While observing the unrests in Egypt, provoked by the growing confrontations between the Muslim Brotherhood shouldered by their allies and supporters in one part, and the Secular Élite and its supporters on the other; we should be consciously aware that this conflict is not a conflict between “believers” and “non believers”; it should be recognised as a confrontation about “National Identity”.
If you wish to win a drug war, legalise and liberalise its use!! Same treatment can be prescribed for a developing state suffering from chronic influence of religion over education, government and politics; in order to heal and recover as a Secular State able and capable of modernisation.
Of course by now you must have known that the adjective ‘Secular’ does not mean ‘Infidel’ or ‘Non Believer’ worthy of “death by hanging, decapitating or rape”, but rather it refers to an individual who refuses the total hegemony of religious ideas, religious clerics and religious institution over the destinies of the population by orienting and dictating the state’s politics and policies converting its governance into an ‘Authoritarian Religious Fascist Rule’.
Therefore I’d say that if we really are aiming for a “Modern Liberal Civil Rule”, we must start from where the others have begun..
A] In France:
Back in 1905 the French Parliament passed the “Separation Act” recognising freedom of religion by stating: “The republic ensures freedom of conscience. It guarantees the free exercise of religions with the sole restrictions decreed hereafter in the interest of public order.” And it also declares “The Republic does not
recognise, fund or subsidise any religion. […]State, departmental and commune budgets, together with all expenses relating to the exercise of religions will be abolished.”
The neutrality principle accompanied with the elimination of state budget for the exercise of religions was detrimental to the Catholic Church, because forty-two thousand priests were no longer salaried by the state. Also the law changed the existent hierarchical organisation of religious associations. Religious groups were no longer recognized as cults, but cults as “private associations to which the state would now transfer the stewardship of church properties and incomes.” All religious buildings built by 1905 were accepted as property of state and their maintenance was carried out by the state.
Thus the principle of laicité, which would become a constitutional principle in 1946; was a product of a legal and political process that was shaped by conflict between clericals and Republicans. From that time laicité was recognized by a great majority of the society as a unifying principle securing national unity and solidarity by dismissing religious sectarian movements.
B] In Turkey:
In 1908 the Young Turks, a reformist state élite, aimed to replace Islamic institutions with westernised ones. They defended a limited role for religion. According to them, the main obstacles to modernisation were the sultanate and Islamic institutions – two pillars of the ancient regime. What they wanted to accomplish was to limit the influence of religion over education, government and politics.
Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), who was a well-known member of İttihat ve Terakki, organised resistance groups in Anatolia and took lead of the War of Independence, after which he established Republic and launched a modernization project. His ideas were characterised by anti-clericalism, rationalism, intellectual elitism and nationalism.
The principle of the separation between state and religions became gradually more effective within legal structures since the end of the War of Independence. In 1922 the Sultanate was abolished. In 1923, the Republic was founded. This was soon followed by the abolishment of the caliphate and the establishment of Ministry of Religious Affairs in 1924 and the prohibition of religious orders in 1925. In 1928, the article that deemed Islam the official state religion was annulled, yet until the 1937 amendments for ‘Secularism’ were not mentioned in the constitution. Aside from the reforms related to state organization, many reforms were introduced in order to secularize social and cultural life. The object of these reforms was to limit the influence and visibility of religion within the public sphere and make religion a personal affair.
The exclusion of religion was seen as a necessity for the establishment of a new nation. In the public realm people needed to exist only as citizens sharing a common bond and having equal rights. Any sign that showed any attachment toward a community outside the nation was believed to threaten the national unity.
The formation of a national identity was problematic, since there was no clear definition of “Turk”. The Ottoman legacy remained influential on the formation of national identity. In the Ottoman period, subjects were defined according to their religious affiliation. This system was called the millet system. “Turk” in this system did not refer to any ethnic category but referred to Muslim subjects of the Empire. After the establishment of Republic, Kemalist elites tried to formulate a new Turkish national identity devoid of any religious content.
The principle of Secularism means separation between state and religion, yet the state continues to control the religion. The principle refers at the same time to both an exclusion of religious symbols within the public sphere and control over religion by the state. This could be seen in state policies on education and the formation of the Ministry of Religious Affairs that was tied to the Office of the Prime Minister and was
responsible for the administration of mosques and appointments of all Muslim clerics. As a result, Muslim clerics became paid employees of the state and were subject to its scrutiny. The main motivation behind this institution was the desire to control religion and the clergy.
That was exactly the same political error committed by Egypt’s “Free Officers Movement” while executing their 1952 Coup d’Étât. Cancelling the independence of Al Azhar and establishing the Ministry of Al Awqaf rendering them all simple state employees, conspiring with the state to brainwash the people, not educating them on the real values of Islam.
The successive governments, formed by the Military institution, did nothing else but replacing a “Theocratic Religious Authority” with a “Political Religious Authority” whose objectives were never Modernisation, Development, Welfare and Growth; the end goal was, and still is, to capitalise the inexistent values of the ruling bodies. Meaning that we toppled a corrupt dictatorship to replace it by the Dark-Ages type “Fascist Religious Tyranny”.
· Did we really want to have at the helm of Egypt’s rule a “Political Religious Authority”, supported and sustained internally by various types and categories of Religious Associations, Movements or Militias (more or less ignorant and violent); and externally by foreign Monarchies and other Arab States?
· Did we willingly hand the reins of our nation to these politically incompetent and inexperienced group of individuals, who are doing everything in their power to convince the population, and the rest of world that the Egyptian National Identity could not be other than ‘Islamic Belief’?
· By doing so aren’t they excluding many ethnic and cultural demographic groups from their fundamental rights for Egyptian Citizenship?
· Is this not the very essence of ‘APARTHEID’?
If we shall not organise our ranks quickly to fight this fierce legal battle and adequately demand our “Civil National Identity”; then we shall remain entrapped in that medieval cultural regression, slowly turning into “Addict Mendicants for Freedom” and even worse we’ll remain for very long only useless “Economic, Political and Technological Beggars”!
Pass On The Word.Reference: Journal of Political Inquiry 4 (2011).