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SECULARISM. The term secularism signifies that which is not religious. It is rooted in the Latin world saeculum, which initially meant “age” or “generations” in the sense of temporal time. It later became associated with matters of this world, as distinct from those of the spirit directed toward attainment of paradise. The French word laicite also signifies secularism but originally designated “lay people,” those who were not of the clergy (Berkes, 1964, p. 5).

Historians define the nature or extent of secularism in a society or culture as indicating the “placement” (C. John Sommerville, The Secularization of Early Modern England, New York and Oxford, 1992, p. 8) of religion in that society or culture: is the ruling authority religious, either a god-monarch or religious officials administering laws believed divinely inspired?; is the state secular in appearance, governed by people outside a religious hierarchy, but the society and culture religious, with state authority sanctioned by that hierarchy (as often occurred in the Christian Middle Ages and lasted in Spain well into the twentieth century)?; or does the sanction for government and its laws derive from nonreligious legitimation with religion a matter of personal faith?

Secularism or the secularization process derives from the European historical experience. It meant the gradual separation of “almost all aspects of life and thought from religious associations and ecclesiastical direction,” a process that developed in England in the sixteenth century with the transfer of political power from the religious arena to the state and legal cases from religious to secular courts (Sommerville, 1992, pp. 112-11’7). Historians note that preindustrial secularization had the support of Protestantism, which they define as a “secularizing religion,” that is, one that approved the separation of religion from state functions in order to purify it by removing it from the realm of worldly corruption. The word secular was not used to describe this process until the nineteenth century.

In the European historical experience, which itself varied widely, the secularization process coexisted with an intensification of religiosity on the personal and popular level. Some sociologists argue that these variations indicate a mythology of secularism that assumes a classic religious age existed that then became transformed into a secular age: they argue that aspects of secularism and religiosity always coexisted and still do. Secularization did not mean a necessary erosion of religious belief, either in the preindustrial age or the industrial. Religious belief and practice, as faith, intensified rather than declined during the secularization of the state and later, following the French and Industrial Revolutions, that of society. It served to create emotional, spiritual, and social bonds in the face of a new liberalism perceived as inhuman, and “to develop social and sometimes educational and political institutions in an [often rural, less urbanized] environment which provided none” (E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1948, New York, 1962, p. 272). Religion today coexists with industrial, technically secular society and has intensified its activities in the United States where in official circles “it is considered an almost essential part of being American” (Glasner, 1977, p. 115).

Islam and the Islamic experience historically have been quite different from Christianity and the West. Roman and Protestant Christianity both acknowledged, albeit with differing interpretations, the distinction between church and state and their differing spheres of authority. Islam did not. Islamic theologians distinguished between matters of din (religion) and those of dawlah (the state) in respect to affairs directed toward attaining salvation and those concerned solely with dunyd (material life in this world). Nevertheless, Islam has never defined religious and political matters as the existence of two separate institutions. Neither has Islam possessed ecclesiastical institutions that could be separated from political institutions. Public office existed to serve Islamic needs, to preserve the ummah (community) and to ensure the application of shad `ah (Islamic law). This concept has been revived most effectively in the modern era by Abu al-A`la Mawdudi (d. 1979), a Pakistani, whose writings have had a major influence on Sunni fundamentalist thought throughout the Muslim World.

Islam has not experienced a Reformation analogous to that of Protestantism in Western Christianity. Islam’s reformist movements before the impact of the West sought to purify Islam of worldly or heretical accretions by reinforcing Islamic authority over society and ensuring total adherence to the law, the opposite of the Protestant desire to purify religion by separating it from state affiliation. This distinction reflects historical developments. The rise of the nation-state in western Europe encouraged allegiances to secular authorities and freedom from the overarching claims of the papacy. Muslim allegiance has traditionally been to the ummah, a community defined by common adherence to faith, not by political or ethnic boundaries. The idea of the nationstate did not appear in Muslim thought until the late nineteenth century. Its political evolution resulted from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I and the imposition of state boundaries by European mandatories to suit their imperial requirements.

The secularization process in Europe was gradual, evolving in conjunction with socioeconomic developments. In contrast the Islamic experience has been one of secularism as an ideology imposed from outside by invaders, a product of European imperialism and its extension of a foreign culture initiated at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

No precise word for secularism existed in Arabic. The pejorative dahriyah was used in the nineteenth century. It meant “materialist” or “atheist,” one who believed in earthly eternity rather than divine retribution and spiritual life; the root dahr, referring to ages or generations, is analogous to the initial meaning of saeculum. Today the word more commonly used in Arabic is `ilmaniyah, whose root refers to science and knowledge and whose closest derivation means “the world” or “worldly matters.”

The question for Muslims in the modern era, confronted by European imperialism, became one of survival, of preserving an independent existence or regaining it from foreign occupiers. Mastery of European secular culture, especially its science (as the basis of military prowess), seemed the means to achieve modernization. The controversy over this choice and the alternatives selected by various Muslim societies has lasted to the present.

