Indian Muslims feel secure under secularism, by Farooq Suleria
Leaders like General Musharraf, patronized the Taliban as many did before him (Benazir Bhutto for one) without bothering to analyse the consequences it would have for secular thought and the nation
“Secularism is not about lifestyle, it is about ideology and thought. Some of the most liberal souls in
Why has secularism not taken root in the Muslim world? If Islam and secularism are incompatible?
Islam and secularism are totally compatible, as is any religion practiced in its true sense.
I strongly believe that secularism has not taken root in parts of the Muslim world—I hesitate to club all countries together----because it is always easier for rulers, Dynastic or otherwise, to use religion to consolidate nations. The powerful appeal and threat that defines the use of religion in politics is used to mesmerize and subdue the populace in a manner that eventually becomes autocratic, repressive and brutal. Unfortunately even the leaders professing secularism in the Arab countries have not remained immune from autocratic rule, and have used force to suppress opinion and dissent.
I am not going into specifics as there are details peculiar to each of these countries you have mentioned. But speaking generally, secularism has to absorb, modify, interact, convince. And this has to be done through persuasion and not force. Unfortunately in some countries force has been used instead of persuasion and that always allows fundamentalists to gain ground.
Also, Opposition in the Muslim countries to largely secular regimes has used religion to consolidate its support base, as it is easier (as we have seen in South Asia) to mobilize on grounds of religion than on the basis of a concrete, comprehensive alternative agenda. This also suits the agenda of countries like
Many Muslim leaders considered secular were in fact repressive dictators. Can we have secularism and tyranny simultaneously? Isn’t it the case that secularism is and should be a by-product of democratic revolutions?
Yes of course. Secularism ideally should be a by-product of democratic revolutions but then this world is far from ideal. In my view it is great to see many leaders adopt the secular mantle, despite the dissent within. Theirs has not been an easy path to follow and yet they did keep fundamentalism at bay while in power. Unfortunately unbridled power and dynastic rule creates repression, that has not been effectively challenged in the region. It must be pointed that often governments in so-called democratic and secular nations have been repressive and guilty of human rights violations. And if the US and Nato had not intervened the secular states would have found it easier, in the long term, to get rid of dictators than the repressive, religious regimes.
Secularism is not about lifestyle, it is about ideology and thought. Some of the most liberal souls in
Ignorance, and an unquestioning belief that religion can be the balm for all ills. This is because nations have not developed, and the people have been led to believe by the political class that religion can answer all the problems of non-governance. In
What should be done to foreground the secularist ideas in the Muslim world and occlude the hegemony of anti-secularist discourses?
Difficult question as a great deal has to be done but there is no uniform solution. What holds good for
Farooq Sulehria is working with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen (www.internationalen.se). Before joining Internationalen, he worked for one year,2006-07 at daily The News,