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Religion, Democracy, and the Twin Tolerations

Stepan, Alfred C.
Journal of Democracy, Volume 11, Number 4, October 2000, pp.
37-57 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/jod.2000.0088

For additional information about this article

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Alfred Stepan

Alfred Stepan, Wallace Sayre Professor of Government at Columbia

University, is coauthor with Juan J. Linz of Problems of Democratic
Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and
Post-Communist Europe (1996). A much longer and more extensively
footnoted version of this essay will appear in his forthcoming book,
Arguing Comparative Politics (Oxford, 2001).

Are all, or only some, of the worlds religious systems politically

compatible with democracy? This is, of course, one of the most important
and heatedly debated questions of our times. My goal is to contribute to
this debate from the perspective of comparative politics. More specifically, as a specialist in political institutions and democratization, I intend
to discuss three questions, the answers to which should improve our
understanding of this critical issue.
First, what are the minimal institutional and political requirements
that a polity must satisfy before it can be considered a democracy?
Building on this analysis, what can we then infer about the need for the
twin tolerationsthat is, the minimal boundaries of freedom of action
that must somehow be crafted for political institutions vis-a-vis religious
authorities, and for religious individuals and groups vis-a-vis political
Second, how have a set of longstanding democraciesthe 15 countries
in the European Union (EU)actually met these requirements, and what
influential misinterpretations of the Western European experience with
religion and democracy must we avoid?
Third, what are the implications of the answers to our first two questions
for polities heavily influenced by such cultural and religious traditions as
Confucianism,1 Islam, and Eastern Orthodox Christianitytraditions that
some analysts, starting from a civilizational as opposed to an institutional
perspective, see as presenting major obstacles to democracy?
Before addressing these three questions, let me briefly give some
Journal of Democracy Volume 11, Number 4 October 2000


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quotations from Samuel P. Huntingtons The Clash of Civilizations and

the Remaking of World Order, an exceedingly influential statement of a
civilizational perspective that represents a major competing perspective
to my own institutional approach.
Huntington gives primacy of place to Christianity as the distinctive
positive influence in the making of Western civilization: Western Christianity . . . is historically the single most important characteristic of
Western civilization.2 For Huntington, Western cultures key contribution has been the separation of church and state, something that he
sees as foreign to the worlds other major religious systems. In Islam,
Huntington says, God is Caesar; in [Confucianism,] Caesar is God; in
Orthodoxy, God is Caesars junior partner. After arguing that kin
cultures increasingly support each other in civilizational fault-line
conflicts and developing a scenario of a religiously driven World War
III, Huntington warns: The underlying problem for the West is not
Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam. Regarding Confucianism, he asserts
that contemporary Chinas Confucian heritage, with its emphasis on
authority, order, hierarchy, and supremacy of the collectivity over the
individual, creates obstacles to democratization. In discussing postcommunist Europe, he says that the central dividing line . . . is now the
line separating the people of Western Christianity, on the one hand, from
Muslim and Orthodox peoples on the other. He asks rhetorically,
Where does Europe end? and answers, Where Western Christianity
ends and Islam and Orthodoxy begin.3
For Huntington, civilizations, not states, are now the key units, and
he argues that due to the growing importance of kin cultures and
civilizational fault-line conflicts, the worlds religious civilizations
are increasingly unitary and change-resistant. Clearly, a central thrust
of Huntingtons message is not only that democracy emerged first within
Western civilization but that the other great religious civilizations of
the world lack the unique bundle of cultural characteristics necessary to
support Western-style democracy.
If we approach the issue from an institutionalist perspective, will
we arrive at a different view of the probable cultural boundaries of

Democracy and Core Institutions

All important theorists of democratization accept that a necessary
condition for completing a successful transition to democracy is free
and contested elections of the sort discussed by Robert A. Dahl in his
classic book Polyarchy. Among the requirements for democracy, Dahl
includes the opportunity to formulate and signify preferences and to have
these preferences weighed adequately in the conduct of government.
For these conditions to be satisfied, Dahl argues that eight institutional

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guarantees are required: 1) freedom to form and to join organizations;

2) freedom of expression; 3) the right to vote; 4) eligibility for public
office; 5) the right of political leaders to compete for support and votes;
6) alternative sources of information; 7) free and fair elections; and 8)
institutions for making government policies depend on votes and other
expressions of preference.4
My colleague Juan J. Linz and I have argued that Dahls eight
guarantees are a necessary but not a sufficient condition of democracy.
They are insufficient because no matter how free and fair the elections
and no matter how large the governments majority, democracy must
also have a constitution that itself is democratic in that it respects
fundamental liberties and offers considerable protections for minority
rights. Furthermore, the democratically elected government must rule
within the confines of its constitution and be bound by the law and by a
complex set of vertical and horizontal institutions that help to ensure
If we combine these criteria, it is clear that democracy should not be
considered consolidated in a country unless there is the opportunity for
the development of a robust and critical civil society that helps check the
state and constantly generates alternatives. For such civil-society alternatives to be aggregated and implemented, political society, and
especially political parties, should be allowed unfettered relations with
civil society.
Democracy is a system of conflict regulation that allows open competition over the values and goals that citizens want to advance. In the
strict democratic sense, this means that as long as groups do not use
violence, do not violate the rights of other citizens, and stay within the
rules of the democratic game, all groups are granted the right to advance
their interests, both in civil society and in political society. This is the
minimal institutional statement of what democratic politics does and does
not entail.5
What does this institutional threshold approach imply about religion,
politics, democracy, and the twin tolerations? Specifically, what are the
necessary boundaries of freedom for elected governments from religious
groups, and for religious individuals and groups from government?
Democratic institutions must be free, within the bounds of the
constitution and human rights, to generate policies. Religious institutions
should not have constitutionally privileged prerogatives that allow them
to mandate public policy to democratically elected governments. At the
same time, individuals and religious communities, consistent with our
institutional definition of democracy, must have complete freedom to
worship privately. In addition, as individuals and groups, they must be
able to advance their values publicly in civil society and to sponsor
organizations and movements in political society, as long as their actions
do not impinge negatively on the liberties of other citizens or violate


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democracy and the law. This institutional approach to democracy

necessarily implies that no group in civil societyincluding religious
groupscan a priori be prohibited from forming a political party.
Constraints on political parties may only be imposed after a party, by its
actions, violates democratic principles. The judgment as to whether or
not a party has violated democratic principles should be decided not by
parties in the government but by the courts. Within this broad framework
of minimal freedom for the democratic state and minimal religious freedom
for citizens, an extraordinarily broad range of concrete patterns of religiousstate relations would meet our minimal definition of a democracy.
Let us explore this argument further by moving to our second question.
Empirically, what are the actual patterns of relations between religion
and the state in longstanding democracies? How have the twin tolerations of freedom for democratically elected governments and freedom
for religious organizations in civil and political society been constructed
in specific democratic polities?

Western Europe and the Twin Tolerations

How should one read the lessons of the historical relationship
between Western Christianity and democracy? Here I would like to call
particular attention to four possible misinterpretations. Empirically, we
should beware of simple assertions about the actual existence of
separation of church and state or the necessity of secularism.
Doctrinally, we should beware of assuming that any of the worlds
religious systems are univocally democratic or nondemocratic.
Methodologically, we should beware of what I will call the fallacy of
unique founding conditions. And normatively, we should beware of
the liberal injunction, famously argued by the most influential
contemporary political philosopher in the English language, John Rawls,
to take the truths of religion off the political agenda.6
When discussing the prospects for democracy in non-Western, nonChristian civilizations, analysts frequently assume that the separation
of church and state and secularism are core features not only of Western
democracy, but of democracy itself. For such analysts, a religious system
such as Eastern Orthodoxywhere there is often an established church
poses major problems for the consolidation of democracy. Similarly,
when an Islamic-based government came to power in Turkey in 1996,
there were frequent references to the threat that this presented to Westernstyle secular democracy. Indeed, military encroachments on the
autonomy of the democratically elected government in Turkey have
frequently been viewed as an unfortunate necessity to protect secular
democracy. Are these correct readings or dangerous misreadings of the
lessons of the relationship of church and state in Western democracies?
To answer this question, let us undertake an empirical analysis of the

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degree to which the separation of church and state actually exists in a

specific set of Western countries, all of which for the last decade have
satisfied Dahls eight institutional guarantees and the additional conditions
for a democracy that I have stipulated, and have socially and politically
constructed the twin tolerations. First, we should note that, as of 1990,
five of the EUs 15 member statesDenmark, Finland, Greece, Sweden,
and the United Kingdom (in England and Scotland)had established
churches. Norway, although not in the EU, is another European democracy
with an established church. In fact, until 1995, every longstanding West
European democracy with a strong Lutheran majority (Sweden, Denmark,
Iceland, Finland and Norway) had an established church. Only Sweden
has begun a process of disestablishing the Lutheran church.
The Netherlands does not have an established church. Yet as a result
of heated conflict among Catholics, Calvinists, and secularizing liberal
governments over the role of the church in education, the country arrived
in 1917 at a politically negotiated consociational settlement of this issue.
It permits local communities, if they are overwhelmingly of one specific
religious community, to choose to have their local school be a private
Calvinist or a private Catholic school and to have it receive state support.
Germany and Austria have constitutional provisions in their federal
systems allowing local communities to decide on the role of religion in
education. Germany does not have an established church, but Protestantism and Catholicism are recognized as official religions. German
taxpayers, unless they elect to pay a 9 percent surcharge to their tax bill
in the form of a Church tax (Kirchensteuer) and thereby officially become
a member of the church (Mitglied der Kirche), do not have the automatic
right to be baptized, married, or buried in their denominational church
or, in some cases, may find it difficult to gain easy access to the church
hospitals or old-age homes that receive state support from the Kirchensteuer. Thus the vast majority of citizens in the former West Germany
paid the state-collected church tax.
What do contemporary West European constitutions and normal political practice indicate about the role of religious parties in government?
Despite what Western analysts may think about the impropriety of
religious-based parties ruling in a secular democracy like Turkey,
Christian Democratic parties have frequently ruled in Germany, Austria,
Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The only EU member state whose
constitution prohibits political parties from using religious affiliations
or symbols is Portugal. Yet I should make two observations about this
apparent anomaly. First, the article prohibiting the use of religious symbols by political parties in Portugal is a nondemocratic holdover from
the constitution drafted in 1976 by a Constituent Assembly under heavy
pressure from the revolutionary Armed Forces Movement and later
revised (in 1982) to conform with democratic standards. Second, Portugal
has a de facto Christian Democratic Party, the Centro Democrtico

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No official religion. Full
separation of church and
state. No state monies for
religious education or
Private religious schools
allowed if they conform
to normal academic
Full private and public
freedom for all religions
as long as they do not
violate individual liberties.
Religious organizations
allowed to minister to
their followers inside
state organizations (such
as the military and state

Established church
receives state subsidies,
and some official
religion taught in state
schools (but
nonreligious students do
not have to take
religious courses).
Official religion
accorded no
constitutional or
prerogatives to mandate
significant policies.
Citizens can elect to
have church tax sent
to a secular institution.
Nonofficial religion
allowed full freedom
and can receive some
state monies.

Society largely
disenchanted and
religion not an
important factor in
political life.
Democratically elected
officials under no
significant pressures to
comply with religious
dictates concerning
their public policy

Antireligious tone in most
state regulations (for
example, teaching of
religion forbidden in state
and nonstate-supported
schools; no chaplains of
any religion allowed in
military organizations or
state hospitals).
Significant percentage of
believers semiloyal or
disloyal to regime.

All religious groups

free to organize civil
society and to compete
for political power, but
have little weight or

Religious groups
allowed full participation
in civil society.
All religious groups can
participate in civil
Organizations and
parties related to
religious groups allowed All religious groups can
to compete for power in compete for power in
political society.
political society.

Social, which operates with full political freedom and is a member in

good standing of all the international Christian Democratic organizations.
In the twentieth century, probably the two most hostile separations
of church and state in Western Europe occurred in 1931 in Spain and in
1905 in France. Both of these countries, however, now have a friendly
separation of church and state. In fact, since 1958, the French government has paid a substantial part of the cost of the Catholic Churchs
elementary school system. Virtually no Western European democracy
now has a rigid or hostile separation of church and state. Most have arrived
at a democratically negotiated freedom of religion from state interference,
and all of them allow religious groups freedom not only to worship
privately but to organize groups in civil society and political society.
The lesson from Western Europe, therefore, lies not in the need for a
wall of separation between church and state but in the constant political
construction and reconstruction of the twin tolerations. Indeed, it is
only in the context of the twin tolerations that the concept of separation
of church and state has a place in the modern vocabulary of West European democracy.
A similar caveat should be borne in mind concerning the concept of
secularism. Discursive traditions as dissimilar as the Enlightenment,

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Right of
private worship
is forbidden or
Right of religious groups to
participate in
civil society


Virtually unamendable constitution
declares state secular and gives state
officials a major role in regulating
public expression of religion.
Right of religious groups to actively
participate in civil society constitutionally subject to unilateral state
control or prohibition.


Constitutional or quasiconstitutional
prerogatives accorded to
nonelected religious
groups to mandate
significant policies to
democratically elected

Virtually unamendable
Right of organizations or parties
constitution declares
related to religious groups to compete official religion.
Right of relifor power in political society
gious groups to constitutionally denied.
Official religion
compete for
receives state subsidies.
Relatively competitive elections
power in
Competitive elections
society denied. Right of private worship is respected. regularly held.
Right of private worship
No competitive
is respected.
elections held.

Demos cannot
participate in
selection of highest
religious authorities
(and thus the
highest political
authority does not
emanate from, and
is not responsible
to, democratic
No permissible
area of private or
public life allowed
that does not
conform to dominant religion.
Fusion of
religious and
political power
under religious

liberalism, French republicanism, and modernization theory have all

argued (or assumed) that modernity and democracy require secularism.
From the viewpoint of empirical democratic practice, however, the concept of secularism must be radically rethought. At the very least, serious
analysts must acknowledge, as Tables 1 and 2 make clear, that secularism
and the separation of church and state have no inherent affinity with
democracy, and indeed can be closely related to nondemocratic forms
that systematically violate the twin tolerations.
The categories in Tables 1 and 2 are not meant to be exhaustive or
mutually exclusive, but simply to convey the range of democratic and
nondemocratic state-religious patterns. They show that there can be
democratic and nondemocratic secularism, democracies with established
churches, and even democracies with a very unfriendly separation of
church and state. One obviously could develop many other categories.
My central analytic point stands, however. If we are looking for the
defining characteristics of democracy vis-a-vis religion, secularism
and the separation of church and state are not an intrinsic part of the
core definition, but the twin tolerations are.

More Misinterpretations
Building upon our reading of the empirical context of such phrases
as separation of church and state and secularism, we are in a


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position to see why we should beware of three other major misinterpretations.

1) The assumption of univocality. We should beware of assuming
that any religions doctrine is univocally prodemocratic or antidemocratic. Western Christianity has certainly been multivocal concerning
democracy and the twin tolerations. At certain times in its history,
Catholic doctrine has been marshalled to oppose liberalism, the nationstate, tolerance, and democracy. In the name of Catholicism, the
Inquisition committed massive human rights violations. John Calvins
Geneva had no space either for inclusive citizenship or for any form of
representative democracy. For more than 300 years, Lutheranism,
particularly in Northern Germany, accepted both theologically and
politically what Max Weber called caesaropapist state control of
Extrapolating from these historical situations, numerous articles and
books were written on the inherent obstacles that Catholicism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism place in the way of democracy because of their
antidemocratic doctrines and nondemocratic practices. Later, of course,
spiritual and political activists of all these faiths found and mobilized
doctrinal elements within their own religions to help them craft new
practices supportive of tolerance and democracy.
The warning we should take away from this brief discussion is obvious. When we consider the question of non-Western religions and their
relationship to democracy, it would seem appropriate not to assume univocality but to explore whether these doctrines contain multivocal
components that are usable for (or at least compatible with) the political
construction of the twin tolerations.
2) The fallacy of unique founding conditions. This fallacy involves
the assumption that the unique constellation of specific conditions that
were present at the birth of such phenomena as electoral democracy, a
relatively independent civil society, or the spirit of capitalism must be
present in all cases if they are to thrive. The fallacy, of course, is to
confuse the conditions associated with the invention of something with
the possibility of its replication, or more accurately, its reformulation
under different conditions. Whatever we may think about Max Webers
thesis in The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, no one who
has carefully observed Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong would deny that
these polities have created their own dynamic form of capitalism.8 We
should beware of falling into the fallacy of unique founding conditions
when we examine whether polities strongly influenced by Confucianism,
Hinduism, Orthodoxy, or Islam can emulate or recreate, using some of
their own distinctive cultural resources, a form of democracy that would
meet the minimal institutional conditions for democracy spelled out
earlier in this essay.
3) Removing religion from the political agenda. In their theoretical

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accounts of the development of a just society, contemporary liberal

political philosophers John Rawls and Bruce Ackerman give great weight
to liberal arguing, but almost no weight to democratic bargaining.9
Rawls is particularly interested in how a plural society in which the
citizens hold a variety of socially embedded, reasonable, but deeply
opposed comprehensive doctrines can arrive at an overlapping consensus.
His normative recommendation is that, on major issues of quasiconstitutional import, individuals should be able to advance their
arguments only by using freestanding conceptions of justice that are not
rooted in one of the comprehensive but opposing doctrines found in the
polity. Following this logic, public arguments about the place of religion
are appropriate only if they employ, or at least can employ, freestanding
conceptions of political justice.
Rawlss argument is both powerful and internally consistent. Yet he
devotes virtually no attention to how actual polities have consensually
and democratically arrived at agreements to take religion off the political
agenda. Almost none of them followed the Rawlsian normative map.
Politics is about conflict, and democratic politics involves the creation
of procedures to manage major conflicts. In many countries that are now
longstanding democracies, both Western and non-Western, the major
conflict for a long period of time was precisely over the place of religion
in the polity. In many of these cases, this conflict was politically contained or neutralized only after long public arguments and negotiations
in which religion was the dominant item on the political agenda. Thus
in the Netherlands, as noted above, religious conflicts were eventually
taken off the political agenda of majority decision-making by a democraticbut not liberal or secularconsociational agreement that
allocated funds, spaces, and mutual vetoes to religious communities with
competing comprehensive doctrines.
Achieving such an agreement normally requires debate within the
major religious communities. And proponents of the democratic bargain
are often able to win over their fellow believers only by employing arguments that are not conceptually freestanding but deeply embedded in
their own religious communitys comprehensive doctrine.
One can expect, therefore, that in polities where a significant portion
of believers may be under the sway of a doctrinally based nondemocratic
religious discourse, one of the major tasks of political and spiritual
leaders who wish to revalue democratic norms in their own religious
community will be to advance theologically convincing public arguments
about the legitimate multivocality of their religion. Although such
arguments may violate Rawlss requirement for freestanding public
reasoning, they are vital to the success of democratization in a country
divided over the meaning and appropriateness of democracy. Liberal
arguing has a place in democracy, but it would empty meaning and history
out of political philosophy if we did not leave room for democratic


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bargaining and the nonliberal public argument within religious

communities that it sometimes requires.
Let us now turn to exploring these general arguments in the contexts
of cultures heavily influenced by Confucianism, Islam, and Eastern

Confucianism: Caesar is God?

