Thursday, October 20, 2005

Secularism allows for religious differences

"From the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, until its 20th century secular revolution under Mustafa Kemal aka Atatürk separated the Turkish mosque and state, Islamic authority in that country included civil, military and police powers as well as religious observance.

In the establishment of the republic in 1923, Turkey became more than a secular state. It also westernized itself by adopting the Latin alphabet in the place of Arab script, encouraging European dress, and banning the Fez."

"But secular is supposed to mean a separation of religion and state. A secular state should allow for religious differences, and by and large it does. What is at issue is mostly secular society, not religion, or its separation from the state.

If you do not have to be Christian to be French, Dutch or German, you can be an adherent to a church. You can also be Muslim, or Jewish, or practice any other religion — or you should be able to — to be a European.

So the debate over Turkey and the EU is very much a debate over what place a Western secular society accords its Islamic minority."

"Turkey is a secular society that is also almost entirely Muslim. Western societies that have Muslim minorities and want to block Turkey have to understand what is being said if that happens. If a Muslim society cannot enter Europe, then Muslims must find their future with other Muslims. In other words the world must organize itself around religion. Surely this is what the secular revolution in Europe — and in Turkey — was meant to avoid."
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