“… note the variety of ideas, images, and fears that Islamic fundamentalism evokes in the American imagination: women wearing headscarves (now, burqas), the cutting off of hands and heads, massive crowds praying in unison, the imposition of a normative public morality grounded in a puritanical and legalistic interpretation of religious texts, a rejection and hatred of the West and its globalized culture, the desire to put aside history and return to a pristine past, and the quick recourse to violence against those who are different. In other words, the notion of fundamentalism collapses a rather heterogeneous collection of images and descriptions, linking them together as aspects of a singular socio-religious formation. Moreover, in their longstanding representation of Islam as violent spectacle (like a 1400-year-old train wreck), CNN and their competitors have managed to endow each one of these images with the power to immediately animate all of the others, each one a falling stone capable of bringing the avalanche of Islamic global terror down on the US. What allows this reduction is the idea that all of these phenomena are expressions of Islam in its dangerous and regressive form, its fundamentalist form.
“… What is at stake here, however, is not simply a problem of definition, but of political strategy: that is, the reduction effected by terms like fundamentalism allows US public opinion in this moment to equate those who attacked New York and Washington with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, with those Islamic schools that impart a strict interpretation of Islam, with Muslim preachers who criticize the US for its liberal social mores, with Arab families in Detroit that have daughters who wear headscarves. In so far as these different actors and institutions may be thought of as different faces of a global fundamentalism, now increasingly associated with terrorism, they may also be conceived of as legitimate targets, whether for intelligence gathering or for aerial bombing.”
- Charles Hirschkind & Saba Mahmood, “Feminism, the Taliban, and Politics of Counter-Insurgency,” Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 2, Spring 2002.