Most scholars of Confucianism would acknowledge that there are
significant Confucian cultural components in Taiwan, South Korea, and
Singapore. They would probably also say that the Confucian legacy was
historically somewhat stronger in Taiwan and Korea than in Singapore.
Most scholars of democratization would acknowledge that Taiwan
and Korea now meet the minimal conditions of democracy that I have
cited. In my judgment, however, no important scholar of democratization
would argue that Singapore meets even half of Dahls eight minimal
guarantees. Thus we can say that South Korea and Taiwan are above the
threshold for identifying a country as a democracy, while Singapore is
below it.
I argued earlier against assuming that any of the worlds major
religious traditions are univocal. If this argument is right, this means
that, within what Huntington calls kin cultures, we should be on the
alert for struggles over meaning. When the former prime minister of
Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, attempted to appropriate Asian Values as
a fundamental prop of his regime, he was challenged by President Kim
Dae Jung of Korea and President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan. In effect,
they both said: We are democratic. We draw upon some important
democratic values found in the Confucian tradition. But you, Lee Kuan
Yew, do not have a democracy in Singapore and you rationalize it by
drawing upon some nondemocratic values within Confucianism. We are
better democrats, and better Confucians, than you, so dont you dare
attempt to hijack Asian Values.10
Kim Dae Jungs response succinctly underscores many of the core
points of the argument advanced in this essay. He insists that Lee Kuan
Yews version of Asian values is little more than a self-serving excuse
for authoritarian rule and devotes two pages to citing Confucian and
neo-Confucian tenets that support democracy and legitimate dissent. He
then talks of Lees record of absolute intolerance of dissent, says that
Lees Singapore is a near-totalitarian police state, and concludes with
an elegant rejection of what I have called the fallacy of unique founding
circumstances, asserting that the fact that [democracy] was developed
elsewhere does not mean it will not work in Asia.
The South Korean and Taiwanese presidents made normative and
empirical distinctions that are crucial to modern democratic theory. At
the level of the core defining characteristics of modern democracy, we

Alfred Stepan


must not be relativists. Any country, in any culture, must meet the same
institutional and behavioral requirements. Yet we must also recognize
that within the world of democracies there are many subtypes with
distinctive secondary characteristics: Some have a large state, some do
not; some accept individual values and reject collective values; some
accept individual values but also espouse collective values. Many of the
secondary values that differentiate Korean and Taiwanese democracy
from U.S. democracy (higher saving rates so that the family can look
after their own aged, a somewhat more robust role for the state in the
economy, and somewhat greater respect for legal authority) draw upon
Confucian values, but none of these Asian values are necessarily
antidemocratic. Indeed, as Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Lee Teng-hui
repeatedly and correctly assert, they are part of the distinctive strength
of their own subtype of democracy.
Let me close this section on Confucianism with some illustrations of
the multivocality of its doctrine and the political struggle to appropriate
its meaning. Simon Leyss new translation of The Analects of Confucius,
with 100 pages of valuable annotations, correctly points out that state
Confucianism repeatedly stressed the Confucian precept of obedience
while obliterating the symmetrical Confucian duty of disobedience to a
ruler if the ruler deviates from The Way. Leys stresses other, less
hierarchical sayings: Zila asked how to serve the Prince. The Master
said, Tell him the Truth even if it offends him. Dissent is supported
by the Confucian injunction, A righteous man, a man attached to humanity, does not seek life at the expense of humanity; there are instances
where he will give his life in order to fulfil his humanity. Xun Zi, one
of the great followers of Confucius, built upon the above injunction when
he defined a good minister as one who follows the way, he does not
follow the rules.11
Since rulers in the Confucian world strove for centuries to foster
acquiescence by selectively emphasizing those elements of the Confucian
corpus favoring obedience, the authoritarian legacy of state Confucianism will be diffusely present in new democracies such as Korea and
Taiwan for decades to come. Yet this legacy has not prevented the emergence of democratic rule in these countries. Indeed, as we have seen,
some of the most important political leaders in the new democracies of
Taiwan and Korea have used components of the Confucian legacy in
support of their struggle to deepen democracy.

Islam and the Free-Elections Trap

There is an extensive body of literature arguing that many key aspects
of democracy are lacking in the Islamic tradition. The lack of separation
between religion and the state is seen as stemming from the Prophet
Mohammeds fusion of military and spiritual authority. The lack of space


Journal of Democracy

for democratic public opinion in making laws is seen as deriving from

the Koran, in which God dictated to the Prophet Mohammed the content
of fixed laws that a good Islamic polity must follow. The lack of inclusive
citizenship is seen as originating in interpretations of the Koran that argue
that the only true polity in Islam is the fused religious-political community
of the Ummah, in which there is no legitimate space for other religions.
Certainly, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism these claims have
been frequently asserted by some Islamic activists. Especially in the
context of the Algerian crisis of 199192, this gave rise to scholarly
assertions that Islam and democracy are incompatible and to arguments
in the Wests leading journals of opinion warning against falling into
the Islamic free-elections trap. According to this view, allowing free
elections in Islamic countries would bring to power governments that
would use these democratic freedoms to destroy democracy itself.
Any human rights activist or democratic theorist must of course
acknowledge that numerous atrocities are being committed in some countries in the name of Islam. In Algeria, both the military-state and Islamic
fundamentalists are slaughtering innocents. Womens rights are being
flagrantly violated by the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the name of Islam,
parts of Sudan have been turned into a killing zone. At the aggregate
level, a recent attempt to document political freedoms and civil rights
around the world concluded that the Islamic world remains most
resistant to the spread of democracy.12
It is in this context that Huntington asserted that the Wests problem is
not Islamic fundamentalism but Islam. Huntingtons vision of Islams
future allows virtually no room for struggling democratic forces to prevail
in some key Islamic countries. Indeed, democratic failure is almost overdetermined in his world of authoritarian kin cultures and unstoppable
cultural wars. How should empirical democratic theorists respond?
I think we should begin with my hypothesis that all great religious
civilizations are multivocal. Although Islamic fundamentalists are
attempting to appropriate political Islam, there are also other voices
in the Koran, in scholarly interpretations of the Koran, and among some
major contemporary Islamic political leaders. For example, Sura (verse)
256 of the Koran states that There shall be no compulsion in Religion. This injunction provides a strong Koranic base for religious
Political activists, journalists, and even professors sometimes misleadingly equate Islam with Arab culture. They then assert correctly
that there are no democracies in the Islamic countries of the Arab world,
leaving the false impression there are no Muslims living under democratic
regimes. In fact, however, a case can be made that about half of all the
worlds Muslims, 435 million people (or over 600 million, if we include
Indonesia), live in democracies, near-democracies, or intermittent

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How do I arrive at the figure of 435 million? By looking at Islam in

the entire world and including fragile, even intermittent democracies
that may be under military rule at the moment (such as Pakistan) or
have been under military rule in the recent past (such as Turkey). I thus
include not only the 110 million Muslims in Bangladesh but also
Pakistans 120 million Muslims and the 65 million Muslims in Turkey.
I also include Indias 120 million Muslims, who have contributed
significantly to Indian democracy and are one of the important voices in
the worlds multivocal Islamic culture. Finally, if we include the at least
20 million Muslims living under democratic regimes in areas such as
Western Europe, North America, and Australia, we get 435 million. I
believe that the inclusion of this Islamic diaspora is justified if we see
Islam as an evolving, constantly changing global culture that is to some
degree being deterritorialized.
The big country that democratization theorists are watching most
closely is Indonesia. With its estimated population of 216 million people,
roughly 190 million of whom are Muslim, Indonesia is the worlds largest
Muslim country. Obviously, its attempted transition to democracy faces
great obstacles: the worst case of what the economists called Asian
flu; long-repressed regional demands for decentralization (secession,
in the cases of East Timor, Aceh, and Irian Jaya); a constitution written
in 1945 during the war of independence that is almost unusable for a
democracy; and a military organization that has been centrally involved
in national politics since the 1940s and has often exacerbated, or even
incited, major communal conflicts. But will the fact that the country is
predominantly Islamic significantly increase the chances of democratic
failure or breakdown? I do not think there is strong evidence to support
such a presumption.
Under Suhartos 32-year rule (196598), Indonesia was a military
authoritarian regime that increasingly acquired patrimonial (even
sultanistic) dimensions in the 1990s. Islam was never a major part of
Suhartos power base, however. Indeed, most analysts during the Suharto
period did not consider Islamic fundamentalists as a major obstacle to
future democratization.
In any attempt at democratic transition, leadership and organization
are extremely important. The two largest and most influential Islamic
organizations at the start of the possible transition in Indonesia, Nahdatul
Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, both with over 25 million members,
were led by Abdurrahman Wahid and Amien Rais, respectively, both
leaders in the struggle against Suharto. Amien Rais played a key role in
helping to keep the student protests mobilized, relatively peaceful, and
focused on democratic demands. After Suhartos fall, he considered
leading an existing Islamic political grouping but instead created a new
political party, the PAN, that was not explicitly Islamist and included
non-Muslims in its leadership.


Journal of Democracy

Abdurrahman Wahid (now president of Indonesia) also created a new

political party, the PKB, and throughout the 1999 electoral campaign he
argued against an Islamic state and in favor of religious pluralism. Wahid
often operated in informal alliances with the most electorally powerful
political leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and her secular nationalist party,
the PDI, which includes secular MusAgainst great initial
lims, Christians, and many non-Muslim
odds, democracy is still
minorities. In Indonesia, Muslim
on the agenda in
identities are often moderate, syncretic,
Indonesia, two years
and pluralist. Muslim women in Indoafter the fall of Suharto.
nesia have significantly more personal
and career freedom than those in the
Middle East. In this context, there was
at least some space for a leader like Wahiddespite his weakness as an
administratorto attempt to foster a transition to democracy by constantly arguing that tolerance was one of the best parts of Indonesias religious
Despite interethnic and religious conflicts, often tolerated and at times
even supported by parts of the armed forces, no Islamic fundamentalist
party developed a significant mass following in the year following
Suhartos fall. In June 1999, in the freest election in over four decades,
the two leading Islamic fundamentalist parties, the PBB and the PK,
polled only 2 percent and 1 percent of the total popular vote, respectively.
Democracy in Indonesia has certainly not yet become the only game
in town. Outbreaks of religious violence on a number of the countrys
more than 2,000 inhabited islands continue to cause dangerous tensions
and breakdowns of law. Nonetheless, against great initial odds,
democracy is still on the agenda in Indonesia, two years after the fall of
Let us now turn to Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey. All of them
have, or recently had, military regimes, but in recent times they all at
some time have been at or above the threshold of being democracies.
The 1996 election in Bangladesh satisfied all of Dahls eight institutional
guarantees. Voter turnout, at 73 percent (with women around 76 percent),
was 13 percent higher than in any general election in the nations history.
Interestingly, the fundamentalist Islamic Party (JI) trailed far behind
three other parties, winning only 3 seats. The JI seems to have polled
worst among women.14
Pakistan was founded by Mohammed Ali Jinnah as an Islamic republic
and has some features of Islamic law in its constitution. It is important
to stress two points, however. First, the most democratically troubling
features of Islamic law were imposed under General Mohammed Zia
ul-Haqs military rule. Second, during the recent period of electorally
competitive, civilian rule, there were no significant new impositions of

Alfred Stepan


Islamic law. There was also some curtailment of the reach of Islamic
law as the electoral performance of Islamic fundamentalist parties
Until the October 1999 military coup, there had been five consecutive
elections in Pakistan since 1988. Did the results strengthen or weaken
the thesis of an Islamic free-election trap? In increasingly competitive
elections, the largest revivalist or fundamentalist Islamic party, the IJI,
came in second in 1988 and won a plurality in 1990 and 1993. In 1996
and 1997, however, the total vote for all the Islamic fundamentalist
parties combined fell to less than 15 percent. In the 1997 election, which
observers considered the freest and most open of Pakistans recent
elections, Islamic fundamentalist parties only won two seats in the
National Assembly. In an excellent analysis of the relationship of Islamic
revivalist parties and competitive elections in Pakistan since independence, S.V.R. Nasr contends that competitive politics, far from being a
trap, actually encourages the flowering of the diversity of Muslim
political expression and prevents the reduction of the political discourse
to revivalism versus secularism.15 Violent and fundamentalist Islamic
groups are still active in Pakistan, to be sure, but their strength owes
more to secret subsidies they receive from Pakistans notorious Interservices Intelligence Agency (ISI) than to the votes they receive in
Thus Huntingtons implication that elections in predominantly Islamic
countries will lead to fundamentalist majorities who will use their
electoral freedom to end democracy gets no support from our analysis
of electoral and political behavior in the worlds three largest Islamic
countries. Even in Iran, the free-election trap thesis has recently been
refuted by events. Although the theocratic hard-liners continue to control
state television and to close opposition newspapers, and the Council of
Guardians still vets all candidates, the antifundamentalist opposition
won at least 70 percent of the vote in the 1997 presidential election, the
municipal elections of 1999, and the parliamentary elections of 2000.
Iran is thus becoming increasingly multivocal.
Let me conclude my reflections on Islam and democracy by briefly
considering the case of Turkey and the questions it raises regarding
secularism and democracy. From June 1996 to June 1997, Turkey had
its first prime minister representing a de facto Islamic party, Necmettin
Erbakan of the Welfare Party. Soon after Erbakan took office, the Welfare Party was accused of violating Turkeys secular constitution. In
the face of these charges and of pressure from the military, Erbakan
resigned, and the Constitutional Court subsequently outlawed the Welfare Party.
Leading Western scholars have spoken as if there were a Westernstyle separation of religion and state in Turkey, sometimes suggesting
that the policies promoted by Turkeys founder Kemal Atatrk were


Journal of Democracy

modeled on French secularism. In fact, however, the Atatrk tradition

has been directed toward controlling religious expression so that it conforms with state goals. If Turkey really had either a complete separation
of church and state or complete secularism, it would not need 50,000
civil servants in its Directorate of Religious Affairs to manage religious
The Turkish constitution of 1982 was drafted during a period of
military rule by a committee vetted by the military. It was approved by
a plebiscite, but no one was permitted to campaign against ratification.
Article 2 asserts that the Turkish Republic is secular. Article 4 states
that Article 2 can never be changed, not even by Constitutional amendment. Article 24 asserts that education and instruction in religion and
ethics shall be under state supervision and control, and adds, in a clause
used to ban the Welfare Party, that No one shall be allowed to exploit
or abuse religious systems.
How does the operational definition of secularism drawn up by the
military in 1982 and appealed to in the months leading up to Erkabans
forced resignation in June 1997 compare with secularism as it is practiced
in democracies elsewhere? I think it is clear that Turkeys constitution
is more restrictive both of freedom of religious expression within civil
society and of freedom of organization within political society than that
of any longstanding Western democracy.
I believe that in Turkey (as in Pakistan and probably Indonesia as
well) the greatest obstacle to democracy is posed not by Islam but by
military and intelligence organizations unaccountable to democratic
authority. It has sometimes been suggested that in Islamic countries so
many unique issues arise that democratization theory does not really
apply. But our analysis of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey,
and even post-1997 Iran demonstrates the pitfalls of focusing only on
the problems for democracy related to Islam, while neglecting the
overall sociopolitical, military, ethnic, economic, and international

Eastern Orthodoxy: A Strong Obstacle?

