Akshat Dwivedi

Banality of Evil: Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism

The recent terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas gave a shock wave to the world and most of the countries stood with Israel. I am not surprised by the terrorist attack of Hamas because Evil will do what is meant for, but I lost all reason when I witnessed the attack being glorified and the general public, intellectuals, and institutions endorsing Hamas’s barbarism.

In an audio released by the Israeli military on Tuesday, a terrorist affiliated with Hamas who participated in the October 7 attack is heard informing his parents with great excitement that he is at Mefalsim, a kibbutz close to the Gaza border, and that he killed ten Jews by himself. It’s comparable to the case of Adolf Eichmann, who carried out orders and relished the extermination of the Jewish people. The “banality of terrorism,” in which Harvard intellectuals turned into utterly repugnant agents of unspeakable evil, is a more worrisome issue. LGBTQ+ organisations provided support for these acts even though they were aware that Islam disapproved of homosexuality and that most Islamic nations executed those found guilty of it. There are plenty of individuals who are knowing and unknowing carriers of the ideological indoctrination of Hamas, they are fighting in the digital battleground. There are many people fighting in the digital battlefield who are both aware and unaware bearers of the ideological indoctrination of Hamas.

The concept of the “banality of evil” was coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt in her analysis of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi official responsible for orchestrating the Holocaust. Arendt’s idea highlights how ordinary individuals can become agents of unspeakable evil through ideological indoctrination and obedience to authority. While her work primarily focused on the Nazi regime, applying the concept to other contexts, including Islamic fundamentalism, is possible.

Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism

Islamic fundamentalism, often associated with extremist groups, is a political and religious ideology that seeks to establish strict interpretations of Islamic law and governance. The impact of this ideology on global politics and security cannot be underestimated.

Ideological indoctrination is typically the first step towards the banality of evil. When it comes to Islamic fundamentalism, people are usually radicalised as a result of exposure to extreme views, which are frequently spread through internet forums, religious figures, or extreme literature. These concepts have a seductive quality that might entice people into a world where acts of terror and brutality are acceptable because they are motivated by religion. Regular individuals are turned into foot soldiers for radical movements because of a misguided feeling of purpose.

The viewpoint put out by Hannah Arendt also highlights the part that allegiance to authoritative persons plays in the commission of terrible deeds. Religious authorities and charismatic leaders have a great deal of influence on their adherents in the context of Islamic fundamentalism. These individuals take advantage of their followers’ weaknesses and annoyances to make them feel obligated to obey their orders. Individual moral principles may be subordinated to allegiance to these authorities, which may cause people to carry out horrible deeds in the name of their religion.

Dehumanization and “Othering”

Similar to Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamic fundamentalism frequently rests on dehumanizing those who are seen as adversaries. The dehumanization of people facilitates their ability to carry out violent and terrorist activities. As “infidels” or “enemies of Islam,” victims are dehumanized, which makes it easier for adherents of these ideologies to commit heinous crimes without feeling guilty. Dehumanization is a fundamental component of the banality of evil because it deprives victims of their humanity, enabling common people to perpetrate crimes.

The banality of evil is often perpetuated within the confines of groupthink and echo chambers. Within these closed environments, individuals are insulated from opposing perspectives, and dissent is actively discouraged. This leads to a reinforcement of extremist beliefs, creating a cycle that reinforces their radicalisation. Groupthink discourages critical thinking and moral introspection, rendering individuals more susceptible to committing acts of evil in the name of their ideology.

The banality of evil is a concept that transcends historical and cultural contexts, reminding us that ordinary individuals when subjected to specific conditions, can become perpetrators of horrific acts. In the context of Islamic fundamentalism, the banality of evil illustrates how ideological indoctrination, obedience to authority, dehumanization, and groupthink can combine to produce extremism and violence. Every nation that has granted asylum to refugees from these regions is inviting supporters of these ideologies, and the results became evident when Israel’s counterterrorism operation resulted in rioting in nations like Britain, France, Germany, and others, attacking innocent people in various nations.

How do they receive indoctrination?

Ignorance of knowledge does not mean that the problem is solved. The Western countries try to ignore the fundamentalist ideology and they are in the trap of the good of the bad. We need to understand the methodology of evil for countermeasures otherwise results of efforts will be zero!

In the context of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the concept of organic intellectuals given by Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher and political theorist, can shed light on how religious leaders, scholars, and thinkers play a significant role in shaping and legitimizing this movement. Organic intellectuals are individuals from within the subordinate or marginalized groups who emerge as intellectual leaders, offering ideological and intellectual guidance to their communities.

Organic intellectuals in the context of Islamic fundamentalism serve as ideologues, disseminating fundamentalist ideologies and interpretations of Islamic teachings. They provide intellectual frameworks that justify and support the fundamentalist cause, often emphasizing a return to a purer and more traditional interpretation of Islam. These interpretations may promote rigid religious practices, strict adherence to Sharia law, and the rejection of modern influences.

In the context of Islamic fundamentalism and related ideologies, individuals like Zakir Naik, President of some countries, news outlets like Al Jazeera, and certain social media influencers can indeed be seen as examples of organic intellectuals or influential figures who shape and propagate specific ideas and interpretations.

Dismantling Extremism, Building Hope for All

According to Hobbes, “Covenant without the sword are but words and no strength to secure man at all.” This underscores the idea that without the credible threat of force or authority to enforce agreements, social contracts and agreements are meaningless. The West has to reconsider its disastrous strategy of granting sanctuary or citizenship to those fleeing conflict zones or victims of dire conditions. In order to cease organic intellectual Investigate finances to find out where extremists are getting their money. Stricter banking laws should be implemented and enforced, especially those that deal with counterterrorism financing (CTF) and anti-money laundering (AML). Since the primary source of finance for these initiatives is oil exports, Israel must create low-cost alternative energy sources to lessen global reliance on these nations. International organisations such as the UN require a clear strategy to combat extremist ideology and must fortify legal frameworks to prevent one state from emulating another’s venerable traditions. The main goals of counterterrorism initiatives ought to be to educate the public, foster critical thinking, and deal with the underlying reasons for radicalisation. To effectively counter the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, a comprehensive and coordinated strategy including governments, civil society, religious leaders, and international players is necessary. To optimise their efficacy, these tactics should also be customised for the unique political, social, and cultural settings in which they are used.

About the Author
I am Akshat Dwivedi, PhD scholar from Bundelkhand University, India.