Many areas of the Islamic world have witnessed the intensification of religious faith that accompanied secularization in Europe. This intensification process has led to the rise of popular movements often independent of the official religious hierarchy. Unlike their Western counterparts, these movements have demanded the reassertion of Islam over the state or as the state, the latter successfully achieved in Iran in 1979.

The battle between secularism and religion today is more intense than ever. In most cases the extreme positions are those of secularist attempts to define Islam as a matter of personal belief set against those for whom the reimposition of shari`ah and Islamic political authority is essential. Within this framework there is considerable diversity. Although secular ideologies were openly espoused in the past in certain regions of the Islamic world, secularists today often find themselves in dangerous conflicts. Many argue from within the Islamic tradition against literal application of the shari `ah and might be better defined as Islamic modernists. As in the past, the question of survival remains a key issue, with Islamists arguing that Muslim societies require their own laws and principles if they are to compete with non-Muslim countries.

A key issue with respect to secularization in Muslim societies is the status of women. Modernizing Muslim societies since the late nineteenth century have witnessed the advocacy of greater freedom for women; the removal of the veil has been the most visible step in this. Advocates of women’s greater independence, often intellectuals attracted to Western ideals, have found a positive response among educated middle- and upperclass women, but have encountered strong resistance from more traditional male sectors of society.

Using the experience of the West to justify removal of restrictions on women is seen by conservatives as an example of foreign influence. In recent years many women with university educations, often employed in such major urban centers as Cairo, have forsaken Western dress and returned to Muslim garb for reasons ranging from religious belief to a desire to avoid criticism and harassment from men, whether religiously inspired or not. The placement of women in Muslim societies today is often a benchmark for evaluating the placement of Islam itself in the eyes of secular/modernist and conservative groups. [See Women and Social Reform.]

Ottoman Empire and Its Legacy. Ottoman Turkey, as a bureaucratic empire, had institutionalized both civil and religious authority in the imperial administration and in the person of the ruler, the sultan/caliph. During the nineteenth century a state-sponsored modernizing reform movement created secular institutions intended to introduce Western educational methods, legal systems, and military techniques. These institutions, and the elite that administered them, did not so much destroy corresponding Muslim organizations as supplant them; the latter remained in existence meeting the needs of the Muslim population. This process of reform, called the Tanzimat or reorganization process, encountered strong resistance throughout the century as Ottoman Turks struggled to confront the question of the empire’s survival and how best to achieve it. For avowed secularist reformers, such as a minister of education in the 1870s, Saffat Pasha, survival was the issue: “. . . unless Turkey . . . accept[s] the civilization of Europe in its entirety . . . she will never free herself from the European intervention and tutelage and will lose her prestige, her rights, and even her independence” (Berkes, 1964, p. 185, quoting from a letter written in 1879).

After World War I and the defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, the new state of Turkey emerged under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk. He abolished both the political sultanate and religious caliphate. For Muslims generally, this ended a legacy of the prophet Muhammad, a religiously sanctioned office of political authority. For Mustafa Kemal, it opened the way for a civil state in which Islam would be relegated to the status of personal faith. The Muslim calendar was replaced by the Gregorian, Arabic script by the Latin, and the veil was discouraged.

This secularization from above created a secular state, but it could not erase Islam as a religion followed by the mass of the people. With the advent of a multiparty democratic system after World War II, ostensibly secular politicians won elections by appealing to mass religiosity, appearing to threaten the Ataturk legacy. Military intervention in 196o and since indicates ongoing political uneasiness in Turkey over the boundaries of Islamic expression within the secular state. The Turkish experience shows that state-sponsored secularization cannot create a mass secular culture and that the introduction of Western democracy encourages the reassertion of Islam as a political factor.

Most Turkish politicans accept a balance between a secular state and personal Islamic expression, but recent fundamentalist activity theatens to undermine this balance. In July 1993 Turkish Islamists burned a hotel where a conference of Turkish secular intellectuals was in session, killing forty, apparently in revenge for critical comments about Islam made at the conference. Murders of secular intellectuals in Egypt and Algeria as well suggest a targeting of advocates of secularism in the growing conflict between secularist and fundamentalist forces.

The Arab World. A wide range of governments exist in the Arab Muslim world, ranging from the Wahhabisanctioned Saudi Arabian state to the avowedly secular, socialist regimes in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia, because of the two-centuries-old link of the house of Sa’ud to the Wahhabi reform movement, proclaims itself an Islamic state. Technically, its rulers are secular officials governing in accordance with shari`ah as interpreted by the `ulama’ Islam legitimizes the state which is governed by shari`ah. Saudi officials finance Islamic movements in other states against governments considered secular; the goal is to restore shari `ah as the governing law of these states, returning these countries to the model known in the early Islamic centuries. Nevertheless, the Saudi ruling house has come under attack from more fundamentalist Muslim groups for its supposed deviance from Islamic norms.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the rival socialist states of Syria and Iraq, each claiming to represent the true ideology of the Bath (Renaissance) Party. Although Islam is recognized as the official religion of each state, it is relegated to matters of personal faith in practice. Women are proclaimed equal to men, and many are employed in major urban centers.

