I'm not really concerned to give another definition of religion. I am not concerned to say that we can get a more comprehensive, a more dynamic conception, and so on.
Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah -- And an 'Islamic State' Is Not
I wish only to point to the fact that religion as a category is constantly being defined within social and historical contexts, and that people have specific reasons for defining it one way or another. Religion is associated with various kinds of experience, various institutions, with various movements, arguments and so on. That is what I am pointing to. In other words, it is not an abstract definition that interests me.
People who use abstract definitions of religion are missing a very important point: that religion is a social and historical fact, which has legal dimensions, domestic and political dimensions, economic dimensions, and so on. So what one has to look for, in other words, is the ways in which, as circumstances change, people constantly try, as it were, to gather together elements that they think belong, or should belong, to the notion of religion.
People use particular conceptions of religion in social life. This has really been my concern. My concern in the Genealogies of Religion was to trace some of the ways in which this notion has come to be constructed historically, rather than to provide a cross-cultural definition of religion that can be applied to any society. This is what I have been trying to say. It has frequently been argued that processes of modernization should culminate in the retreat of religion to the private sphere, so that wherever religion manifests itself in public life, this can be attributed to an incomplete or failed project of modernization, or as the vestiges of tradition forestalling the inevitable triumph of the modern.
How would you respond to this? Well, certainly that is the theory, but, of course, for a long time it has been recognized that this is not the way history has gone. Indeed, it is not even clear that the so-called "retreat of religion" has been quite a simple thing even since the beginning of the 19th century. The way in which people have thought about secularism - that is, the separation between state and religion - has in fact been adapted to very different kinds of state. Let's think of three examples of states in the West that are supposed to be liberal, democratic and secular: France, Britain and the United States.
What you have in France - very schematically speaking - is a state that is secular and a society which is secular. In England, you have an established religion and you have a very secular society. In the United States, you have a very religious society and a secular state. There are therefore very different ways in which the negotiation between religion and politics works itself out. There are different kinds of sensibilities, even in these three modern states and societies.
There are different kinds of reactions that people have towards what is a transgression against "secular" principles. For example: such sensibilities are found in the debate in France l'affaire du foulard about whether Muslim girls should be permitted to wear the veil in public schools. It is interesting to note, incidentally, that this has led to a negative reaction by secularists whereas wearing a yarmulke to school has not.
What is it that makes the wearing of the veil a violation of secular rules of politics and not the yarmulke? My point is not that there is unfair discrimination here, but that even in a secular society there are differences in the way secular people evaluate the political significance of "religious symbols" in public space. Or take America. There are clear rules in the United States about the separation of state and religion, but that doesn't prevent "non-secular" interventions in the politics of the present regime. As we all know, the Christian Right is at the heart of the Bush government.
It is an anti-Semitic ally of the Zionist organizations in America, and its political imagination embraces the coming war against Iraq as a step towards Armageddon. A "secular" war is supported by them for "religious" reasons. Again, I say this not in order to express my disapproval of the Religious Right although, of course, I do dislike them but to point to the fact that a secular state can without difficulty accommodate such politics. So to come back to the question of what is modern and what is not, and what ultimately is expected of a liberal, modern state: I think one has to recognize, first of all, that the transformation of societies in what is called a modern direction, included all sorts of accommodations and all sorts of changes, all sorts of re-adjustments as well as concessions.
The "secular" politics that is emerging is partly the result of these changes. I myself am very skeptical of the notion that modernity is some kind of straightforward destiny for everybody. There is a sense in which modernity can be thought of as a historical periodization, as temporality, but also of particular ways in which people live - must live. I am not at all sure that the "modern" necessarily presupposes everything that people in one or other of the so-called liberal, secular states want or think it should be.
Secularism has always been considered a crucial component of the process of modernization. How would you define the relationship between religion and secularism? I have a book coming out in February called Formations of the Secular in which I try to look at questions of sensibility, of experience, of the embodied concepts which orient subjects' sensorium and guide public understandings of truth.
I also look at the political doctrine of secularism itself, and at the secularization of law and morality in modernizing states. I think these are complicated questions. I think we don't understand fully what all the implications of the secular modes of everyday existence are for secular politics. I think we need to think about such matters far more deeply in the human sciences than we have done so far. Secularism as a political doctrine I see as being very closely connected to the formation of religion itself, as the "other" of a religious order. It is precisely in a secular state - which is supposed to be totally separated from religion - that it is essential for state law to define, again and again, what genuine religion is, and where its boundaries should properly be.
In other words, the state is not that separate. Paradoxically, modern politics cannot really be separated from religion as the vulgar version of secularism argues it should be - with religion having its own sphere and politics its own.
