Muslims Reclaiming the Quasi-Secular Democratic State, LZ Rahim

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Content: Muslims Reclaiming the Quasi-Secular Democratic State Lily Zubaidah Rahim Department of Government and International Relations University of Sydney Paper presented at the symposium `Spirited Voices from the Muslim World', University of Sydney, 27-29 April, 2011. Abstract More than half of the world's Muslim population live in countries where the state is secular, quasi-secular or where Islam is not the official state religion. Major opinion polls also suggest that most Muslims do not want religious leaders to play a direct role in drafting the constitution and legislation, determining Foreign Policy and deciding on how women should dress in public. Most Muslims do not want a rigidly secular or Islamic state and would like to see a religious form of democracy with the sharia only as one source of legislation. Are these Muslim aspirations inherently contradictory or reflective of the re-emergence of a quasi-secular ideal based on reconciling Islam with secular democracy? What political and constitutional form will this quasi-secular democracy take? What will be the status of Islam and the shariah in such a polity? Is this ideal a refinement of the post-colonial quasi-secular polity in Muslim majority states? To what extent does the emerging quasi-secular ideal resemble the established religion model of Western Europe? In addressing these questions, the paper examines the significance of historical factors, political forces, ideational shifts and Islamic reformist discourses in reimagining and re-negotiating secularism and democracy in the contemporary Muslim World. In the Spirit of Wasatiyyah The global community of 1.5 billion Muslims is at a crossroads, as they face a world of multiple modernities, political systems and interpretations of Islam. Like other faith communities, Muslims struggle with the myriad challenges of how to adapt and apply 1
their faith in a complex and increasingly globalised environment. Confronted by the limitations of authoritarian Islamic and secular-oriented states, there is a yearning for a political paradigm that is sensitive to the religious aspirations of Muslims (and nonMuslims) and promotes democratic governance based on the principles of popular sovereignty and social justice. This yearning is inherent in the popular protest movements currently sweeping the Middle-East. Spearheaded by an eclectic mix of secular activists, intellectuals, Islamists, non-government organisations, opposition parties, disenfranchised youth and citizens from various social classes, this protest movement is challenging outmoded modes of authoritarian governance and ways of thinking about Islam. More specifically, it is charting a relatively new political course - a Muslim democracy that recognises religion as a frame of reference but arguably incorporates the sacred within the framework of secularism. This Muslim quasi-secular democracy resonates with the universal Islamic principles of shura (consultation and consensus), wasatiyyah (moderation/middle path), adil (justice) and maslaha (common good). Recognising the shortcomings of authoritarian Islamic states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, these popular movements are not demanding the establishment of Islamic states governed by traditional sharia (Islamic law) as interpreted by unelected ulama (religious scholars). Swinging Pendulum of Quasi-Secular Democracy: Rise of the Wasatiyyah Ideal Ironically, the steady erosion of the constitutional foundations of the quasi-secular states in the contemporary Muslim World contradicts the political vision of post-colonial nationalist leaders such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, Sukarno and Naser. In the midtwentieth century, secular-oriented ideas dominated the Muslim World. Nasserism inspired the masses throughout the Middle East and ideologies such as socialism and communism acquired grass-roots support in Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Indonesia. In the predominantly, Muslim country of Indonesia, President Sukarno articulated the Nasakom ideal ­ the eclectic integration of nationalism, socialism and communism. Consistent with the tradition of modernising post-colonial elites, the middle-ground (wasatiyyah) nation-building stance of reconciling Islam within a secular-oriented constitutional and political framework was adopted in many Muslim-majority states. 2
Within this framework, the role of Islam in the state and political system was purposefully restricted. As such, only a limited number of references to Islam were incorporated in the constitution and the status of sharia restricted to the realms of personal status law. Modernised interpretations of sharia were thus not placed under the jurisdiction of the traditional ulama, but under state religious bureaucracies headed by state appointed ulama. While Islam may have been pronounced the national religion of the Malayan Federation, the country's post-colonial elites envisioned a largely ceremonial role for religion in the political system based on a federal parliamentary democracy. Article 3 (1) of the Malayan constitution provides that "Islam is the religion of the Federation, but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation"1. Article 11 (1) provides that "Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it".2 This clause restricts the propagation rights of non-Muslims. It is worth noting that Article 11, which guaranteed religious freedom, is almost identical to Article 25 of the Indian constitution. In view of the secular-oriented foundations of Malaya's constitution, it did not surprise many Malaysians when Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman's pronounced shortly after independence in 1957 that "this country is not an Islamic state as it is generally understood, we merely provide that Islam shall be the official religion of the state"3. Thus, while the post-colonial Malaysian state recognised the status of sharia and Islamic institutions such as sharia courts, Sharia law was modernised in alignment with the modernising society. For example, in the closing decades of the twentieth century, Malaysia boasted some of the most progressive sharia laws protecting women's rights, including restrictions on the right to polygamy. In Indonesia, Islamists failed in persuading nationalist leaders to adopt the Jakarta Charter into the 1945 Constitution by including the seven words "with the obligation for adherents of Islam to practice Islamic law". The Jakarta Charter, which would have placed Muslims firmly within the jurisdiction of sharia law, was rebuffed in favour of 3
