In his new book, Abdullahi an-Na`im argues that Muslims need a secular state to live their religious lives. Alongside his immensely informative account of modern developments, he makes a sustained argument against state enforcement of Islam along two major lines. First, it makes no religious sense for a state to force Muslims to follow God’s will, because Muslims should act from conviction and choice. An-Na`im makes a second argument that is parallel to the first: not only is it futile and religiously counter-productive to enforce Islamic piety, but doing so also distorts and impoverishes religion.Read the rest of Islam and authority.
John R. Bowen
John R. Bowen is the Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. His long-term fieldwork has been in Indonesia, particularly in Aceh, and is most recently reflected in his book Islam, Law and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning (Cambridge, 2003). Current research on Islam and the state in France is reflected in Why the French Dont Like Headscarves (Princeton, 2007), and his next book, Can Islam be French? will appear from Princeton in 2008, followed by The New Anthropology of Islam from Cambridge. Read Bowen's contribution to Surveying religious knowledge.
Posts by John R. Bowen:
Early in Charles Taylor’s study, he remarks that the secular condition, in which belief is an option and religion a distinct domain, is not the case everywhere: in Muslim societies generally, and for people in religious moments in the West: pilgrims at Czestochowa or Guadalupe, for example. We could add: and for people growing up in believing Baptist communities in Nebraska or Mennonite ones in Manitoba or Hindu ones in Gujarat or Bali. [...]Read the rest of The scope and uses of secularity.