Conversely, there exists strong religious opposition in Syria to the regime of Hafez Assad, epitomized by the Muslim Brotherhood, which, like its parent organization in Egypt, seeks the creation of an Islamic state. Such movements have been ruthlessly suppressed: in 1982 Assad ordered the bombardment of Hama, with an estimated twenty thousand casualties, to destroy centers of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members had infiltrated the ranks of military cadets. Sunni and Shi’i clerics in Iraq have been forced to accommodate themselves to the regime of Saddam Hussein. In the aftermath of the Gulf War of 1991 and Shi’i rebellion against Hussein, Iraqi troops destroyed shrines at Karbala and Najaf central to Shi’i worship This has probably created a religious opposition to Ba’thism, but more on political than strictly religious grounds. [See Bath Parties.]

Sustained efforts to create Islamic states and to reject secularism are occuring in Egypt and Algeria, countries that have had very different patterns of modernization and national development.

In Egypt, the creation of a secular state and legal institutions began in the nineteenth century, encouraged by Khedive Ismail (1863-1879) and applied more intensely under the British occupation from 1882 onward. The early twentieth century saw the emergence of an avowedly secular cadre of Muslim intellectuals linked to Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid and the newspaper Al jaridah, which advocated the relegation of Islam to matters of personal faith. Following World War I, Egyptian nationalist parties were generally secular, agreeing that Islamic institutions, including the mosque/university of al-Azhar, should be placed under state supervision and that shari`ah should be supplanted by Western law codes in all areas except those of personal status.

Muslim secularists, such as Muhammad Husayn Haykal and Taha Husayn, aggressively advocated these ideas and the superiority of Western culture during the 1920s. In 1925, `All `Abd al-Raziq, a member of the `ulama’, argued that Islam contained no political principles and permitted freedom of opinion and democracy. These declarations caused a backlash which contributed to the creation of a popular movement in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood, that condemned both the advocates of secularism and al-Azhar as being ineffectual in opposing them. The leader of the brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna’, called for the restoration of shari`ah and application of Islamic norms such as zakat or tithing to create a more just society; the Western model was condemned as creating socioeconomic inequality, an argument that has great resonance today.

To avoid political condemnation and to justify secular goals from within Islam, secularists often turned to writing studies of the early Islamic period. Haykal argued that basic Muslim principles supported freedom of opinion and democracy in accordance with modern ideals. He stressed that the Rashidun or “rightly guided” caliphs left no organizational model for later generations, but rather a set of principles whose specific application could change according to the needs of the age. This argument was directed against calls for restoration of an Islamic system where sharfah would be applied. Taha Husayn distinguished between the suitability of Islam for the masses and the intellectual need for Western guidance, insisting in 1938 that Egypt was really part of western European culture.

Since the 1930s a state of tension has continued in Egypt between the secular state and a strong religious movement calling for a return to an Islamic society. The type of secular government has fluctuated, from parlia- mentary government under a monarch until 1952, to a military quasi-dictatorship from 1954 to 1970 under Gamal Abdel Nasser, to a more liberal autocracy that opened the door to parliamentary parties, which began under Anwar el-Sadat (in power 1970-1981) and has continued under his successor, Hosni Mubarak. Throughout this period secular culture continued to expand, as did secular education, avowedly socialistic in tone under Nasser, who suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood. The brotherhood survived, however, and intensified its struggle, as seen especially in the writings of Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), who condemned “Atatfirkism” as the basic secular evil and called for a return to rule under shad `ah. In his search for allies against leftist factions, Sadat permitted the resurgence of the brotherhood and allowed it to publicly declare its goals. However, his corresponding economic opening to the West in the 1970s, the infitah, led to increased corruption and resulted in open Muslim condemnation of secularism, contributing to Sadat’s assassination in 1981.

Today, outright advocacy of secular culture in Egypt is dangerous, as witnessed by the assassination of the journalist and professor Faraj Fawdah in 1992. Those who call for the restriction of Islam to matters of personal faith do so from within an Islamic context, essentially returning to the tactics of intellectuals in the 1930s. They counter the fundamentalist call for rejection of Western culture by declaring that it was the West that had religious control of the state in the Middle Ages, unlike Sunni Islam, which had never had the direct imposition of religious authority over the state; they argue for Western values from an ostensibly antiWestern stance (Imara, 1979, 1984). The debate in Egypt between Islamic modernists and fundamentalists is in the public arena. Many of the modernists espouse goals advocated by secularists in the past, but with greater respect for religious sensibilities. The ongoing strength of religious culture in Egypt requires that “the attempt to justify greater intellectual flexibility in approaching religious and social issues must come from within Islam, not against it . . . [defined] within an historical and cultural framework . . . established by Islam itself” (Smith, 1983, P. 198).

