The expansion and consolidation of the Hindu Right’s political power has raised legitimate concerns about the future of India’s secularism. While criticism of secularism could be found in the public debate during the anti-colonial struggle, the sustained assault on it became particularly apparent during the Ayodhya movement. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the public campaign led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) advocated that the practice of secularism has led to the appeasement of Muslims. The BJP further argued that it has been quite harmful to India’s democratic polity because it has been institutionalising vote-bank politics, and that what is needed is in fact an attempt for a ‘positive’ secularism as opposed to ‘negative’ secularism. While these distinctions were widely used during those days, surprisingly it has vanished from the political lexicon of the Hindu Right in recent years.
Philosophy and Religion
October 2016, New Delhi – MilanAshis Nandy sees vendors of nationalism inflicting damage all over the world, including in his own country, India. In India, the modern ideologies dominant during the liberation struggle against British rule were anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. These then gave way to secular nationalism after Independence in 1947, under the first Prime Minister of free India, Jawaharlal Nehru (d. 1964). But less than seven decades later, what dominates Indian politics today is Hindu nationalism or “Hindutva”, and this is now being aggressively promoted by the 'strongman' currently leading the government in Delhi, Narendra Modi. Nandy, 79, a clinical psychologist by training, an analyst of culture and society, an astute political commentator and today India's most significant living public intellectual, has embraced the view of one of India’s founding fathers, Rabindranath Tagore, who thought that the idea of Indian nationalism was as absurd as Switzerland having a navy. In this interview below, Nandy will explain why.
Christianity has been part of the essential fabric of the Middle East for two thousand years. Far from being a Western import as some, incredibly, now seem to suggest, it was born here and exported as a gift to the rest of the world. Christian communities have been intrinsic to the development of Arab culture and civilisation.
According to the Qur’an God created human beings in nations, tribes, with different colors and different languages in order to know each other – human beings know themselves by communicating and understanding the Other. Historically Islam is the spiritual and ethical call for social justice. The Qur’an is about the poor and the needy. And it is about the Other. ResetDoc remembers the great Egyptian philosopher Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd with this interview, recorded in 2009.
From Reset-DoC's Archive - For people of the Maghreb, or at least for those who are interested in the intellectual life, 2010 will undisputedly be associated with the heaviest harvest of intellectual and political figures of the region. As if death plotted against the region and decided to take away the emblematic figures of a glorious period of intellectual and political life. Mohamed Abid Al Jabiri, Edmond Emran El Maleh and Abraham Serfaty from Morocco; Mohamed Arkoun and Tahar Ouettar from Algeria and Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd from Egypt, took their leave in 2010. As much as these intellectuals’ works are widely studied in Western academia, especially in Europe and America, they remain unknown to large sections of the Arab world. Many factors inform this ignorance. First, the objective discontinuities that exist in terms of free circulation of knowledge between the Mashriq (the east of the Arab world) and the Maghreb (the west). Second, the historical jealousies that have always existed between the two sides of the Arab world. (This article was published on Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations in 2011)
By Nina zu FürstenbergAccording to Filali-Ansary, religion provides a cohesive contribution to collective life in the Arab world, as religion does for many Christians in Western countries. The presence of religion can thus be invoked to oppose excesses of individualism, consumerism, and capitalism, without necessarily compromising the secularity of political institutions.
By Giancarlo BosettiDue to the importance of his reformist religious perspective, many journalists have described him as “Islam’s Luther,” perhaps explained by the fact that in the Shiite tradition, unlike the Sunnis, there is the presence of the clergy and its earthly power. Soroush is a theoretician of freedom and individual rights, and he is a critic of the theological tradition that has justified power through transcendence, thereby sanctifying centuries of tyranny.
By Nicola MissagliaJurist and Nobel Prize winner Ebadi took the lead in sponsoring an International Women’s Day in Iran, as well as a series of protest events against Iranian family law. In addition to having published numerous books, among them, Iran Awakening, A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (Milan 2006), as well as The Golden Cage, Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny (Milan 2008), Ebadi founded the Defenders of Human Rights Centre in Iran and the Society for Protecting the Child's Rights. These two organizations are NGOs for the defence of human rights, which focus on strengthening the legal status of women and children in Iran.
By Nicola MissagliaThe Egyptian philosopher insists that an intellectual “renaissance” in the contemporary Arab world, similar to the one that influenced the western world in the 15th and 16th centuries, would necessarily have to involve the Muslim’s re-appropriation of their own historicity, opposing the “hypostatization” of the past and the Islamic legacy.
The open, secular society threatens to turn into a laical one when the state takes on the function of an religio-juridical regulatory body. In this doubled fragmentation of both society and religion, the state is assigned a role which, within the classical liberal social order, had never been its due. This laical transformation of claims is much more than a mere extrapolation of the religio-political model that became the law in France over 100 years ago; it is a model of order which is based on statements on the truth of religion. In the example of Islam, this can be seen quite clearly: advocates of the ban on minarets justified their demands by stating that they knew ‚the truth of Islam’.
I first met Nasr Abu Zayd at Reset Istanbul Seminars in 2009. His lifeline reads like one long relationship with truth. One might honestly characterize Nasr Abu Zayd as a truth seeker. He was a scholar who had risked everything to restore the tradition of truth seeking in Islam. His work is an indispensable tool for Muslims themselves so they can wage their struggle for enlightenment and reform of their faith tradition.
Below, we outline fifteen arguments in support of this call for a new reform and form of the State in the Arab political domain.