Enlightenment fundamentalism

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Enlightenment fundamentalism refers to the idea that people who follow enlightened beliefs can be fundamentalist about them and a literal oxymoron if one assumes that fundamentalism is by definition not something that enlightened people like. The term has been defined in many exhaustive ways including:

  1. People that interpret texts literally dating from the Enlightenment period, in a similar way to those who literally interpret texts from the Bible.[1]
  2. The wave of "new atheism" as popularized by Richard Dawkins, which has apparently its origins in writers that wrote in the 18th century during a period which is understood as the Enlightenment.[2]
  3. People who believe that a nation would be better off if it was based on secular humanism. Therefore, anything that is not humanist has to be removed from the nation.[3]

All of these categories have been used to refer those who oppose the immigration of Muslims to the West using arguments that have their origins within perceptions that were popular during the Enlightenment. Anything not enlightened is therefore, according to them, a threat that must be defended against.


The term is misleading as it seems to imply all philosophies that existed during the time period. If one analyses debates revolving around these principles more closely, one would find out that they largely base themselves on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and more or less ignore the other stuff. There would have been enlightened philosophers that would have been in favor of that kind of immigration, as is the case with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who argued that patriotism must be set aside and that people must be open to people from all over the world.

There is also the fact that Muslim societies based on Enlightenment values have existed (e.g. Turkey), as well as individual Muslims with enlightened ideas. Enlightenment can therefore not be a sufficiently significant cause to be the solely defining factor in the debate of immigration.


Enlightenment promotes tolerance, humanism and freedom for all people. Questioning the Enlightenment is definitely valuable as it tells us a lot about the issue of immigration and what it is like to be a foreigner in Europe today, but as can be seen from the reasoning, the Enlightenment can be but a small subset of the larger picture in the debate and can not conclusively enough define the opposition to Muslim immigration that the country faces and provides in many ways arguments against that same opposition. We should remember it fondly, but also move on with our lives now.

See also[edit]