Secularism

Aug 21st, 2007, in News, by

Secularism is not to be feared by Muslims.

Azyumardi Azra said in Jakarta on 20th August that religion in Indonesia would flourish in a secular environment, would be reborn in a new and dynamic fashion. While most people think that modernisation naturally brings about:

Secularism that causes religion to decline, become irrelevant, and even die.

In fact, while this does occur to some extent, modernisation also creates a "counter-secularization" movement in which theology adapts itself to the new situation, and therefore religious life survives in modified form, and in a form that supports modernising efforts.

Azyumardi Azra
Azyumardi Azra.

Counter-secularization not only occurs in backward and Muslim countries but also in the advanced world, like America, where Azyumardi sees the neo-conservative movement as an example of it.

In reality the ideas of the "neo-cons" exist in every religion and what had to be avoided, he said, was a worldwide confrontation between the neo-conservatives of the West and the neo-conservatives of the Muslim world, a confrontation that could threaten the survival of the species. antara


26 Comments on “Secularism”

  1. avatar Sylvester says:

    Good, this moslem guy is enlighted.
    Wish more of these kind of guys in Indo.

  2. avatar Colson says:

    Wise words of a sensible man. Or so it seems.

  3. avatar Djoko says:

    Not sure if its just the report, or if its his actual thought, but it sounds a bit confused to me:

    ‘counter-secularization’ is good:

    In fact, while this does occur to some extent, modernisation also creates a “counter-secularization” movement in which theology adapts itself to the new situation, and therefore religious life survives in modified form, and in a form that supports modernising efforts.

    but it is also bad:

    Counter-secularization not only occurs in backward and Muslim countries but also in the advanced world, like America, where Azyumardi sees the neo-conservative movement as an example of it.

    In reality the ideas of the “neo-cons” exist in every religion and what had to be avoided

    So is ‘counter-secularization’ what some would otherwise call ‘radical’ movements? I don’ think Azyumardi would agree to that (being a staunch critic of radical groups who reject secularization) Or is he talking about some other counter secularization movement (liberal Muslims perhaps? but aren’t they the ones, like himself, so heavily in support of secularization)? Sounds like a lot of tail chasing.

    This just highlights the problem with liberal groups and thinkers that so many people (especially in the Western world) are pinning their hopes on. They still lack coherency, not being liberal enough for most liberals and not being Muslim enough for most Muslims. Indonesia in particular is still waiting for a Muslim or group of Muslims who are able to bring together the disjointed ideas of a lot of progressive Muslim thinkers (Cak Nur, Gus Dur, Ulil, and so on) and provide a clear vision of what they mean. I’m waiting too, because the longer they dither and dather the stronger more conservative groups will become.

  4. avatar Augusto says:

    Wise words but inapplicable! He said “Secularism is not to be feared by Muslims” How could that be? There is no doubt that secularism contradicts Islam in every aspect. They are two different paths that never meet; choosing one means rejecting the other. Hence, whoever chooses Islam has to reject secularism. Sharia (the rule of Allah) is the ultimate goal for every good (devout) Muslims. The Rule of Allah is compulsory and has basic laws and regulations that cannot be changed. Secularism makes lawful what Allah has made unlawful, for instance regarding the relations between men and women. Secularism makes adultery lawful if the male and the female are consenting adults. In a full blown sharia stoning is mandatory for adultery.

    As for taking interest (riba) which is the basis for all financial transaction in a secular economy, this contradicts with sharia too. Allah clearly said in his quran (2:278) “O you who believe, fear Allah and leave what comes from Riba if you are believers. If you do not do so, then wait for a war from Allah and His Messenger.” That is why good Muslim always want sharia banking system and not to mention that hallal and haram thing.

    As for alcohol, all secular systems allow the consumption of alcohol and make selling it a lawful business. What is the punishment for drinking alcohol in islam? Go to Aceh and drink some beer on the beach see what you get if caught red handed by the Islamic moral police.

    Anyway if islam is compatible with secularism we won’t be arguing about it in the first place, because Indonesia has long been a secular country only until when the Muslims started to become devout and demand sharia just like what is going down in Malaysia lately.

  5. avatar KSJ says:

    I think Indonesia should consult France on this issue since France has succeeded in the secularization in spite of resistance from its Muslim population.

  6. avatar Colson says:

    @Djoko: You have a point. Yet the “analysis”of Azyumardi may be right; secularization may lead to modern accommodation of the religion, but a reactionary reflex (radicalism) is as likely. As a matter of fact radical Christian neocons in the US and political Islamists unfortunately seem to prove his case.

    @KSJ: That remains to be seen. In the suburbs, the banlieus, despite Sarkozy or maybe even because of Sarkozy, there still are no-go areas where anything could happen.

