Hopes for an Islamic Renaissance?
I recently read a very intriguing article by Mark Lilla titled “The Politics of God”. It explores the evolution of Western secularism and reminds readers of how fragile the seperation of church and state still is. It then proceeds to briefly touch on the possibility of the Islamic world undergoing a similar process of secularization. Ultimately, Mr. Lilla concludes that it is not at all likely that the Islamic world will follow in the West’s footsteps and I concur.
It would be very arrogant to assume that the Islamic world is going to simply reform along Western lines. While it would probably be in their best interest to do that, what in reality is going to prompt them to move in that direction? Who really thinks that people in countries like Jordan or Saudi Arabia are going to root-and-branch decide that religion after all must be confined just to the mosque? Who in this part of the world is going to relinquish their absolute faith in religion in favor of reprobrate political organizations like the Palestinian Organization or Egypt’s NDP.
Far likelier I think that the current trend towards Islamisation accelerates. Look at the situation with the perspective of inhabitants of the Muslim world. Following decolonization, socialists states ranging from Algeria to Iraq promised rapid industrialization and prosperity. Some industrialization did occur and arguably a bit more economic equality was reached, but ultimately this model failed miserably and along with socialism itself, the people’s faith in technocrats and secularism to provide salvation died as well. Corruption is another huge catalyst for Islamisation. Countries throughout the Muslim range range among the most corrupt on Earth (think of Pakistan or Azerbaijan) and this understandably drives people away from civil society and towards religious belief. Basically, if everybody is corrupted, from the president right down to the local grocer, then God becomes pretty attractive, especially his promise of reward for the righteous and punishment for the sinful. Many in the West proffer parliamentary systems, elections, a strong, independent judiciary, etc… as a solution to the ills of these socities, but with no underlying rule of law (or more importantly belief that the rule of law is even possible) these are merely varnishes on rotten wood. Couple this fact with the intense resentment many people in this region feel towards the West (rightly and wrongly) and it is understandable why any appeal for Western systems of government do not resound throughout the proverbial Arab street. This seemingly leaves God and religion as the salvation.
I’d love to believe that technology, economic change, and above all self-interest would naturally lead the Islamic world slowly away from fanatical religiosity and steadily towards secularism, but I fear that is a pipe-dream at least in my lifetime
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