There has been much discussion over the decline of religion due to modernity and enlightenment. Max Weber called it disenchantment. Extreme movements have even attempted to abolish religion entirely. Religions are alive and well. They exert a large and profound influence on the public sphere.
Is this a threat for secularism? Are religion and extremism part of the problem or part of the solution to global extremism? This is not a call for the end of the religious state. It is a critique of Western secularism as a dominant global ideology. It criticizes certain forms of separation between politics and religion.
Extremism Is A Result Of Religion?
It is common in modern times to view religion as a problem-maker. This is often the case after any violent incident anywhere in the world, where religion is just one of many factors in the violence.
This is a clear indication that secularism, at least in Western terms, has moved beyond the separation of religion and state. Charles Taylor refers to this as the condition of belief. It places a strong emphasis on the necessity for God and religion being destroy, while also rejecting religious involvement in public affairs.
Rajeev Bhargava calls this ethical secularism, and says that religion is a disease in public life. Religion should made to disappear from the private sphere. This leaves no room for acknowledging the powerful role of religion and spirituality in conflict resolution and peace making.
Ethical Secularism Religion
Ethical secularism can be radicalize by putting emphasis on secular humanism, exclusive humanity or atheism above religions. A moderate version of secularism is need because of the unfairness of favouring certain parts of society over others.
This perspective would make it clearer that the relationship between religion and extremism is not related. Radical secularism also produces extremism. For example, this is true in the Middle East. The forcible imposition by the secular nation-state on the Muslim world resulted in despotism and suppression, as well as massacres, and also opened the door for Islamic fundamentalism at the expense of moderates.
Secularism as a critique of religious hegemony must not just be a mechanical repetition of violence-enacting critique, but rather the manifestation of critique as a receptivity-enacting, possibility-disclosing practice as Nikolas Kompridis argues. Abdullahi An-Naim describes secularism as a mediation system. It must encourage compromise between religious and non-religious communities, rather than prioritising and privileging one.
The problem with blaming religion is the need to distinguish between religion as an abstract phenomena and specific actions. A agency should be used to view religion, secularism, atheism, and other similar concepts. It is possible to discuss a specific religious institution, a specific secular state, or a particular religious or non-religious behaviour. Religion is complex and can be interpreted in many ways. It does not have to be oppressive or tyrannical by nature.
The History Of Peace Making
The potential for religions that have a rich history of wisdom, tradition, and spiritual experience can be part of the solution rather than the problem. The Institute of Peace reports that religious or faith-based peace making is growing in popularity and the number of cases being cited is increasing.
Some faith-based peacemaking strategies have succeeded in avoiding civil war. In its 50-year-old history, the Christian-rooted Community of Sant’Egidio has been a major contributor to peacemaking. It has 70,000 volunteers from different religions, and is a leader in peace promotion worldwide.
This community has played a role in peace negotiations in Mozambique and the Philippines, as well as other countries. Two dialogue meetings were held recently between Sunni and Shiite leaders in Iraq and Shiite religious leaders from the Catholic Church to discuss global issues in relation to extremism.
Another example is the prominent role play by Ayatollah Sistani, a Muslim-Shiite cleric. He has been instrumental in countering religious extremism as well as promoting forgiveness and peace. His actions during the occupation of Iraq and sectarian strife have been wise. They helped to avoid worse humanitarian disasters. He does not call for an Islamic state, but a democratic and civil Iraq. Recognizing and encouraging the religious contribution to peacemaking and solving various social problems must encourage.