As for its successor, the ultramontane Sunni Hamas, and its even more chiliastic Shia half-ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, they do not want any accommodation or compromise, and they do not pretend to. ~Marty Peretz, The New Republic
Via Jack Shafer
Mr. Shafer does a quick check of the old dictionary (something not subject to the ‘wikiality’ that Mr. Peretz seems to prefer) and finds that Peretz is using these words, as any literate, informed reader can see, in the most abominably ignorant or silly way imaginable. We might as well call Druzes Nestorians or Alawites monophysites if we call Sunnis ultramontane. (As Shafer also notes, Peretz’s use of chiliastic here is also completely wrong and betrays an impressive ignorance of Shi’ite doctrines.) Of course, it is interesting to consider where the use of ultramontane as a term of abuse comes from. As Shafer correctly notes using the OED, but does not explain, ultramontanes are Catholics living north of the Alps, but this is somewhat obscure. Who would call these people ultramontane and why? The term was not, of course, simply a description of where these people lived, but was supposed to say something about the extremity of their loyalty and their religious convictions (and it was never a compliment!).
The word means “beyond the mountains,” which in the 19th century context meant those Catholics north of the Alps who looked to Rome and took their loyalty to Rome very seriously–so seriously, their opponents averred, that their real loyalties lay beyond the mountains with a foreign bishop. Ultramontanes were allegedly untrustworthy, they supposedly possessed double loyalty–they were Reichsfeinde. It was a slur used particularly by German nationalists and, yes, nationalist anti-Semites, too, against Catholic conservatives in Germany and Austria, and came over time to be associated generically with extremely conservative Catholics (who were typically the sort to put their religious loyalties ahead of the sort of nationalist zeal that inspired their critics).
I think its provenance as an anti-Catholic insult is telling and might have more than a little to do with why Peretz is recycling it as a term of abuse for Muslims. On the other hand, Peretz could be shockingly ignorant and have no idea what the words he uses really mean, which doesn’t say much for the editor of The New Republic, but it may explain quite a lot about that magazine’s confused views of many things.