    I don’t think nowadays France is a shining example of integration of the large Muslim minorities.

  7. avatar David says:

    it sounds a bit confused to me

    I was half way through writing it when I realised the original report didn’t make full sense, I often start writing things without reading the original to the end – anyway it was too late to stop and I had nothing else going today.

  8. avatar Djoko says:

    Patung said:

    I was half way through writing it when I realised the original report didn’t make full sense, I often start writing things without reading the original to the end – anyway it was too late to stop and I had nothing else going today.

    hehe no worries patung. After reading the original what you have written is more or less what he said anyway. Could well be that he was talking on a too philosophical level for the people at Antara to effectively organise what he meant. That in itself is an issue, but anyway…

    Colson said

    @Djoko: You have a point. Yet the “analysis” of Azyumardi may be right; secularization may lead to modern accommodation of the religion, but a reactionary reflex (radicalism) is as likely. As a matter of fact radical Christian neocons in the US and political Islamists unfortunately seem to prove his case.

    I know that secularization might lead to the emergence of radicalism as a counter to it, but what I am more interested in is what he means when he talks of the possibility of a ‘counter secularization’ movement which still gives a place for religion while also accepting modernity. I’m still waiting to see what such a movement might look like, because the current options at the moment are either still too radically religious (PKS as an example) or otherwise not ‘counter secularization’ at all, but rather full blown ‘pro secularization’ (JIL, Paramadina, Azyumardi and so on included).

  9. avatar KSJ says:

    @KSJ: That remains to be seen. In the suburbs, the banlieus, despite Sarkozy or maybe even because of Sarkozy, there still are no-go areas where anything could happen.

    I don’t think nowadays France is a shining example of integration of the large Muslim minorities.

    Paris riots had nothing to do with religion. It was because of social economic problems the immigrants in France are facing. Anyway… Muslim immigrants are unlikely to integrate in France because they do not want to accept French values, they want to implement the Islamic laws in France which are unacceptable by ‘native’ French people. Secularization in France is applicable to all citizens no matter what religious background. Ban on Muslim hijabs (jilbabs) is the same rule as ban on wearing Christian crucifix.
    Sarkozy is doing his job good, Muslim must adapt and integrate to European values if they want to live there, otherwise they can go to Saudi Arabia or any Arab country to immigrant and leave Western values alone.

  10. avatar Colson says:

    @KSJ: Well, no big deal: we just differ of opinion. On the merits of Sarkozy and on the significance of some facts.

    Just for the record: the riots were not just in and around Paris. And yes, you are right: social-economic causes were at the root of them. They still are.

    If you are poor, if you are rejected or neglected by the society, if you have no better future in sight, if you are considered a nobody – well maybe. just maybe, that’s enough motivation for looking elsewhere for a worthy identity. In those circumstances some (in Jakarta as well as Paris) may look for an other way to distinguish oneself – radical religion, Islamism, for some of them may look like a solution to be proud of oneself. That’s a threat to secularism.

    Strict law and law enforcement is not the right answer (Loïc Wacquant: Punir les pauvres. Le nouveau gouvernement de l’insecurité sociale, 2004). I don’t think Islambashers are a great help to preserve or establish a secular society either. But, unfortunately, it is just that what seems to be the way people like Sarkozy, want it.

    So I hardly think that nowadays France presents a useful solution for a secular Indonesia.

  11. avatar KSJ says:

    To Colson:

    You’re right, poverty is just a fuel to radical Islamism. As to French secularization system, I said Indonesia should CONSULT France, and it is Indonesia’s decision whether to implement secularization or not and which style. I know that Indonesia is still far far away from what developed democratic countries have achieved. Fighting against the poverty must be the priority at the moment, I guess.

  12. avatar Shorty says:

    ”……Secularism is not to be feared by Muslims….” or Christians, budhists, Jews, taosists or calathumpians.

    Under secularism we can have this dialogue, we can criticize, refute, blaspheme, challenge, we can express our own spiritual views without fear of sanction.

    If ri was to become a non secular (Muslim) state would this web site exist? If it did, who amongst the contributors would fell secure?

    I’m a little biased, but if you want to look historically at the sense and sensibility of secularism, I’d vote the following as #1 and #2.

    #1 Turkey, Kamal Attaturk.
    #2 Indonesia, Sukarno, Hatta and others with pancasila.

    Remember, a secure person/identity is one who can accomodate/tolerate and not persecute those who disagree.

  13. avatar KSJ says:

    To Shorty,
    It is the Muslims who always fear of freedom or secularism because they always want to implement shariah laws wherever they live.

