According to Victor Hugo, fundamentalism is an idea of the contemporary time. As such, it cannot be eliminated by focusing on specific individuals. Remedying the situation requires an extended and sustained effort, a situation that demands focusing on individuals only when necessary. When dealing with agendas, activists should not seek to de-legitimize them, but to legitimize other enabling and empowering ideas. As such, the idea of human rights works best, when it is utilized in the form of a counter narrative and in a manner that is aimed at reclaiming rightfulness (Perry, 1998).
For human rights to be effective in dealing with fundamentalism, the society must learn how to deal with groups of different faiths, races, and economic status. This would facilitate the elimination of de facto parallel states, where fundamentalists regard themselves as being superior to the rest. Society leaders ought to facilitate the remedying of the erroneous beliefs that human rights are western creations based on unethical, immoral, and unreligious notions. Politicians and religious leaders ought to stop utilizing fundamentalist ideas, as they seek to justify and consolidate power. This means that the use of execute decrees and orders, secret military tribunals, and election delays ought to be stopped (Luker, 1984). Until such issues have been resolved, human rights will not provide remedies to fundamentalism and other crimes against human dignity. In essence, the society must learn how to avoid extremes. No section of the society should assume views that are of either extreme right or extreme left. The concepts of human rights ought to be universally understood and accepted in order to facilitate an effective fundamentalism counter-strategy. Until such measures have been taken, human rights will never be effective in dealing with the challenges brought about by fundamentalism (Luker, 1984).