Turkish intellectual Cengiz Aktar speaks to ResetDOC in the wake of Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque by Erdogan’s government
- A year ahead of legislative and presidential elections, Tunisian politics appears to be in a period of intense upheaval. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s position has been wavering for months. Meanwhile, the economic malaise of the population deepens by the day.
- 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.
- Whether “European Islam” is possible or not appears to be one of the controversial questions of our recent times. “Institutionalized ignorance” – in the words of Mohammed Arkoun – feeds mistrust, which in turn feeds fear. Fear becomes a prejudice, which in turn becomes a generalization; and generalizations are wrong. Thus, [institutionalized] ignorance is wrong. European arrogance seems to have forgotten the legacy of its earlier Enlightenment. Muslims’ moral order and Golden Age, long time passed, seems hijacked by terrorists. Wise moderates from both sides are needed more than any other times, and there are plenty of them. Bloody events in the name of politicized Allah, especially since the 1970s until the current horrendous massacres committed by the “Intolerant State” of ISIS nurture the stories that demagogues use to uphold their antagonistic views about each other.
- “What does democracy need and require from religious institutions and people? And, on the other side, what is the minimum religious people can legitimately expect from democracy?” asks Professor Alfred Stepan from Columbia University.
- Imposing the State to be neutral about religion doesn’t take a position on religion but at the same time it does not necessarily say religion has nothing to do in the public space: I believe religion has a public role, we cannot really exclude it from politics. I simply make a distinction between State and politics: religion and State are to be separate, but religion and politics can’t and shouldn’t be separated. Believers will act politically as believers, and we have to confront with the paradox to keep State and religion separated in a reality where religion and politics are interconnected.
- During his visit to Cairo, Erdoğan calmly repeated what he thought about democracy, pluralism of faiths and Islam. “I am a non-secular Muslim,” he said, “but I am the prime minister of a secular state and I say, ‘I hope there will be a secular state in Egypt.’ One must not be afraid of secularism. Egypt will grow in democracy and those called upon to draw up the constitution must understand it must respect all religions, while also keep themselves equidistant from the followers of all religions so that people can live in security.”
- “It was not Islam that bore the responsibility for the political and intellectual weaknesses afflicting Muslim societies—as many a European observer of Islam suggested— but the failure of Muslims to properly interpret their foundational texts in accordance with changing needs” (Mohammad Zaman, p.7)
- “It seems today that the acceptance of secularism within the Muslim world is extremely far away. It is as if, on the basis of deeply-held convictions, Muslim society were demanding a form of not exactly theocracy, but certainly a ‘moralisation’ of public life.” So says Abdou Filali-Ansary, director of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations at the University of Aga Khan, London. The director and founder of the Moroccan literary review ‘Prologues,’ Filali-Ansary is also the author of a number of works on the reformist tradition within the Islamic world, including L’Islam est-il hostile à la laïcité? (2002) and Réformer l’Islam? – Une introduction aux débats contemporains (2003). He recently spoke at ResetDoc’s Istanbul Seminars 2011 (19-23 May).
- «As we read in Matthew 5:13, religious believers are told: “You are the salt of the earth.” The phrase means that religious believers are expected to be neither identical with the “earth”, nor to be removed from it. In this sense, they are meant to be neither worldly-secular nor radically anti-worldly or anti-secular (thus perhaps post-secular).»