Question: Does "Hindu Fundamentalism" exist?
The word "fundamentalism" itself comes from debates among Protestant Christians in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In those debates, far from being some kind of slur meant to conjure up visions of proto-fascist preachers whipping their flocks up into a xenophobic frenzy, it was a badge of honor proudly worn by self-defined "fundamentalists".
The idea that fundamentalism is a pathological condition to with all religions are equally prone and of which they are all equally guilty is a very recent development. But does this idea have any basis in reality?
In a very thoughtful article (first published back in June of 2010) over at the Patheos website, David Frawley poses the question: Is There Hindu Fundamentalism?
The short answer to that question, according to Frawley, is: "No." The long answer is: "Unequivocally, no."
Here is an excerpt:
No Hindus -- including so-called Hindu fundamentalists -- insist that there is only one true faith called Hinduism and that all other faiths are false. Hinduism contains too much plurality to allow for that. Its tendency is not to coalesce into a fanatic unit like the fundamentalists of other religions, but to disperse into various diverse sets and fail to arrive at any common action, historically even one of self-defense against foreign invaders.
Fundamentalist groups insist upon belief in the literal truth of one book as the Word of God, on which they base their behavior. Muslim fundamentalists insist that the Koran is the Word of God and that all necessary knowledge is contained in it. Christian fundamentalists say the same thing of the Bible. Again even orthodox or ordinary Muslims and Christians often believe this.
Hindus have many holy books like the Vedas, Agamas, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, and so on, which contain a great variety of teaching and many different points of view, and no one of these books is required reading for all Hindus. Hindus generally respect the holy books of other religions as well. What single holy book do Hindu fundamentalists hold literally to be the word of God, upon which they base their behavior? Christian and Islamic fundamentalists flaunt their holy book and are ever quoting from it to justify their actions. What Hindu Bible are the Hindu fundamentalists all crying, quoting, and preaching from and finding justification in?