Left unanswered by this approach is the question of social equity and social order. The Egyptian secular state seems incapable of addressing socioeconomic crises, whereas religious groups, far better organized at local levels, provide social services, including medical care, that the government apparently cannot. Such organizations, like their European and American counterparts in relatively isolated communities in the nineteenth century, provide cohesion that the state fails to offer; in contemporary societies, these isolated regions might be slums in great cities, not rural hamlets.

Caught amid these conflicts are devout Muslims, many with university educations, who prefer a secular state and culture to a religious one because it can promise democracy and free expression. In Tunisia as well as Egypt, tolerance of the abuses of secular government and hope for greater political freedom might outweigh a desire for a fully religious state and culture. State crackdowns on Islamic groups without concern for legal niceties, however, increases sympathy for fundamentalists.

For many fundamentalists, freedom of opinion exists only within the parameters of Islamic discourse. In their view the Western concept of freedom fosters moral and social corruption. Some Islamist advocates, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, are sensitive to this question and accept a gradualist approach to power in which parliamentary government is retained and differing views are tolerated. The major Islamic movement in Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), however, sought to come to power by the parliamentary process between 1990 and 1992 but vacillated as to whether parliamentary government tolerating nonreligious opinion would continue.

The Algerian experience illustrates how a secular, in this case socialist, government, while paying obeisance to Islamic values, can lose the allegiance of poor and unemployed citizens who heed the argument that true socioeconomic justice is based on the restoration of a religious state and the rejection of foreign values. It is all the more significant that the secular Algerian state carried the legacy of leading the nationalist resistance to French occupation, a unifying symbol now apparently meaningless to many Algerians.

Although an Ottoman province like Egypt, Algeria was never fully controlled or united territorially, nor was there a central Islamic authority acknowledged by all as was found in al-Azhar in Egypt. The legal authority of the Algerian `ulama’ coexisted uneasily with that of the marabouts and Sufi shaykhs, who had great sway among the populace. In addition, Algeria’s colonial experience was radically different from Egypt’s. Egyptian secular state formation had begun under Muhammad ‘Ali (1805-1849) well before the British occupation in 1882. Even then an Egyptian government existed in name and form, with British rule imposed through shadow not direct government.

In contrast, the French occupied Algeria in 1831, although their conquest of the desert interior took nearly fifty years. The French created a political unity heretofore nonexistent and governed directly. Unlike other colonies, France made Algeria a province of France and encouraged European colonization and settlement, intending to govern the region forever. Egypt never experienced such direct government or colonization.

Algeria’a lack of political institutions and its heterogenous society, combined with direct French rule, meant that Algerian nationalism developed in the post-World War I period outside of the realm of political parties and represented conceptions derived from vastly different social experiences. Francophone Algerian secular intellectuals, such as Ferhat Abbas, defined an Algerian sociocultural identity based on region with a French political identity. In contrast, `Abd al-Hamid ibn Badis and others created an Islamic reform movement somewhat modernist in its goals but concerned also with a return to the early Islamic period to purify religion, not unlike the ideas of the Egyptian Muhammad `Abduh (d. 1905) who had had a great influence on Lutfi al-Sayyid and later Egyptian intellectuals. Beyond this realm, Ibn Bad-is and his colleagues were the first to assert the idea of an Algerian nation. Nevertheless, the reform movement’s influence was limited, and it remained for an Algerian movement of workers transplanted to France to found the first true national movement that called for Algerian independence, the Etoile Nord-Africaine. [See the biography of Ibn Badis.]

This brief survey illustrates the complexity of the Algerian national movement prior to the revolutionary phase that would be led by the National Liberation Front (FLN), an amalgam of nationalist tendencies that subsumed Islamic, socialist, and liberal intellectual trends. With independence in 1962, the FLN, composed of diverse factions, assumed leadership of the country. The mass of the people, still rural, remained profoundly Muslim even when they migrated to the major cities seeking work. In 1963 the nature of the polity was embodied in the Algerian Constitution, which declared Algeria to be a socialist state with Islam as its official religion. Algeria, Eke Egypt, was a secular state with a secular culture for the urban bourgeoisie and intellectuals, but another culture, that of Islam, dominated the countryside and increasingly the urban slums. With the failure of FLN socialism and authoritarianism in the 1980s came both the demand for greater democracy and the appearance of a mass Islamic movement, the FIS, that galvanized the discontented and played on the apparent impotence of the government.