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It has been argued elsewhere that religious revivalist movements -- such as but not limited to ones in the Muslim world -- are not in fact atavistic or premodern, but that the very condition of possibility of these movements is the modern. Would you agree with this? I think to some extent this is certainly true. I would agree if, in "the modern condition of possibility" you include the nation-state, and the ambitions of the nation-state.
It seems to me that both kinds of movements - both militant movements as well as the liberal forms of Islam that have emerged since the 19th century - are adjustments to the fact that the state has ambitions regarding the formation of subjects and the regulation of entire populations, of their life and death. These things were the concern of various other agencies previously - including what one might call the religious - or there was no such function at all. But now a single political structure, the modern nation-state, seeks to deal with them.
I think it is true that, if you like, both the radical forms of religious movements as well as the liberal forms are accommodations to the modern state. The liberal ones obviously because they represent attempts to adjust to that overarching political power and the spaces it authorizes - to the forms of privacy and autonomy that it enables and legitimizes. The radical ones too belong to the same modern world because what is at stake for them primarily is the state since that is the seat of power determining all sorts of things in ways that previously were left unregulated.
So in that sense, yes, these movements are modern. They are also of course modern in the sense that there are all sorts of modern techniques that are now available and employed by them electronic techniques of communication, scientific forms of knowledge, the various means through which knowledge is produced and circulated, etc. So it is quite true: various aspects of these movements are constituted in a modern way.
At the same time one should not forget that they draw on traditions of reform and reinterpretation that are part of an old history - a history of disagreement, dispute and physical conflict - that is drawn on and re-presented. Can or should contemporary Islamist movements make us rethink Western conceptions of secular modernity?
On the whole, neither radical Islamist movements nor liberal Islam appear able to make people rethink Western conceptions of secular modernity. In part this is because many of their projects, in so far as they are modern, have taken over modern assumptions of politics. In part also it is because there is an enduring antipathy in the West towards Islam and ideas coming from the Islamic tradition. And of course the mere fact of the enormous disparity in power between apparently successful Western societies and evidently weak Muslim societies also plays a part.
But I think that the phenomenon as a whole - that is the phenomenon of Islamism - as well as comparable religious movements elsewhere in the world ought to make us rethink the accepted narratives of triumphant secularism and liberal assumptions about what is politically and morally essential to modern life.
The very existence of these phenomena should make us rethink our assumptions about what is necessary to modernity. There has been much discussion recently of the fact that Islam is antithetical to liberal democracy and all it entails equality, individualism, human rights, pluralism, tolerance and so on. How would you respond to this claim? This is connected to the previous question. If you think of Islam and the Islamic tradition as fixed, as having a certain kind of unchangeable essence, then it might well be argued that Islam is antithetical to liberal democracy: what is modern is not really Islamic and what is Islamic cannot really be modern.
So it's a Catch situation that many critics insist on putting Muslims into. Of course there are people who are trying to rethink the Islamic tradition in ways that would make it compatible with liberal democracy. But I am much more interested in the fact that the Islamic tradition ought to lead us to question many of the liberal categories themselves. Rather than saying, "Well yes we can also be like you," why not ask what the liberal categories themselves mean, and what they have represented historically?
The question of individualism, for example, is fraught with all sorts of problems, as people who have looked carefully at the tradition of individualism in the West know very well. The same is true of the question of equality. We know that the equality that is offered in liberal democracies is a purely legal equality, not economic equality.
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And the two forms of equality can't be kept in water-tight compartments. Even political equality doesn't necessarily give equal opportunity to all citizens to engage in or contribute to the formulation of policy. What do Islamic ideas about the individual, equality, etc. These are questions worth pursuing, I think. So instead of leaping up and saying, "Ah yes, we can all be liberal," I think it is more important to ask, for example, "What exactly does the liberal mean by tolerance?
That tends to be the rule in liberal societies. Increasingly what you believe, what you do in your own home, whether you stand on your head or decide not to, is up to you as an individual in liberal democracies. So who cares? The liberal tolerates these things because the liberal doesn't care about them. Yet tolerance is really only meaningful when it is about things that really matter. Even in ordinary language we talk about "tolerating pain". In other words, the kind of tolerance that really matters is something we ought to be exploring, thinking more about - and the ways in which the Islamic tradition conceives of tolerance however limited that might be helps to open up such questions.
So we ought to be thinking about questions like that instead of simply - and rather defensively - saying, "There are Islamic traditions that are very liberal, you know. We can also become liberal. Is the meaning of individualism totally clear, is it totally desirable? Does an exploration of Islamic traditions give us a deeper, more critical understanding of individualism, or tolerance, or pluralism?
How would you explain why there are infinitely more reports of human rights violations in the "Third World" than there are in the Euro-American world? One reason for this is of course the fact that there are quite a lot of dictators in power in the Third World. This applies to Latin America, to Africa, and to China - not only to the Muslim world as the media would have us believe.
But I think that there is something more that interests me in this whole question of human rights. Very often, many of the assumptions underlying human rights have to do with ways of life that are recognized as Western. Many things are found insufferable in the Third World merely because they are in the Third World. Things in the West are not found quite so insufferable simply because they are part of a different more prestigious way of life.
I was reminded of this again when I was reading the Christian Science Monitor recently. What was the role of the ulema in the formation of the Turkish Republic?
Secularism a threat to Islam, Naik says | Uae – Gulf News
What kinds of alliances did the multiple state institutions form with religious groups and sects? Should we read the AKP regime as a continuity of or a rupture from the state tradition of the Republic? Since the early nineteenth century, the idea of freedom has become ingrained in the Iranian political worldview and has played a major role in mobilizing sociopolitical movements. Throughout the pre-modern intellectual history of Iran, justice has often been considered the common shared value to which no one has expressed opposition.
Even tyrants had to claim possession of the attribute of justice, for it was commonly believed that only a just ruler would possess farr Divine Grace. Justice, in this tradition, was defined as an overarching concept covering all virtues. However, freedom, which was often understood as license, had been traditionally thought of as a less important value that would often come into conflict with other social and moral values. Why has freedom acquired new significance in Iranian political thought over the past two centuries, gradually becoming, like justice, a comprehensive concept encompassing many social values, to the extent that in the Constitutional Movement it was sometimes presented as the equivalent of justice, equality, constitutionalism, or law?
Which events provided the historical situation and horizon of meaning in which the question of freedom would be required to arise? How was the idea of freedom applied in the sociopolitical life of early modern Iran? After almost two centuries of reflection on the idea of freedom in Iran, why are many important questions regarding freedom still deeply controversial?
This book aims to answer these and similar questions.
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It attempts first to develop an appropriate method for the historiography of ideas by taking into consideration cultural, linguistic, and sociopolitical limitations and obstacles to free thinking in a predominantly closed society like Qajar Iran — By applying such a method, the study then investigates the history of the idea of freedom in Iran during one of the most important periods in the evolution of this concept and explores the thought and the unthought concerning freedom.
Secularism as a field of class struggle: State, religion, and class relations in Turkey. The limitations and particularities of secularism are exaggerated in countries that arrived late at capitalism, such as Turkey. Contesting Definitions of Secularism in Contemporary Turkey. Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism'. Check out the book panel here Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity. Durch diese The Arab uprisings of generated hopes for democratizing the region.
Islam and Secularism
Within a few short years, however, those hopes were dashed as the tumultuous period paved the way for a brutal civil war in Syria, a return of old regime Within a few short years, however, those hopes were dashed as the tumultuous period paved the way for a brutal civil war in Syria, a return of old regime figures in Tunisia, and a new authoritarian crackdown in Egypt.
So why did popular uprisings produce different political trajectories in Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria? To investigate such diverged paths of social and political struggles in the Arab region, I focus on three main factors: 1- the legacy of state building processes in the post-colonial period; 2- the shift of socio-economic alliances of the Arab states since the late s; and 3- the patterns of interaction between political opposition in the aftermath of the uprisings.
The analysis suggests that variations along these three dimensions are heavily contingent on myriad processes of coalition-building, civil-military relations, and intensity of secular-Islamists divides. Why were Islamists less polarizing in Tunisia than their counterparts in Egypt after the downfall of the autocratic regime in ?
While the electoral processes that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt rapidly polarized While the electoral processes that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt rapidly polarized society, the Muslim Brothers in Tunisia formed a coalition with secular groups to pry power from the old power centers immediately after the removal of Ben Ali. Scant attention paid to both the historical and political-strategic conditions that shaped boundaries of interactions between Islamists and non-Islamists.
I argue that the historical relations between the state and Islamists affect the distribution of power between them on the one hand, and their secular opponents on the other. In Tunisia, Islamist and non-Islamist forces believed in the necessity of conciliation or were forced to do so by political circumstances. They, therefore, reached across ideological lines and struck deals to hold democratic institutions.
In the colonial era, new distinctions and differentiations between religious and non-religious spheres took shape within inner-Islamic discourses, partly as a In the colonial era, new distinctions and differentiations between religious and non-religious spheres took shape within inner-Islamic discourses, partly as a product of encounters with Western knowledge. This introduction conceptualizes these distinctions and differentiations in relation to Islam, drawing on Marshall Hodgson's concept of the Islamicate, which we employ for our heuristic notion of Islamicate secularities.
The introduction discusses the epistemological and political context of these debates, and argues that theoretical and normative conflicts should not hinder further empirical inquiries into forms of secularity in Islamicate contexts.