  14. avatar Sylvester says:

    Radical moslem like wahabis want islamic countries based on sharia. Indo which is founded in 1945 is secular, thanks to Sukarno & Hatta.
    Secularism is the only umbrella in multi religion world. To work properly, it need moralism and humanism, otherwise it will become devilsm.

  15. avatar Djoko says:

    I’m a little biased, but if you want to look historically at the sense and sensibility of secularism, I’d vote the following as #1 and #2.

    #1 Turkey, Kamal Attaturk.
    #2 Indonesia, Sukarno, Hatta and others with pancasila.

    Both had great tolerance… as long as you agreed with exactly what they said. Too bad if you didn’t, you had a habit of being thrown in jail or killed outright. Soekarno might have provided the broad outline of pancasila, but don’t forget the man who most ruthlessly enforced it was Soeharto. As for Attaturk, well the militaristic remnants of his version of secularism are trying to cut up Turkey’s democracy now just because the wife of a potential presidential (or is it prime ministerial, forget now) candidate wears a jilbab. That’s not secularism which respects the rights of all.

    I just find it disappointing that those who promote liberalism and secularism will so quickly justify the existence of secular authoritarian governments in order to stem any role of religion in public life. People like that are no better than religious radicals who want a religious authoritarian government.

    Remember, a secure person/identity is one who can accomodate/tolerate and not persecute those who disagree.

    The fact that the two examples you mentioned above often had to resort to the military and violence to ensure that their views prevailed hardly seems to fit the description of a ‘secure person/identity’ you have described.

  16. avatar Colson says:

    @Djoko: The new president of Turkey will be Gül, the former Foreign minister.

    Incidentally, I do agree with you that dictatorships often use secularism to suppress religious movements. You could have mentioned the Sowjet Union, the People’s Republic of China or Nazi Germany as terrible examples. But on the other hand religions tend to be totalitarian as well – if you don’t want the state to be totalitarian theocracy, the separation between the two is necessary. To put it different: a secular state is a necessary precondition for a workable democracy. But that does not mean there will not be a viable religion; secularism didn’t drive out religion in postwar Germany ( the Christian Democrats are even in power now for instance) or Brasil or, for that matter, in Indonesia. On the contrary.

    Those who advocate secularism ( i for one) are not opposed to religion at all, but want to prevent that the absolute and eternal truth of some, will be enforced on all by the powers of the state. In stead they want to make sure the state should be neutral and protect all citizens to make their own choices in spiritual matters.

  17. avatar Djoko says:

    Those who advocate secularism ( i for one) are not opposed to religion at all, but want to prevent that the absolute and eternal truth of some, will be enforced on all by the powers of the state. In stead they want to make sure the state should be neutral and protect all citizens to make their own choices in spiritual matters.

    I agree here. But I worry sometimes that some supporters of secularism allow themselves to develop their own set of ‘eternal truths’, which justify violence against others. I saw a recent post on JIL’s website where Luthfi Assyaukanie pretty much put up defense of the military government in Pakistan because the main opposition there are radical Islamic groups. Obviously we can’t expect him to support the conservative religious opposition (being as anti-secularist as they are), but the principles of justice behind secularism are eroded every time you need a jackboot to enforce them.

    I worry that this tendency from some secularists will only further poison its appeal to Muslims as it adds to the list of examples that the Islamic hardliners can point at when talking about the ‘double standard of secularism/democracy’.

    Secularism will only start to take real root in countries like Indonesia when the case for it can be made without deferring violence.

  18. avatar landawan says:

    Mas Djoko there is indeed a new secularism emerging in the west. It is a secularism that following the religiously inspired madness, hatred and violence of the last few years…from all the usual suspects, it is a secularism that has no time for religious people’s attitudes beyond courtesys. It is difficult to maintain respect for any religious follower anymore. Afterall one common thread of all is supposedly love and peace…a great flop all of them on that level.

    I’ve had enough of hearing all about it myself. Clearly if you want to live according to “God’s” rules…you have to abandon religion.

  19. avatar Colson says:

    @Djoko: Indeed, military dictators – like the one in Pakistan – often abuse secularism. And I also have to surrender on another issue; anyone who claims that politicians often practice “double standards” probably is in the right (“let’s take democracy to Iraq – and don’t forget to take control of the oil wells”).

    But I frown on the assumption some people seem to hold that Muslims are the preferred target. Indeed I know some Muslims like to parade as “victims”. Not a clear and overwhelming truth, taking the facts into account. But sometimes they have a point (Palestine!). Like the really poor black and white “trash” people of the US have one when they think they are screwed by Bush. Or when the neglected North African Muslims in the French banlieus reproach the French government lack of interest. But this stand should not be exaggerated and for sure won’t help or can even work out counterproductive. The only result may be that narrow minded Muslims at least can blame others (“the west”, liberal values, democracy) for the backward condition they or their brothers/sisters are in and go on bathing in their own sterile righteousness.

