World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Secularism and Islam (416) - Panel

· Date: FRI 23 / 9.00-11.00 am

· Language: English

· Description:
Paper Presenter: Kutbettin Kilic (Indiana University-Bloomington) “Secularism and Islam in the case of Turkey and Pakistan: A Comparative Analysis”
Secularism in Islamic countries is a contested issue within the related literature. The followers of modernization theory, which was a common approach among social scientists in the 1950s and 1960s, argued that the development of modern states and societies required Westernization and secularization. This would necessarily lead to a decline of religion, both in society and in the minds of individuals. This process was regarded as an inevitable process for the none-western world. However, these projections or expectations did not take place, especially within the Islamic states that newly emerged from the decolonization period. What witnessed was, more or less, the Islamic revivalism within much of these states. Islamic discourses have been used by the governments of these states and opposition groups alike in order to strengthen their position and generated public support. It has paved the way for an intensive presence of Islam within the political life of these states that have weakened the secular patterns of development. It is because of this historical experience that the idea of incompatibility of Islam and Secularism, or Islam and democracy has become apparent and generated wide support among social scientists. According to this view, Islamic countries, naturally, cannot be completely secular. Secular projects will eventually fail in these countries because of the nature of the Islamic religion. Islam as a religion not only designs the relations between men and god, it also generates rules for all aspects of life including economic, political and cultural life. It must be stated that like the former one the second approach also makes a wrong generalization. While modernization/secularization theory failed to predict Islamic revivalism in newly independent countries, second approach cannot explain why some Islamic countries are more successful than others in the secularization of state affairs. It must be noted here that the secularization of Islamic countries is relatively difficult. There are historical and religious reasons behind this difficulty. However, it does not mean that Islamic states cannot achieve a secular political structure, although it is a painful process for them. In this paper, I will comparatively analyze the secular experiences of two Muslim states: Turkey and Pakistan. Because of a number of facts, the comparison of both states is crucial. First both of them are Muslim states that were envisioned as secular by their founding fathers. Second, while former could become successful in achieving this goal, the other could not. Exploring the motives behind this current picture will provide a general framework for other Muslim states. The research questions of this paper as follows: Although founding fathers of both states proposed to create secular states, why Ataturk’s project could become successful but Jinnah’s could not? Which variables played important roles in Turkey’s success or Pakistan’s failure? Do these variables are country-specific or universally applicable? The main argument of the paper is that the most important reason behind Turkey’s success and Pakistan’s failure in the secularization of state affairs is the substantial differences between their state formation types and state traditions. My research on these cases leads me to make a general argument about the secularization of all Muslim states. I argue that for being successful in secularizing state affairs, a Muslim state must have at least four conditions: 1) a strong state tradition that creates a strong state image and legitimacy in the minds of its subjects 2) strong elite commitments to secularism, 3) imposing secular policies from above for a certain period of time, and 4) a strong military that views itself as the institutional bearer of the secular ideology. As I will explain later, these conditions are strongly related to each other.

Paper Presenter: Nurullah Ard’ç (Asst. Professor, Istanbul Sehir University) “Secularization à la Turca: Islamic Fiqh and French Sociology”
Most studies on secularization inspired by the “secularization thesis” assume a fundamental conflict between religion and state. Similarly, much of the literature on Turkish modernization holds the assumption that secularism is based on the conflict between the (secular) state and Islam, seeing this process simply in dichotomous terms such as Enlightenment vs. obscurantism, progress vs. reaction. However, recent studies have shown that the church-state separation is not so clear neither in the West nor in the non-Western world. The application in theory and practice of the concept of secularism the Muslim world in particular has also been widely criticized. Building on these latest trends, I examine the views of a leading figure in Turkish secularization: Ziya Gökalp, a champion of secularism and the prominent ideologue of the Kemalist regime in Turkey. I aim to show that the relationship between Islam and secularism was primarily one of accommodation, rather than direct confrontation, in the first quarter of the 20th century. My method is the Foucaultian discourse analysis that conceptualizes discourse as constitutive and constructive of social relations and identities. The analysis of Gökalp’s secularist discourse, which was based on a synthesis of Islamic fiqh and Durkheimian sociology, can give important clues about the nature of the secularization in Turkey, which, I argue, was dominated by an Islamic discourse -widely employed, even by secularists- from 1839 up until 1924, when various radical reforms started by Kemal Ataturk to further secularize the state. Therefore, Turkey’s experience presents an alternative path to secularization, rather than simply being a variant of the secularism; for this process involves a re-definition of the role of Islam in the public sphere, rather than an open conflict with it in Turkey.

Paper Presenter:Esther Moeller (Jacobs University Bremen,Germany) "Negotiating Secularism: The Mission laïque française in Lebanon 1909-1943"
The arrival of the Mission laïque française in Beirut in 1909 included a new dimension of French education in Lebanon: the secularism. Until then, French education had meant Catholic education, except some Jewish schools of the Alliance israélite universelle. Neglected for the first 15 years of its existence, the Mission laïque recieved more attention from the French government from 1925 on and was thus part of the colonial structures the French mandate established in Lebanon, in particular in the sphere of education.
How did the Lebanese recieve the school’s perception of the individual and the state? And in how far did the experience in Lebanon transform the school’s conception of secularism?
This paper will discuss the aspects of the school’s relations with the French and Lebanese authorities, its strategies of integration into the society, its school programs and extracurricular activities.
It will argue that many of the school’s actors tried to transfer their vision of the secular French Republic on the Lebanese society, but had finally to subdue the pressure and expectations of its Lebanese clientele, mainly from the Muslim communities. As the methodological approach of historical discours analysis will show, the Lebanese themselves partly participated in this discourse of the benefits of secularism, but transformed it according to their own interests.
Based on the archives of the Mission laïque française, of the French Foreign Ministry, on Lebanese journals and memoirs, this paper tries to contribute to the research on French education in the Middle East by enlarging its perspective on an institution which has, in general, been absent from the agenda of historical inquiry.