The FIS and its rival Muslim organizations call for an Islamic state run by shari`ah. They are anti-Western, condemning its secular culture as corrupt and alienating, the antithesis of the concern for society proclaimed by Islam. Secularism as laicite is specifically attacked as antireligious, and those who support it are seen as identifying with the French colonial heritage. The FIS thus links itself to Algerian nationalism in the name of Islam. Its leaders, `Abbasi Madan! and ‘Ali Bel Hajj, also condemn socialism and communism, as distinct from secularism, as foreign imports. Madani’s position regarding democracy is moderate, while Bel Hajj’s views are more confrontational. [See Islamic Salvation Front and the biography of Madani. ]

Significantly, there are many sectors of society, urban especially, that oppose the Islamic movement; workers, urban intellectuals and bureaucrats, and women of the middle and upper classes, even though many of these women are adopting Islamic dress. In Algeria the conflict between secularists and Islamists has been open until the recent violence, which has included assassination of secular intellectuals and police attacks on Islamists. In particular, in the view of one Algerian writer, “the most salient characteristic of this confrontation [before 1992] is that it has principally been channeled through the subject of the status and role of women in Algerian society” (Cheriet, 1992, p. 203). Independent womanhood is viewed as an affront to an Islamic society and Islamic values.

The Algerian government’s harsh repression of the Islamic movement generally and the FIS in particular following the abrogation of the 1992 electoral process has created a situation that at times approaches that of civil war. The military has intervened as defender of the Algerian Revolution, attempting to suppress if not destroy the FIS. The Algerian experience is watched warily by Islamic movements and secularists elsewhere, because the FIS’s rejection of democracy if elected contradicts the gradualist approach of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, which officially includes tolerance of diverging views so long as the state is Islamic. Whether that would occur in practice if the brotherhood’s goals were achieved, with shari `ah applied “in the educational, media, political, economic and social fields” remains to be seen (Voll, 1991, vol. 1, p. 387).

Iran. The only Muslim society currently governed by religious officials and Islamic law is Iran; Sudan is in principle an Islamic state, but its government does not control all of territorial Sudan, and there is much opposition to the imposition of shad `ah. The Iranian experience illustrates the weakness of the concept of a secular nation-state in a society where the traditional rulers had not exercised direct control over all of the state. Since 1500 Iran has been a Shi’i Muslim society. The rulers were legitimized by their protection of Shi`i Islam as interpreted by Shi’i clerics. The Qajar dynasty (17941925) ruled Iran as Shi`i Muslims acting on behalf of the religious community. Iran was never a colony of a European power, but its economic life gradually fell under European control at the end of the nineteenth century. This led to the short-lived 1906 Constitutional Revolution in whose vanguard was an alliance of Shi’l mullahs, merchants, and secular liberals, all seeking to restrict the authority of the shahs; a provision in the constitution called for a committee of mullahs to review all legislation to ensure its compatibility with Islamic principles.

For most Iranians, Iranian nationalism had religious overtones. The failure of the 1906 revolution, undermined by Anglo-Russian intrigue and the shah, did not erase memory of its ideals. Neither did the appearance of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925 created by the colonel Reza Shah, who sought to emulate Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and create a secular state from the top. The period of the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979) was a secular interlude in which efforts to impose state-ordered modernization ultimately aroused mass resistance encouraged by Shi’i religious officials, whose authority had never been fully quelled. Secularism as a foreign importation was linked to the gradual exertion of American influence over Iran and over the second Pahlavi, Muhammad Reza Shah.

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought together mullahs, merchants, and many secular Iranian nationalists including educated women, all whom sought the overthrow of the shah without necessarily expecting a government of mullahs. Secularism as a principle and Atatiirk as its Middle Eastern sponsor are condemned in Iran today just as they are by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The parameters for public ideological debate are restricted to the field of Islamic discourse, although there are significant differences here that remain submerged, in particular the ideas of `Ali Shari’ati (d. 1977), who opposed the authoritarian secular state created by the shah and the authority of the mullahs; he is considered both to be stagnant and repressive. He encouraged an approach to Islam that permitted application of the principle of ijtihdd (self-interpretation) that would unite Iranian society under the guidance of modern but still religiously inspired intellectuals. Although Shari`ati appealed to many of the younger generation in Iran, his followers were not effectively organized and were easily outflanked by the mullahs. [See the biography of Shad `ati]

South and Southeast Asia. The majority of the world’s Muslim population lives in South and Southeast Asia, stretching from Pakistan to Indonesia. There exists in this region a great diversity of political and geographic circumstances as well as the existence of other ethnic and religious groups with whom Asian Muslims must accommodate themselves. This is especially true in India and Malaysia and has served to intensify religious as opposed to secular, national identities, most notably in India, where Hindu sectarian movements have increased in assertiveness in recent years.