What can we say about Eastern Orthodoxy and democracy? It must
be acknowledged that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism played a
more powerful role in recent civil-society resistance movements,
especially in communist Europe, than did Orthodoxy. Why? And what
does this mean, and not mean, for the future of democracy in countries
where Orthodoxy is the dominant religion? The major explanation for
this variance cannot lie in Orthodoxys core religious doctrine: For their
first millennium, Eastern and Western Christianity shared the same
theological doctrines. The critical differences in recent patterns of
resistance to the state by Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are due

Alfred Stepan


more to their organizational forms and the parts of their common

multivocal tradition to which they have given the most emphasis.
Let us look comparatively at the question of civil-society resistance.
As a transnational, hierarchical organization, Roman Catholicism can
provide material and doctrinal support to a local Catholic church to help
it resist state oppression. To the extent that the Catholic church may
resist the state, it can support a more robust and autonomous civil society.
Juan J. Linz and I have analyzed how the Catholic church provided such
support in Poland, Lithuania, Chile, Brazil, and (during Francos last
years) in Spain. Protestantism, with its emphasis on individual conscience
and its international networks, also played a role in supporting civilsociety opposition to a repressive state in East Germany and Estonia. In
the 1970s and 1980s, Protestantism and especially postVatican II
Catholicism chose to give important weight to the prophetic mission
that calls for individuals to speak out against worldly injustice no matter
what the consequences.
With respect to resistance to the state, Eastern Orthodox Christianity
is often organizationally and ideologically in a relatively weak position
because the church is a national (as opposed to a transnational)
organization. In such caesaropapist systems, the state often plays a
major role in the national churchs finances and appointments. Such a
church is not really a relatively autonomous part of civil society because,
in Webers words, there is a high degree of subordination of priestly to
secular power. Under Stalin, the role of secular power in the USSR
often meant the participation of the KGB in the highest religious councils
of Orthodoxy.
As Weber and others have emphasized, Orthodoxy places more stress
on liturgy than action and encourages quietism as a response to the
world. In the structural context of caesaropapism and the liturgical
context of quietism, the prophetic response to injustice, while
doctrinally available in Orthodoxys multivocal tradition, is seldom
Despite all of the above, however, I do not believe that Eastern Orthodoxy is an inherently antidemocratic force. If the leaders of the state
and political society are committed to democracy and follow democratic
practices, Orthodoxys caesaropapist structures and quietist culture
should lead to loyal support of democracy by the Orthodox church, as
has been the case in Greece since 1975. If the leaders of the state and
political society are antidemocratic, however, the democratic opposition
in civil society normally will not receive substantial or effective support
from a national Orthodox church.
Let me illustrate these points by discussing the Greek case. Greece
and the Greek part of divided Cyprus are the only Orthodox-majority
countries that, for the last five years, have met all the criteria for
democracy discussed earlier in this essay. From 1967 to 1974, Greece

Journal of Democracy


was under authoritarian military rule. What was the role of the Orthodox
church vis-a-vis the military dictatorship and the democratic transition?
Three points are worth highlighting. First, there were two military juntas,
one established in 1967 and one established in November 1973. Within
months of coming to power, each junta had managed to arrange the
appointment of a new archbishop to head the Greek Orthodox Church.
This would have been impossible in Poland. Second, no scholarly work
on the Greek dictatorship accords any significant formal or informal
role to Orthodox church resistance to the dictatorship. Third, once
democracy was instituted in 1974, the church (except for efforts to
preserve some minor church prerogatives) did nothing significant to
oppose, resist, or stall the eventual consolidation of democracy, and it
has been broadly supportive of the democratic government. Indeed, the
Greek Orthodox Church has been much less critical of left-wing
democratic governments in Greece than the Catholic Church has been
of left-wing democratic governments in Poland.
Greece has an established church. But as we have seen, so do Iceland,
Denmark, Finland, Norway, and England. The democratic task in Greece
after 1974 required not the disestablishment of the church, but the
elimination of any nondemocratic domains of church power that restricted
democratic politics. Greek democrats have done this and the Greek
Orthodox Church has accepted it. Not only does democracy not require
a disestablished church, it requires that no constraints be put on the rights
of Eastern Orthodox Christians to argue their case in the public arena.
Greek democracy has respected this area of legitimate autonomy of
religion. There have been some changes both within state-society
relations and within the Orthodox church that have made the twin
tolerations easier to sustain. The constitution crafted in 1975 is
somewhat clearer than the previous Greek constitutions had been about
democratically appropriate areas for state action vis-a-vis religion, and
for the established churchs action vis-a - vis other religions and the
elected government. Moreover, there is growing sentiment within the
Orthodox church that it would be religiously more robust and better
able to play an independent role in civil society if it were less dependent
on the state.17

Unfinished Business
All the worlds major religions today are involved in struggles over
the twin tolerations. For Hinduism in India and Judaism in Israel,
religion-state conflicts are now especially politically salient. In the first
two decades of their independence after World War II, India and Israel
were under the political and ideological hegemony of secular political
leaders and parties. By the 1990s, however, both these secular political
traditions were challenged by opposition movements that drew some of

Alfred Stepan


their support from forces seeking to redraw the boundaries of the twin
tolerations to accomodate more fundamentalist and less tolerant visions
of the polity.
In Israel, the state was originally a nationalist state for the Jewish
people, but there are growing demands for it to be a religious state as
well. There are also demands to make citizenship for the Arab minority
less inclusive, and even to amend the Law of Return so as to give
Orthodox rabbis the authority to determine whom the state of Israel
recognizes as a Jew.
In India, after the 1998 and 1999 general elections, the Hindu revivalist
BJP formed the government, in alliance with regional parties. Although
it also contains more moderate elements, the BJP is pressured by its
associated shock troops in uncivil society, such as the neofascist RSS,
who want eventually to utilize the majority status of Hindus to make
India a state that would privilege Hindu values as they interpret them.
A major force opposing the BJP and the RSS is the GandhianNehruvian strand of Hinduism, which insists that both India and
Hinduism are multivocal and that the deepest values of Hinduism must
respect the idea of India as a diverse, tolerant state rather than a nationstate of Hindus. Gandhi and Nehru knew that since India was a
multicultural, multireligious, and multicommunity state, nation-state
building would make it harder, not easier, to build democracy.
India is 17 times poorer than any OECD democracy. The support for
democracy in India under such difficult conditions cannot be understood
without an appreciation of the tremendous strength that Gandhi drew
from some traditional Hindu religious values and styles of action in his
peaceful struggles for independence, democracy, an end to
untouchability, and respect for Muslims.
If India, with 600 million non-Hindi speakers, 14 languages that are
spoken by at least 10 million people, and a minority population of about
120 million Muslims, is to remain a democracy, the voices of those who
wish to make India a Hindu and Hindi nation-state must be countered
by an ever stronger Gandhian voice speaking for India as a multireligious
home to a billion people.
A more complete study of the themes raised in this brief essay would
not only discuss religions I have omitted, but would analyze in much
greater detail the emergence of the twin tolerations in the West. The
establishment of state-sponsored churches in Scandinavia and Britain,
while initially a way of securing political control of the church, eventually
led not only to the twin tolerations, but also, in the long run, to the
sociologically spontaneous secularization of most of the population.
Liberal scholars might also want to reconsider how liberal the
anticlerical movements in France and Spain really were. What was the
political effect of this liberalism from above? In Spain in the early 1930s,

Journal of Democracy


did liberal and socialist anticlericalism justify the tearing down of walls
separating civil cemeteries from Jewish cemeteries? If the 1905 French
liberal model of expropriating Jesuit property had been followed in the
United States, Georgetown and many other Jesuit universities would
have been expropriated. Would this have contributed to the strengthening
of liberalism in the United States?
Another important area for further research is the role of the state in
generating religious toleration. Scholars, especially sociologists of
religion, have focused their attention on society-led movements toward
tolerance, but at some critical moments state-led policies, such as those
structured by Emperor Ferdinand I at the Peace of Augsburg of 1555,
were crucial for ending society-led religious conflicts. Likewise, it was
the Ottoman state that crafted the millets, with their extraordinary
tolerance for religious self-government by minority national religious
communities. There are many more examples of state-led tolerance, as
well as state-led intolerance, that we need to study.
Finally, even the separation of church and state originally mandated
by the U.S. Constitutions First Amendment (Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof) is misunderstood today by many U.S. citizens. The
amendment did not prohibit the 13 original states from having their own
established religions. It merely prohibited the Congress from establishing
one official religion for the United States as a whole. In fact, on the eve
of the revolution, only three of the 13 coloniesRhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Delawarehad no provision for an established church.
Even after the revolution, the South Carolina constitution of 1778
established the Christian Protestant Religion. Four New England states
continued for some time to maintain state-subsidized, largely Congregational, churches. The eventual political construction of the Wests strongest wall separating church and state, along with the social emergence of
one of the Wests most churchgoing, and most fundamentalist
populations, is yet another crooked path of toleration and intoleration
that needs further study and reflection.
1. Confucianism is actually a cultural and philosophical tradition, not a religious
tradition, in that it is this-worldly rather than other-worldly and has no priests or
church. Nonetheless, many observers, from Max Weber to Samuel P. Huntington, treat it
as one of the worlds major religious-civilizational traditions, and I will do so in this
2. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 70.
3. Quotations come from Ibid., pp. 70, 217, 238, 28, and 158, respectively.
4. See Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1971), 13.

Alfred Stepan


5. For a much more extensive discussion and for references concerning these additional
criteria, see Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and
Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore
and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), ch. 1.
6. John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 151.
7. For Max Webers discussion of caesaropapism, see Max Weber, Economy and
Society, Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, eds., (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1978), 115963.
8. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Talcott Parsons,
trans., (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1958). Weber, however, is careful not to
commit this fallacy himself.
9. See John Rawls, Political Liberalism; and Bruce A. Ackerman, Social Justice in
the Liberal State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980).
10. For this exchange, see Fareed Zakaria, Culture is Destiny: A Conversation with
Lee Kuan Yew, Foreign Affairs 73 (MarchApril 1994): 10929; Kim Dae Jung, Is
Culture Destiny? The Myth of Asias Anti-Democratic Values, Foreign Affairs 73
(NovemberDecember, 1994): 18994; and Lee Teng-hui, Chinese Culture and Political
Renewal, Journal of Democracy 6 (October 1995): 38. The quote from Kim Dae Jung
is from p. 192 of his article in Foreign Affairs.
11. The Analects of Confucius, Simon Leys, ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
For Leys discussion of state Confucianism, see p. 108; for state Confucianisms
obliteration of the symmetrical duty of disobedience, see pp. 13436. The quotations are
from pp. 136, 75, and 193, respectively.
12. Adrian Karatnycky, The 1998 Freedom House Survey: The Decline of Illiberal
Democracy, Journal of Democracy 10 (January 1999): 121.
13. For examples of these voices, see the expanded version of this essay, The Worlds
Religious Systems and Democracy: Crafting the Twin Tolerations, in Alfred Stepan,
Arguing Comparative Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2001).
14. See Yasmeen Murshed and Nazim Kamran Choudhury, Bangladeshs Second
Chance, Journal of Democracy 8 (January 1997): 7082.
15. S.V.R. Nasr, Democracy and Islamic Revivalism, Political Science Quarterly
110 (Summer 1995): 279.
16. See, for example, Sumit Ganguly, Pakistans Never Ending Story: Why the
October Coup Was No Surprise, Foreign Affairs 79 (MarchApril 2000): 27. To be
sure, there have been many unfortunate events in Pakistan, such as Pakistani covert support
for the Taliban fundamentalist revolution in Afghanistan, but it would appear that the
major source of such support was from the military and intelligence systems acting
somewhat autonomously. Recent conflicts with India in Kashmir have a similar origin.
17. For a spirited analysis of how Orthodoxy, contra Huntington, is consistent with
democracy and capable of politically significant internal change, see Elizabeth H. Prodromov, Paradigms, Power, and Identity: Rediscovering Orthodoxy and Regionalizing
Europe, European Journal of Political Research 30 (September 1996): 12554.

The Interdependence of Religion, Secularism, and Human Rights:

Prospects for Islamic Societies
Naim, Abd Allah Ahmad, 1946Common Knowledge, Volume 11, Issue 1, Winter 2005, pp. 56-80 (Article)

Published by Duke University Press

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by KOC University at 02/08/12 9:45PM GMT

S y m p o s i u m : Ta l k i n g P e a c e w i t h G o d s , P a r t 2

Prospects for Islamic Societies

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim

Religion, secularism, and human rights are interdependent, and the apparent
tensions between any or among all of them can be overcome by their conceptual
synergy. Given the obviously problematic features of their relationships, however,
the interdependence of the three should be deliberately reinforced and stressed
now; indeed each of the three should undergo an internal transformation to
strengthen the already existing synergy. I am using the term synergy to indicate
that the internal transformation of each paradigm or discourse (religion, secularism, human rights) is not only necessary for promoting relationships among the
three but is also facilitated by it: each of the three tends toward transformation in
favor of the other two. Each needs the other two to fulll its own rationale and
to sustain its relevance and validity for its own constituency.
I hasten to add that I am not suggesting the collapse of all related ideas,
institutions, and policies into the framework I am describing. My purpose here
is to highlight the dynamics of one complex process that might contribute to
individual freedom and social justice. Moreover, while I believe that what I am
proposing is potentially applicable to various religious and political contexts, my

Common Knowledge 11:1

Copyright 2005 by Duke University Press


mediation among the three paradigms. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights (UDHR), issued by the United Nations in 1948, asserts that all
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed
with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of
brotherhood. No specic foundation for the equality of human beings in dignity
and rights, whether religious or secular, is stated, and the omission was apparently
designed in the interest of achieving consensus. But more than fty years later,
the questionwhat is the moral or philosophical foundation of universal human
rights?remains difcult to answer, and answering it remains crucial for the
practical implementation of those rights.
The difculty in achieving agreementagreement among all communitieson a single foundation for human rights indicates that we should promote
instead an overlapping consensus among multiple foundations. Each community
could then subscribe to a global agreement on the validity and application of
universal rights without concluding that the agreement was an alien imposition.
I hope to show that an overlapping consensus is best achieved by encouraging and
even exploiting the interdependence of religion, secularism, and human rights.

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

This task might be approached from a variety of perspectives, but I prefer

to begin by considering the moral and philosophical foundation of human rights
since it most clearly highlights both the reality of tension and the possibilities of

A n - N a im

primary concern as a Muslim is the prospect for this approach in Islamic societies. That is, I would like to encourage the determined promotionthe strengtheningof this synergy in the interest of legitimizing human rights, regulating
the role of religion in public life, and afrming the positive place of secularism in
Islamic societies. Being from Sudan myself, I am acutely aware that hundreds of
thousands have died, and millions continue to endure untold suffering, because
of widespread confusion over just these issues. Some politicians manipulate that
confusion for their own purposes and thus we require a framework that minimizes it.1 While attempting to outline a theoretical framework that could be of
use in Islamic societies, I hope that others may seek to use it in their own religious
and political contexts.

Working Definitions
The term human rightss is often used, in a rough and intuitive way, to signify the
objectives or the implications of historic struggles for freedom and justice. But
the term can also refer, more particularly, to the conception of individual free1. One such politician is Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi who led
the National Islamic Front (NIF) in Sudan from 1964
until 1999, when he lost an internal struggle for power.
The NIF took control of the state in the military coup of

June 1989. See, e.g., John L. Esposito and John O. Voll,

Makers of Contemporary Islam (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2001), 118.


dom and social justice articulated in the UDHR and further specied in subsequent treaties that enable its implementation. In this latter sense of the termthe
sense in which I use it herehuman rights are due to all human beings by virtue
of their humanity, without distinction on grounds such as race, sex, religion,
language, or national origin. The key feature of human rights, by this denition,
is universality.2 When the denition was rst made in the wake of World War II,
it was viewed by some and opposed as a pretext for imposing the values of one culture on others, and the denition continues to be opposed from this and related
perspectives.3 The idea of overlapping consensus that I will explore takes into
account the conceptual and practical difculties associated with universality and
seeks to resolve them.
The working denition of religion that I use here must focus, obviously, on
those aspects of religion that have special relevance to human rights and secularism. For this limited purpose, religion can be dened as a system of beliefs,
practices, institutions, and relationships within a community that distinguishes
itself from other communities. The key feature of religion in this sense is the
exclusivity of any community of believers, but that is not to say that understanding some religious traditions in more inclusive terms is impossible. In fact, I am
counting on just that possibility to enable an overlapping consensus about universal human rights. But initiatives like the one I am proposing should be founded
on a realization that some form or degree of exclusion (at least moraland often
materialexclusion) seems necessary for vindicating the faith of one religious
community and distinguishing it from that of all others. The denial of other
views, as William Paden has written, is typically a consequence of the need to
protect or afrm ones own. We reject other views when the truth of our own
does not appear to be acknowledged in them.4 In contrast, human rights, by the
UDHR denition, are by nature inclusive of all human beings, irrespective of
membership in any social group.
For the limited purposes of this discussion, secularism may be dened as
a principle of public policy, applied variously in distinct contexts, for organizing the relationship between religion and state. Historical experience shows that
religious exclusivity tends to undermine solidarity and even peaceful coexistence
among differing communities of belief, and secularism apparently evolved as a
means of encouraging pluralism in the state. In any case, my concern with secu-

2. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, What Do We Mean by

Universal? Index on Censorship 4/5 (SeptemberOctober
1994): 120.
3. See American Anthropological Association, Statement on Human Rights, American Anthropologist 49.4
(1947): 539.

4. William E. Paden, Interpreting the Sacred: Ways of Viewing Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 126.

While initially limited by Western experience, the rights that have emerged since
1948 are broader in scope than those guaranteed under the constitutional system of any Western country. The Western origins and immediate antecedents
of human rights have been overtaken by developments reecting the experiences
and expectations of other peoples of the world.
Given that they are intended to protect individuals and groups against the
contingencies of national politics, human rights are supposed to be the product
of international agreement. But the claim of the international community to
act as arbiter in safeguarding minimum standards is not plausible without the
corresponding commitment of each member state to encourage and support
each other in the process. That encouragement and support is crucial in view of
signicant differences in degrees of political will and in institutional capacity
and material resources for the application of these rights in different parts of the
world. It thus follows that one cannot rely on a horizontal enforcement mechanism for human rights among states without a broader cooperative framework of
implementation among a variety of actors. The universal recognition of a single
set of rights is not likely to be useful in practice without international cooperation in implementing it.
Moreover, it is important to recognize that, since the vast majority of African and Asian peoples still suffered under European colonialism in 194648, the

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

the UDHR appears to have been to put protections of individual freedoms in

place and thus safeguard against abuse by the expansive powers of new states.

