Fundamentalist Islam presents itself, on the one hand, as an intensified reaffirmation of faith in a transcendent God. But on the other hand, it is a militant ideology, demanding political action now. In one instance it takes the form of a populist party, asking for ballots. Showing another face, its spokesmen, evoking deep, longstanding historical resentments against the West, call for bullets. The moralists of fundamentalism pour scorn on Western consumer culture as debilitating to Islam, yet its strategists avidly seek to buy the West’s latest technologies in order to strengthen Islam.
Fundamentalist Islam remains an enigma precisely because it has confounded all attempts to divide it into tidy categories. “Revivalist” becomes “extremist” (and vice versa) with such rapidity and frequency that the actual classification of any movement or leader has little predictive power. They will not stay put. This is because fundamentalist Muslims, for all their “diversity,” orbit around one central idea: Islam must have power in this world. It is the true religion—the religion of God—and its truth is manifest in its power. When Muslims believed, they were powerful. Their power has been lost in modern times because true Islam has been abandoned. But if Muslims now return to the original Islam, they can preserve and even restore their power.
That return, to be effective, must be comprehensive and must accept one basic principle: Islam provides the one and only solution to all questions in this world, from public policy to private conduct. It is not merely a religion, in the Western sense of a system of belief in God. It possesses an immutable law, revealed by God, that deals with every aspect of life, and it is an ideology, a complete system of belief about the organization of the state and the world. This law and ideology can only be implemented through the establishment of a truly Islamic state. The empowerment of Islam, which is God’s plan for mankind, is a sacred end and can be pursued by any means necessary. At various times, these have included persuasion, guile, and violence.