Pancasila. Non-Muslims protested against the seven words believing that the clause would have amounted to discrimination against other religions4. The religious-friendly but secular-oriented national ideology, Pancasila, affirms the belief in God and the importance of religion in public life but does not accord special status to Islam5. President Sukarno and other secular nationalists recognised the danger of alienating non-Muslims and the likely destabilisation of the fledgling Indonesian state if Islam was accorded special status. Indonesia's Pancasila quasi-secular state remains a major source of dissatisfaction to conservative Islamists intent on expanding the jurisdiction of the sharia. Retreat of the Wasatiyyah Ideal: Constitutional Nuances and the Expansion of Sharia The governance failures of secular regimes in the Muslim World have, in no small measure, contributed the incidences of violence and acute political tension associated with religious extremism and intolerance. These inter-religious tensions have occurred in and beyond the Middle East - in countries such as Sudan, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. Even the most democratic country in the Muslim World, Indonesia, has witnessed regular incidents of religious extremism and intolerance. Inter and intra-religious tensions have often been fuelled by the jurisdictional expansion of sharia as a result of the intellectual confusion arising from the nuanced constitutional status of religion, in particular Islam. Civil and sharia laws have become politicised and often reduced to a `political football', particularly when there is intense electoral competition between secular-oriented and Islamic political parties. Inter-religious tensions can also be attributed to a minority of hardline conservative, fundamentalist and militant Islamists (and their counterparts in other faith communities) who reject religious pluralism, equal rights for women and harbour exclusive attitudes towards other faith communities. Extremists have targeted women, non-Muslims and Muslim sects even though the citizenship rights of these communities are constitutionally enshrined. In many authoritarian secular-oriented states, conservative and fundamentalist Islamists have benefited from the restricted political space available by mobilising grass- 4
roots support following the brutal suppression of the leftist organisations and movements. Indeed, Islamic institutions survived authoritarian suppression far better than their secular counterparts in part because mosques could not be removed from the socio-political landscape6. Less commonly acknowledged are the religious tensions fuelled by state agencies and regimes who politicise Islam and pander to the religious bureaucracy intent on expanding the jurisdiction of sharia. To curb the power of conservative Islamists and buttress their own legitimacy, these political elites have initiated sharia rulings, laws and policies that severely impact on non-Muslims, secular Muslims and women. In attempting to outIslamise conservative Islamists, progressive sharia reforms from the post-colonial era have either stalled or regressed particularly in areas such as inheritance, divorce and polygamy. In many states, sharia has adopted a more illiberal form, closely resembling the theologically rigid Wahhabi worldview of the Islamic monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Ironically, in Indonesia's post-authoritarian state, religious conflict and tensions have intensified. Following the passage of legislation granting greater autonomy to the outer regions in 1999, conservative Islamists have made significant political inroads. As the central government retains control over religious affairs, Islamists in collusion with local politicians hoping to boost their public profile have implemented sharia by-laws. The regional by-laws include enforcing compliance with shariah codes such as the wearing of the hijab, restricting the movement of women in the evening and the closure of nightclubs. The so-called Pornography Bill, initially sponsored by Islamist parties, was passed in 2008 despite strong opposition from non-Muslims and progressive Muslim organisations. In Indonesia's Aceh province, the central government has facilitated the comprehensive implementation of shariah primarily to appease the popular separatist movement and keep the Indonesian nation-state intact. As such, the shariah court system now has primacy over the civil courts. Specific Islamic criminal offences not found in national laws have been implemented. They include shariah laws on `correct belief', liquor, 5
gambling and illicit relations. In 2002, the Islamic dress code became mandatory and in the following year, another law was passed allowing for the severe punishment of unmarried couples caught in an intimate act or in close proximity. The punishment for this breach is whipping ­ a minimum of three and a maximum of nine lashes7. However, these regressive developments have energised progressive Muslim civil society to challenge the constitutionality underpinning the expansive reach of shariah and the initiatives of the Islamic bureaucracy and local politicans in Aceh and other regions. In Malaysia, churches have been firebombed, Christians prohibited from using the word Allah and Muslims whipped for Alcohol consumption and extra-marital sex. Concerns have also been raised by the violent demolition of Hindu temples, raids by the Islamic religious police on places of entertainment and forced separation of Hindu-Muslim couples by the religious police and sharia authorities. Constitutional Quandary: Is Malaysia an Islamic State? Non-Muslim anxiety in Malaysia has been bolstered by the expanded jurisdiction of the shariah court into the realms of civil matters. As the extended jurisdiction of the shariah courts includes non-Muslims, there are growing concerns that Malaysian civil law has become desecularised. For example, the 1988 constitutional amendment to Article 121 provides that the High Courts "shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the shariah courts". Importantly, the amended Article 121 (1A) has resulted in the High Courts and civil courts abdicating their constitutional role of upholding fundamental constitutional rights. They have declined to adjudicate on issues of fundamental constitutional rights and are inclined to defer to the jurisdiction of the shariah court, thereby creating "an interpretive quandary" amongst scholars, lawyers and the judiciary (Karean 2006:51). This quandary is fuelled by the reality that even though Article 11 guarantees the right of every person to profess and practice their religion, state legislation empowers state religious authorities and sharia courts to decide on personal laws of Muslims. 6
