The central illusion here is that states can determine the one "true" voice of Islam, regardless of the diversity of Islamic thought through the ages, and also have the right to impose it on the public...The question "How do they know their version is correct?" is what starts to undermine this edifice.Whittaker argues that secular advocates must use religious arguments to undermine the religious interpretations of the state, regardless of their own beliefs, because a purely secular case will go nowhere. The effectiveness of this approach may sound doubtful, but essentially Whitaker contends that it is necessary to chip away at the state's attempt to identify itself and its repressive policies with Islamic teaching.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Using Religious Arguments to Promote Secularism
There is an interesting column in The Guardian by Brian Whitaker called, "Mutual friends: secularism and Islam." At first glance, that title looks ridiculous, but the subheading provides more explanation: "The Middle East will only be convinced by Islamic arguments for a secular state." Whitaker points out that many of the repressive policies of Islamic nations rest on weak interpretations of the Quran, and that those interpretations vary from state to state. Rather than attempting to promote secularization of society, which is anathema in most Muslim countries, he argues that the main effort should focus on separating the state from religion -- an admittedly difficult task. In order to do this it is necessary to attack the notion that any state can adequately interpret Islam. As Whitaker writes,