With independence in 1947, the Indian polity proclaimed itself a democratic secular state with religious identities presumably submerged in the common bond of Indian nationalism. The dominant Congress Party had long claimed to embrace all religious and ethnic groups as Indian. Although still a secular state, India has fallen victim to sectarian passions, Sikh as well as Hindu. Hindu revivalism has focused on a desire to erase India’s Islamic past. Hindu sectarianism, encouraged by poverty and illiteracy, has become a political force threatening, for the moment, the basis of Indian citizenship (Sen, 1993). India’s Muslim population is estimated at ioo million, which is only 12 percent of the total population. These tensions intensify the longexisting rivalry between India and Pakistan, whose roots lie in the achievement of independence.

Indian independence brought with it the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan, the result of the determination of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League to preserve a separate Muslim identity. The stage was then set for a battle over what type of Muslim state Pakistan would be. The battle was not between avowed secularists and Islamists but rather between Islamic modernists and fundamentalists. The modernists called for democracy, pluralism, and applications of the basic principles of Islam in accordance with modern needs; the state would be secular and the culture open to Western practices. The fundamentalists, centered around Mawdfidi and the organization known as the Jama’at-i Islarni, called for a democratic Pakistan to be governed by shari `ah.

In principle, Pakistan has always been an Islamic republic. In fact, however, Pakistan was governed for years as a secular state despite the broad statement embodied in the 1949 Objectives Resolution that “sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust” (Ahmad, 1991, p. 470). Recognition of God’s sovereignty signified that shari `ah should be applied as state law. Despite this preamble, the modernists won, as recognition was given to “the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam . . .” (Ahmad, 1991, P. 470). Similarly, the 1956 constitution, though paying obeisance to Islamic thought as its guide, was not bound by Islamic statutes. It contained secular laws creating a parliamentary democracy on the British model with the parliamentary right to ensure that no laws were passed that undermined Islamic legal principles. No mention was made of Islam as the state religion.

The distinction between adherence to Islamic legal principles as opposed to strict application of Islamic law is the classic modernist position. It essentially permits the existence of a secular state and the tolerance of a secular urban culture in a society whose constitutional framework and popular culture would remain Islamic. Whereas this had been argued from a defensive position by Egyptian modernists, it was now the basis of the Pakistani state.

Surprisingly, Mawdfidi and the Jama’at-i Islam! accepted the 1956 constitution as embracing its dual objectives of enshrining Islam and democracy, despite the fact that Mawdudi’s call for a fully Islamic constitution had not been realized. Mawdfidi was not as insistent on the complete application of shari `ah as his followers in the Arab world have been. Pakistan might have continued on this course except for a military coup that brought General Ayub Khan to power in 1958. He abrogated the 1956 constitution and called for a more modern, industrialized nation. Proclaiming himself as defender of modern Islam, he introduced legislation aimed at traditional Islamic practices. He revised laws to limit polygamy, to control more strictly divorce procedures, and to protect women’s rights of maintenance; he also ordered government absorption of awqaf (religious endowments), whose religious guardians had ties to powerful landowners. These steps, affecting women and the economic bases of important religious institutions, resemble those taken by Muhammad Reza Shah in Iran that intensified Shi’i Muslim determination to oust him.

In Pakistan, Ayub Khan’s policies caused Mawdudi and the Jama’at-i Islami to move from support to open opposition. This opposition intensified once Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto became prime minister in 1970. Initially, Bhutto publicly espoused socialism including the nationalization of private property. He thus repudiated Islamic principles of the right to private property in the name of a socialist ideology that challenged the Islamic foundation of Pakistan. The Bhutto regime (1970-1977) proved to be a turning point in Pakistani history. Bhutto aroused sufficient opposition to force a compromise with Islamic groups. His 1973 constitution, a concession to them, contained more open acknowledgment of Islam than that of 1956: all existing references were retained, Islam was recognized as the state religion, and it decreed that the president and prime minister had to be Muslims. His socialism, like Nasser’s in Egypt during the 1960s became “Islamic socialism” in an effort to appease public opinion.

However, this victory for the Jama’at-i Islami in parfiamentary maneuvering did not signify a rapprochement with Bhutto or an ongoing commitment to parliamentary democracy. Open elections held in 197o had led to a resounding defeat for the party. Mawdudi’s belief in Islam and democracy thus shaken, he and the party were quite willing to choose between these alternatives when General Zia ul-Haq staged a military coup in 1977, two years before Mawdudi’s death in 1979. Zia ul-Haq began to impose an Islamic program including the Islamic penal code. Bhutto was later executed for state corruption.

Recent Pakistani history has reflected the tensions inherent in its past struggles between democracy and state enforcement of an Islamic system, as well as between conflicting visions of Islam. Despite the Jama`at-i Islami’s political activism, it has failed to capture more than a fraction of popular electoral support. Despite its earlier advocacy of democracy, it willingly backed Zia ul-Haq’s autocracy, but then shifted to opposition in 1988, shortly before Zia’s death, and condemned state tyranny and corruption; the party then decided to support Bhutto’s daughter Benazir. Though widely known outside Pakistan, the Jama`at-i Islam, as a popular movement, has failed to supplant groups representing the `ulama’ or to shake traditional adherence to populist Islam in the countryside, as witnessed by its poor showing in elections.