In the high-profile case Lina Joy (Azlina Jailani) vs Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Perseketuan, the High Court held that Article 121 (1A) of the constitution has accorded exclusive jurisdiction to the sharia court on matters of conversion (Karean, 2006:54). The case concerned the right of a Muslim woman to renounce Islam, embrace Christianity and marry a Christian. The Malaysian federal court finally ruled in 2007 that Lina Joy could not delete the word `Islam' from her identity card. In a another case, a Malaysian Chinese woman who converted to Islam but wished to leave the faith was ordered by the sharia court to undergo religious rehabilitation and counselling for three months organised by the Penang Religious Affairs Department before she could formally leave the faith. These and many other cases have contradicted religious freedom guaranteed by Article 11(1). The desecularisation of Malaysia's legal system has also been highlighted by the high-profile and controversial Moorthy (2005), Shamala (2003-2004) and Subashini (2007) cases involving non-Muslim spouses. In these cases, the civil courts were willing to defer to the jurisdiction of the shariah courts. Moreover, judges in civil courts regularly employ Islamic principles and texts to determine and then justify their decisions8. In part, Malaysia's constitutional ambiguity stems from numerous interpretations of Article 3 (1) of the Federal Constitution which states that Islam is the religion of the Federation. Unravelling the intentions of the framers of the constitution and the meaning of Article 3(1), Joseph Fernando's (2006) study of the primary constitutional documents has led him to contend that the Federation was in fact conceived as a secular state. For example, the 1957 White Paper tabled in parliament by the Alliance government to explain Article 3 noted that even though Islam is the recognised religion of the Federation in the constitution, this would not affect the position of the Federation as a secular state (Fernando, 2006:257). Affirming the 1957 White Paper, former Lord President Tan Sri Mohammed Salleh Abbas ruled in 1988 that the term Islam in Article 3(1) meant only "such acts as they relate to rituals and ceremonies" and that "the law in this country is what it is today, secular law, where morality is not accepted by the law and is not enjoying the status of the law"9. 7
In many respects, Malaysia's constitutional quandary has been sustained by the absence of a constitutional amendment declaring Malaysia an Islamic state. Even though the High Court has the authority to conduct judicial review of the sharia court and declare that a particular decision of the sharia court is unconstitutional or ultra vires, it has not done so. Eroding further the quasi-secular spirit of the Malaysian constitution, in 2001 Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, pronounced that Malaysia is an Islamic state despite the protestations of nonMuslim politicians from the Barisan Nasional (BN or National Front) coalition government. So has Malaysia become an Islamic state and thus no longer a quasi-secular state? But why have Malaysia's political leaders readily acceded to the conservative theological turf of conservative Islamists? Ironically, there is now minimal difference between the views of UMNO's Islamic activists and those of the Islamist party PAS on many religious issues. Is this a lapse in political judgement by the UMNO leadership or a case of political desperation following the Barisan Nasional's limp performance in the 1999 and 2008 elections? Scholars such as Joseph Fernando (2006) and Vanitha Karean (2006:50) argue that the foundational character of the Malaysian constitution is secular and "was not meant to institutionalise the state as a theocracy". Recognising that secular and Islamic states are not monoliths and characterised by subtle gradations, Andrew Harding (2002:158) opines that Malaysia is "much closer to the purely secular end of the scale than the Islamic end". Ironically, these perspectives are supported by the Islamist Party PAS. While Karean (2006:56) purports that the constitution cannot viably harmonise Islamic and civil law due to the fundamental differences between Islamic law and civil law, Shad Faruqi asserts that the Malaysian constitution is neither theocratic nor secular but possesses a hybrid quasi-secular nature10. Faruqi's proposition has been endorsed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi who in 2007 asserted that Malaysia was neither theocratic nor secular but a parliamentary democracy11. Unfortunately, Abdullah Badawi did not clearly define what he meant by Malaysia's quasi-secular parliamentary democracy before retiring from government in 2009. 8
The constitutional contradictions associated with the expansion of sharia have also been played out in Pakistan. In November 2010, the Lahore High Court in Pakistan barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a Christian woman Asia Bibi, facing a Death Sentence, for insulting Islam under the country's blasphemy law. The case gained international attention when the secular-oriented Punjab Governor Salmaan Tasser was assassinated for criticising the blasphemy law. Instructively, Tasser's widow could not find a single criminal lawyer to prosecute the assassin Mumtaz Qadri even though 500 lawyers have volunteered to defend Qadri . Tasser's widow was also unable to find a registered mullah in Lahore willing to conduct her husband's funeral rites (Guardian, 8 January, 2011). It is worth noting that Qadri admitted to being influenced by the sermons of militant preachers who denounced Tasser. The rise of religious intolerance in many quasi-secular Muslim states has often been accompanied by conservative theological rationalisations for the steady erosion of civil and human rights. Resurgence of Wasatiyyah - The Silent Revolution in Muslim Apirations There is a commonly held perception that Islam is incompatible with values associated with democracy, pluralism and secularism12. Irobically, these perceptions have been fuelled by the cultural essentialist postulations of conservative Islamists and Western scholars such as Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis. Huntington famously asserted that: "The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam"13. Similarly, Lewis opined that Muslims are "willing enough to accept the products of infidel science in warfare and medicine...However, the underlying philosophy and socioeconomic context of these scientific achievements proved more difficult to accept or even recognise"14. These Islamophobic and cultural essentialist perspectives have been contradicted by qualitative and quantitative analyses which indicate that Muslims strongly value democracy and secular based political systems that accommodate religiosity. The World Values survey (1981-2007) of Muslim majority societies found that in all but one Muslim country (Pakistan), public support for democracy was equal to or even greater than in Western countries15. Significantly, Muslim respondents strongly favour multi-party 9
