Field: Politics, Sociology
Title: Islam and Secularism in the Middle East
Authors: John L. Esposito, Azzam Tamimi & other contributors
Publication: Hurst & Company, London 2002
Reviewed by: Safwan
Eleven well-written article compiled, this book presents to the readers a wide range of issues and discussions on the relatively new and very much controversial world dogma; secularism. This ideology, or religion (as some argued), has always claimed to be the sole promoter of material advances, modernization, civilization, democracy and human rights. Such claim, however, is unequivocally rebutted and trashed by this book and countless others.
Historical facts alone would argue against the picture of a sacrosanct secularism. When it claimed to be the proponent of democracy, we have helplessly witnessed how they toppled the Islamic Liberation Front (Algeria) and Refah Party (Turkey) despite them being elected by the people. On top of that, they have painted a false picture of the incompatibility of Islam and democracy; a depiction true only about themselves.
Secularism, an advanced form of laicism, is a product of the West, and only suitable for such people. We, ‘the Rest’, do not share their history of being oppressed by a group of ecclesiastics claiming to be intermediaries between us and our Creator, thus granting themselves the status of infallibility, half-mortal, or godly. In fact, Islam has been protecting Muslims from tyrannies, authoritarianism and obscurantism until the moment it was foolishly abandoned. Unlike the Western experience of Church oppression, under the banner of Islam modernism was and is preached by countless esteemed thinkers like Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, Khairuddin al-Tunisi, Jamaluddin al-Afghani, Abdel Rahman al-Kawakibi, Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida, and Rachid al-Gannouchi.
In fact, John Keane and other authors found perilous limitations within the ideology. Keane argued that it is far from possible to replace certainty of religiosity with existential uncertainty. It’s affinity with political despotism and corruption is also a major concern for many people until today. Perhaps this is why, according to Berger, Islam and Evangalism is on the rise in many parts of the contemporary world.
Helplessly, secularism is bombarded with heaps of philosophical arguments that fail to agree with it. While presenting itself as a champion of drawing a line between public and private life, it actually penetrates deepest into our private sphere- as told by the undeniable experience of civilians in the West. By making the world godless and reducing man to natural matter, it is unclear whether our dignity and rights will still be retained. It advocates nature at the expense of God, but ironically men, as claimed to be the product of the former, never cease to conquer and rule over its ‘creator’. The impossibility reaches its peak as the ‘immanent’ man creates another logos and thus dualism and polarity, which culminates into the incumbent assimilation and annihilation of one or the other.