The most notable legacy of the jam5cat-i Islam! lies in the writings of its founder, Mawdudi, whose call for an Islamic state as the only answer to the modern age was always extranational and, in his view, applicable throughout the Islamic world. His writings have been widely read by members of this Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Algerian FIS. Ironically, Mawdudi may be revered more outside Pakistan than within it. [See Jama’at-i Islam! and the biography of Mawdudi]

In Pakistan itself, the struggle between Islamic modernism and traditionalism continues, buffeted by external factors such as Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation, which became a Muslim cause and strengthened traditionalist as well as fundamentalist Islam during the 1980s. In Pakistan, like Egypt, secular and modernist interests must be expressed within an Islamic framework; unlike Egypt, that framework had been granted official recognition in Pakistan through the 1956 constitution, opening the door for a possible future compromise.

In sharp contrast to the political activism of the Jama’at-i Islam! and the political implications of Mawdudi’s writings lies the existence of an individualistic Muslim reform movement that eschews political activism. This is the Tablighi Jama’at, founded in 1926 in India. It is an Islamic revivalist movement based on personal preaching and the call to adhere to the Qur’an and the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad. Like Protestantism, it views politics as corrupting and “as with the eighteenth-century English evangelical Nonconformists, the primary instrument of the Tablighi Jama’at workers is itinerancy” (Ahmad, 1991, p. 515). Espoused by individual missionaries, it has spread throughout the Arab world, Asia, and Africa, seeking a revival of personal morality through adherence to the basic values of Islam and a fostering of communal ties and services to maintain an Islamic society among its members.

Such a movement tolerates a secular government or state for the sake of creating an Islamic social order independent of state support, thus permitting a focus on personal salvation. Conversely, this approach enhances survival in avowedly secular societies by rejecting political activism, a particularly beneficial stance among Indian Muslims, but attractive in Europe and North America as well. On a broader level, Tabligh-1 practices depoliticize religious activists and have served to weaken institutional or politically inspired religious efforts in Malaysia as well as Pakistan. As Mumtaz Ahmad has shown, the Tablighi is an authentic international Islamic movement, postulating the authority of the preacher over that of the religious official, in this case represented by the `ulama’ but not unlike the evangelical Protestant response to secularism. [See Tablighi Jama’at.]

The South Asian experience has provided two resolutions to the question of the place of Islam in regard to society and the state, the Jama’at-i Islam! and Tablighi Jama’at. Their philosophies and strategies are diametrically opposed to each other. On an organizational level, the politically activist Jama’at-i Islam! has succeeded in influencing Islamist reform in Pakistan but has failed to win popular electoral backing; the Tablighi Jama’at rejects political activism, and opts for individual preaching and moral reform. On the ideological level, both movements have become international in scope. The writings of Mawdudi have served as a basic source of inspiration for the contemporary Muslim Brotherhood and especially for revolutionary fundamentalists, such as the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, who expanded Mawdudi’s call for Islamic government to include the conquest of the non-Muslim world. The Tablighi movement has sent missionaries worldwide and his influenced Muslim communities in North America and Europe as well as in Africa and Asia.

In essence these movements reflect the two poles of Islamic da’wah or propagation of the faith. The first insists on the union of religion and state and strives to recreate in modern form the Islamic system of government believed to exist in early Islam; the second rejects politics for the sake of moral values and principles-to the Tablighis, the essence of Islam found in the era of the Prophet-thereby insisting on the separation of religion and the state. The one rejects secularism outright, the other aspects its political manifestation as a necessary evil to be tolerated in order to fulfill personal religious goals. They both return to the same source, early Islam, for their solutions, as have Egyptian secularists, Islamic modernists, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Analogous differences appear in the two sharply contrasting approaches to Islam and secularism found in Malaysia and Indonesia which result from their different histories and colonial experiences. As Manning Nash has observed, both Malaysia and Indonesia are “Islamic nations but secular states,” but their concepts of nationhood are themselves quite different.

The vast archipelago called Indonesia contains more than 16o million people, a population that is nearly 85 percent Muslim. It is the largest Muslim country in the world but the state is officially secular and celebrates a variety of expressions of Islam. Secular and Islamic educational systems are both state sponsored, and secular and shari`ah courts coexist. But this duality does not mean that the products of secular education are antireligious. Many, like their counterparts in Northern Africa, are devout Muslims who accept a secular state as preferable to a religious one so long as it does not impinge on their private lives. Infringement can arouse strong protest, as occurred in the mid-1970s when the government was forced to withdraw a proposed family status/marriage law that would have permitted Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men and granted civil courts final authority in cases regarding divorce or polygamy. Strong public opposition led to a reassertion of Muslim statutes and legal authority in such cases and banned interreligious marriages for Muslim women (Johns, 1987, pp. 217-19). Indonesian tolerance and pluralism regarding manifestations of Islam could easily change if the state were perceived as trying to modernize at the expense of Islam, as occurred under the Ayub Khan regime in Pakistan.