elections but expected political leaders to be inspired by religious values. However, the Muslim mainstream tends to be politically liberal but culturally conservative16. Similarly, the most comprehensive and systematic survey of contemporary Muslim perceptions undertaken by the Gallop World Poll (2001-2007) found that Muslims overwhelmingly support democracy, believing that it is central to a more just and progressive society. Instructively, Muslims are inclined to support secular democracies which do not insist on a strict separation of state and religion. They are thus disinclined to support the strict separation of state and religion practised by assertive secular states such as France and Kemalist Turkey. However, they are also not supportive of Islamic states governed by traditional sharia, as dictated by the state. The key findings of the Gallop World Poll17, in relation to Muslim perceptions of democracy and secularism, are worth reiterating: - An overwhelming number of Muslims support democracy believing that it is the key to a more just society and to progress. - Muslims indicate that the lack of political freedom is what they least admire about the Islamic and Arab world. However, they did not favour the wholesale adoption of Western models of democracy and secularism. - The majority of Muslims would like to see a religious form of democracy with the sharia as one source of legislation, albeit a restricted source. - Most Muslims desire a system of government in which religious principles and democratic values co-exist. - A significant majority in many Muslim countries say religious leaders should play no direct role in drafting a country's constitution, writing national legislation, determining foreign policy, deciding how women dress in public or what is published in newspapers. - Most Muslims do not want a rigidly secular or Islamic state. The World Values Survey and Gallop World Poll findings noted above have been reaffirmed by Kurzman and Naqvi's study of 89 electoral contests in the Muslim World 1 0
over the last 40 years. Their study found that the electoral performance of Islamic parties has been less than impressive. The median Islamic party performance hovers at around 15.5% of votes and 15% of seats. This suggests that the likelihood of Islamists winning in free and fair elections in a non-violent and turbulent political environment is negligible18. Islamist parties have only made significant electoral headway in a few `breakthrough elections' ­ the first truly competitive electoral contests in a generation or more (Kurzman and Naqvi, 2010:50). They include the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria (1991), the Justice and Development Party in Turkey (2002, 2007) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Palestine (2006). Hamas's electoral success in 2006, garnering 44% of the vote, was largely to do with voter concerns about corruption and lack of security rather than with religiosity (Kurzman and Naqvi, 2010:50). Importantly, the authoritarian excesses of the Iranian and Saudi Islamic states and governance failures of other Islamic states have dampened the Islamic state model as a source of inspiration for Islamists and the wider Muslim community. Recognising that the Muslim mainstream is `politically liberal but culturally conservative' many secularoriented and Islamist parties in the Muslim World have shifted their ideological and policy platform to appeal to this electorally potent mainstream constituency. For example, the failure of Indonesia's Islamic parties to make significant electoral inroads in the 1999, 2004 and 2009 elections and to revive the Jakarta Charter has led to a pragmatic downgrading of their Islamic agenda - focusing instead on non-religious issues such as anti-corruption. In Indonesia's fledgling democracy, where debate on sensitive issues is conducted in mainstream public arenas, conservative Islamists supporting the Islamic state agenda have been pressured to clearly explain their position on the rights and status of religious minorities, women, veiling and shariah. Unable to articulate positions that are widely endorsed, many Islamic political parties have pragmatically abandoned the goal of establishing an Islamic state. Similarly, in Malaysia, the Islamist party PAS has downplayed its Islamic state agenda, particularly since their poor electoral showing in the 2004 elections and pragmatic electoral alliance with other secular-based opposition parties in the 1999 and 2008 elections. 1 1
In the Islamic republic of Iran, support for a religiously-based secularism appears to be strengthening with reformists making significant electoral strides, particularly since the 1997 election which catapulted the reform-oriented President Khatami to office. Many within Iran's middle-class have grown disenchanted with clerical constructions of divine sovereignty and the authoritarian nature of the theocratic republic. Overt religiosity appears to have taken a battering with surveys indicating that only 3% of Iranians attend Friday prayers compared to almost 50% before the revolution in 1979 (Kuru, 2009:107). Similarly, in the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia, Saudis attend mosques less frequently than Egyptians and Jordanians living in quasi-secular polities (World Values Survey, 2000-2004). There appears to be a negative correlation between the religious trappings of the state and the religiosity of the public.
Chequered Record of Secular States At first glance, opinion polls which consistently indicate that Muslim enthusiasm for quasi-secular democracy, rejection of rule by the ulama but support of the sharia as a source of law, appear somewhat contradictory. However, this seeming contradiction is better appreciated when placed within the historical experiences shaping the diverse state-religion relations and the varieties of secularism in the Muslim and non-Muslim Worlds.
It is worth reiterating that more than half of the world's Muslim population live in countries where the state is secular, quasi-secular or where Islam is not the official state religion (Kuru, 2009:18). As Table 1 indicates, only a minority of Muslims live in Islamic states ­ all of whom are authoritarian. This is consistent with the vast majority of states in the international community, where the strict separation of state and religion is rarely be found19.
Table 1
State-Religion Regimes in 45 Muslim Countries
Islamic states
11
States with Islam as the established religion (quasi-secular)
15
1 2
Secular states
19
Source: Ahmet Kuru, Secularism and State Policies Toward Religion: The United States, France and Turkey, (NY: Cambridge Uni. Press, 2009, p.18).
Yet, secularism remains one of the most misunderstood concepts in the Muslim World. Part of this misunderstanding stems from confusion over the terms secularism, secularisation, secular, `separation of religion and the state' and secular democracy. Not surprisingly, fierce disagreements remain about the status of religion in the constitution and political system in the Muslim world ­ from the quasi-secular democracy of Indonesia and Malaysia, secular democratic state of Turkey, Islamic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran, ambiguous Islamic state of Pakistan and the fledgling Islamic states of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Muslim mis/understanding of secularism can be attributed to the simplistic conflation of secularism with atheism, particularly since the word secularism is commonly translated into Arabic as ilmaniyah (science or knowledge), alamaniyah (of this world or universe) or ladini (irreligious or non-religious)20. In particular, ladini promotes the view of a binary opposition between Islam and secularism and fuels the assumption that secularism is an alien ideology that is threatening to Muslim religious identity. Secularists are thus commonly perceived to have abandoned Islam, rejected Islamic morality21 and consumed with self-loathing, particularly since secularism was introduced and institutionalised by Western colonialism22. Secularism's tarnished image has thus resulted in many secular Muslims defensively withdrawing altogether from public debates so as to avoid accusations of being Muslims contaminated by Western secularism.
Conservative Islamists have long argued that Muslims must reject secularism as it constitutes a form of heresy or bida (innovation) and those that defend secularism are either kafir (unbelievers), unauthentic Muslims or enemies of Islam. Moreover, conservative Islamists are inclined to frame Muslim identity in opposition to Western secularism. Sayyid Abdul Mawdudi, founder of the Islamist organisation, Jamaat Islami
1 3
and the World Muslim League, denounced secularism for being la din (no religion) in comparison to Islam as din (religion). According to this logic, secularism and Islam are opposed to one another and cannot be reconciled. Similarly, one of the most high-profile Muslim scholars in the Arab World, Shaik Yusuf al Qaradawi, has pronounced that supporting secularism is akin to abandoning Islam and the denial of God23. Secularism's tarnished image can also be attributed to the record of authoritarian secular states aggressively imposing the separation of state and religion on the Muslim populace. In particular, the policies and practices of assertive secular states such as France, Iran under the Shah and Kemalist Turkey have engendered the perception of secularism as an anti-religious ideology. In Pahlavi Iran and Kemalist Turkey, secularism was not allowed to evolve but imposed in a top-down manner far removed from the realities of the masses. Similarly, in quasi-secular authoritarian Muslim majority states, religious institutions and associations were stripped of their independence and placed under the control of state authorities. The state thus determined the appointment of imams (prayer leaders), content of the Friday sermon and managed mosques. Islamist organisations and civil society were suppressed. Much has been written about the way by which secular Muslim elites saw the adoption of secular modernity as essential for the survival of the nation-state. Secular modernity was expected to free society from religion, which was projected as divisive, anti-national and anti-modern compared to secularism which was projected as progressive and emancipatory (Hakan Yuvuz, 2009:149). Rationalising dramatic social engineering policies such as the adoption of the Latin script, European dress and laws and reforms to religious institutions, Kemal Attaturk paternalistically counselled the Turkish masses that "Surviving in the world of modern civilisation depends on changing ourselves. This is the sole law of any progress in social, economic and scientific spheres of life"24. As the development of cultural identity and modernity were projected as unidirectional, mimicry was deemed essential for the survival of all modern societies. Not surprisingly, many Muslims perceived secularism as a form of domination, fanaticism and bigotry25. Driven by this outrage, Islam became the rallying point in resisting authoritarian secular 1 4
states. These movements were often led by Islamic organisations and parties committed to the `re-Islamisation' of society. Rachid Al-Ghannouchi has insightfully characterised this authoritarian top-down secularism as a form of "pseudo-secularism", adopting the worst aspects but discarding the positive aspects of Western secularism26. Varieties of Secularism in the West Al-Ghannouchi's assessment of secularism in the Muslim World and the West is poignant. Indeed, many secular liberal democracies in the West do not impose a strict separation of state and religion but operate along the lines of Alfred Stepan's `twin tolerations' model of state-religion. It is worth noting that Jonathan Fox's global study of religious legislation found that all liberal democracies, except the United States, that have separation of religion and state (SRAS) clauses in their constitution also have religious legislation27. Indeed, the courts often allow governments to by-pass or disregard SRAS clauses (Fox, 2011:62). Secularism in many democracies is thus strongly based on concessions, reconciliations and settlements rather than a strict separation between the religion and the state. Many western states with established churches and recognised official religions practice a form of passive secularism noted above. For example, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Sweden and Britain have established churches. In Germany, Protestantism and Catholicism are recognised as official religions. Christian Democrat political parties have frequently governed in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Queen of England is the head of the Church of England as well as the head of state. These forms of passive secularism exist within the constraints of religion, tradition, church, public opinion, legislation and the constitution. Passive secularism does not ban religion from the public sphere but requires the state to be neutral and attempts to treat all religions fairly. These constraints have gone some way towards restricting extremist and intolerant tendencies by the state and society28. It would appear that laicite or the assertive French model of secularism which seeks to control all religious expression and erase it from the public sphere is relatively unique in 1 5
the West. This assertive form of anti-clerical secularism was strongly shaped by the French revolution in 1789 which overthrew the historical alliance between the Catholic Church and the monarchy. The conflict was very much zero-sum ­ a `war of the two Frances'29. The separation of the state and church was codified in 1905 and updated in 2004. To be sure, the French policy of banning the hijab (headscarf) in public schools and banning the niqab (attire which conceals the body and face) in the public sphere, in the name of secularism, has severely undermined the inclusive secular ideal. In many respects, these assertive secular policies are reflective of the ascendency of assimilation and the rejection of multiculturalism despite the changed social realities of French society. Inclusive Secularism ­ Stepan's `Twin Tolerations' Framework In endorsing the Anglo-American variant of passive or inclusive secularism, Alfred Stepan posits that secular democracy can be effectively nurtured when religious authorities and state institutions mutually recognise and respect the "minimal boundaries of freedom of action". Stepan proposes that religious communities be accorded the autonomy to worship privately, advance their interests in the public sphere and sponsor organisations - as long as they do not violate the liberty of others30. At the same time, religious institutions should not have a constitutionally guaranteed right to dictate, limit or veto decisions made by a democratically elected government31. As the boundaries between religion and state are periodically debated and negotiated, they are expected to shift with time.32. Importantly, the ongoing debate and negotiation between the state and religion over the boundary between the two occurs on the basis of their mutual respect towards each other's autonomous spheres. Thus the lesson from this form of passive or inclusive secularism "lies not in church-state separation but in the constant political construction and reconstruction of twin tolerations" (Stepan, 2001:213-253). The inclusive nature of passive secularism accepts the presence of religious symbols in the public sphere and the diversity of religious perspectives. Stepan reminds us that this ongoing reconstruction of state­religion relations is in line with the reality of states and societies that are increasingly globalised, multi-ethnic and 1 6
multi-religious and thus need to respond effectively to new contingencies and challenges33. This point is particularly salient when attempting to understand the limitations of the French, and to a lesser extent, American separation of state and religion model - models that have not evolved fundamentally since they were first formulated even though these societies have changed quite radically. As a result, France finds it difficult to manage the ethnic and religious aspirations of its Muslim citizens. On the other hand, the United States finds it difficult to control the demands of politically assertive fundamentalist groups arising from the `wall of separation' principle between state and religion (Stepan, 2010: 8-9). There is increasing recognition by Muslims that there are multiple forms of secularism and that secularism does not necessarily require the rejection of religion in the public sphere. The experience of passive secular democracies in the West demonstrates that secularisation does not necessarily lead to the erosion of religious belief. Indeed, religious belief and forms of spirituality can and have persisted within the negotiated processes of state secularism. Moreover, the experience of passive secularism demonstrates that the rigid `wall of separation' between church and state is excessive, unnecessary and counterproductive in nation-building terms. Stepan's twin-tolerations model is particularly effective when operating within the context of democratic institutions and a reformist Islamic discourse that advocates the harmonisation of Islam and secular democracy. Progressive Muslim Reformists: Harmonising Islam and Inclusive Secular Democracy Islam possesses a rich history of islah (reform) and tajdid (renewal) since the earliest days of its establishment. Consistent with Islamic tradition, Muslim reformists recognise the need to reinterpret traditional Islamic theology to effectively meet the complexities of modern life. They have been particularly concerned by the narrow and exclusivist interpretations of the holy texts. This concern was expressed by Muhammad Iqbal who courageously called for an Islamic reformation: "We need a new theology, a period 1 7
similar to the Protestant reformation; the lesson of Luther's movement should not be lost"34. In keeping with this tradition of reform, progressive Muslim reformists35 and intellectuals have been at the forefront in articulating an Islamic discourse based on the compatibility of Islam with the principles of secular democracy, gender equality, economic justice, constitutionalism and universal humanism. Equipped with an understanding of the Western experience of modernisation, secularism and Islamic theology, progressive Muslims are at the forefront of the intra-civilisational struggle for the soul of Islam and the Muslim World. Utilising the concept of Islamic ijtihad (Critical Thinking guided by disciplined but independent reasoning and providing constructive solutions to contemporary challenges), progressive Muslim reformists are in the process of revolutionising Islamic theology and religiosity36. Rejecting the conservative Islamist position that the `gate of ijtihad' is closed, progressive Muslim reformists see ijtihad as key to a dynamic understanding of religious texts, driving Islamic reformation and promoting political pluralism. A progressive Muslim reformist that has written seminal works on the interdependent relationship between Islam, secular democracy and human rights is the Sudanese American scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An Naim. He defines the inclusive secular democratic state as one that is neutral with regard to religious matters and safeguards the civil liberties of citizens. An Naim asserts that it is in the interest of Muslims to promote the inclusive secular democratic state that is based on the principles and institutions of constitutionalism, human rights and citizenship. Such a polity does not enforce sharia and allows a person "to be a Muslim by conviction and free choice". Importantly, it "facilitates the possibility of religious piety out of honest conviction" and "promotes genuine religious observance". (An Naim, 2008:1-2). Far from negating religion, inclusive secular democracy promotes religious freedom as a basic right (An Naim, 2008:1). 1 8