    But in my opinion all of us should be grateful for democracy and secularism. It’s because West-European countries are secular for instance, that the Muslim minorities ( c.q. Islam) have not been not treated different from Christians ( c.q. Christianity) by the state. Like it always used to be the other way round in Indonesia. Which is actually, and unfortunately, quite different from the way it is in Muslim ( semi-) theocracies like Saudi A. or Iran. Or Roman Catholic Vatican-city.

  20. avatar KSJ says:

    But in my opinion all of us should be grateful for democracy and secularism. It’s because West-European countries are secular for instance, that the Muslim minorities ( c.q. Islam) have not been not treated different from Christians ( c.q. Christianity) by the state. Like it always used to be the other way round in Indonesia. Which is actually, and unfortunately, quite different from the way it is in Muslim ( semi-) theocracies like Saudi A. or Iran. Or Roman Catholic Vatican-city.

    Oh gosh… Colson, you’re absolutely right!! I am grateful for democracy and secularism I am enjoying here in Europe. It is really good.

  21. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:

    Colson said

    Those who advocate secularism ( i for one) are not opposed to religion at all, but want to prevent that the absolute and eternal truth of some, will be enforced on all by the powers of the state. In stead they want to make sure the state should be neutral and protect all citizens to make their own choices in spiritual matters.

    However the problem is more complicated, at least here in Indonesia. ‘Freedom of religion’ should also include ‘freedom from religion’. But how can this be applied in a nation whose Constitution is based on the Pancasila whose first principle is ‘Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa’ (= belief in one unique god). Has the Pancasila to be abolished or amended? If this is to happen then it’s goodbye to KNRI.
    Which in the end might not be such a bad idea.

  22. avatar Shorty says:

    Djoko, I listed turkey and ri as a state ‘philosophy’ which could minimise conflict arising from religious and ethnic diversity, a philosophy which gave no precedence other than the ballot box over any other group.

    Excess and abuse by subsequent administrations doesn’t condemn the philosophy.

    Corruption in Indonesia would occur no matter whether it is a secular or non secular state.

  23. avatar Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Re,

    Oh gosh”¦ Colson, you’re absolutely right!! I am grateful for democracy and secularism I am enjoying here in Europe. It is really good.

    Won’t be long, brother. Shariah is compatible with democracy and secularism, and is creeping into Europe. Check this out,
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/012204.php/

    You can run but you can’t hide. The sun of Islam is going to shine and flush you out of your master’s shadow.

  24. avatar KSJ says:

    Won’t be long, brother. Shariah is compatible with democracy and secularism, and is creeping into Europe. Check this out,
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/012204.php/

    You can run but you can’t hide. The sun of Islam is going to shine and flush you out of your master’s shadow.

    European leaders will not let Europe to become ‘Eurabia’. France led by Sarkozy is getting tough on their Muslim immigrants, Spain is not inviting workers from Arabian neighbors and the EU will not likely admit Turkish application to become its member. So… Muslims someday will be driven out of Europe to serve their Sheikh Ali Baba in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Iran (oh… life is better off there).

  25. avatar Pena Budaya says:

    Indonesia in particular is still waiting for a Muslim or group of Muslims who are able to bring together the disjointed ideas of a lot of progressive Muslim thinkers (Cak Nur, Gus Dur, Ulil, and so on) and provide a clear vision of what they mean. I’m waiting too, because the longer they dither and dather the stronger more conservative groups will become.

    I am waiting for a group of Indonesians who dares to support the real truth of freedom of religions. The real freedom of religions should includes the right for NOT HAVING ANY. Any Indonesian dares to join me?

  26. avatar landawan says:

    The real freedom of religions should includes the right for NOT HAVING ANY

    Thats cool Pena Budaya…but freedom FROM religion is probably even better. For example I’d like to see some comparisons in crime rates between a very secular country such as Sweden or Norway compared to a religious country such as Arab Saudi & the US! A corruption yardstick might make interesting viewing as well. All conjecture and anecdotal.

    It is difficult in Indonesia because indoctrination begins from the time one can speak and rarely, if ever have i heard a voice denouncing religion. Culture is considered by some a vile affliction partly for the way it allows irrationality such as religion to creep into consciousness.

    Because culture has so many pleasant aspects I hope that we can “cherry pick” those good bits, unlike religion which is more virulent…eventually “fundamentalists” emerge from even the most benign sounding philosophy

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