Malaysia is 45 percent Muslim. Unlike Indonesia, Islam is declared the official religion of the country. Islam serves as a source of national identity to Malays in a country with Chinese and Indian minorities amounting to 37 and 11 percent of the population respectively. Nevertheless, Malaysian Islam is itself fragmented. Though there is a national government and Islamic officialdom, there are also thirteen states, nine of which have their own bureaus, legal officials, and religious courts.

With such official fragmentation, Islamic revivalism has taken root in the dakwah movement, a version of da’wah. It is evangelical and personally or communally organized. It attracts primarily urban, often university educated youth who reject Western culture and its secular values as corrupt, quite similar to Islam’s appeal to many in Egypt for example. Frustrated by the diversity of Muslim groups in the federation, many young Malays of the dakwah desire an Islamic state. They are quite close in aspiration to the Muslim Brotherhood. The achievement of their goals would signify the end of the current Malaysian secular state unless explicit guarantees for ethnic minorities were given.

These movements signify discontent with official Islam and its Malaysian leaders. As evangelical groups who seek to isolate themselves from society and its corruptions, they resemble Tablighi Jamd’at members, but their ultimate goal, an Islamic state and official rejection of secularism, contradicts Tablighl perspectives. However, there is also a Tabligh-1 dakwah in Malaysia that eschews political goals. These differences permit the secular political parties and government to tolerate their activities for now, but a spread of Islamic militancy, expressed politically and socially through dress codes as a symbol of frustration with modern values, could threaten the current Malaysian political system.

The historical relationship between secularism and Islam has passed through several stages that have varied according to the particular Islamic society under study. Muslim governing elites often were attracted to Western secular values in the nineteenth century, because western culture had proved superior militarily. Adoption of the scientific products of that culture could provide the means to reject European political dominance. In the early twentieth century a new generation educated usually in Western schools more readily and positively turned to European secular values as an alternative to Islam for their societies. They considered Islam to be backward and a hindrance to modernity. Behind this attitude was another, however, that had been shared by the earlier generation of bureaucrats in the Ottoman government, that the issue was one of survival, of achieving independence from foreign control and achieving equal status with the West.

There always existed Muslim opposition to the exponents of secularism, either centered in major Muslim institutions, such as al-Azhar in Egypt, or in nationalist groups that were often more eager to oust the imperial occupiers than were the secular modernists. From the 1920S onward new forms of Muslim opposition arose, often rooted in popular movements that criticized official Islam as represented by the `ulama’ along with the secularists. The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt is the most obvious example but the reformist movement of Shaykh Ibn Badis in Algeria, from within the `ulama’, and the later Jama’at-i Islam! and the postindependence dakwah activities in Southeast Asia, reflect the same trend. Most of these groups have originated as both Islamic and nationalist movements, although several have sought to encourage Islamist tendencies elsewhere. The only movement led by religious officials identified with nationalism and Islamic reform that has succeeded is in Iran.

All these movements have seen secularism, whether Western liberal or socialist, as increasing not lessening dependency on foreign powers. In their view, secularism, as an outgrowth of Western culture, has also undermined values indigenous to Islamic societies and, in the secular-nationalist form of Zionism and the state of Israel, taken away territory that had been Muslim for centuries. For the religious opposition, secularism as the basis of newly independent nations after World War II ultimately acquiesced in a new form of colonialism, primarily economic but often political and cultural. The issue, to the opponents of secularism, is the same survival that initially motivated its proponents, but survival is often defined now in cultural rather than scientific terms; Western science and technology are acceptable but the dehumanization identified with secular culture is not.

This sense of dehumanization is not confined to Muslim views of secularism. It exists among all fundamentalist movements that seek to establish the word of God as the basis of social as well as personal action. The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 1993, a member of the Moral Majority, forcefully espoused education at home instead of at public schools, which he believes to be riddled with “secular humanism,” and hoped to establish public policy that would remove books reflecting such values from the public schools (Vest, 1993)

But such efforts are undertaken in a preexisting democratic context that secularists and Islamic modernists strive to attain in their own societies and that Muslim fundamentalist movements often oppose if non-Muslim views are to be tolerated. Open espousal of secularism as a cultural value has become not simply rare but dangerous in many Muslim societies. More likely is a situation where Islamic modernists argue for pluralism and tolerance as reflected in the principles of Islam and as opposed to an Islamic system. That system to them would be no improvement but a deterioration of the already difficult conditions found in the secular, authoritarian states that often prevail.

[See also Fundamentalism.]


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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/secularism/

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