Guardian: Writing a book about Muslim fundamentalism, the subject of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, felt like dancing in a minefield, admits Karima Bennoune. The law professor, who describes herself as a secular person of Muslim heritage, set out to capture the voices of those battling fundamentalism on the front lines of countries such as Algeria, Afghanistan, Niger, Russia and Pakistan.
Bennoune lays out a critique of Muslim fundamentalism, not from a crude “war on terror” viewpoint, but from a human rights perspective that, paradoxically, does not always sit well with rights groups in the west. She grew up in Algeria and the US, and is an ardent critic of Islamism; those three letters at the end make an enormous difference, she argues. “Being a devout believer has nothing to do with purveying political Islam. The vast majority of Muslims are not fundamentalists, though, of course, many are,” she writes.
Bennoune prefers the phrase Muslim fundamentalism to Islamism and radicalism, because she feels fundamentalism crosses religious boundaries. Muslim fundamentalism, however, stands out for her by dint of its transnational nature, the ubiquity of its adherents, and the sophistication and reach of its armed groups. Muslim fundamentalists believe in the imposition of “God’s law” or sharia – and only their version of it. Beyond the law, Bennoune says, fundamentalists denounce secularists and seek to bring politicised religion to all spheres.