Sunday, March 06, 2011

Is Secularization Possible in Islamic Countries?

Hans-Peter Raddatz is a well-known German author and scholar who specializes in Islamic issues. Mr. Raddatz was interviewed last week on Deutschlandradio about the current turmoil in the Middle East. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:

Democracy and Islam — Islam Expert Sees a Combination with Many Question Marks

Hans-Peter Raddatz in a conversation with Jürgen Liminski

Monday, February 28, 2011

Democracy cannot develop from scratch in the Levant, thinks Islam expert Hans-Peter Raddatz. Islamic law, he says, regulates life in its smallest details — so there is no room for democratic development.

Liminski: The demonstrations in the region continue and in them are focused, as the sun’s rays by a magnifying glass, the hopes of many people in Egypt, in the Maghreb and beyond that in the entire Near East. There are hopes for freedom and democracy, and the demonstrators are, in the main, people with cellphones, young, internet-wise and cosmopolitan. They are not a representative cross-section of the present population. As always, they demand democracy, in the Islamic countries too, and the great question is: How capable of democracy is Islam? What governmental form corresponds most closely to the conceptions of the Koran or the Islamic tradition? Can there even be a permanent secularization of Islamic states?

With these questions, I greet the Islam expert and multiple book author, Hans-Peter Raddatz. Good morning, Mr. Raddatz.
 
Raddatz: Good morning, Mr. Liminski.
 
Liminski: Mr. Raddatz, the call for democracy is somewhat more muted today than just a few weeks ago, but it is still clearly audible. Can there be, in a country shaped by Islam, like Egypt or Libya, a democracy in accordance with Western ideas?
 
Raddatz: Peter RaddatzThat is the question we have been asking for many years and which has not yet been answered by the so-called inter-religious or inter-cultural dialogue between the West and the Muslims, which has been going on all these years. And to go directly to the core of your question: Islam has no history which would have been able to create democratic structures.

The revolutionary upheavals we are experiencing today n the whole area are naturally the result of learning, by way of television and other media, that it is different in the West than it is in Islam. This has spoken to the younger generation which is most affected and most open to these Western civil forms. But Islam is based on the Koran and the so-called prophet tradition. This situation yields Islamic law. Islamic law regulates daily life down to the last detail, and there is no room for democratic developments. Until now, when there were parliaments in the Near East, they had been superimposed structures, whose constitution is ultimately in sharia or the Koran. To that extent, talk of democratic developments in Egypt and elsewhere is a political exercise. But they cannot simply develop democracy in the Near East by beginning at the drawing board; it just does not work.
 


Liminski: Basically, democracy includes sharing of power with an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, right to assemble, pluralism in the parties. Is that not compatible with Islamic concepts? In Egypt, things seem to be going in that direction.
 
Raddatz: You have mentioned a very important key word again, that is, control of the judiciary and you have, no doubt involuntarily, introduced the catch-phrase “Muslim Brotherhood” into the conversation. The Muslim Brotherhood is by far the largest and most powerful organization in Islam. It has a social arm for all kinds of activities for women, students, workers and so forth. It also has a crystal-clear arm — the arm of orthodoxy, Islamic orthodoxy, and with that intends to preserve sharia and Islamic orthodoxy. And, especially in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood has seized the power in the law, and acquired influence with members of the bar, in the judiciary and so forth. They have completed a march through the institutions. It is only a question of time before the Muslim Brotherhood is sitting in the government in Egypt.
 
Liminski: In Islamic countries, Mr. Raddatz, there is the unity of state and religion. Din wa Daula is the term for it. Is secularization such as Europe has gone through possible without destroying the essence of Islam? At first glance, it seems to have worked in Turkey. At any rate, President Erdogan praised the democratic conditions in Turkey yesterday evening in Düsseldorf.
 
Raddatz: Yes, well, Mr. Erdogan has recently said all sorts of things publicly that demonstrate the opposite. Not very long ago at all, he called democracy a barbaric form of government, and many other things of that sort. Mr. Erdogan’s comments are fig leaves suited to the needs of the situation.

Let us not forget that re-Islamization has also taken place in Turkey. The last twenty years have been shaped by it, And we dare not forget that Mr. Erdogan is the head of an Islamic party. And on the other hand, we must take notice in Europe of a move away from democracy. We need only look at the EU. That EU countries giving up their sovereignty to Brussels, to an unelected tier, is proof enough — aside from the multi-party state structures in the EU states, especially Germany — is by itself proof, that we are not exactly in the act of dissolving. but in a process that seriously gouges at the operating rules of democracy. So, when the talk is of Egypt which is, or is supposed to be, on its way to democracy, then we must also have an eye on our own, politically propagated idea of democracy, which is no longer what the constitution says. The democracy we are living has less and less to do with the requirements which are written down in the constitution.
 
Liminski: But we have experienced a secularization in Europe. Is this secularization possible in Islamic lands?
 
Raddatz: Excuse me for not having gone into that yet. It connects directly to the question, for secularization means primarily science. Secularization in Europe has been driven by science to the present day. Such a movement cannot, could not and will not be in Islam, because science is diametrically opposed to the Islamic law of the absorption of the individual person through the instructions of the Koran and tradition. That is the main reason why science has languished all this time. It is always said: on the basis of the scientific achievements of the Muslims, that Europe could never have existed without Islam. There were such accomplishments, but they ceased in the 12th or 13th century, while our scientific movement was beginning during the Renaissance. 700 years ago we began a reverse movement, and developed in the way known to all, while in these 700 years, the scientific movement and with it secularization were blocked in Islam

So. to that extent, historical development is quite clearly against secularization. If it should take place at all, then it can only happen harmonically, so-to-speak organically — if I may use the somewhat odd expression, not overnight in a test tube. That is out of the question.
 
Liminski: Democracy and Islam — a combination with many question marks. Here in German Radio, this has been the Islam expert and multiple author, Hans-Peter Raddatz. Thank you very much Mr. Raddatz.
 
Raddatz: Not at all.


Hat tip: Andy Bostom.

18 comments:

Zenster said...

Per Raddatz: Islam has no history which would have been able to create democratic structures.

This remains the central point. Such traditions as the right to political or religious dissent, free speech plus separation of church and state all need to be in place pretty much simultaneously. Islam deliberately militates against any such convergence of socially liberating factors.

This situation yields Islamic law. Islamic law regulates daily life down to the last detail, and there is no room for democratic developments.

The foregoing is a misperception. It is not a lack of “room for democratic developments”, the entire notion of democratically enacted manmade laws flies directly in the face of Allah’s divinely decreed Shari’a law

I am again obliged to quote bin Laden’s late second-in-command, Yusef al-Ayyeri:

What Al-Ayyeri sees now is a "clean battlefield" in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief. This, he labels "secularist democracy." This threat is "far more dangerous to Islam" than all its predecessors combined. The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy's "seductive capacities." This form of "unbelief" persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the "unalterable laws" promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic shariah (jurisprudence) until the end of time.

The goal of democracy, according to Al-Ayyeri, is to "make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad." If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity, which, in turn, would make Muslims "reluctant to die in martyrdom" in defense of their faith.
[emphasis added]

Furthermore, Islam’s entire superstructure of exclusive male privilege is vulnerable to the fact that women typically are a demographic majority and how giving them the vote would endanger that deeply misogynistic and preferential system. Universal suffrage is just one small yet significant example of the many incompatibilities that exist between Islam and Western-style governance.

Zenster said...

Per Liminski: In Islamic countries, Mr. Raddatz, there is the unity of state and religion. Din wa Daula is the term for it.

The simple fact that there is a specific term (i.e., Din wa Daula), for the lack of separation of church and state should provide a glimpse of just how improbable it is to secularize Islam.

Is secularization such as Europe has gone through possible without destroying the essence of Islam?

In a word: No.

At first glance, it seems to have worked in Turkey. At any rate, President Erdogan praised the democratic conditions in Turkey yesterday evening in Düsseldorf.

Far too many people continue to confuse Democracy with the formation of a successful secular state. One prime example is the Democratic election of Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization. Fortunately, Raddatz is well aware of Erdogan’s disinformation. As noted above, there exist numerous other socio-political traditions that are needed in order to precondition the soil from which one hopes that secular government will spring.

The landscape of Islamic cultures is too sere and stringent for so delicate a hothouse flower as secular government. When one examines who is most likely to support such a genuinely progressive movement, it is those youth who have had greater exposure to Western thinking and institutions. Such young people have very little political influence in the traditional Islamic world. Their major role is, and always has been, that of cannon fodder or worse.

It is highly unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood will tolerate even a slight inclusion of such un-Islamic practices. If any sort of thing is allowed, it will be solely in the role of window dressing for the sake of receiving continued Western financial aid and not much else.

Robert L. said...

The great question is whether Islam can produce its own John Locke, such that people do not turn to either priests or imams to the answer the question of rule. Put differently, the great question for Islam is whether theology can be privatized, such that the temporal realm can become properly political. Only then* can you have a liberal polity ("liberal" in the proper sense). Contrary to people who denounce a fixed essence to Islam, the religion does in fact have a strongly political core insofar as it understands revelation through a given Law as opposed to faith.
---
* The reason why this is the most fundamental phenomenon of a sound polity is most effectively explained in Harry Jaffa's classic essay "The American Founding as the Best Regime: The Bonding of Civil and Religious Liberty" available for free at the Claremont Institute website.

Derek Bauer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek Bauer said...

With regard to Raddatz's remarks on Islam and science (and knowledge in general) in the Muslim world, this is borne out for the Arab world by the Arab Human Development Report 2003. There's no other word for it than "shocking". An example: "This disparity was revealed in the first half of the 1980s when the average number of books translated per 1 million people in the Arab world during the 5-year period was 4.4, less than one book for every million Arabs), while in Hungary it was 519, and in Spain 920."

Hesperado said...

Zenster anticipated my critique. I will add mine, as it might not be entirely a redundant addition to what Zenster argued.

Raddatz expresses only the negative formulation:

Islam has no history which would have been able to create democratic structures.

Without supplying the positive formulation, one would be tempted to place some hope in an Islamic secularization process. The positive formulation would be:

Islamic law -- which is the flesh, blood and bones of Islam (there is no soul of Islam other than an entropic abyss of Satanic voracity) -- positively mandates that no society, no sociopolitical system on Earth, should be created, organized and managed through "man-made" laws -- but only through the "divine" laws given by Allah to Mohammed as ordained in the Koran and as meticulously (if in a quaintly jumbled and literarily labyrinthine way) articulated in the Hadiths and further clarified in the Tafasir.

To organize society (and sociopolitical systems) by "man-made" laws -- which is the unique genius of the modern West (reasonably derived, in part, from the Incarnational Christology (and thus theology) of Christianity) -- is not merely one choice among many for Muslims, to take or leave, and if to leave, to calmly and maturely criticize in abstract terms: it is positively a mortal blasphemy that must not only be rejected by Muslims (for to accept it would be to reject Islam and thus to reject Allah and Mohammed): it must be taken away with force and violence from Infidels wherever Infidels have the audacity to set up societies and sociopolitical systems on Allah's Green Earth.

Zenster said...

Hesperado: …there is no soul of Islam other than an entropic abyss of Satanic voracity…

As Rabbi Hillel observed:

The opposite of human is not the animal, it is the demonic.

Regardless of faith or belief, it is long overdue for people to begin characterizing Islam as a diabolical entity. If there is to be any meaning to the word “evil”, it is most certainly Islam. No genuinely spiritual creed could possibly enshrine so much enslavement, murder and constant human misery. More than anything, no Creator worth worshiping would ever reward with paradise the wanton slaughter of his own creations.

Hesperado said...

I agree Zenster.

I concluded a couple of years ago that mere sociological, psychological, or philosophical explanations don't explain the whole of Islam -- they explain parts, but they don't do justice to its Gestalt. Whatever that is, "Satanic" or "demonic" would be apt sympbolism by which to express the seemingly irreducible evil, in all its myriad permutations, that seems to motivate and characterize Islam.

imnokuffar said...

Is Secularisation possible in Islam ?

When pigs fly.

sheik yer'mami said...

Ataturk did it.

That means it can be done, but it can only be done with a replacement religion, with 'Turkishness' or some such. And it can't be done democratically, it has to be done under the barrel of the gun.

But then again, it might not be possible anymore today, because this is the age of information technology, that's what brought about the Iranian Islamic revolution.

It can only be done when it is backed by a ruthless and secular military. I don't see that in any Islamic country.

Ergo: Islamization is happening now, radicalization is spreading, we need to get organized and defend ourselves.

Elan-tima said...

This posting can lead to the question that if secular democracy(in any civilized form) cannot develop in any region where islam has taken a firm hold, then what can be said of those after "Moe the Mad" who developed its infrastructure? Although there is nowhere on the planet where islam was accepted peacefully, its methods were fine tuned over centuries by predominantly the people of the middle east. So can we conclude that islam is in fact a inevitable development of the middle eastern people and we should therefore not only combat the product but extricate us from any meaningfull exposure to those who produced the product of islam?

Remember that a defineing moment of Western Civility was at the battle of Marathon where the Greeks threw back the forces of the middle east then lead by the Persians and that was a thousand years before the pox of islam was churned from the bowels of the middle east. Had the Greeks lost and the seeds of Civility been squashed by middle eastern culture could we believe that over time Civilization would sprout from the spoiled soil of barbarisms garden?

