Category Archives: secularism

Muslim secularists

“Our organization has a two-pronged goal. The first is as a think tank with a specific mission to “separate mosque and state” in the Islamic consciousness and to try to do that through a constant engagement of Muslims in the war of ideas between political Islam – Islamism — and western secular democracy. Americans and Muslims need to realize that this is a Muslim problem that needs a Muslim solution.”

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Religious leaders published by think tank

In December 2008 the Institute for Public policy Research published Faith in the Nation: Religion, identity andthe public realm in Britain today A collection of essays by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and other senior faith leaders ‘to express their views on Britishness, multiculturalism and the role of religion in the public realm.

The executive summary describes the document as ‘timely’

A growing sense of antagonism between some religious voices and a chorus of liberal secularists in the media and elsewhere is spilling over into political debate on such topics as faith schools and human embryology, and has arguably had a stunting impact upon our understanding of the place of faith in democratic society…. Continue reading

BHA launches secularism booklet

The New Humanist’s Paul Simms reports on the recent launch of the BHA’s secularism pamphlet.

The debate was opened by philosopher David Papineau…who put his case for a secular society as one intended not to cause differences, but rather to ensure that all citizens are free to practice their religion (or lack thereof) as they please, with the state favouring none. He presented secularism as a fair system, and one which encourages the loyalty of all groups to the state, since they have no need to fear that it is infringing on their religious autonomy. Continue reading

Black History Month – Ali Abd al-Raziq

Ali Abdel Raziq (1888-1966) was an Egyptian Islamic scholar and sharia judge. 

An early modernist he was chiefly concerned with the role and nature of the caliphate in Muslim society.

His main work is called “Islam and the Foundations of Governance” (Al-Islam Wa Usul Al-Hukm) and was first published in 1925. Due to its controversial standpoints regarding the necessity of the caliphate and religious government, the book triggered an intellectual and political battle in Egypt.

He concludes that since there was no basis for the caliphate in either the Qur’an or in the Hadith there may not be anything un-Islamic about not having it either (but nor is there anything un-Islamic about having a caliphate). In essence he claims that the Muslims may agree on any kind of government, be it religious or worldly, as long as it serves the interest and common welfare of their society.  

Ali Abd al-Raziq went a bit further than this, however, and recounting the horrors of the caliphate, among other things, also argued that religion should not be involved in government or politics. It is exactly this separation that is supposed to protect the religion from political misuse and to enforce morals.

He thus adopted what was essentially a secular approach to politics – there might not be a problem with religious values forming the backdrop to political debate, but he opposed the use of religion as the sole determining factor in political decisions. He was thus a defender of the separation of mosque and state for Islamic nations, a fact which earned him a great deal of opposition from traditionalist scholars and jurists.

From Wikipedia (I know!) and

So what is secularism then?

A subject close to the O Project’s heart– can religious and non-religious people work together on the secularist project? Giles Fraser accuses the National Secular Society (NSS) in the Church Times of “trickery…with respect to the word ‘secular'”:

I contend that the core meaning of secularism is the belief in the separation of Church and state. Religion, the secularist contends, ought not to have a place in shaping the laws or political realities by which we live.

…The NSS often employs this meaning of secular, especially when it is trying to look grown-up in making representations to government. Thus it says it wants “a society in which all are free to practise their faith, change it or not have one, according to their conscience”. It goes on about the importance of public space being open to all, irrespective of faith.

Yet, not far below the surface, another meaning of secular breaks out. Continue reading

Is fundamentalism a revolt against secularism?

Interviewed  in the current edition of Islamica, famed theologian Karen Armstrong is asked “What has made Fundamentalism, seemingly, so predominant today?” She answers 

“The militant piety that we call “fundamentalism” erupted in every single major world faith in the course of the twentieth century. There is fundamentalist Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, as well as fundamentalist Islam. Of the three monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam-Islam was the last to develop a fundamentalist strain during the 1960s. Fundamentalism represents a revolt against secular modern society, which separates religion and politics. Wherever a Western secularist government is established, a religious counterculturalist protest movement rises up alongside it in conscious rejection. Continue reading

Religion and politics don’t mix says Muslim

Firas Ahmad, deputy editor of Islamica Magazine warns of the dangers of mixing religion and politics. He recounts how  the evangelical political lobbying group Moral Majority were so concerned with the perceived immorality and secularisation of liberal America that they aligned themselves with right-wing politics and in the process founder Jerry Falwell “did more to diminish the dignity of belief than he achieved in limiting the sinfulness of modern life.”

Jerry Fallwell and Ronald ReaganWhen the previously unreligious Ronald Reagan stood against, believing evangelical Christian, Jimmy Carter in the presidential electionsm it was only when “Reagan guaranteed Falwell his full support against abortion, the future president rediscovered his religious roots and Falwell tasted the spoils of his first major political victory.”

The damage that this does to the moral voice of religion is “apparent in a poignant scene from the recent documentary, “Jesus Camp.” In it, an enthusiastic 12-year-old boy, steeped in evangelical ideology, rejects global warming as liberal nonsense. There is no reason for Christianity to take an ideological stand against protecting the environment. However, there is every reason for politicized Christianity, allied with Republican interests, to reject global warming on behalf of large oil companies. Religion is never more meaningless than when it becomes the pawn of political or economic ambition.” Continue reading