Europe, India, and the limits of secularism
"Democracy and secularism are tightly held together by logic. If India abandons one, the other will go," according to historian Donald E. Smith. Both religious and secular mentalities must be open to a An ever smaller number of sociologists now support the hypothesis, and it went unopposed for a long time, of administering the means of salvation, turn exercising religion into a . This new relationship of democratic government, civil society and. The limits of liberal secularism go back to its emergence from the inherent dynamics From the very beginning, this political model went hand in hand with its own modes of Religion and Democracy: Reconceptualizing Religion, Culture, and Date created: ; Date last changed: 02
The American experience of secularism had been successful and, "relatively speaking," so was the Indian experience.
Secularism is neutrality towards all religion – including atheism
The commonality was religious tolerance. The core issue relating to the practice of secularism was religious pluralism. The Indian tradition of secularism, which was not rooted in the distinction between the private and public spheres, allowed the State to indulge in religious activities such as funding pilgrimage and renovating places of worship. This gave cause for inequitable sharing of State resources among different religious communities. Questions would be raised as to who got what share of the State funding.
Also, resources would be diverted from other secular responsibilities of the State, he said. Noting that politicians representing the authority of the State in countries such as India and Sri Lanka were usually publicly demonstrative of their religious affinity, he said there was no harm as long as people could see through such demonstrative religiosity as a public relations exercise.
Secular institutions usually developed in multi-religious societies, but secularism had relevance for all societies.
The alternative to secularism was a theocratic state. Iran was an example of a failed theocratic State, he said.
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Even in single-religion societies, as in many Islamic countries, people did not want to be governed by religious heads. As the case of Iran proved, religious leaders who came to power riding on a wave of public disillusionment with secular politicians perpetuated a theocracy. True, things are more complex, and it would be easy to show that western secularism actually has a Christian origin - as I do in my book, Secularism Confronts Islam.
But it is interesting to see that the critique of Islam is today a rallying-point for two intellectual families that have been opposed to each other so far: In other words, the Christian right and the secular left are today united in their criticism of Islam.
A debate of abstraction But if Christianity has been able to recast itself as one religion among others in a secular space, why would this be impossible for Islam? Two arguments are usually summoned to make this case: Both arguments are addressed in Secularism Confronts Islam. But this theoretical debate, which thrives on op-ed pieces and talk-shows, is increasingly solved in the practice of Muslims themselves.
The experience of everyday life as a minority brings Muslims to develop practices, compromises, and considerations meant to cope with a secularism that imposes itself on them.
Secularism confronts Islam | openDemocracy
This does not mean that Islam has never experienced secularism but only that, with the exception of a few isolated thinkersit never felt the need to think about it. Today, both life-conditions in the west and the domination of the western model through the process of globalisation compel many Muslims to relate explicitly to this form of secularism, somewhat urgently and under the pressure of political events.
This reflection spans a very wide intellectual spectrum that goes from what I call neo-fundamentalism to liberal positions, proceeding through all kinds of more or less enlightened conservatism. Unfortunately, the paradigms and models mobilised in the western debate over Islam hardly reflect the real practices of Muslims.
While the political debate over the potential danger allegedly represented by Muslims is more or less inspired by the intellectual debate about the "clash of civilisations", the help of sociology that is, the concrete analysis of Muslim practices is hardly sought even though sociology is at pains to grasp the concrete forms of religiosity that characterise the practice of Islam within immigrant communities.
One must therefore abandon the current models in order to understand how it is possible to practice one's faith as a Muslim in a secularised western context. And one quickly realises then that Muslims tend to find themselves in a position that is closer to that of the born-again Christians or the Haredi Jews than to the position of a stranger.
- Jonathan Fox
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A model conflict So far, the west has managed its Muslim population by mobilising two models: Multiculturalism supposes that Islam as a religion is embedded in a distinct culture that maintains itself from one generation to the next. One can be a good citizen and at the same time identify primarily with a culture that is not the dominant one.
In other words, the citizen's relation to the nation can be mediated by a communitarian sense of belonging. In the assimilationist model the official term is "integration"access to citizenship which turns out to be relatively easy means that individual cultural backgrounds are erased and overridden by a political community, the nation, that ignores all intermediary communitarian attachments whether based on race or on ethnic or religious identitieswhich are then removed to the private sphere.
As was declared in the French national assembly during the vote that granted full citizenship to French Jews in