I may be misreading from between the lines but I think that Mr Raddetz is implying that where
islam originated, they are group selectively incapable of any other social model.

Elan-tima said...

As per Ataturk, he and others like Saddam Huesein did nothing more than parrot some aspects of European society which we see now was superficial and within a generation easily reversed.

Alexander the great went all the way to Afganistan and set up greek style instituions all along the way but nothing bacame of it.

You can teach a parrot to talk but they won't be pontificating polemics any time soon.

Zenster said...

sheik yer'mami: It [secularization] can only be done when it is backed by a ruthless and secular military. I don't see that in any Islamic country.

Put another way; only equal (or greater) opposing force can counter Islam's brute tyrannizing of all it surveys. This goes back to my own observation that Islam must always be repaid in its own coin. There is no other currency or tender, save violence, that Islam will respond to favorably. Taken a step further, taqiyya deliberately assures the failure of diplomacy or negotiated compromise of any other sort.

Elan-tima: …that was a thousand years before the pox of Islam was churned from the bowels of the Middle East.

Quite the colorful and equally appropriate turn of phrase there. Good show.

… I think that Mr Raddetz is implying that [because of] where Islam originated, they are group selectively incapable of any other social model.

This certainly seems to be the case. If one notes how three of the world's predominate creeds originated in the Middle East, there seems to reside in its inhabitants a ferocious "need" to believe.

This may be the result of living in an environment whose unforgiving nature readily inculcates a fatalistic and rather stark outlook. Polarization, fanaticism and — driven by intense competition for resources — even genocide are relatively predictable outgrowths of dwelling in such an extreme climate.

The austerity of Wahhabism derives from a nomadic existence that regarded anything not eminently transportable as an untenable luxury. Wealth and comfort remained relatively foreign concepts to most of the area's inhabitants for much of its history. Small wonder that rewards of the hereafter play such a considerable role in regional beliefs.

As per Ataturk, he and others like Saddam Huesein did nothing more than parrot some aspects of European society which we see now was superficial and within a generation easily reversed.

Islam's early abandonment of ijtihad (independent analysis) and adoption of taqlid (blind imitation) goes a long way towards explaining why such commendable traits like civility did not take better root. Again, the region itself promotes formation of an alkali crust that resists any accretion of civilization's more timid moss.

1389 said...

@sheik yer'mami,

Ataturk did it only temporarily, and only superficially.

"Turkishness" didn't work as a substitute for a religion. And considering how Ataturk persecuted and slaughtered Christians, I'm no fan of his, to put it mildly.

Now if the neighboring Greeks and Eastern Slavs could manage to roll back Islam and reintroduce Orthodox Christianity into Turkey, you'd have something there. The emerging body politic wouldn't be a "democracy" (I don't like that term; it means 'mob rule' and anybody who wants that is just plain nuts) but it could be a viable republic (which is the idea that the US was founded upon).

Kudos to Raddatz for pointing this out:

So, when the talk is of Egypt which is, or is supposed to be, on its way to democracy, then we must also have an eye on our own, politically propagated idea of democracy, which is no longer what the constitution says. The democracy we are living has less and less to do with the requirements which are written down in the constitution.

Magatouve said...

There is nothing about Islam that makes it more resistant to democracy or secularisation than any other religion in the world. Christianity in Europe in the 15th & 16th century resisted secularisation as much as many Muslims are doing now. Almost everything you said about Islam that makes presumably "un-secularizable", would have applied to Catholicism which had, for example, the inquisition. Secularisation is a sociological process of differentiation and this process have been happening in almost all parts of the world to varying degrees. Depending on social and economic factors, the secularisation of Muslim societies will go faster, slower, or reverse (some say in Europe & America it's being reversed now with the growing power of the Catholic Church and Pentecostalism). There is no need for prejudice against any specific religion as essentially x or y or z. Judaism at one point of history were characterised as anti-modern, remember?

Homophobic Horse said...

"There is no need for prejudice against any specific religion as essentially x or y or z. "

Yes, there's no need to think, such as by ascribing x or y or z to this or that thing, everything will work out in an inevitable dialectical process of enlightenment.

Zenster said...

Magatouve: There is nothing about Islam that makes it more resistant to democracy or secularisation than any other religion in the world.

Thank you. I really needed a good larf today.

Magatouve said...

Zenster:
If you looked at Christianity in the 14th or 15th centuries or even later when Gallileo was being tried for his astronomical views: you would've had the same "good larf" on anyone claiming that Europe can be ever democratic or secular.