The main argument in this book is that fundamentalism is a reaction to modernity and globalization found in all world religions. Fundamentalism includes movements, organizations, and people in many different religious cultures, and I have taken examples that I believe are important from Protestant Christianity in the United States, Islam in South Asia and the Middle East, Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, and Hinduism in India. Fundamentalist movements in these religious cultures share several traits, as has been observed by many others, but I have argued that there is a much more important reason why we may use the word “fundamentalism” to describe all the movements I have looked at here and surely many others. The reason is that they are the results of the same global historical processes, and my goal in the first part of this book was to outline some of the main elements in these processes.
To outline the early global history of fundamentalism in world religions, I looked at the great political and cultural transformations that took place in almost every part of the world starting in the mid-nineteenth century as the result of the global spread of Western modernity. In many parts of Africa and Asia, the transformations came as the result of colonization, whereas in other societies – I have pointed to Turkey, Thailand, and Japan as important examples – modernity was hurriedly self-imposed in order to face a new and competitive international environment.