Human and intellectual development is based on intellectual awareness and openness to the other, whether this other be a people, an individual, or a culture. And despite our timid attempts, we are still suffering under the yoke of ideas advocated by some extremist groups to control minds, whether through religion or other arenas.
BY KARAM KHALIL
IT IS AN UNFORTUNATE fact that the vast majority in Arab society still believes itself to be the owner of The Truth, that The Truth is entrusted to it alone. Here we might ponder on how long this extremist ideological thought is to remain in control of our minds, and how long these groups – few in number – will continue to purchase minds and souls both with money and the promised life ever after. Was man placed on earth only for his dignity to be trampled upon and humiliated? Or to live and coexist only with others sharing his nature? What is it that led to the appearance these extremist groups? What is the purpose of their emergence?
These groups primarily seek domination and the maintenance of their control over the region, since if they were to lose it their interests and the credibility that they claim would collapse, and the falsity of the truth that they possess would be exposed. They would stand naked before society when their two-faced religious mask is removed, a mask that conceals extremism, malice and hatred for everything that contradicts their beliefs and opinions. To maintain their dominance these groups have resorted to tyranny, injustice, killing, and the takfīr  of everything in the name of religion that contradicts their apparent moral slogans with their fraudulent content. Their tyranny, authoritarianism, debasement and ignorance, their marginalization and confiscation of human freedom, their destruction of a person’s dignity and his objectification and transformation into a mere tool for power, all these are some of the primary factors spawning fanaticism and extremism. Moreover, fanatics and extremists are themselves victims of these anti-humane conditions. This is why fanaticism, extremism, violence, and terrorism can only be addressed by eliminating their causes, not simply by eliminating their victims.
Fanaticism, extremism, violence, and terrorism can only be addressed by eliminating their causes, not simply by eliminating their victims
Does this mean defending the terrorists? Of course not. It is a defense of human beings blinded by these groups, to the point of their being incapable of thinking outside the framework of their intellectual system and beliefs, and for whom the truth has turned into mere slogans spouted by leaders and imprinted in their minds as some form of holy book whose sanctity may not be compromised.
Fanatics and extremists are the product of a difficult climate of extremist authorities. It is an ugly paradox that we are these days fighting terrorism outwardly but at the same time lending our support and protection to those who make it work. Among the governments of democratic states this paradox is even uglier than for those who are ignorant of such systems, because we could – with a simple mechanism in the funding and efforts made since 2001 under the fraudulent ‘war on terror’ – progressively drain its sources, at least if the purpose of this war were truly humanitarian or civilisational.
Religious fanaticism and extremism did not come about by accident or arise overnight. It is a product social, intellectual, political and psychological conditions, circumstance that nurtured it, strengthened it, and consolidated its doctrine.
What then are the most important intellectual manifestations of this religious fanaticism and extremism? What are its results?
Many of its manifestations reflect the epistemological starting points and intellectual backgrounds of intolerance and extremism, religious or otherwise. Among the most obvious of these is the firm and reassuring certainty of owning The Truth, where certainty and possession of this Truth finds its expression in the complete ratification of everything related to the authority of the speaker – and the complete rejection of anything else. As a corollary, there is total acceptance of all that this authority figure requires, approves of and does – and the complete rejection of anything else. This is because the intellectual or religious fanatic is not merely a social product, but rather an unconscious mental product of a mind that has taken control of it, a mind that has not matured but has built around itself a wall of myths and false facts – to the point that these, and nothing else, now constitute The Truth.
For an extremist fanatic, The Truth is absolute and fixed. It has been established once and for all, right up to the Day of Judgment. It has been established in a sacred text, religious or otherwise – such as the Marxist or Marxist-Leninist text, for example, or even among ‘the laws’ of scientists themselves, before they realized that the history of science is a history of errors, as Karl Popper demonstrated. Every scientific fact must be capable of falsification, otherwise it cannot be true. Perhaps the most dangerous ‘intellectual’ manifestation of intolerance and extremism is the way that fanatics and extremists arrogate to themselves an absolute right to determine what the principles of truth and morality are, and consider that which lies outside to be null and void, to be abolished, with their own perceptions to be imposed on others by force.
 See Glossary.
 On this important point on the nature of ‘scientific truth’ see Model Curriculum [A] Courses – The Rise and Nature of Knowledge, p.10. (Ed.)