November 21, 2012 § 2 Comments
Jacques Berlinerblau has responded to my review of his book How to Be Secular. He thinks that, unlike his conservative Christian critics, I have not ‘take[n] the time to understand what [his] arguments actually are’ and have made instead a series of ‘misleading claims’ about them. I disagree with most of Berlinerblau’s list of what he regards as my misleading claims. I don’t want to go line by line through that list refuting each and every claim. I do, however, want to take up two issues, which I regard as the most important in the debate that we are having: the question of democracy and that of how to build a constituency for secularism.
There are, in How to be Secular, two parts to Berlinerblau’s argument about democracy. The first is a political claim about how to build a coalition to promote secularism. The second is a more fundamental claim about the relationship between secularism and the democratic will. « Read the rest of this entry »
HOW IRONIC IF FEAR OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SHOULD LEAD TO POLICIES THAT ENHANCE ITS CLAIM TO POWER
January 31, 2011 § 5 Comments
The spread of the contagion of protest across North Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt and beyond, has not just been exhilarating. It has also given the lie to one of the great myths about the Muslim world – the belief that people in Muslim countries have a different mindset to those in the West, that democracy and secularism are ‘Western’ concepts alien to the political culture of Egypt or Jordan or Yemen. What the demonstrators in Cairo and Tunis have been demanding is not an Islamic state, but a more open, democratic society, with freedom of expression and the protection of individual liberties.
For many, however, the worry remains that the fall of Hosni Mubarak may lead not to a secular, democratic Egypt but to one in thrall to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood; the fear, in other words, that Egypt in 2011 could go the way of Iran in 1979. The outcome of change – especially change as dramatic and anarchic as in Egypt – can never be certain. It could be that the Muslim Brotherhood grasps the reins of power in a post-Mubarak Egypt. But if it does so, it is as likely to have been because of the bad faith of secular politicians as of popular support for Islamism. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 28, 2011 § 3 Comments
The Egyptian government is clearly attempting to portray the current revolt as the work of the Muslim Brotherhood, in an attempt to retain Western support. ‘It’s me or the Islamists’, Mubarak is in effect telling Western leaders. It’s worth reflecting, therefore, on how successive Egyptian regimes, like so many in the Arab world, have relied on Islamists to restrain popular revolt: « Read the rest of this entry »