The neutrality of the inclusive secular democratic state allows Muslims to discuss sensitive religious issues such as gender equality, debate fresh interpretations of the Quran, and arrive at a consensus. As An Naim notes: "In the conception of secularism I am proposing, the influence of religion in the public domain is open to negotiation and contingent upon the free exercise of the human agency of all citizens, believers and unbelievers alike"37. The secularising of the state does not necessarily result in the secularising of society but "facilitates the possibility of religious piety out of honest conviction" and "promote genuine religious observance" (An Naim, 2008:1). This nuanced and sophisticated discourse cannot be fully appreciated by conservative Islamists who simplistically equate the secular state with a society devoid of religiosity. Importantly, An Naim highlights the importance of establishing a clear framework of constitutional governance for limiting the powers of government, safeguarding individual and collective rights, and respecting the principles of human rights, accountability and the separation of powers. He reminds us that constitutional rights are only useful where there are institutional means for exercising them and holding governments accountable. Constitutional rights are also important in protecting the freedom of each person "to affirm, challenge or transform" their cultural and religious identity38. Without a clear framework of constitutional governance, an ambiguous relationship between religion and the state has resulted in protracted inter-religious tensions and political instability. Conservative Islamists and opportunistic politicians have exploited this ambiguity by expanding conservative interpretations of sharia and impinging on the rights of women and religious minorities. This ambiguity has been seized upon by politicians who have reinterpreted quasi-secular Muslim states as Islamic states, despite the questionable constitutional foundations of such claims. As discussed above, this ambiguity has contributed to religious tensions in Muslim majority quasi-secular states such as Malaysia and Indonesia. In rejecting the theological basis and political viability of the Islamic state, An Naim maintains that constitutions which are based on particular religious beliefs are out-of- 1 9
sync with the complex and rapidly changing world (An Naim, 2005:79). The Islamic state's viability is undermined by the reality that the state has always been a political institution and that religious and political authority emanate from different sources and require different skills. The conflation of religious and political authority was only possible during the time of the Prophet because of his unique combination of religious and political authority. An Naim asserts that no state has the authority to enforce sharia because sharia can only be freely observed by Muslims. In other words, sharia loses its religious authority when enforced by the state as "the outcome will necessarily be the political will of the state and not the religious law of Islam" (An Naim, 2008:1). In highlighting the inherent contradictions of the Islamic state, An Naim39 (2005: 78) points to the Iranian Islamic state's dilemma of being locked in unworkable and contradictory policies stemming from mixing notions of divine and popular sovereignty and citizenship rights with traditional conceptions of sharia. For example, the constitution of the Islamic state ensures equal rights for women but only "in conformity with Islamic criteria". Similarly contradictory is the assertion that an "absolute religious leader and the leadership of the ummah have ultimate authority in the executive branch of government" (cited in An Naim, 2005:7879). It is not altogether surprisingly that these contradictions have given rise to a bottomup push for secularism and a religio-secular model akin to the quasi-secular state, discernible in Iran40. The repressiveness of the Iranian state has prompted An Naim to call for "dispelling the dangerous illusion of an Islamic state that can enforce sharia" in favour of implementing the principles and institutions of constitutionalism, human rights and citizenship (An Naim, 2008:2). It has become increasingly apparent that the Islamic state model is a spent political force. Importantly, An Naim is just as critical of authoritarian and assertive secular states as he is of Islamic states as these states have attempted to control religion through draconian means. In highlighting the similarity between the Islamic state's coercion of women to wear the headscarf and the banning of the headscarf in assertive secular states, An Naim observes that: "It is wrong to coerce women to cover themselves....it is equally wrong for 2 0
the state to present women with the degrading choice between upholding their religious beliefs and losing their rights to education, employment and personal autonomy in general"41. The attempt of assertive and authoritarian secular states to restrict the autonomy of religion is "defeated by the failure of the state to respect the legitimate role of Islam in public life" (An Naim, 2008: 184). Conclusion This paper has placed the chequered record and meandering trajectory of the quasisecular state in Muslim-majority countries within an historical and comparative context to highlight its contemporary relevance. The varieties of secularism in the Muslim and non-Muslim Worlds suggests that it is a non-linear and fluid process subject to ebbs and flows. Each country has its own experience of religiosity and secularism based on its historical evolution and socio-political condition. Religiosity and secularism are dynamic and deeply contextual processes. Islamisation and secularism are not mutually exclusive and can work together within the framework of the quasi-secular democratic state 42. This has occurred in the West and in the Muslim World. It would appear that the rehabilitation and resurgence of the quasi-secular state in the Muslim World has been fuelled by the promotion of progressive interpretations of Islam which support the safeguarding of religious and political pluralism, citizenship rights and gender justice. This rehabilitation and resurgence of the quasi-secular state is supported by the push for greater clarification and public renegotiation of the constitutional and political foundations of the quasi-secular democratic state. As highlighted by progressive Muslim reformists such as Abdullahi An Naim, the inclusive secular democratic state is consistent with the inclusive spirit of the Quran as embodied in the verse which enjoins that "There is no compulsion in religion". Progressive Muslim intellectuals and movements have played a pivotal role in reconciling Islam with the principles of quasi-secular democracy, universal humanism and gender justice. They have resisted the attempts of conservative Islamists to impose traditional sharia and question the propriety of politicians out-Islamising conservative 2 1