The Universality of Human Rights

The modern concept of human rights has emerged from European and American experiences since the eighteenth century. Those rights were premised, as
is commonly acknowledged, on principles of the Enlightenment rather than
on Christian or Jewish theologies, though the latter have tended to reconcile
themselves with the former over time.5 In view of the universalization of the
European model of the nation-state through colonialism, the basic purpose of

A n - N a im

larism here is its ability to safeguard political pluralism, though I will argue that
the principle can be applied differently under various regimes of government.

process by which the UDHR was drafted and adopted was not globally inclusive
and so the universality of the rights it proclaimed was contingent on subsequent
developments.6 It can be argued that genuine universality was to some extent
attained through the afrmation of the UDHR by African and Asian states upon
5. Hilary Charlesworth, The Challenges of Human
Rights Law for Religious Traditions, in Religion and
International Law, ed. Mark W. Janis and Carolyn Evans
(The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1999), 40115.

6. See Henry J. Steiner and Philip Alston, International

Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, and Morals, 2d ed.
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 13646.


achieving political independence and through their participation in the drafting

and adoption of subsequent treaties on human rights. But it is also clear that the
challenge of relevance and efcacy remains and will continue: serious cultural
and ideological differencesdifferences that have signicant practical consequencesare obscured by the consensus that presently obtains. While problems
in non-Western cultures with respect, for example, to the rights of women are
well known, there is little awareness of Western cultural or ideological problems
with economic, social, and cultural rights (such as the right to housing and education) that many societies take to be as fundamental as the civil and political rights
(such as freedom of belief and expression) so valued in the West. Widely ratied
treaties provide for both sets of rights. Still, Western governments and public
opinion alike nd it difcult to accept that economic, social, and cultural rights
are human rights in the current sense of the term. Western and non-Western
societies face the same challengethat of accepting the universal validity of one
or more rights established as pertaining to every culture.
The problem of self-exemption from certain rights is doubtless related to
the process by which the relevant treaties were negotiated. Agreement on international standards of human rights was only possible on the understanding that
they be implemented through the agency of sovereign states. Given prevalent
understandings of national sovereignty and international relations at the time, it
was imperative for the United Nations Charter (1945) and the UDHR (1948) to
strike a balance between international protection for human rights and respect
for the domestic jurisdiction of nation-states.7 That individual states regulate
their own performance with regard to universal criteria is paradoxical, and to
make the system work demands understanding of the local, national, and international actors and processes that inuence the conduct of states, including the
roles of the various religious communities and their views of secularism. The
limitations of the system by which human rights are enforced are unlikely to be
overcome without solidarity among religious communities. Since that degree of
cooperation is not readily available within current understandings of religion
(understandings that are exclusive and excluding), the enforcement of human
rights and the introduction or strengthening of secularism are needed to help
along an internal transformation of religious doctrine.

The Exclusivity of Religion

It may be useful to distinguish between the universalizing normative claims of
some religions and the universality of human rights. The universal normative

7. David J. Bederman, International Law Frameworkss (New

York: Foundation, 2001), 96.

The question is whether, and if so how, religious traditionswhich are

of necessity exclusivecan participate in an overlapping consensus on a set of
universal human rights. Since religions divide rather than unite human beings,
so the argument goes, it is better to avoid religion altogether when seeking common ground. But to concede this argument is problematic because the more religious perspectives are excluded from the conversation, the less likely are religious
adherents to accept the universality of human rights. Still, religions are unlikely
to play a positive role until each undergoes an internal transformation. Fortunately, that transformation is possible as well as necessary because of what might
be termed the secular dimension of religions. Since the transcendental dimension
of religions is supposed to address the experience of their communities in the
phenomenal world, interpretations of religious doctrine (along with the behavioral implications of each) are bound to be in competition and to reect extant
power relations. For the fair and sustainable mediation of these competing claims,
secularism and the enforcement of human rights are critical both within each
community of believers and between communities at odds. It is the very place
of particularist religions in the world that makes secularism and human rights
essential: the opposition of particularist religions to secular encroachments and
to human rights (as dened internationally) is more apparent than real.

The Specificity of Secularism

Widespread confusion and suspicion are attendant on the term secularism, especially in Islamic societies, which regard it as a European, Christian concept
imposed by colonial and neocolonial forces. It is thus necessary to clarify and
substantiate a denition that is deeply contextual and dynamic. Etymologically,
the word secularr derives from the Latin saeculum, meaning great span of time or

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

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claims of Christianity and Islam, for instance, call for all human beings to accept
the one true faith. In contrast, the universality of human rights represents, or
is meant to represent, a convergence of differing traditions on a set of universal commitments to all human beings without regard to particularities of (for
example) religion. The former is premised on the superiority of one religion; the
latter, on the equality in principle of differing religious (and cultural) traditions.
In other words, the rationale of religious solidarity is an exclusive one, while that
of human rights is inclusivethough the potential for universality of the latter
remains to be fully realized. The premise of equality requires that no religious or
cultural tradition claim to be the sole foundation for the universality of human
rights. Accordingly, when the foundations for human rights differ across cultures,
we should view them as interdependent and mutually supportive, not antagonistic
and mutually exclusive. The existence of varying foundations for human rights is
intrinsic to the enterprise.


perhaps spirit of the age. Later, secularr came to mean of this world (a conception presuming more than one world), and eventually the distinction between
secular and religious came to overlap with that between the temporal and the
spiritual.8 In the European context, secularization initially meant privatization
or nationalization or conscation of church lands, but eventually the gerund was
applied to politics and then to art and economics.9 This evolution is reected in
the common denition of secularism as indifference to or rejection or exclusion
of religion or religious considerations.10 Equally common is the de nition of
secularism as the doctrine that morality should be based solely on regard to the
well-being of mankind in the present life, to the exclusion of all considerations
drawn from belief in God or in a future state.11
Larry Shiner has identied, and distinguished among, ve denitions of
secularism as (1) the decline of religion, (2) conformity to the norms of the present
( ) transworld, (3) disengagement and differentiation of society from religion, (4
position of religious beliefs and institutions (the shift in focus, for example, from
divine to human power and creativity), and (5) the desacralization of the world
and the sacralization of rationality.12 Yet all these views are at best reections of
how the concept has evolved in various European and North American settings.
Secularism is multidimensional and reects elements of the historical, political,
social, and economic landscape of individual nations.13 In the United States today,
secularism requires a wall between church and state (a permeable wall, albeit:
sessions of the Supreme Court open with the proclamation, God bless this honorable Court). Mexican secularism requires a separation of religion and politics
so strict that Catholic priests are not allowed to vote, and secularism in France is
if anything even more jealously guarded (Islamic and Jewish headcoverings are,
as of this writing, to be proscribed in public schools). But in the secular Republic
of Ireland, the Catholic Church wields so much power politically that abortion
remains illegal on the grounds that it violates church doctrine. Essentially, as
Asghar Ali Engineer has argued, each country has its own specicity as far as
the concept of secularism is concerned. This specicity depends on its historical
evolution as well as on contemporary social conditions.14
Secularism in Islamic societies will not succeed if based on preconceived

8. Uday Mehta, Secularism, Secularization, and Modernity: A Sociological Perspective of the Western Model,
in State Secularism and Religion: Western and Indian Experience, ed. Asghar Ali Engineer and Mehta (Delhi: Ajanta,
1998), 2425.
9. Hugh McLeod, Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848
1914 (New York: St. Martins, 2000), 1.
10. Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., s.v.

11. Oxford Short Dictionary, as cited in Engineer and

Mehta, State Secularism, 2.
12. Larry Shiner, The Concept of Secularization in
Empirical Research, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 6.2 (fall 1967): 20720.
13. Mehta, Secularism, Secularization, and Modernity,
14. Engineer, Secularism in IndiaTheory and Practice, in Engineer and Mehta, State Secularism, 202.

15. An-Naim, Sharia and Positive Legislation: Is an

Islamic State Possible or Viable? in Yearbook of Islamic and
, vol. 5, ed. Eugene Cotran
Middle Eastern Law 1998/1999
(The Hague: Kluwer, 2000), 40. See also Harold J. Berman, Faith and Order: The Reconciliation of Law and Religion
(Atlanta, GA: Scholars, 1993), 120, 3552.

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

fusion to that of absolute separation between religion and state. The question
is therefore which forms are more consistent with the rationale of secularism
adopted here. Drawing on the premise that secularism is dynamic and deeply
contextual, a recent study of the relationship between religion and state in Britain,
Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, and Australia has concluded that
the minimum requirement for a positive relationship is neutrality: that people
are neither advantaged or [sic
[ c] disadvantaged by their adherence to their secular
or faith-based tradition. The state should neither favor nor disfavor one particular religious tradition over another.17 The problem with this minimum requirement, however clearly it is necessary, is that no public policy is ever completely
neutral: citizens are always believers (in something). The question, then, is how
people can exercise free democratic choice in accordance with their own beliefs
(religious or otherwise) while the neutrality of the state is maintained. Again, my
conclusions are that (a) the possibility exists only if belief systems are internally
transformed and that (b) belief systems will be transformed only where the interdependence of religion, secularism, and human rights is well established.
But belief systemsreligionsare not the only paradigm that requires
transformation in this dynamic. Secularism suffers from a basic limitation or,
rather, a need for limitation: it must conne its normative content to a minimum
if it is to achieve its purposesafeguarding political pluralism in heterogeneous
societies. In other words, secularism is able to unite diverse communities of belief
and practice into one political community precisely and only because the moral
claims it makes are miminal. All secularisms, it is true, prescribe a civic ethos on
the basis of some specic understanding of the individuals relation to the com-

possible, nor in my view desirable, because religion is not separable from politics.
How can citizens be prevented from acting politically according to their most
basic beliefs? Even were such a requirement established, how could it be enforced
in a way consistent with the integrity and legitimacy of the political process?
There is, theoretically, a continuum of secularisms from the extreme of

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Western notions of the concept and thus understood locally as an imposition. In

particular, I believe (and as I have written before) that it is grossly misleading
to speak of complete separation or total union of any religion and the state. Any
state, as well as its constituent organs and institutions, are conceived and operated
by people whose religious or philosophical beliefs will necessarily be reected
in their thinking and behavior.15 Entire separation of religion and state is not

16. Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper, The

Challenge of Pluralism: Church and State in Five Democracies
(Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littleeld, 1997), 209.
17. Monsma and Soper, Challenge of Pluralism, 209.


munity. But my point here is that the content of most varieties of secularism is
so narrow that it cannot serve as an interreligious and cross-cultural foundation
for human rights as a universal norm. From a pragmatic or political viewpoint,
this limitation is serious because religious believers will fail to be inspired by the
doctrine of human rights if founded solely on secular grounds. It may be necessary, indeed, to seek a religious justication for the principle of secularism itself.
I am not saying that a serious engagement of religion is essential for either human
rights or secularism to be legitimized (everywhere and always) but rather that
that engagement is necessary to obtain the consent of most religious believers.
And religious adherents constitute the clear majority of all human beings.
A related concern is that secularism is unable to address the objections
or reservations that religious believers may have about particular standards of
human rights or specic principles of secular governance. For instance, since
discrimination against women is often justied on religious grounds (in many
societies throughout the world), these systematic and gross violations of human
rights cannot be eliminated without addressing their allegedly religious rationale.
To do so, however, risks violating freedom of religion, a fundamental human
right as well. A purely secular discourse can be respectful of religion in general,
but its rebuttal of one religions justications for discrimination against women
is unlikely to convince that religions adherents. In other words, the minimal
normative content that makes secularism conducive to interreligious coexistence
diminishes its capacity to support human rights as a universal principle without
reference to some other moral source. Likewise secularism by denition fails to
address the need of religious believers to express the moral implications of their
faith in the public domain. Secularism alone, then, is a necessary but insufcient
condition for realizing the political stability that forms part of its own rationale.
But secularism can be enhanced by insisting on a contextual understanding of the
rationale and functioning of secular government in each location.

The Role of Human Agency

When I say that every society can insist on changeon the sorts of change that
I suggestI am referring to the individual members of those societies. I do not
discount the impact of cultural, structural, and environmental factors in the processes of social change. Neither do I disregard religious, ideological, and other
motivations that people have in acting or in refraining from action. Nor do I suggest that people are all equally able and willing to play an active role in demanding
and effecting change. But each paradigm under discussionreligion, secularism,
human rightsis both enabling of human agency and susceptible to inuence by
it. The question is how to secure the best conditions for human agency to achieve
the transformations required: the decisions that individuals must reach will not

their case and for the body of believers to hear and make up their own minds
without fear of retaliation. Those conditions are more likely to be guaranteed
from outside than from inside any given traditionguaranteed, that is, by the
principles of human rights. Again, each element in the tripartite relationship I
have been describing can be called upon to support the other two. They paradoxically, but reliably, depend upon one another.

Prospects for Interdependence

The rst step in promoting the interdependence of human rights, religion, and
secularism is to understand how each paradigm depends upon the other two for
achieving its own objectivesto understand that this interdependence is already
operative but also how it might be improved and promoted deliberately. The second step is to appreciate fully the role of human agency (as well as the obstacles to
its exercise) in promoting the transformations necessary within each paradigm to
support an increasing interdependence and synergy among the three.
The relationships among human rights, religion, and secularism should be
methodically summarized before I elaborate on each of them further:


Human rights need religion to validate their moral foundation and to

mobilize religious adherents (the vast majority, globally) in support of
universal rights.
Religion needs human rights to protect the dignity and rights of religious
adherents within any political system, but human rights also ensure
freedom of belief and practice within each religion itself and thus ensure
the evolution and continuing relevance of each religion to its own

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

practice. While such claims can only be challenged from within the given tradition of belief and practice, and while there are always believers able to play that
role, the process requires a level of security and stability for dissidents to make

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follow as a matter of course. The agency of some actors will tend to diminish the
social and political space for the agency of others, and moreover the outcome
of every act is likely to be objectionable from some other actors point of view.
Each negative result of human agency will need to be ameliorated by further acts
on the part of individuals.
Most people will consider taking such steps only when conditions enable
them to believe in the possibility of deliberate change. When religious doctrines
(and, for that matter, the doctrines of secularism) are open to free interpretation
and thus renewal, those conditions ourish best. Human agency is always integral
to the interpretation and implementation of every doctrine. Yet the guardians
of orthodoxy everywhere claim eternal validity for their own interpretation and





Human rights need secularism to provide the political stability and peace
among communities of believers and nonbelievers that are necessary for
the protection of those rights.
Secular governments need human rights for normative guidance in the
daily protection of people against the abuse of state power.
Secularism needs religion to provide a widely accepted source of moral
guidance for the political community, as well as to help satisfy and
discipline the nonpolitical needs of believers within that community.
Religion needs secularism to mediate relations between different
communities (whether religious or antireligious or nonreligious) that share
the same political space.

However reasonable and clear these and other possible dimensions of interdependence may seem, one should not expect them to be appreciated or acted upon
readily. Once again: human agency is crucial. It is individuals who must address
the challenge that faces each of the three paradigmsthe challenge to remain
true to its own purposes. The overall advantage of each paradigms remaining
true is that those purposes make benecial change inevitable for all three. Examples follow.

Human Rights Depend on Both Secularism and Religion

Human rights as de ned in the UDHR are the current expression of ancient
struggles for social justice and human dignity. The validity and sustainability of
human rights in the former (the current and specic) sense depend on their vindication in the latter (the more general and historic) sense. The specics embodied
in the UDHR are appropriate for our time: they respond to the extensive powers
of the state over every aspect of life and provide safeguards and mechanisms to
protect rights and promote justice. But the adoption of the UDHR does not mean
that its paradigm for human rights has achieved legitimacy in all states, for all
peoples; and the paradigm must respond continually to difcult challenges.
The essence of the paradigm is that the entitlements spelled out in the
UDHR be provided as of right, not as an incidental outcome of social policy:
rights are not subject to the contingencies of political process. The political and
civil rights dened in the declaration are not, in this respect, different fromthey
are not prior and superior tothe social and economic rights listed there. Rather,
these two sorts of human rights depend on and are reinforced by one another. I
said that people are more likely to accept the specic terms of the UDHR denition of rights to the extent that it corresponds to their understanding of human
rights in the more general sense of social justice and human dignity. What I meant
is that the political and civil rights enshrined in the declaration will be attractive

evolution in the meaning and implications of each right would make the UDHR
relevant and useful for the majority of the peoples of the world, not only for privileged elites, and would thus make human rights at last universally human.
It is also accepted by now that the so-called individual human rights can
be achieved only in the context of family and community. This consensus is
clearly reected in the text of more recent UN treaties like the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), as well as in regional documents
like the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (1981) and its subsequent
development in other instruments. Even for so-called traditional human rights,
it is clear that respect for freedom of expression is dependent on a contextually
appropriate education that draws on the cultural traditions of a community. Language is obviously fundamental to freedom of expression as well as to education,
but language is anything but individual and private. Thus it would be useful
to transcend the conventional distinction between so-called civil and political
rights, on the one hand, and economic, social, and cultural rights, on the other
hand. It would be equally wise and useful to accept at least the possibility of collective or group rights as integral to the protection of individual rights. If human
rights are about protecting human dignity, and human dignity is dened for some
in their relation to others, then human rights may also be about protecting collective dignity.18 I am not suggesting that every claim to a collective right should
be accepted, but rather that such claims should be given serious consideration
rather than dismissed as simply inconsistent with the individual focus of human
rights doctrine.
I have already indicated that the main challenge for human rights law is to
18. See Rhoda Howard, Dignity, Community, and
Human Rights, in Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives: A Quest for Consensus, ed. An-Naim (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 81.

