Review of Dr. Nader Hashemi’s Talk on Secularism and Islam at CFI Toronto

Zak at Canadian Iconoclast offers his review of Hashemi’s December 23 Center For Inquiry, Toronto talk entitled Reflections on Religion and Politics in the Islamic World: Why Muslim Skepticism of Secularism is Warranted. Zak’s review of Hashemi’s talk is largely very positive. The main points of the talk, as described by Zak, were the following:

  • The successful introduction of secular democracies in the West were directed by the people for the people as a solution to religious oppression.
  • In contrast, the Islamic World experience of secularism has been one of external imposition of secularism by brutal dictatorial regimes headed by an elite class who lived separate lives away from the citizens. A question that pops to my mind is how elite and separate these leaders were. Even in Canada our leaders are clearly of the elite class and are probably rarely spotted sipping a coffee at a local Tim Horton’s or walking their dog in a public park—and it’s reasonable that they don’t as they wouldn’t be able to get their coffee or throw Rover a frisbee as they’d be getting hounded by citizens who love them, hate them, or just want to say they shook their hand.
  • Many Middle Eastern Moslems confuse secularism with state-imposed atheism, and are thus fearful that this system of governance will interfere with their right and ability to practice their faith. The main problem, however, is the bad historical experiences of the Islamic World with secular regimes.
  • Hashemi argues that in order for secularism to successfully develop in the Middle East, it must be created by the citizens themselves. They must experience what our ancestors experienced: the tyranny from a religious ruling class with no intervention from external secular powers. Given the completely understandable distrust of the West and secularism in the Middle East, Hashemi argues that the only way secularism will be able to develop and thrive in the region is by will of the people.

For the full review, follow the link above.

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