Thursday, April 9, 2009

The killing of Islamic secularism

Debate about the relationship between religion and state has been stifled by history – and the influence of a colonising west

Brian Whitaker, Wednesday 8 April 2009

"Ninety years ago in Egypt a new political party was formed. The Secular party, as it was initially known, campaigned under the slogan: "Religion belongs to God, the homeland belongs to everyone." The Secular party did not oppose religion as such but objected to the Egyptian king's use of religion to boost his authority.

Today, it is almost unimaginable that anyone in Egypt, or any other Arab country for that matter, would be foolhardy enough to set up a political party with such a name or platform......

....The decline of Muslim secularism reflects the rise of Islamism and the more generalised religious revival that has swept across the Middle East since the 1960s. A key moment was the humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel in 1967 that discredited Arab nationalism, a relatively secular movement. Then came the Iranian revolution, and later the expulsion of Soviet forces from Afghanistan by the mujahideen, giving credence to the belief that with God on their side, Muslims are invincible – an idea that has been further reinforced by the Israeli retreat from Lebanon in 2000 and the futile Israeli onslaughts against Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza earlier this year.

Coupled with that is a widespread and not unreasonable feeling that Muslims are under siege from the west. The response, in many cases, has been to retreat into a protective shell, seeking the comfort and certainties that religion can provide – accompanied by a rejection of what are identified, often mistakenly, as "western" ideas and values, including secularism......"

No comments: