Thesis Title

The Quest for Political Legitimacy Within Christian and Islamic Fundamentalist Movements


Kyle Coble

Date of Graduation

Summer 2005


Master of Global Studies



Committee Chair

Mehrdad Haghayeghi


This thesis is a comparative survey of Christian and Islamic fundamentalist movements in terms of their relation to the political systems they advocate. This study sets forth the idea that both movements have many points in common. For examine, in both cases there seem to be a deep rooted reaction against modernity, which has manifested itself only in the last one hundred to one hundred fifty years. Both groups also portray themselves as groups under attack by the other. Furthermore, both have used mass media as a means of recruitment and communication, demonizing outsiders, including their more moderate counterparts within their own religion. Despite these critical similarities, this study found several key differences. In general, Islamist political movements and leaders were much more clandestine in the Middle East, with a few exceptions. The concept of a ‘loyal opposition’ in the form of Islamist movements does not sit well with many rulers in that region. This may be because Islamists do not rely on only legal means to obtain power. By contrast, many Christian groups in the United States are quite open about their goals and political involvement and aspirations. And, generally, Christian fundamentalists rely only on legal means to power. This thesis concludes that given that Christian fundamentalists in the United States and Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East live in opposing political environments—the latter being democratic and the former dictatorial, often objectives and the means to achieving those objectives are different.


fundamentalism, Islam, Christian, extremist, political

Subject Categories

International and Area Studies


© Kyle Coble