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

expression. The state would implement this right by providing educational and
other public facilities enabling all segments of the population to pursue knowledge, exchange information, and formulate independent views. But the people
for whom that education, that expansion of the right to free expression, would
be most meaningful tend to be those who lack shelter and food or are ravaged
by disease. It is therefore sensible and imperative to abandon efforts to classify
human rights or to establish some categories as superior to others. Moreover, this

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to the extent that they are understood as means for realizing higher claims upon
the state. For example, freedom of expression has traditionally been understood
as a negative freedom: the state should refrain from action that infringes on the
right of people to express their opinions. But taken as an afrmative obligation,
this right would do more than allow for the passive consumption of others free


reconcile the international respect for state sovereignty with the international
commitment to protect human dignity. Even a state that refuses to commit to
a positive obligation, as embodied in a treaty, may still in international law be
bound to uphold that obligation if it is held to be jus cogens, an overriding general
principle. These principles include proscriptions of slavery, genocide, torture, and
apartheid. State sovereignty is subordinated to jus cogenss in these instances; but
with respect to most human rights, sovereignty takes precedence in international
law. It is principally this problem that mandates transformation of the UDHR
paradigm for human rights: if state sovereignty is regarded in international law
as above most concerns for rights, then human agency must operate resourcefully
to ensure enforcement of the UDHR within recalcitrant states. I do not believe
that sovereignty should be minimized and human rights enforced by the international community. While intellectuals and governments alike are beginning
to regard human rights enforcement as the humane side of globalization, there is
also evidence that powerful states will further their own foreign-policy objectives
by claiming to enforce human rights in developing countries. Still, the dynamics associated with globalizationeconomic and security interdependencecan
be used to redress these drastically negative consequences. The global nature
of political coercion and economic deprivation calls for correspondingly global
strategies of response, and these are facilitated by the same mechanisms and technologies that make the negative consequences possible.
I do not mean to suggest that human rights provide the answer to all problems of differential power relations, whether locally or beyond. Rather, my point
is that human rights need to be owned by different peoples differently, otherwise they will be perceived as simply another mode of Western coercion. In
other words, legitimating human rights in local cultures and religious traditions
is a matter of vital importance for the survival and future development of the
human rights paradigm itself. Religions must also be encouraged, from within,
to provide moral underpinnings for fresh development of the paradigm in order
to address emerging issues in differing contexts. The contribution of secularism to these critical developments must be to provide the political stability and
communal security essential for negotiating a unique and dynamic relationship
between human rights and religion in every setting internationally.

Religion Depends on Both Secularism and Human Rights

Shifting to the role of religion, I want immediately to stress that the internal
transformation of religions is critical not just for the ourishing of human rights
and secular government but also for the survival of religious traditions and the
legitimacy of religious experience. Every orthodox precept that believers take for
granted today began as a heresy from the perspective of some other orthodox

circulation of such views among believers. If a community denes itself to the

exclusion of others, it is unlikely to listen to outsiders dening or contesting its
religious doctrine or its behavioral precepts. The dilemma is how to encourage
credible agents of internal religious change when the critique that they would
undertake is believed to serve the interests of alien religions, cultures, powers.
The more a religious community feels threatened by internal instability or external domination, the less likely will it be tolerant of religious dissent. Questions
are raised about any dissenters piety and authority in order to discredit his or
her views. Moreover, when dissidents are defended from outside the religious
community, upholders of the status quo often take that defense as proof that dissidents are intent on undermining the community of believers from within. This
tendency of orthodox communities limits the utility of both human rights and
secularism in protecting the rights of religious dissidents. But the tendency is less
problematic where religious justications have been found for human rights and
secular government.
The scope of human agency has always been contested: this generalization has resonance for secular ideologies, as illustrated by recent experience with
Marxism and nationalism, but is probably most valid in religious contexts because
of the transcendental (superhuman) nature of most religious doctrine and the
consequent reluctance to permit change. Given these tendencies, a prerequisite
to the internal transformation of a religion is to emphasize the social and political implications of religious doctrine for the everyday lives of individuals and
communities. Since an exclusively religious frame of reference for assessing those
implications is likely to do no more than reinforce orthodox views, human rights
and secularism can provide some commonly agreed criteria for the purpose. Dissidents, in other words, can point to international consensus on the universality
of human rights and describe the experience of other societies with secularism
in support of their own critique of religious hegemony. But these are issues of
structure and not of content: where dissidents rely on what is thought an external

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

while it could dominate the government of the day by majority will, would be
unable (at least in theory) to threaten the essential interests of any segment of
the population.
I hope it is clear that I am not urging the development of liberal or liberation theologies within the framework of each major world religion. What I
am saying is that problems of authority and representation often frustrate the

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doctrine and may well continue to be considered heretical by some believers in

a major branch of the same religion. Without such human rights as freedom of
belief and expression, there is no possibility of development (which is to say, life)
within the doctrine of any religion, and no possibility of peace within or between
religious communities. This same need is served by secularism: as a principle
of public policy, it ensures that an exclusivist and authoritarian religious group,


justication for an inauthentic innovation in religious doctrine or practice, their

views are naturally rejected by their communities. Arguing effectively for human
rights and secularism, on the other hand, ensures that minority voices can compete on their own merits, rather than be suppressed because they disagree with
prevailing views. Arguing on intercultural terms for the toleration of dissent is
not the same as arguing on intercultural terms for the reform of local theology
and religious practice, but the former can help protect the latter from persecution. This protection is especially important where there is a need for fundamental change (short of founding a new religion). What is required is a contextual
critique of the basic assumptions (including assumptions about methodology) of
currently orthodox doctrines without reference to those of other religious traditionsa critique unlikely to occur without the extracontextual safeguards that
are enhanced by secularism and human rights.

Secularism Depends on Both Religion and Human Rights

On the other hand, the capacity of secularism to offer dissidents the protection
to operate more freely in religious discourse is dependent on secularist doctrine
maintaining a minimal normative content. On the positive side, secularism precludes any specic understanding of religious doctrine from being enforced consciously as state policy. This feature conduces to internal religious transformation
because believers are less threatened by views that, while unorthodox, are not
forced on them through organs of the state. Moreover, novel ideas have a better
chance of consideration on their own merit when there is no chance of their being
declared ofcial state policies. What is known as separation of church and state
is necessary for the health of individual religions (though that is not all that their
health requires).
To play this constructive role in national politics, secularism depends on
the normative guidance supplied by human rights doctrine and on the moral
justication provided by religion. The importance of human rights standards is
obvious because secularism on its own may not be enough for safeguarding individual freedoms and social justiceas illustrated by recent experience with secular totalitarianism in Russia, Germany, and elsewhere. What is not sufciently
appreciated is the importance of a religious rationale for secularism. While the
material conditions of coexistence may force a level of religious tolerance and
diversity, this situation is likely to be seen as merely expedient and temporary
by religious adherents unless they are also able to nd tolerance and diversity
consistent with (or preferably, implied or stipulated by) their religious doctrine.
This requirement is not as difcult to achieve as it may supercially appear: the
dichotomy demanding a choice between religion and secularism has already failed
because, as Talal Asad writes, the concept of the secular cannot do without the

Interdependence in Islamic Contexts

My test case for the generalizations I have offered thus far is that of theology
and politics in Islamic contexts. Religious transformation in Islam requires a
theological argument for change and a political and social context within which
that change may be realized in practice. On the theological side, it is necessary
to rst recognize the role of human agency in Islam through understanding of
the Quran and Sunna (traditions of the Prophet) in historical context. Wide
recognition of the centrality of human agency in Islam is critical for appreciating that secularism is in fact integral to the religion, rather than opposed to it,
and for accepting human rights as a framework for the transformation of Islamic
doctrine and practice. But for either of the two to play its role, secularism and
human rights themselves must be open to their own internal transformations in
response to the various challenges that Islam presents.
I must preface this discussion with two sets of general remarks about the
place of religion in Islamic communities today. First, while many Muslims may
claim that Islam is denitive in their private and communal lives, it is not the sole
determinant of their behavior or the sole basis of social and political organization,
even in purportedly Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.21 In fact,
some Islamic communities (in India, for instance) may have more in common
19. Talal Asad, Religion, Nation-State, Secularism, in
Nation and Religion, ed. Peter van der Veer and Hartmut
Lehmann (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1999), 192.
20. Harold Berman, The Interaction of Law and Religion
(Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1974), 73.
21. A Saudi newspaper editor, for example, recently
described a split between what he called virtual Saudi
Arabia and the real Saudi Arabia. The virtual Saudi
Arabia actually exists in its rules and in the minds of the
people. . . . For instance, in virtual Saudi Arabia there is

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correspond to some transcendent reality in which they believebelieve in with

their whole beings, and not just believe about with their minds.20 Secularism
cannot motivate individuals to uphold its own basic principles; it paradoxically
requires religious motives to energize it.

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

idea of religion.19 Politics and religion do not operate in distinct realms; the one
continually informs and is informed by the other. The concept of the secular
lacks motivating power and lives off that of the religions it checks and balances.
As Harold Berman puts it: people will not give their allegiance to a political and
economic system, and even less to a philosophy, unless it represents for them a
higher, sacred truth. People will desert institutions that do not seem to them to

no satellite television. In principle, and by law, you are

not allowed to own a satellite dish. But in reality we are
the biggest consumers of satellite television in the Middle
East. Not only that, Saudi businessmen are also the biggest investors in satellites. In principle, and by law, Saudi
Arabia is not supposed to have interest-based banking, but
in fact 90 percent of our banking system is interest-based.
And it goes on and on. The solution for Saudi problems
is to bring the virtual world and the real world together.
Lawrence Wright, The Kingdom of Silence, New Yorker,
January 5, 2004, 54.


with neighboring non-Islamic communities that share their ethnic and cultural
afliations, historical experiences, economic resources, and political and security
concerns than they have in common with other Islamic communities (say, in
sub-Saharan Africa). In other words, Muslims understanding and practice of
Islam are conditioned more by what may be regarded as extra-religious factors
than they are by any abstract, settled, and in whatever way divinely sanctioned
conception of the religion.
Second, there has always been a signicant diversity of theological and jurisprudential viewsand of political opinion and practicewithin and between
Islamic communities. Profound political and theological differences have divided
Muslims from the beginning in the Arabia of the seventh century, leading to civil
wars over issues of political power within three decades of the Prophets death in
632. Serious disagreements over the interpretation and implementation of Islamic
doctrine have long since resulted in the distinctive religious factions and schools
of jurisprudence called madhahib (singular madhhab), as well as in wide differences
of opinion within each school. Muslim scholars and communities at large routinely cite this diversity of opinions and beliefs as a positive feature of their faith.
This diversity is likely to become more intense and widespread under modern
conditions of education and communication. There are now greater opportunities
for disagreement (as well as consensus) as more Muslims, women included, are
educated enough to assess the Quran, Sunna, and Islamic history for themselves
and to communicate with others around the world about theological and political
issues of common concern. Disagreement is logically integral to religious experience because human beings do not truly believe where disbelief is not an option.
This proposition may sound modern and liberal but is made in 114 verses of the
Quran (and is rooted in Islamic theological and philosophical discourse since the
eighth century). Verse 18 of chapter 29, for example, reads: Tell them that Truth
is revealed from God, and let those who wish to believe, do so, and those who wish
to disbelieve, do so. But as I have argued elsewhere, the real issue is the framework of interpretation and not simply the presence of texts that can be variously
understood.22 In other words, it is human agency that determines which texts are
relevant to the issue at hand and how they should be interpreted.
Islamic life today is not guided solely by Muslim principles, and religious
views within the Islamic world are and always have been very diverse: it is in light
of these two recognitions that Islamic communities need to consider the relationship between Islam (under its various interpretations) and the global doctrines
of secular government and human rights. First, it must be recognized that any

22. An-Naim, Toward an Islamic Hermeneutics for

Human Rights, in Human Rights and Religious Values, ed.
An-Naim, Jerald D. Gort, Henry Jansen, and Hendrik M.
Vroom (Amsterdam: Rodopi; Grand Rapids, MI: William
B. Eerdmans, 1995), 22942.

ral, secular concerns of human beings and have practical relevance only because
those responses are believed to be practically useful in the daily lives of the people
they address. Some Muslims think that these propositions undermine belief in
the divine source of Islam. They fail to appreciate, however, that the Quran
and Sunna are not manifestations of divinity in the abstract; they are directed at
human beings living human lives.
The presumed incompatibility of Islam and secularism derives from terminological as well as substantive confusions, and clarifying matters of denition
should help frame the substantive issues in more precise terms. The main problem, from this perspective, is the tendency to limit understanding of secularism to
the Western experience with Christianity since the eighteenth century. Whether
viewed as separation of church and state or disestablishment of religion, such
denitions are specic to given settings and do not address the continuing social
and political role of religion in public life even in those settings. For instance,
efforts to sever institutional links between religion and the state cannot apply to
the role of religion in politics: there is no way of knowing, much less disallowing, the motives of an individuals political action. It is also problematic to equate
secularism with disregard for religion, or with a diminishing role for religion in
public life, as some scholars have done.23 To say that religion has no inuence in
societies with secular governments is obviously false, so the question becomes
what sort of inuence and, if the inuence is diminishing, in what ways? It is time
that we rethink secularism as a kind of relationship between religion and state
that varies, religion by religion and state by state. The form that this relationship takes in a given setting is the product of organic development over time and
needs, if it is to succeed, to be accepted as legitimate by the population at large; it
cannot be expected to drastically change a political and religious situation instantaneously via constitutional enactment or political rhetoric.
23. See notes 1012 and related text, above.

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

A n - N a im

sharp distinction between the sacred and the secular in the Islamic world itself is
misleading. Muslims believe that the Quran is the literal and nal word of God
and that Sunna is the second divinely inspired source of Islam. But the Quran
was revealed in Arabic, a human language that evolved historically, and many
normative parts of the Quran address situations in Mecca and Medina specic
to the time that the Prophet conveyed them. Sunna, moreover, responded to
immediate concerns that emerged in speciable contexts, whatever the broader
implications that Sunna may have for later times and different places. Human
agency, in other words, was integral to the revelation, interpretation, and practice of Islam from its beginning in the seventh century. In any case, the Quran
and Sunna cannot be understood except as applied by human beings temporally
and in particular contexts. Religious precepts necessarily respond to the tempo-


As a matter of terminology, secularism in its West European and North

American sense came to Africa and Asia in the suspect company of other items
of colonial vocabulary. Secularism is commonly associated, especially in Islamic
societies, with the militantly antireligious attitudes of the French Revolution;
and generally, non-Christians think of the concept as related to Christianity in
particular. Nevertheless, the term is applicable to the experience of African and
Asian societies, provided it is understood and applied in the specic context of
each society, rather than as a feature of a supposedly global and context-free
liberalism. The most compelling argument for developing a specically Muslim
rationale for secularism is the necessity of secular guarantees for the freedom of
religion in pluralistic nation-states. The states of the Islamic world are simply
not, as many in the West presume they are, religiously uniform. Whether it is
the Shia of eastern Saudi Arabia, Sunni of Iran, or Shia of Pakistan, Muslims can
suffer serious violations of the right to live by their belief in what they understand
Islam to command and claim. It is worth observing that many Muslim intellectuals and political dissidentsincluding leaders of Islamist movements like Rashid
Qanushi of Tunisia (as I write, he is living in the United Kingdom)have taken
or are seeking refuge in Western countries because they enjoy more freedom of
belief when living in Christendom, which by now is mostly secular, than in
states with large Muslim majorities.
But a Muslim rationale for secularism is not far to seek. It is commonly
claimed that Islam mandates the establishment of an Islamic state to enforce
Sharia (the normative system of Islam) as the law of the land. But the notion of
an Islamic state is a contradiction in terms. Principles of Sharia enacted by the
state as positive law cease, once enacted and enforced by the state, to be part
of the normative system of Islam. Since there is so much diversity of opinion
among Islamic schools of thought and among Islamic scholars, any enactment of
Sharia principles as law must accept some opinions over others, with the result
that believers would be denied freedom of choice among the equally legitimate
competing opinions on any legal question. Moreover, as even advocates of an
Islamic state must concede, the only such state in Muslim history has been that
of the Prophet in Medina, and it was in many ways too exceptional an entity to
be useful now as a model. The implementation of Sharia as state law is, as I have
argued at some length elsewhere, untenable for any nation-state in the present
economic and political context globally.24
My basic points have been, in summary, (1) that Muslims need human rights
to protect them from government abuse and (2) that every Muslim needs secularism to secure his or her freedom to be the kind of Muslim that he or she wishes to

24. For further elaboration on and substantiation of these

and Positive Legislation,
views, see An-Naim, Sharia

acteristic often explained as a rift between Islamist conservatives and secular

liberals.25 According to one good survey, however, the secular branch of the
womens movement is united not by an antireligious or anti-Islamic position, but
rather by the view that Sharia should not be the main or sole source of legislation in Egypt (14).
4 The majority of women in the secular womens movement
describe themselves as very religious (142).26 Many of these women do not see
religion as antithetical to feminism, and they perceive religious afliation as integral to their struggle for human rights. It is simply, according to this survey, that
most secular women activists [recognize] that religion does not constitute the
only source of values and axis of orientation in peoples lives (142). There are,
however, some women activists who view Islamic tradition as inherently tainted
by the patriarchal system in which it was created more than a thousand years
ago, and they therefore reject the religious tradition (141). The best way, then, to
conceive of religious and secular attitudes in Egypt is not as a dichotomy but as a
continuum. Dichotomous conceptions sustain the Islamist notion of secularism
as meaning against religion (147).
The case of the Egyptian womens movement supports the idea that religion needs both secularism and human rights. Muslim women, for one thing,
believe in their own ability to promote understanding and practice of the three
paradigms in tandem: in Egypt, they are reinterpreting and renewing their reli-

25. See Nadje Al-Ali, Secularism, Gender, and the State in

the Middle East: The Egyptian Womens Movementt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 3.
26. Al-Alis study reveals that trying to categorize these
women, as some other scholars have done, engenders articial distinctions. The author argues that categorizing
Egyptian feminists as Islamist, Muslim, or secular is misleading. Specically, Al-Ali challenges the de nition of
secular feminists by Azza Karam in Women, Islamisms, and
the State: Contemporary Feminism in Egyptt (Basingstoke,

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

Womens Rights in Egypt

The womens movement in Egypt is multifaceted or perhaps fractured, a char-

are bound to face. What follows, accordingly, are three very brief case studies to
highlight this perspective.

