Secularism confronts Islam

The author has already written elsewhere about the failure of political Islam because of the non-compatibility of the Islamic imaginary with the structure of the modern state. A political agenda based on Revelation will be bound to coercively suit society to law rather than the other way around.

Olivier Roy, France’s leading philosopher-political scientist, disagrees with the way France is handling its ‘Muslim problem’ and warns it against what it calls Islamophobia, a collective sickness that will harm the country. He invites France to revisit its resistance to affording public space to religion and to differentiate between Islamic neo-fundamentalism, which is observance without demanding a separate state, and which is what the French Muslims want, and Islamism which assumes an Islamic state, and is plaguing the Islamic world. The expatriate Muslim in the West has integrated into the host culture less and less over the years. Two approaches to expatriate workers — assimilationism and multiculturalism — have failed. Assimilation insists that the expatriate person accept the local culture in public places to become a full-fledged citizen. Multiculturalism believes that Islam is a deep-seated culture too and will not fade away as new generations come and go. One approach opposes separation; the other allows separation to achieve integration. Both approaches have failed. Assimilationist France doesn’t allow the wearing of veil to Muslim girls in public places, and has caused protest. Multiculturalist UK, Belgium and Germany are poised to also follow France and restrict the wearing of the Muslim veil because allowing Muslim citizens to remain separate has not led to integration. Roy seeks resolution within the matrix of Western values and observance of human rights and thinks that remedies sought officially now are all wrong. He differentiates between the secularism of the UK where religion is kept out of public life through a culture of values and a way of life, and the laïcité of France where religion has been expelled from public places through a legalism agreed to by the Catholic Church. Yet he notes a lot of defence of Christian values in secular Europe through a damning interpretation of Islam. Writers like Oriana Fallaci not only condemn Islam for being against the culture of the West but claim that the Muslims are incapable of integrating because of their faith. Khaled Ahmed reports.

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