Secularism as a Protector of Religion: The Arab Islamists and Erdogan's Turkish Islam

Analysis, posted 10.24.2011, from Turkey, in:
Secularism as a Protector of Religion: The Arab Islamists and Erdogan's Turkish Islam (Photo: picture alliance/dpa)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's advice to the Egyptians, to draw up a constitution based on the "principles of secularism and respect for all religions, and guaranteeing each and everyone the freedom to practice his religion," has surely left Islamists and Salafists in Egypt incensed.

But this lesson on secularism and the civil state, delivered to the Arab Islamists by the Turkish premier during a television interview on his last visit to Cairo, definitely came at the right time. Even post-Arab Spring, most narrow-minded Arab Islamists continue to regard secularism per se as the "brother of faithlessness" and the "enemy of religion".

To date, this secularism to which they have been so fiercely hostile has not been introduced in any Arab country in the same manner as in Turkey, where Atatürk's military chose its most radical form. Consequently it can be assumed that political Islam in Turkey appears as the definitive opponent of secularism – a radical approach that has struck it to the very core.

But in actual fact, here of all places modern Turkish Islamists have set themselves on a course marked by a maturity that has enabled them to recognize the true essence of moderate secularism – a secularism that neither labels religion as the enemy, nor persecutes its manifestations in the hearts of the people, in houses of worship, or on the headscarf issue.

All that secularism wants in principle is the private adherence to religion at home, in places of prayer and on religious occasions – not a religion that dominates and steers the public domain, in particular politics, thereby becoming a behemoth that represses the freedom of others.

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By Khaled Hroub; Translated by Nina Coon

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