A n - N a im

be, but (3) that these two needs cannot be satised without transformation of the
standard ways of understanding Islam. These three points make my theoretical
case for the synergy and interdependence of Islam, secularism, and the modern
doctrine of human rights. But the synergy I propose is already developing in a
variety of Islamic societies, and what is needed are ways of facilitating these processes and overcoming the limitations and difculties that such developments

U.K.: Macmillan; New York: St. Martins, 1998): Karam

argues that secular feminists center their discourse in the
language of international human rights rather than that
of religion. To Al-Ali, views and opinions about secularism and religion are extremely complex and variable even
among members of the same group. Moreover, international conventions of human rights constitute only one
reference point among many. Secularism, Gender, and the
State, 14041.


gious traditions in order to do so. And the Western origin of human rights doctrine does not prevent these women from claiming UDHR rights for themselves
or from seeking to reevaluate and adapt those norms to suit their own cultural,
religious, and political situations (14248). Freedom of religion, a norm of human
rights doctrine, gives these women the power to choose, among Islamic traditions, those most compatible with their own belief in other UDHR rights. Invoking global norms of human rights enables Muslims like these Egyptian women to
challenge dated and regressive understandings and practices. Thus, human rights
and secularism help such Muslims avoid the difcult choice of either rejecting
their religion entirely or abandoning their own human dignity.
At the same time, the invocation of human rights, and also secularism,
enables those who feel more completely alienated to leave the Muslim religion
altogether, as some members of the secular womens movement in Egypt have
indeed chosen to do. It is critical for the moral integrity of the religion itself that
people be free to stay or leave the community at willthat they not be forced
or intimidated into the pretense of belief and hypocritical practice. The relative
neutrality of the Egyptian state in religious matters is important in maintaining
peace and stability in a country that has a signicant Christian minority as well as
the usual diversity of beliefs among its Muslims.27 Unfortunately, in attempting
to respond to the threat of militant Islamic fundamentalism, the present Egyptian government tends to limit freedom of religion and other human rights for all
segments of its population.28 For example, in 1992 private mosques in Egypt were
nationalized so that sermons promoting violent extremism could be censored.
Ironically, while this state control of Islamic discourse tends to inhibit the exercise of human rights among the majority of Muslims, it is not always successful in
suppressing Islamic militancy. The fact that the mosque has become a contested
political arena undermines the secular nature of the state and its role as guardian of human rights. A better appreciation of the interdependence of religion,
secular government, and human rights would enable the state and civil society to
cooperate in upholding the integrity of all three paradigms as the foundation of
political pluralism.

Negotiating Islamic Identity and Politics: The Case of Sunni Sudan

In view of the intense and long-standing religious diversity in all countries with
Muslim majorities, secularism is, as I have argued, crucial for the good of both

27. Egypt is approximately 90 percent Muslim, mostly

Sunni, with a tiny Shii minority, and 7 to 10 percent
Coptic Christian. Denis J. Sullivan and Sana Abed-Kotob,
Islam in Contemporary Egypt: Civil Society vs. the Statee (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999), 19.

28. Sullivan and Abed-Kotob, Islam in Contemporary

Egypt, 122.

sition of a particular understanding of Islamic law violates the human rights of

Muslim as well as non-Muslim citizens of the country.33 To the extent that Sharia
is taken to be of divine origin, any political opposition to the government of the
day becomes tantamount to apostasya capital crime punishable by death under
section 126 of the Sudan Penal Code of 1991.34 And minority religious traditions
will suffer serious violations of their most fundamental rights.35
The benets of secularism, and the protection of human rights, are in such
a context obvious, but neither is achievable in a sustainable manner until the
role of Islam in national politics is claried. That is, given widespread belief in
the necessity of a role for Islam in public life, human rights cannot be secured,
and secularism cannot be established as a guarantor of human rights, until both
obtain credible justications in Islamic terms. Yet the process by which those
justications could be developed depends itself on the protection offered by the

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2

belief that the removal of Islam from public life in Sudan is not an option.31 On
the other hand, the notion of an Islamic state is obviously untenable in view of the
profound religious and cultural diversity of the country as a whole.32 The impo-

A n - N a im

human rights and religion throughout the Islamic world. Recent developments
in Sudan illustrate how ambiguities about the relationship between Islam and
the state have gured in the political instability and retarded socioeconomic
development of the country since it gained independence from colonial rule in
1956. These ambiguities are also among the causes of the civil war waged in the
southern part of the country, rst from 1955 to 1972, then again from 1983 to the
present.29 The main political parties in the northern part of the country, which
is predominantly Muslim, are unable to dispute claims made by the National
Islamic Front that the country must be governed by an Islamic state and Sharia
enforced as the law of the land.30 This situation has given the National Islamic
Front a grossly exaggerated inuence in the country and has promoted a general

29. For a comprehensive history and analysis, see, for

example, Francis M. Deng, War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1995).

31. A. H. Abdel Salam, Constitutional Challenges of

Transition, in The Phoenix State: Civil Society and the
Future of Sudan, by Abdel Salam and Alex de Waal (Trenton, NJ: Red Sea, 2001), 21.

30. According to the National Islamic Front in Sudan, an

Islamic state is an ideological movement that seeks comprehensive reform of Muslim society for the establishment
of a just social order centered on faith. This formulation
means that the tenets of Islam would dictate all religious,
social, political, economic, and legal aspects of life. See
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Beset by Contradictions: Islamization, Legal Reform and Human Rights
in Sudan (New York: Lawyers Committee for Human
Rights, 1996), 84.

32. As of 2001, 70 percent of Sudanese adhere to Islam,

while 20 percent are Christians. Abdel Salam and de Waal,
Phoenix State, 53.
33. Abdel Salam and de Waal, Phoenix State, 2223.
34. Donna E. Artz, The Treatment of Religious Dissidents under Classical and Contemporary Islamic Law, in
Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Religious Perspectives, ed. John Witte and Johan D. van der Vyver (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1996), 4056.
35. Abdel Salam and de Waal, Phoenix State, 2223.


right to freedom of belief and dissent.36 Sudan is thus a clear case of the need
for usfor the individuals involvedto nurture the existing synergy of Islam,
religiously neutral governance, and UDHR rights.

Negotiating Islamic Identity and Politics: The Case of Shia Iran

The condition of Iran under the Islamic Republic proclaimed in April 1979 supports the same conclusion. The Iranian state since that time has been fused with
one particular interpretation of Islaman interpretation exceptional even within
the distinctive Shia tradition of Iran itselfunder guardianship by the clergy
(vilayat-i faqih).37 The Iranian constitution is a complex of paradoxes and contradictions.38 For example, article 2 states that the Islamic Republic is a system
based on belief in . . . One God . . . His exclusive sovereignty and right to legislate,
and the necessity of submission to His commands. Article 4 states that all civil,
penal, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and
regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. But contradicting these assertions,
article 6 states that the affairs of the country must be administered on the basis
of public opinion, expressed by means of elections. While establishing Islam as
the eternally immutable religion of Iran, the constitution bestows recognition
on Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity (though only those three) as religious minorities, allowing their adherents freedom of religion within the limits
of the law. An absolute religious Leader and the Leadership of the Ummah
have ultimate authority in the executive branch of government, but the Islamic
Assembly contains guaranteed seats for non-Muslims: the Zoroastrians and Jews
will elect one representative; Assyrian and Chaldean Christians will jointly elect
one representative; and Armenian Christians in the north and in the south of
the country will each elect one representative. Further, the constitution ensures
equal rights for women but only in conformity with Islamic criteria.
Mixing notions of divine authority (exercised fallibly by the absolute religious Leader) with modern ideas of popular sovereignty and democratic elections has resulted in suffering for all segments of the population, including the
Shia majority itself. Political struggles among competing religious and civic
authorities have locked the state in unworkable policies and forced the country
into a devastating international isolation. Reports of the United Nations Special

36. See An-Naim, Islamic Foundations of Religious

Human Rights, in Witte and van der Vyver, Religious
Human Rights, 341.
37. Michael M. J. Fisher, Legal Postulates in Flux: Justice, Wit, and Hierarchy, in Iran in Law and Islam in the
Middle East, ed. Daisy Hilse Dwyer (New York: Bergin
and Garvey, 1990), 115. This notion of a Shia state was

based on Khomeinis ideas (see, for example, Ayatollah

Ruhollah Khomeini, Islamic Government, trans. Joint
Publications Research Service [New York: Manor, 1979],
which represented a break from the traditional view of the
Twelvers Shia school that prevails in Iran today).
38. Steiner and Alston, International Human Rights, 459
62, quoting
g Constitution of Iran, 1979 (as amended).

Some Implications for Policy

Religion, secularism, and human rights are not autonomous concepts or paradigms; they exist in constant interaction with each other and with political, economic, constitutional, and governmental processes and institutions, both locally
and globally. Given this reality of interdependence, neither the ratication of
international treaties nor the adoption of national legislation can guarantee progress of the kind that I am hoping may ensue. Neither secular government in Sudan
nor the rights of women in Egypt and Iran will be made real simply by proclaiming them or even by amending national constitutions. In each case, the success
or failure of any initiative will depend on the development and wide comprehension of clear principles, on consistent practice in accordance with them, and on a
well-informed and active civil society intent on holding its government ofcials
accountable for their acts. The model that I have drawn and advocated here, if
found plausible and useful, must be further developed, adapted, and applied on a
case by case basis in order to clarify the relationships among religion, secularism,
and human rights in any given society. This much, however, may be said, across
the board, with condence: a constitution that reects particular religious beliefs
will be static (a grounding in divine authority can sanction little change) and
therefore doomed in a changing world. States that adopt religious law as national
law and allot political positions according to religious afliation discover eventually that religious adherents do not necessarily act politically in terms of their
religious beliefs and that religions suffer by their association with the exigencies
of politics. Religion and politics are not well mixedand Muslim history offers
ample evidence of that generalization.

39. UN Doc. E/CN.4/1991/35, and UN Doc. E/CN.4/

1999/32. See Steiner and Alston, International Human
Rights, 62429.

Ta l k in g P e a c e w i t h G o d s : P a r t 2
A n - N a im

Representative on Iran in 1991 and 1998 documented horrendous violations of

human rights throughout the country.39 Yet the fact that the second UN report
also documented some improvement indicates a possibility of recovery from the
disaster of the 1980s and early 1990s. What is clear from the sad, yet hopeful,
experience of Iran with the project of creating an Islamic state is that a secular
space between religion and state is indispensable for the political stability, social
and economic development, and general well-being of Islamic societies. From an
internal point of view, the well-documented, daily violations of human rights by
a purportedly Islamic state undermine not only the notion of Islamic government
but, for some, even the validity of Islam. When government is identied with
religion, both are blamed for the social and political problems of the country.


I have tried to underscore that peoples and individuals need make no choice
among religion, secularism, and human rights. The three can work in synergy.
But there is a related choice that does need to be made: whether or not to attempt
mediating tensions among the three paradigms. I would myself urge both scholars and policymakers to take responsibility for that mediation rather than permit
further damage to be done by belief in the incompatibility of religion with secular
government and human rights. Whether we should adopt, develop, and implement any given approach to this mediation (the one that I have outlined here or
any other approach) is not a foregone conclusion, imposed by impersonal forces.
It is a human choice and will be made by individuals.

Third World Quarterly

Moderate Islam and Secularist Opposition in Turkey: Implications for the World, Muslims and
Secular Democracy
Author(s): Murat Somer
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Third World Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 7 (2007), pp. 1271-1289
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: .
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ThirdWorld Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 7, 2007, pp 1271-1289




and Secularist

in Turkey:

for the world, Muslims



ABSTRACT Developing an argumentbased in theoriesof democraticconsolida
tion and religious competition,and discussing the reasons for the secularist
opposition to thegovernment,thisarticle analyses how governmentby a party
rooted inmoderate Islamismmay affectTurkey's peculiar secular democracy,
developmentand external relations and howMuslims in theworld relate to
modernization and democracy.Arguing that secularism in advanced democ
raciesmay be a product of democracyas much as it is theotherway around, the
articlemaintains thatdemocratic consolidationmay secure furtherconsolida
tionof Turkish secularism and sustainable moderation of Turkish political
Islam. Besides democratic Islamic- conservative actors and other factors,
democratic consolidation requires strong democratic- secularist political
parties so that secularist and moderate Islamist civilian actors check and
balance each other.Otherwise,middle class value divisionsandmistrust inareas
like education and social regulationmay jeopardise democratisation and
economicmodernisation and continuingreconciliationof Islamismwith secular
democracy and modernity.

The main goal of this article is to examine what the current divisions in
Turkey over political Islammay implyfor theway we envision the relation
ships between religion, Islam and modernisation, especially the relationship
between democratic consolidation and secularism.
Following its landslide electoral victory in July2007, Turkey's governing
AKP (Justiceand Development Party), a party rooted in Islamism, has been
solidified as a leading political actor and given a historical opportunity to
reshape Turkey's social and political mainstream. How will this affect
Turkey'smodernisation, secular democracy and external relations,and what


is in the Department

of International



of Administrative



RumeliFeneriYolu, Sarlyer,34450 Istanbul,Turkey.
Email: musomer(@,
? 2007 ThirdWorldQuarterly
ISSN 0143-6597print/ISSN1360-2241online/07/071271-19
DOI: 10.1080/01436590701604888



does all thismean for the world in regard to Muslims' relations with
modernity and secular democracy? At first,the answers to these questions
seem to depend on the nature of the AKP itself:whether it is a secretly
Islamist,moderate Islamist, or Islamic-conservative democratic party, and
how sincere its commitments are to secular democracy. Alternatively one
may ask to what extent Islamic principles, or, for thatmatter, religious
principles, can be compatible with secular democracy in the long run, a
critical question throughout theworld.
A more complete analysis reveals that the party's legacywill depend as
much on theparty's own nature and decisions as itwill on the nature and
decisions of the secularist political actors. There are no fixed answers. The
AKP as a party and ideology, and moderate Islamism in general, are dyna
mic. Religious politics is a product of both itsown roots and itsdomestic and
internationalpolitical and economic milieu. One can foreseedifferent
and thus differentprospects forTurkish secularism, depending on various
factors such as Turkey's political system,economic development, external
support, and social divisions over values. The key interveningvariable is
democratic consolidation.
The establishment and, so far, performance of the AKP forms a major
example of the 'moderation' of political Islam through the embrace of
democracy,modernity and liberal global economy, as opposed to 'radical'
Islamism,which pursues an Islamic state, as in Iran or Saudi Arabia.1 The
party defines itselfas conservative democratic, and its record in government
since 2002 'has been markedly moderate'.2 It has achieved path-breaking
reformsin democratisation, and continuous economic stabilityand growth.
It secured thestartof Turkey's EU accession talks in 2005. It became the first
governingparty since 1960 to have thecourage to stand up to themilitary's
interferencein politics by publicly denouncing themilitary's criticismof the


The party'smoderation cannot be explained away as an unintended and

unreliable product of opportunistic steps in response to 'luckycoincidences'.4
The partywas able to use itsopportunities because a young and pragmatic
generation of Turkish Islamists criticalof theold guard decided to found the
AKP with a deliberately chosen pro-democracy programme and secular
outlook. They did so by learning from past mistakes and with an eye to
appealing to broader segmentsof the electorate.5
Yet significantportions of Turkish society and the secularistmilitary
and judiciary continue to suspect theAKP of anti-secularism, and, for that
matter, anti-democratic tendencies. Secularist rallies in spring 2007
drewmillions of people. The rallies are indicativeof a major socio-political
riftin thispivotal emergingmarket and democracy.How thisriftismanaged
will determinewhether Turkish democracy will finallybecome a full rather
than a guided democracy, where democracy includes not only free
elections but also the freedom of elected governments to pursue policies
disapproved of by themilitary on issues such as secularism and theKurdish
question. It will also determine the evolution of Turkish secularism and
political Islam.




Which AKP and whichmoderation?