Islamists at the expense of compromising the foundations of the quasi-secular state. Progressive Muslims are at the forefront of challenging theological discourses articulated by the conservative ulama and engage in rainbow alliances with secular and progressive religious forces in civil society. They recognise that the religious neutrality of the quasi- secular democratic state can effectively mediate relations between the various religious communities, promote an inclusive approach towards nation-building and constitutionalism. This wasatiyyah discourse and trajectory dovetails with the aspirations of the majority of Muslims and the experiences of many inclusive secular democracies in the non-Muslim world. 1 Cited in Joseph M. Fernando, `The Position of Islam in the Constitution of Malaysia', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 37(2), June, 2006. 2 Clause 4 provides that the federal law "may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam". Cited in Vanitha Karean, `The Malaysian Constitution and its Identity Crisis ­ Secular or Theocratic?', LAWASIA Journal, 2006, p.49. 3 Ahmad Ibrahim, `The Position of Islam in the Constitution of Malaysia', in Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia, Sharon Siddique and Yasmin Hussin (eds), (Singapore: ISEAS, 1985), p.217. 4 Nadirsyah Hosen, Sharia and Constitutional Reform in Indonesia, (Singapore: ISEAS, 2007), p.1 5 Pancasila`s five principles include belief in God, national unity, social justice, popular sovereignty and just humanitarianism. 6 Sami Zubaidah, `Islam and Secularization', Asian Journal of Social Sciences, 33(3), 2005, p.442. 7 Maznah Mohamad, `Politisation of Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia', in Theresa Devasahayam (ed), Trends in Southeast Asia: Women Now, Women in the Future, (Singapore: ISEAS, 2009), p.101-102. 8 Amanda Whiting, `Desecularising Malaysian Law?', in Penelope Nicholson and Sarah Biddulph (eds), Examining Practice, Interrogating Theory: Comparative Legal Studies in Asia, (Leiden: Martinus Nyhoff Pub., 2008), p. 231-255. 9 Tan Sri Mohammed Salleh bin Abbas, Constitutional law and Judiciary: Selected Articles and Speeches, (KL: Malaysia Law Publishers, 1984). 10 Shad Saleem Faruqi, `Secularism or Theocracy ­ A Study of the Malaysian Constitution', Universiti Teknologi Mara law Review, 146, 2004. 11 `Malaysia Neither Secular Nor Theocratic State, Says Abdullah', Sunday Times, 5 August, 5 August, 2007. 12 The 2003 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that there were growing numbers of Americans who believe that Islam encourages violence among Muslims. Refer to Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2003, Washington DC, September 10, 2003, Press Release. 13 Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1996), p.238. 14 Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (NY: OUP, 2002). 15 Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, `The True Clash of Civilizations', Foreign Policy, March/April, 2003, p.62-70. 16 World Values Survey, 4th and 5th waves, Available at www.worldvaluessurvey.org 17 Refer to John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, (NY: Gallup Press, 2007), p.29-63. 18 Charles Kurzman and Ijlal Naqvi, `Do Muslims Vote Islamic?', Journal of Democracy, Vol. 21, April, 2010. 2 2
19 Jonathan Fox, A World Survey of Religion and the State, (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni. Press, 2007). 20 Nader Hashimi, Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Towards a Democratic Theory of Muslim Societies, (Oxford: OUP, 2009), p.136. 21 Naser Hashimi, 2009, p.136. 22 Abdou Filali-Ansary, `Muslims and Democracy', Journal of Democracy, Vol.3, No.3, 1999. 23 Muhammad Khalid Masud, `The Construction and Deconstruction of Secularism as an Ideology in Contemporary Muslim Thought', Asian Journal of Social Science, Vol.33, No.3, 2005. p.372. 24 Cited in Ahmet Davutoglu, `Philosophical and Institutional Dimensions of Secularisation', in and Azzam Tamimi (eds), Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, ( UK: Hurst &Co,2002), p.170. 25 John Keane, `The Limits of Secularism' in John Esposito and Azzam Tamimi (eds), 2002, p.36. 26 Rachid Al-Ghonnouchi, `Secularism in the Arab Magreb', in John Esposito and Azzam Tamimi (eds), 2002), p.98. 27 Jonathan Fox, `Out of Sync: the Disconnect Between Constitutional Clauses and State Legislation on Religion', Canadian Journal of Political Science , 44(1), March, 2011. 28 See Ahmet T. Kuru, `Passive and Assertive Secularism: Historical Conditions, Ideological Struggles and State Policies Toward Religion', world politics, Vol.59, July, 2007, p.568-594. 29 Ahmet Kuru, 2007. 30 Only the courts can place constraints on religious groups after their violation of laws. 31 "Democratic institutions must be free, within the bounds of the constitution and human right to generate policies. Religious institutions should not have constitutionally privileged prerogatives that allow them to mandate Public Policy to democratically elected governments". A. Stepan, 2000, p. 39. 32 Nader Hashimi, 2009, p.114. 33 Alfred Stepan, `The Multiple Secularism of Modern Democratic and Non-Democratic Regimes', Paper Presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Conference, Washington D.C., September 2-5, 2010, p.48. 34 Muhammad Iqbal, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, (Lahore: Institute of Islamic Cultutre, 1986). 35 In this paper, progressive and reformist Muslims refer to those who are committed to socio-economic justice, gender equality, political pluralism and ijtihad (independent reasoning and critical reflection). Progressive Muslims are theologically flexible and view ijtihad as pivotal in facilitating Islam's relevance to the needs of the time, place and history. They do not espouse the establishment of an Islamic state. 36 Mahmoud Sadri, `Sacral Defense of Secularism: The Political Theologies of Soroush, Shabesteri and Kadivar', International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 15(2), Winter, 2001. 37 An Naim, 2008, p.267-268. 38 An Naim, 2008, p.214. 39 Abdullahi Ahmed An Naim, `The Interdependence of Religion, Secularism and Human Rights', Common Knowledge, 11(1), 2005, p.78 40 Vali Nasr, `Secularim: Lessons from the Muslim World', Daedalus, 132, Summer, 2003, p.72. 41 Vali Nasr, 2003, p.214. 42 M. Hakan Yavuz, Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey, (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni. Press, 2009), p.145. 2 3

LZ Rahim

File: muslims-reclaiming-the-quasi-secular-democratic-state.pdf
Title: Lily_Rahim_Muslims Reclaiming the Quasi-Secular Democratic State
Author: LZ Rahim
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Published: Mon Jun 27 22:42:45 2011
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