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The Construction and Deconstruction of Secularism as an Ideology in Contemporary Muslim Thought

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This article starts with a sketch of the encounters and experiences of modern secularism in four areas of the Islamic world (Turkey, Arab world, South Asia and Southeast Asia); these point to the diverse conditions and constructions that have become central issues of regional and trans-regional discourse: laizism through reform, nationalism through decolonization, Islamic nationalism through state formation, and tolerance through traditional multi-ethnic environments. In analysing the basic writings of five exemplary modern Muslim thinkers, it is shown that modern Islamic thought, tied to the idea of mutual exclusive ideological constructions of secularism and Islamism, remains ambiguous while at the same time facing the factual unfolding of secularism in Muslim countries: the works of Mawdudi contain absolute denial of secularism; al-Qaradawi argues for the strict opposition and separation of the secular and the religious; al-Attas denies that Western processes of religious secularization are applicable to the development of Islam. On the other hand, Iqbal and Rahman, although maintaining a clear distinction between the secular and the religious, point to coinciding dimensions of religious and secular dimensions in modern political and social life. The reflection of the secular and the religious is highly shaped by historical and political influences as well as by ideologization, thus creating obstacles for fruitful conceptual reconstructions of the given dimensions of the coincidence of both — Islam and the secular conditions of modern society.


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