The AKP representsTurkey's new modernisers with Islamist and Islamic
conservative roots, who both benefited from secular modernisation and
deeply resented itsperceived anti-religiouspractices.6One way to predict its
futureevolution and impact on Turkish democracy could be via a crude
application of what may be called the 'democraticmoderation thesis'.7
According to this thesis, the more the AKP participates in democracy,
the more it will 'moderate' and contribute to democratisation and
modernisation. The more it is excluded, the less itwillmoderate, jeopardising
furtherdemocratisation and modernisation, and relationswith theWestern


As I will elaborate in the sections ahead, we need a more multifaceted

understandingof Turkish politics and ofmoderate Islamism tomake a more
accurate prediction.The moderation of Turkish Islam in the example of the
AKP did not resultfromsimple,unrestrainedparticipation indemocracy, but
from a complex mixture of incentives to participate, and disincentives to
accentuate Islam, in a guided democracy.
In fact, roughly speaking, three differentscenarios can produce three
differentAKPs and thus three differentmoderate Islamisms. A major
determinantof these scenarioswill be theAKP's secularist rivals.
The first scenario could occur if the AKP is rivaled by weak and
fragmented secularist political parties. In this case the party would be
emboldened to launch further legal- institutional reforms which may
initiallystrengthendemocracy, for example by reducing themilitary's clout.
One could also argue that theweakness of theparties in thecenter-rightand
might encourage theparty to adopt more moderate policies to fill
thegap. Simultaneously, however, ifunrivalled, thepartymight be unable to
resist promoting a deeper and faster Islamisation, not necessarily of
government, but of society in education and social regulation.Moralists
within the partymay gain clout at the expense of pragmatists. Such social
Islamisation would eventually be self-destructivefor the AKP. It would
jeopardisemodernisation via an eventual deterioration of the relationswith
theWestern world, especially with the EU, which could not embrace an
increasinglyIslamic Turkey in the face of rising Islamophobia in Europe.
This scenario would also jeopardise democracy as a result of the
interventionsof themilitary, which cannot accept the rapid erosion of
secularmodernism envisioned by Atatuirk.Democratisation would also be
undermined if it is the fearofmilitary interventionthatdissuades theparty
fromaccentuating Islamisation.
The second scenario could occur if theAKP isbalanced by strong secularist
political parties, but thosewhich hold secular-nationalism above democra
tisation. In this case, theAKP might capitalise on religious nationalism in
order to rival secular nationalism. Nationalism is likely to remain a major
force in Turkey, not necessarily as a political ideology but as a value, for
threemain reasons. First, theKurdish question and the re-escalation of the
Kurdish separatist violence are fomentingTurkish nationalism,while rising



Turkish nationalism itself, the rise of Kurdish nationalism in theMiddle

East, and the possibility of a Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq are
fomentingKurdish nationalism. Second, theTurkishmilitary is encouraging
Turkish nationalism as an antidote to both Kurdish separatism and
Islamism. Third, Turkish nationalism is fuelled by the negative attitudes in
some European countries toward Turkey's EU membership prospects,
attitudeswhich are widely publicised in Turkey. In this environment the
AKP may find it necessary to compete with secular-nationalist rivals by
promoting Turkish nationalism with Islamic-conservative (SunniMuslim)


In this case Turkey and theworld would face a hard choice between
two authoritarian forces: one secular-nationalist and the other Islamic
conservative nationalist. Neither forcewould be able to deepen democratic
modernisation because competitive nationalist agendas would produce
inward-looking economic policies and would exacerbate the Kurdish
conflict by deepening the resentmentsof Turkish Kurds. Sunni Muslim
nationalism would also alienate theAlevi Muslim population. Because of
theirweak democratic credentials, both forceswould also face problems
in deepening relations with the EU and the USA. Relations with the
USA might also be undermined more directly because Turkey may
venture to invade northern Iraq, despite US disapproval. All in all,
Turkey would remain a flawed democracy and a failed economic miracle
at best, and a case of democratic reversal and a semi-developed economy
at worst.
The third and most promising scenario could occur if the AKP is
checked and balanced by strong secularist political parties thatmanage to
translate secularist and nationalist concerns into political programmes
combining modernisation with furtherdemocratisation. Thus, henceforth,
by strong secularist parties, I will be referringto voter support as well as
ability to produce well thought-out social and economic programmes,
minimise corruptionwithin party ranks, and to build long-term linkswith
constituencies. In this case pragmatists within the AKP would remain in
control in order to appeal to mainstream voters. Both Turks and the
world would have a healthy choice between two projects of democratic
modernisation in Turkey, one Islamic- conservative but largely secular,
and one secularist. Secularist voters would no longer look to themilitary
as a guarantor of secularism because the AKP's project of moderate
Islamisation would be checked by democratic secularist forces. Islamic
conservatives would not need to capitalise on religious nationalism or
Islamic radicalism because theywould have a fair chance of coming to
power through democratic processes and implementing some of their
agenda. This scenario would also have a good chance of sustaining
rapid economic development and deepening relationswith theEU and the
To accurately gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the consequences
for 'secularism',we need a closer look at the secularist grievances and the
theoretical links between secularism and democracy.




The nature of the secularistmobilization: implicationsforTurkey and

Many of the speakers at and organisers of the secularist rallies appeared to
advocate extreme nationalist or secularist views which findweak support
among theTurkish electorate.Given themoderate record of theAKP, what
motivated theordinary participants at the rallies?This mass mobilisation of
secularism is a new phenomenon in a societywhere Islam is a major part of
the culture. In many ways it was hard to describe the participants, to
understand theirmotivations and to assess the implications of their
The rallieswere triggeredby theAKP's nomination of the thenForeign
AffairsMinister Gill for president.9 It was considered threateningby the
protesters that politicians with an Islamist background could control both
parliament and thepresidency.The possibility of PrimeMinister Erdogan's
candidacy itselfhad earlier been stronglyopposed by secularists.Gul also
faced opposition because his wife wore an Islamic-typeheadscarf,which its
critics call a 'turban'.10In the secularists' perception the turban symbolises
one's opposition to Atatuirk's secular reforms.Thus, for them, seeing the
country's firstladywearing itwould symbolise a major shiftof power in


The rallies, however, indicated a more complex riftwhich was hard for
outside observers to describe.Was the riftabout piety versus non-piety?
Secular enlightenmentversus religious revivalism?Class conflict?The mass
participation in the rallies contradicted the framework of 'secular elites
versus Islamic masses', with which outside observers are accustomed to
analysing conflicts over secularism inMuslim societies. Some journalists
wrote about 'secularized Turks aspiring to a Western lifestyle'.11Some
described a 'chasm between the secular and the pious', implying that
piousness, a matter of faith,and secularism, an ideology or set of values of
separating faithand worldly affairs,exclude each other. 2Others referredto
'urban, secular Turks' versus 'the broad base of devout Turks from the
country's heartland'.13
Secularism and moderate Islam as middle class phenomena
The new religious- conservative elite are challenging the status of the
secularist state elite.The new elite ascended to power by challengingold-style
Islamists of theErbakan traditionand culturallyMuslim -conservative yet
secularist politicians of theDemirel tradition.Economically competition is
occurring between the secularist big business elite and the recentlyemerged
Islamic- conservativebusiness elite.'4After all, theAKP came to power when
both thepolitical centre and part of the economic centre collapsed in 2001
following financial crises.Most Turks correctlyblamed the corruption of
political and economic elites for the crises.
However, more than an elite struggle,thecurrentbattle isoccurring in the
socio-cultural realm between twomiddle classes: the secularistmiddle class


and the new religious- conservativemiddle class. The former is sceptical of

Islamism of all sorts and the latter is drawn to a moderate and pro-modern
sort of Islamism.
moderate Islam may produce differentimplications for the
secularistTurkish middle class and theworld. Followers of Turkish politics
and theAKP in theworld include Islamists seeking recognition in order to
participate in democratic politics,Arab democrats and autocrats concerned
that transition to democracy may bring Islamists to power, theEU, trying
to gauge who the truedemocrats and Europhiles are inTurkey, and people
throughout theworld concerned about Islamic extremism and the lack of
democracy inMuslim countries. For many of theseactors a moderate party
like theAKP can create a positive example by showing theworld how Islam
can coexist with secular,multiparty democracy. In their eyes a moderate
Islam that is peaceful and respectful of individualism, secular laws, a
market-oriented economic system and democratic competition is surely
preferable to 'radical Islam', which is keen to control the state and the
economy, to institutereligious law, and to employ violence.
Turkish secularismand secularistmobilisation
For secularist protesters in Turkey, however,moderate Islam seems to be
more dangerous than radical Islam. The protesters include staunch
secularists sceptical of religion altogether. But they also includeMuslims,
pious and non-pious,who are comfortablewith thebasic principles, ifnot all
thepractice of, Turkish secularism.
Anti-religious ideas might have influencedsome of theKemalist reforms
which laid down the basic principles of Turkey's secular, or 'laicist'
system.However, the system that emerged does not oppose religion.Nor
does it envision an absolute separation of religion and state as in the
USA. 15 Its laws and political institutions are based in strictly secular
principles. But it also exemplifies high state regulation of Islam in the
name of promoting national unity, of secularising social and political life,
of making room for modernisation/Westernization and, arguably, of
curbing Sunni Islam's competitive tendencies, which will be discussed


Some state involvement in religious affairs,and vice versa, is common in

democracies. Many European democracies such as Denmark have state
churches, and others such as Germany restrictproselytising.16However,
Turkey distinguishes itself by the degree of public involvement in, and
control of, religion,more so even than in France. The Turkish constitution
tasks the state with providing religious services via the Directorate of
Religious Affairs and with providingmoral education. State involvement in
religious services and education has increased over timewith thepolicies of
centre-rightgovernmentsand of themilitary regime in 1980-83. The latter
promoted Islam as an antidote to communism and thepoliticisation of young
people, echoing the Brzezinski doctrine of establishing a 'green crescent'
surrounding theUSSR's southern belly.




Through religious services and education the Turkish state attempts to

influence social norms and culture by offeringa version of Islam that is
apolitical, rationalistand does not seek to regulateall spheresof life.In effect
thestate itselfpromotes a typeofmoderate Islam, in theproduction ofwhich
it tries to maintain a partial monopoly position. For those who are
comfortablewith this typeof religion,themain threatis seen as another form
of moderate Islam, not radical Islam. Thus community-basedmoderate
Islamwhich comprises Islamic brotherhoods and other faith-basednetworks
promoting theirown versions of pro-modern Islam, a major constituencyfor
theAKP, competeswith the state-sponsored religionwhile also co-operating
with itwhere necessary for survival and self-advancement.
Secularists understand that radical Islamism has littlepotential to rule in
Turkey. Atatuirk's reforms transformed society deeply, secularism and
multiparty democracy have relatively long legacies, and themilitary and
western alliances oppose radical Islamism. Thus, although themajority of
Turks consider themselvesreligious, theyare 'non-conservative' in the sense
that they are willing to reconcile their faithwith the opportunities that
democracy,modernity and largely secular, ieworldly, lifestylesoffer.17It is
unlikely that theywould support a revolutionaryIslamism.
However, themajority of theTurkish public may conceivably support a
moderate Islamism. This may lead to thegradual Islamisation of social life
because of Islam's place within theTurkish culture, social pressures, and
Sunni Islam's competitive structure.Sunni Islam, the dominant form of
Islam inTurkey as well as in the restof theworld, does not have a central
doctrinal authority.Despite historical and modern attempts to institutiona
lise 'traditional' Islamic jurisprudence, thebasic principleupon which people
become religiousauthorities is thatotherMuslims recognise theirknowledge
of religion and respect their interpretationsof the faith,called fatwas.18 In
effectSunni Islam has a freemarket system of religious interpretation
regulated only by weakly institutionalisedinformalnorms. Under different
circumstances, thisnature can support rigidor flexible,and pro-modern or
conservative interpretations.19
With less regulationof community-based Islamic networks inTurkey, the
resulting'vitalityin religiousmarkets' may givemore voice to interpretations
that are politically-economically liberal but socially conservative, or
interpretationsthat have dubious feasibility.20For example, both state
sponsored and community-based teachingsmay endorsewomen's participa
tion in the labour force.However, community-based Islam may argue that
segregationof the sexes is necessary for such participation, or thatpolygamy
is acceptable, while state-sponsored Islam shuns interpretationsundermining
gender equality. Another example is that,while both types of teachings
would endorse financial development, community-based Islamic teachings
may argue that Islamic, interest-free
banking should be encouraged.21
Finally, for secularists, radical Islam is easier to vilify and to justify
restrictingwithin democracy. Moderate Islam's zeal to embrace modern
lifestylesand its rejection of revolutionarymethods make ithard to justify
restrictingitwithin a democratic system.



Thus the fact that the AKP has not changed 'a single law that directly
challenged the secular constitution' is little comfort to the party's
opponents.22 The new breed of moderate Islamic parties in theworld has
fewer ideological and state-centred,and more cultural and society-centred
goals.23 Arguably Islamism could not produce political projects
envisioning Islamic states and political spheres with indigenously Islamic
rules and goals.24Thus its focusmight have shiftedto creating Islamic social


The programme and practice of theAKP indicate that itspriorities lie in

democracy and Islamic communities,and inpromoting a more
Islamic-conservative social and political mainstream.While doing this, the
AKP encourages the development of Islamic lifestyles,values, and teachings
more at home with modern ways of life, especially for less modernised
segments of society. This is good for theworld for it helps Muslims to
reconcilewith modernity. Exactly this,however,may help to explain why
ordinary citizens and civil society actors who normally fail tomobilise to
participate inmass protests,mobilised against AKP rule. People seem to be
sensitive,or oversensitivefromtheperspectiveof theAKP, to the littlesignsof
Islamisation theyobserve in theirdaily lives.
Their threatperceptions grow as Islamists become more secular and thus
more visible,while remainingassertively religious.According to one survey,
although the percentage of women covering theirheads actually decreased
between 1999 and 2006 from69.1% to 60.2%, most people (64.1%) felt that
thewearing of 'headscarf or turban' had increased.25This apparent gap
between fact and perception may partly reflectselective attention: people
notice headscarf-wearingwomen more because of theirfear of Islamisation.
It is also possible, however, that,even though fewerwomen now cover their
heads, more of them are wearing the Islamic type of headscarf (without
calling ita turban),and that theyhave simultaneouslybecome more visible in
public life.
For the democratic world, it may be desirable that Turkish society
is peacefully transformed to a more democratic albeit a more Islamic
conservative society.However, thisprospect may be objectionable tomajor
portions of Turkish societywho are comfortablewith the current role of
religion in society and who fear the gradual erosion of the advances of the
secular republic in areas such as women's rights.
Secularist concerns
In accordance with theabove analysis, the threemajor complaints secularists
express all regard piecemeal administrativedecisions and the government's
social influence,not major legal-political changes.
The firstis thepublic sector's recruitmentpolicies (kadrolasma) under the
AKP, which allegedly favour people with Islamic-conservative credentials,
such as thosewho have graduated fromreligious imam-hatipschools.26There
are no objective data to verify thisclaim; theAKP rejects it and favouritism
had been a pastime forpast Turkish governmentsof a more secular kind also.




However, with the AKP, kadrolasma generates more reaction because of

suspicions of gradual Islamisation. The governmentmissed several oppor
tunitiesto dispel thesedoubts by displaying itscommitmenttomeritocracy in
appointments such as theGovernor of theCentral Bank.27
Second, nowhere do kadrolasma and other administrativepractices draw
more opposition than in education. Again, there is littlehard evidence for
this, except that about 800 civil servants were transferred from the
Directorate of Religious Affairs to the Ministry of Education.28 In
universities theparty encouraged theappointment of rectorswho are critical
of secularist restrictionsand tried to facilitate the admission of graduates of
imam-hatip schools to universities.29Complaints regarding primary and
secondary schools include thegradual Islamisation of textbooks,forexample
by gradually replacing the theoryof evolutionwith versions of creationism.
Critics also charge that there is tacitencouragementof Islamic conservatism,
for example by endorsing or encouraging the practice of namaz (Muslim
praying), thedistributionof religious readingmaterial in school grounds, or
teachers arguing that dating is sinful.30 Insofar as they are true, these
developmentsmay be director indirectresultsof theAKP's rule.Knowing the
government's Islamist roots,bureaucrats and civiliansmay feel that it isnow
more acceptable to promote religiousvalues.
Third, themost controversial secularist claim regards the AKP's pro
business and pro-globalisation stand.Many secularistsbelieve that theparty
ispursuingEU membership, democratisation and integrationwith theworld
economy because theseprovide thepartywith more freedom in pursuing its
agenda of gradual Islamisation. The process of EU-led democratisation, and
IMF-ledeconomic restructuring
began under thecoalition governmentbefore
theAKP but gainedmomentum during theAKP government.Legal -political
reformssolidifiedindividual freedomsand reduced themilitary's institutional
involvementin government.Teaching and broadcasting inKurdish began in
limited forms.Political stabilityprovided by the single party government
resulted in high economic performance. Inflation fell to below 10%. Annual
growth reached an average rate of 7.3% between 2002 and 2006. All these
moved Turkey closer toWestern standards and increased theworld's
confidence inTurkey's democracy and economy.
These developments led to unprecedented growth in foreign investments
and to EU involvement in Turkish affairs.Direct foreign investment in
Turkey increased fromUS$1.14 billion in 2002 to $20 billion in 2006.31This
capital inflow, however, caused significant appreciation of the Turkish
currencyand contributed to a currentaccount deficitreachinga record8% of
GNP. This deficit is mostly financed by foreign short- and long-term


The secularistperception is that thiseconomic environmentmakes ithard

to oppose the AKP's alleged plans for gradual Islamisation. 'Traditional
safeguards', such as military interventionor the destabilisation of govern
ments throughmedia campaigns have become much costlier than before:
theymay cause strongnegative reactions from theEU and economic crises as
a resultof sudden outflows of foreigncapital.



Democratic consolidation
Democratic consolidation is a theoretical construction often described as
democracy becoming 'theonly game in town'.32More specifically,it can be
conceptualised as the strengtheningof democracy such that it becomes
unthinkable for the great majority of the political actors to reverse
democraticallymade decisions, curtail basic freedoms and employ coercive
means to pursue political gain, even during severe political and socio
economic crises. This definition only defines an ideal outcome which in
practice can only be approximated. It is not an absolute state. Any
democracy can revertto authoritarianismunder certain circumstances.
Arguably, however, in an advanced democracy itwould requiremajor
upheavals in circumstances fora reversal to become imaginable. By contrast,
inunconsolidated democracies such reversalsare easily 'thinkable',creatinga
vicious circle.Knowing thatoverall commitment to democracy is low,people
invest in authoritarian safeguards,which furtherdiminish overall commit
ment to, and quality of, democracy.
Thus, democratic consolidation requires that themajor political actors
build a certain degree of trustamong each other.Actors must believe that
other actors will not use democracy to pursue goals that are fundamentally
threateningto them.Otherwise theywill keep authoritarianpractices such as
supporting military interventionswithin their portfolio of thinkable
practices. They will do so as a credible threat to deter their 'rival' actors
from actions they see as unacceptable. They will also be willing to limit
democratic freedoms to prevent other actors frompursuing theirunaccep
table agenda.
From the secularists'perspective, theemergenceof such trustrequires that
Islamic- conservative actors embrace secularism fully,ienot only instrumen
tally but as a long-termcommitment.According to this view, democratic
consolidation hinges upon the consolidation of secularism. This view is
prevalent among Turkish secularists.Former president Sezer and thechiefof
staffhave accused theAKP of embracing secularism 'inwords only'.33 In
other words, secularists accuse Islamists of 'preference falsification':
embracing secularism publicly but not privately.34
Democratic consolidation and secularism
Some preference falsification prevails among Turkish Islamists because
politicians who dare to question secularism publicly face vicious public
campaigns from the secularists. It is rational for partymembers to keep
certain thoughts to themselves.
However, what theykeep inprivatemay not necessarilybe an opposition to
secularism altogetherbut adherence to a more Islamic version of secularism.
Secularists and Islamic - conservativeshave differentconceptions of secular
ism, emphasising differentaspects of it. Islamic - conservatives highlight the
aspect of freedomof religion.Secularists emphasise the separation of religion
and state.35





Rather than secularism consolidating democracy, one may argue that

successfuldemocratisation consolidates secularism.There are many secular
states that are not democracies. But all consolidated democracies have some
typeof a secular systemwhereby both aspects of secularism, ie freedomof
religion and the autonomy of state affairs from religion, are generally
provided. Despite the revival of religion's social and political influence in
recent decades, few doubt that people in these countries generally enjoy
freedomof religionand thatgovernmentsare practically 'autonomous' from


The exact definitionand boundaries of secularism differacross countries.

