SONGSOPTOK: The personal make up of each person in all societies seems to be fashioned by religion. What is your opinion about that?

MARY SCULLY: Well I don’t really agree with that statement. It might be true in more rural and small town communities all over the world but it isn’t relevant in most cities where all sorts of  religious views commingle and people live, work, and socialize with others of very different religious ideas.

SONGSOPTOK: In your opinion, are religious beliefs related to communal sentiments or to spiritual consciousness?

MARY SCULLY: Religious beliefs are a spiritual matter but of course they can foster communal sentiments among adherents. They can also foster conflict with others in an environment of religious intolerance—as in the US during the 1950s, at least in small towns.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that respecting religious ideas and ideals can be considered as religious fundamentalism?

MARY SCULLY: Respecting the religious beliefs of others is an essential part of the right of freedom of religion and more broadly of living harmoniously with others. If it’s fundamental to anything it is to human decency.

SONGSOPTOK: What, in your opinion, is the relationship between religious beliefs and fundamentalism? Does practicing a religion eventually lead to fundamentalism?

MARY SCULLY: I wrote about this in my article. I believe fundamentalism is at heart right-wing politics looking for justification in scripture—whether it’s the Bible or the Qu’ran. Since I come from a right-wing Catholic fundamentalist family, I observed that process up close and personal in many people. They hide their right-wing agenda behind quotes from the Bible. But the impulse is political, not religious.

SONGSOPTOK: A certain section of all human society has exploited religion to their personal ends – religion seems to be a sound business proposal. What is your opinion about this? Do you think that these people are intentionally fanning the flame of fundamentalism all over the world? What, in your opinion, should be done to prevent this?

MARY SCULLY: Standing steadfast on the right to freedom of religion is the first defense. And in today’s political climate, that means chiefly defending Muslims and in particular Muslim women’s right to wear a veil, including the niqab. There can’t be any equivocating on that right. And part of standing with them is refusing to compromise with those who claim the women are being coerced by men or Islam. That demeans the women who in many countries, most notably Bahrain, led the revolutionary uprisings. People who lead revolutions are perfectly capable of deciding what they wear without our impugning them as pathetic victims.

SONGSOPTOK: It seems that the huge wave of fundamentalism sweeping the whole world dates from the time of the fall of the Soviet empire and socialism. Do you think that there is a link between the two? If so, what are your thoughts about it?

MARY SCULLY: Well as I said in the article, the wave of rumblings about fundamentalism began with the 1979 Iranian Revolution against the Shah. The events of 9/11 gave US imperialism the pretext for stepping up propaganda against fundamentalism but only to further their military plans in the Middle East. It’s crescendoed to a deafening pitch since then. The fall of the Soviet Union is an important factor not because they stood between the US and European neoliberal colonialism in the Middle East but because it fractured the already politically disintegrating socialist and communist movements. There is an alternative leadership to the fundamentalists but it is persecuted, divided, weak, individual, and often in jail or in exile so it presents no real challenge to the status quo.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that there is a link between fundamentalism and subsequent development of capitalism as can be observed in places like Afghanistan?

MARY SCULLY: I believe fundamentalism is a counterrevolutionary force in the Middle East and elsewhere. Neoliberal capitalism in the US and Europe have no intention of allowing capitalism to develop in Afghanistan or anywhere else. It views those countries as resources for raw materials, for export manufacturing, and as markets. Feudal political relations—or even better, slave relations—serve that best. They are trying to destroy the urban and rural working class who are the only force that can seriously challenge their domination and end their tyranny.

SONGSOPTOK: This in turn raises the question of the relationship between religious faith and fundamentalism. What is your opinion? Can fundamentalism be considered as a means for developing capitalism?

MARY SCULLY: If by fundamentalism you mean as typified in the Taliban or Islamic State, absolutely not. Capitalism really doesn’t have much of a future in the plundered countries because it involves the formation of a working class that would threaten capitalist rule. Neoliberal capitalist regimes do not intend to allow the development of capitalism in those countries.

SONGSOPTOK: What, according to you, should be done to prevent the rise of fundamentalism all over the world ?

MARY SCULLY: I don’t focus my political energies on opposing fundamentalism; I concentrate on opposing US and European neoliberal colonialism, in particular organizing against their endless wars. I concentrate on supporting popular movements for democracy and against tyranny in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Creating alternative social movements for democracy is the best defense against fundamentalist counterrevolution.

SONGSOPTOK: There seems to be a correlation between the level of economic development and the rise of fundamentalism – some of the poorest regions of the world bear testimony to the fact. How important is education and economic development for fighting fundamentalism?

MARY SCULLY: Well there isn’t much information on the class character of those recruited to the Islamic State from the Middle East, Africa and Asia; there is scant information suggesting they are fairly well-off and educated, not impoverished urban or rural workers. But there is plenty written about the estimated (by the UN) 25,000 recruits to the Islamic State from 80 different countries. They are reportedly quite affluent and disaffected right-wing youth attracted by romanticism and machismo. It has long been noted that terrorism as a political method attracts the more affluent. Not to mention, police agents.

SONGSOPTOK: Can atheism be an effective weapon for fighting fundamentalism ? Or do you consider atheism to be another form of fundamentalism?

MARY SCULLY: Well I wouldn’t think atheism any kind of weapon at all against political fundamentalism. You can hold any or no religious belief you choose but fighting fundamentalism is a cock-eyed way of doing things. One ought to concentrate politically on opposing war and imperialism although that involves exposing fundamentalism’s political character as part of counterrevolution.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that Internet can become a powerful means for preventing the rise of fundamentalism? Or do you think that Internet & social media are, on the contrary, helping fundamentalism to spread far & wide at a much faster rate?

MARY SCULLY: According to media reports, the Islamic State is masterful in recruiting through social media. Although it escapes me how one can romanticize and make beheading appealing. I think social media should be used as extensively as possible to rebuild the international antiwar movement, to build the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, to expose and denounce Islamophobia, and to tell the truth about US neoliberal colonialism around the world. ‘

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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