The presence of religion in public space challenges our ideas about the roles of faith in our lives and politics. Over the last centuries, proponents of secularisation have claimed that as societies modernise, the role of religion in public and private life diminishes
For them, modern rationality, science, and the ideal of representative governments as sovereign replace religion as a source of authority, regulation, and security. But a new claim is that religion is necessary for us today, not despite modernity, but precisely because of it. Religion is required in the public space, it is argued, because only faith can amend the deficits and alleviate the pain caused by modern life. Since the 1970s, the secularisation thesis has been forced onto the defensive as a tide of religiosity — often “fundamentalist” in nature — gained renewed influence in the major traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Religion has thus returned to overtly public and political matters.
But how closely can sacred teachings inform politics and governance? The prism of the Muslim Middle East shows how the public role of religion has varied over time. In the late 19th century Middle East, several religious movements emerged in response to Islam’s encounter with the European colonial conquest and modernity. Traditionalists such as Wahabis sought to preserve their culturally specific Islamic heritage. The modernist trend, spearheaded by cosmopolitan leaders such as Jamal eddin Afghani and Mohammad Abdou, advocated an evolving Islam that would coexist and flourish within this emerging modernity. And some people demanded separating Islam from the state entirely. Read original post: