Friday, February 15, 2008

Karen Armstron on secularism

"Q: Is the separation of religion from politics practicable in the context of Islam?
A: It has worked very well for us in the west, and one of the reasons for that is that when we did mix religion and politics during our modernisation period, it was a horror. There were terrible wars of religion in the 17th century that left 35 percent of the population dead. This was one of the great catastrophes of European history, and it was that experience which made the enlightenment - people said, ‘No, we’ll keep politics out of religion.’ Now, we had a long time to develop institutions - we didn’t have to do it overnight.
In the Muslim world, secularism has been introduced far too rapidly. When Kemal Ataturk secularised Turkey, he closed down all the madrassas and pushed the Sufis underground; the Shah of Iran used to make the soldiers go out with their bayonets, taking off the women’s veils and ripping them into pieces in front of them. In this context, secularism seems like an assault upon religion — it is too quick, and this has given it a bad name.

The News(Pakistan), February 03, 2008
She's right here. It is tragic that secularism has been given a bad name in the Middle East, simply because it was forced upon people. (Same thing with USSR for that matter.) However, if there's a time for secularism among Muslims, it's now. We can hardly let 35% of the population die so they will appreciate secularism they way we do. But no bayonets.
"My next book will be titled ‘The Case for God.’ It looks at some of the modern atheists; the movement of atheism; and how the present-day atheism is due to bad modern theology. The book will be with the publisher by September 2009."

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