In The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? John L Esposito maintains that most American's understanding of fundamentalism does not apply very well to contemporary Islam.The term fundamentalism has its roots in American Protestantism and the 20th century movement that emphasized the literal interpretation of Bible.
Fundamentalists are portrayed as static, literalist, retrogressive and extremist. The term fundamentalists cannot be applied to the entire Muslim world especially when Muslims make up the majority of the population in at least 40 countries. Esposito believes that a more appropriate term would be Islamic Revitalism or Activism. The form of Islamic revitalism may vary from one country to another but it seems to have characterized by the beliefs that existing political, economic and social systems have failed: disenchantment with and even rejection of the west and conviction that Islam offers a more viable alternative to secular nationalism, socialism and capitalism.
According to Esposito Islamic revitalism represents a response to the failures and crises of authority and legitimacy that have plagued most modern Muslim states. The defeat of Arab armies in 1967 from Israel forced middle eastern people to question the political and moral structure of their societies.Oil, wealth and modernization policies had led to rapid increase in population and urbanization and opened up a vast chasm between the oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and the poor densely populated countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Western capitalism seen as one of the primary forces behind these trends seemed blind to social justice promoted consumption and widespread poverty. Marxist socialism had failed to produce social justice. It led to Taliban and other Muslim groups in Muslim countries like Afghanistan reject secular nationalism.
For many people Islam offers an alternative vision for society guided by five principles:-
Islam is a comprehensive way of life relevant to politics, law and society. Muslim societies fail when they depart from Islamic ways and follow the west. An Islamic social and political revolution is necessary for renewal. Islamic law must replace laws inspired or imposed by the west. Science and technology must be used in ways that reflect Islamic values, to guard against the infiltration of western values.
Muslim groups differ in their beliefs about how and by what methods these principles should be implemented. There is raging debate between religious and political jihad in the Muslim world. Many Islamic scholars have pointed out that in the religious sense of the word; true jihad is the constant struggle of Muslims to conquer their inner base instincts to follow the path of God and to do well in society. According to Daniel Pipes jihad is used by some political organizations against non Muslims and against Muslims who fail to live up to the requirements of their faith.
Militant Islam is an aggressive totalitarian ideology that ultimately discriminates barely if at all among those who stands in its path.Non Muslims as well as Muslims who do not share the militants outlook can be targets of attack.