But all established democracies have some type of a consolidated secular
systemenjoying acceptance by themajority of the socio-political actors. The
existing institutionalentanglementsof religion and state in these countries
may be vestiges of thehistorical process of democratization,when state tried
to control religion and religionwas given a stake in government so that a
certain degree of trustcould emerge between these actors. In this sense the
ultimate insurance of secularism may be democratic consolidation. The
current challenge forWestern democracies such as theUK and Germany,
whichmanaged to establish democratic consolidation vis-a-visChristianity in
thepast,may be to achieve the same typeof reconciliationwith their
This thesis is consistent with Alfred Stepan's thesis that democratic
consolidation vis-a-visreligion requires 'twin tolerations'.Rather than a wall
of separation between church and state, he argues, democratisation requires
'constantpolitical constructionand reconstructionof the twin tolerations'.36
Stepan formulatestwin tolerations in termsof threefreedoms:thefreedomof
governments from any 'constitutionallyprivileged' influenceby religious
institutions;complete freedomof worship; and the freedomof the pious to
express their values in civil society and politics unless these limit other
people's liberties.
However, Stepan does not specifyhow actors solve problems of trust
during the construction and reconstruction of twin tolerations. The
emergence of twin tolerationsmay be a particularly difficultprocess in
predominantlyMuslim countries formal institutionalisationof religion is low
and where therepotentially is a freemarket of religious interpretations.
of twintolerationsand democratisation
Long-term difficulties
The Turkish secularist rallies display both positive and negative character
isticswith respect to democratic consolidation. On one hand, a frequent
slogan in the rallies is 'neitherSharia nor a coup, a democratic Turkey'. On
the other hand, the secularistmiddle class may view themilitary as a
guarantor unless strongdemocratic checks and balances are created against
perceived threats to secular democracy.
These democratic checks and balances should not be understood strictlyas
formal institutional constraints and divisions of powers (eg a reformed
constitution).The question iswhether or not effectivechecks and balances



are created by the political system as a whole, ie its laws and institutions,
customs and norms, political parties, and voters. For twin tolerations, these
checks and balances should also be flexibleenough to keep religious actors
within thedemocratic game.
By comparison the AKP and its constituency now display a stronger
rhetorical commitment to democracy. Western-style democracy, Turkey's
EU prospects and open economy provide freedoms that aid the pursuit of
more religious freedoms and a revised secularism.However, whenever the
EU integrationseemed towork toprotect secularist interestsor to undermine
an Islamic agenda, the AKP turned critical of the EU processes. This
happened, forexample,when theEuropean Court of Human Rights turned
down a Turkish woman's application against the headscarf ban, and when
theEU pressured theAKP towithdraw itsproposal to criminalise adultery.37
The strengthof theAKP'S commitment to democracy is as yet insufficiently
clear when it requires the upholding of the freedoms of secularists and of
disadvantaged groups such as ethnic Kurds, women, gays, or the Alevi
minority who are demanding the same privileges as the Sunni Muslims.
Importantly, it is also unclear what the party's reformedsecularismwould
look like.
Such examples do not necessarily imply that theAKP's Western outlook
and democratic commitments are insincere.The AKP'S ideology should be
seen as an ongoing project. The party's constituency includes Islamic
conservative, and, partially, secular-liberal business groups and middle
classes,who stand to gain fromeconomic integrationwith theworld, which is
made possible by a democratic system.38Furthermore, a large literatureon
the ideological moderation of religious parties suggests that ideological
If Turkey's democratisation can
moderation follows political moderation.
be sustained, theAKP's moderation can also be sustained.
The path to sustained moderation is still a difficultprocess, however.
Democratic consolidation will requirecontinuing economic development and
external support,andmajor ideological adaptation, fromboth secularistsand
Islamists, to be achieved and become sustainable. In particular, themilitary,
which continues to enjoy high public prestige,will have to shed its long
traditionof interferinginpolitics.40
While a coup isunlikely, themilitary now
seems prefer 'softer'methods to influencepolitics, such as announcements
criticisingthegovernmentand the involvementof the retiredmilitary officers
in civil society organisations and themedia. A military conflictwith Iraqi
Kurds may increase themilitary'sweight inpolitics.41The riseof pan-Kurdish
nationalism in the regionposes a great threat toTurkish democracy.
A solid EU commitment to Turkey's EU prospects would greatly benefit
democratic consolidation. Simultaneously, democratic consolidation itself
would increase the Europeans' support of Turkey's membership, while
reducing the public's support of themilitary's political role.
From the perspective of creating inter-actor trust,one weakness of the
Turkish case is that the AKP does not call itself Islamist, or, for that
matter,Muslim - democratic. This raises questions about theAKP's ability
to speak for Islamists and to make long-term commitments in their





name. For democratic consolidation actors should be able to make

'crediblecommitments' to each other regarding the rules of democracy and
theboundaries between religionand state.42Itsmore conservativemembers
and supportersmay abandon the AKP if it continues to neglect Islamic
priorities such as removing the restrictionson thewearing of headscarves,
especially ifeconomic benefitsfor its followersdwindle aftera lost election or
poor economic performance.
From the perspective of Muslims' reconciliation with the democratic
modern world, another crucial question ishow much theAKP will manage to
be an agent of indigenous ideological change by encouraging the develop
ment of arguments in favour of pluralist democracy that are 'deeply
embedded in [Islam's] comprehensive doctrine'.43The Muslim world faces
many philosophical and intellectualchallenges, such as identifyingthe status
of Sharia inmodern democracies and how inherently 'Western', and thus
foreign,modernity is.44
Trust and ambiguity
The building of trust also requires that actors clearly articulate their
positions. If actors do not know what theother parties' interestsare, or do
not believe that theirexpressed interests
match theirreal, long-terminterests,
theymay not participate in democratic bargaining and commit to their
agreements.A greaterproblem inTurkey is thatambiguous policy positions
encourage actors to speculate about, and exaggerate,how radical theothers'
positions really are.
A recentexample is the so-called 'bikinicontroversy'. In spring 2007 the
secularist media reported some swimsuit producers' complaints about
the municipality of Istanbul, which is run by the AKP. Allegedly the
administrationwas rejectingbillboard applications for swimsuit advertise
ments showingmodels in bikinis. Secularist commentators argued that this
was yet another example of 'creeping Islamization'.45Most importantlyfor
the subject here, the AKP did not defend its practices. Rather, the party
simplydenied that such a policy existed. Bikini ads reappeared on Istanbul


In a consolidated democracy, thiscould be a 'normal'debate regardingthe

use of the female body in commercials. The AKP could claim, for example,
that some of these advertisementsobjectifywomen, or simply that theyare
inappropriate in a majority Muslim culture. In this case the voters could
make an informeddecision about who is right.Rather than seeing in this
debate a fundamental threat to secularism, secularist actors would see an
Islamic-conservative policy thatcould be revoked in thenext election.As it
happened in theTurkish case, however, the fact that thegovernmentdenied
its actions raised the question of whether it conceals its intentions in other
areas also. Ambiguity lends credibility to exaggerated charges about
The bikini controversyepitomises a general phenomenon. Facing secularist
criticismof its actions regardingmore importantquestions than the bikini



controversy say the legal definitionof secularismor education policies the

AKP simply denies or withdraws its actions. The point here is not a
normative one. The previous Islamist party in government, theWelfare
Party,was forced to resign in 1997 as a resultof a vicious media campaign
and Islamist 'witch hunt' with the active involvement of the military.
Against this background, any policy position theAKP publicly justifieson
Islamic grounds risksbeing presented as a sign of theparty's hidden Islamist
The point is that this environment,where the party fails to clearly
articulate where it stands on issues of secularism and social regulation,
undermines the emergence of twin tolerations that is necessary for demo
cratic consolidation. Such pressures are also feltby secularistdemocratswho
may be willing to be more accepting ofmoderate Islamist actors. They are
vulnerable to accusations of catering to Islamists.
The political party system
Finally, themajor factorweakening theprospects fordemocratic consolida
tion are theweaknesses of theTurkish political party system.The systemhas
But it fails to encourage the recruitmentof able
some relative strengths.46
individuals into politics, and it is poor in intra-partypolicy debates, the
production of party programmes with effective solutions to societal
problems, compromise among parties, and parties efficiently
with their constituencies. The AKP owes part of its success to its relative
overcoming of these weaknesses. Secularist political parties' weaknesses
undermine their ability to effectivelycheck and balance the AKP. Their
potential constituencies do not view them as reliable forces that can
democratically protect their values and serve their long-term social and
economic interests.Parties weak in the sense here also have a weak capacity
to establish trustbetween each other, and tomake long-termcompromises
and commitmentsnecessary fordemocratic consolidation.
Military interventionsand legal restrictions that the military rule in
1980-83 placed on party organisations and activitiesare a major reasonwhy
the parties have failed to establish strong organisations and tieswith civil
society. In addition, frequenteconomic crises have deprived parties of stable
constituencies: electoral volatility has been high across individual parties.47
Furthermore, parties sufferfrom 'internalparty feuds and factional splits',
and 'party switching among parliamentarians'.48 Especially but not
exclusively in eastern Turkey, political patronage and clientelism continue
to influencethepreferencesofmajor portions of thevoters.
These problems of the party systemwere aggravated during the 1990s.
Strong leaders remained in control of their parties, despite widespread
corruption and the steady erosion of voter support for theseparties.As one
author put it 'in a political landscape of kleptocracy run by a gerontocracy,
there is littlesign thatpolitical parties are run by democracy and it is a rare
Turkish politician who pays heed to the electorate and voluntarily
relinquishespower'.49Not surprisingly,voter support shiftedsteadily away




from the centre-rightand centre-leftparties, toward the religious and

nationalist parties on the rightwhich were seen as less corrupt.50
Religious parties had strong organisations with dedicated grassroots
cadres,which helped themto increase theirelectoral support. In addition, the
AKP established a modern organisation creditedwith establishing strong ties
of communicationwith thevoters. Initially theAKP also managed to create a
more egalitarian intra-partydemocracy than any other Turkish partt,
although it somewhat retreatedto authoritarianismaftercoming to power.
The AKP may also be sufferingfrom 'powermalaise', which may explain
some allegations of corruption against thepartymembers and why it insisted
on electing itsown candidate forpresident ratherthan seekinga compromise
with theopposition.
By comparison, the AKP's rivals suffer from all of the mentioned
weaknesses and fromfragmentationof similarparties. It isnot clearwhether
attempts to merge themain opposition party CHP (Republican People's
Party) with theDSP (Democratic Left Party), and two centre-rightparties,
DYP (True Path Party) and ANAP (Motherland Party) will survivepersonal
conflictsand produce stable parties.
Fragmentation and weakness generate a political stylewhich rewards
confrontationrather thancompromise, and power politics rather thanpolicy
creation. In thispolitical party culture 'leaders are seen as heroes defending
their parties against adversaries and the primary preoccupation is with
"politics" rather than policy'.52The way to rise in politics is through loyalty
to one's leader and by avoiding policy debates.
Yet thegoal of preventingIslamisationwithin democracy,which secularist
parties claim to pursue, requires that theseparties produce effectivepolicies
and solutions in areas fromeconomics to foreignpolicy,which would enable
them to repeatedlywin elections. It also requires that secularist parties
threatento attract some of theAKP's more moderate constituencyby offering
democratic solutions to questions such as the headscarf controversy,and a
conciliatory rhetoricthatwould embrace rather than alienate pious voters. If
they succeed, they can effectivelybalance the AKP, helping the latter to
maintain itsmoderation. If theyfail, 'radical secularism'may reverseIslamist
moderation and widen the secularist- Islamist cleavage in Turkish society
they so fear.53
Absent 'strong' and democratic secularist political parties, secularist
mobilisation may fall prey to extreme nationalism and authoritarian
tendencies that would endanger democratic consolidation. Absent such
parties, the speakers and organisers of the secularist rallies tend to express
more radical nationalistic and authoritarian views than do most of the
participants, and theparticipants expresswhat unites them: theirpatriotism,
and the symbolismof Atatiirk and his philosophy. But itwould hurt their
interests if their unprecedented political mobilisation produced extreme
nationalist policies underminingTurkey's EU relations and integrationwith
theworld economy.
For democratic consolidation the concerns of the secularistmobilisation
need to be translated by political parties into democratic policies and



programmes. These need to explain what secularists propose in terms of

political reformsand socio-economic policies, and to address a number of
essential tradeoffsthat secularists face. Is secularismmore important than
democracy? How would secularist policies protect secularism without
polarising society? How would they protect secularism while at the
same time advancing democratisation, economic development and EU


Prospects fordemocratic consolidation

The challenge for Turkey is to ensure that its ideological differences
especially in education, public recruitmentand social life are sorted out
democratically,not by rallies on the streetsor by resortingto authoritarian


A major factor increasing the prospects for democratic consolidation is

economic development. In 2006 per capita income reached $8600, which is
one-and-a-half times the$6000 thresholdbeyond which democratic reversals
are considered to be highly unlikely.55Given what theyhave to lose, the
bourgeoisie and themiddle classes are unlikely to favour a democratic
reversal.Nevertheless, a futureeconomic crisis would challenge both the
AKP's unity as a party and democratic consolidation.
In the long run democratic consolidation requires a strongpolitical party
systemwhere secularist and religious-conservative parties effectivelycheck
and balance each other. The Turkish experience shows that free and fair
elections coupled with a guided democracy and economic development can
generate incentivesforpolitical Islam tomoderate and to adopt democracy.
But it also suggests that sustainable moderation by Islam coupled with
democratic consolidationmay require strong secularistdemocrats as much as
it requiresMuslim democrats.
The legal reformssince the 1990s,which removed some of the vestiges of
military rule and eased the restrictionson political party activities,encourage
all Turkish parties to build better ties with their constituencies. 6
These reforms should be supplemented with more reforms to fight
political corruption and to improve intra-partydemocracy. For a better
functioningdemocracy, the 10% national electoral thresholdshould also be


Finally, democratic consolidation requires that political parties build a

consensus around goals they can agree on. Potential such goals include
better democracy and human rights, economic development, sustainable
relations, and preventing the rise of radical Islamism and
extremenationalism. Such a consensus should also envision an educational
system that enables futuregenerations, religious or not, to reason freely
and critically and to choose the good life for themselves, while
respecting the freedoms of others in society. In the long run thismay be
the ultimate guarantor of secular democracy as well as of religious
freedoms, and would have positive implications well beyond Turkey's




The author would like to thank Ziya Oni?, Peter Skerry and the participants in the international workshop
and Democratization',
on 'Islamist Parties and Constituencies,
and External Mechanisms,
and Talha ?st?ndag
25-26 May 2007, Ko? University, Istanbul, for comments. H?nde ?zhabes,

research assistance.

Journal of
'The rise of Muslim
Islamism, see, among others, V Nasr,
of Turkish political
16 (2), 2005, pp 13-27. On the moderation
Islam, see N G?le,
East Journal,
of elites and counter-elites', Middle
'Secularism and Islamism in Turkey: the making
in Turkey: toward a reconciliation?', Middle
'Islam and democracy
51 (1), 1997, pp 46-58; M Heper,
'Political Islam at the crossroads: from hegemony to co
East Journal, 51 (1), 1997, pp 32-46; Z ?ni?,
'From the ashes of
and RQ Mecham,
existence', Contemporary Politics, 7 (4), 2001, pp 281-298;
virtue, a promise of light: the transformation of political Islam in Turkey', Third World Quarterly,

1 On moderate

2004, pp 339-358.
2 JF Hoge, Jr, 'Turkey at the boiling point', International Herald Tribune, 22 May 2007. For the party's
see Y Akdogan,
AK Parti
to formulate
its ideology of conservative
Istanbul: Alfa, 2004.
(AK Party and Conservative Democracy),
3 S Tavernise,
'Government of Turkey warns army', New York Times, 29 April 2007; 'Government hits
interference in election process', Today's Zaman, 28 April 2007; and G G?kt?rk,
in the face of military's warning', Turkish Daily News, 5May 2007.
4 HB Kahraman,
Turk Sagi ve AKP (Turkish Right and the AKP), Istanbul: Agora, 2007. The party's
Islamist Fazilet
founders split from the more conservative
(Virtue) Party when they lost in 2000 the
election for that party's presidency by a close margin. The AKP won the 2002 elections when Turkish
back at military
acted how

to destroy themainstream parties, which they blamed for the financial crises of 2000 and
'A new path emerges', Journal of
the party's emergence, see Z ?ni? & EF Keyman,
and HM
(ed), The Emergence
of A New Turkey:
14(2), 2003, pp 95-107;
and the AK Parti, Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2006.
in 2000, see Yeni ?afak,
27 March
5 For two informative interviews with Abdullah
2000, and
voters decided


5 June 2000.
see F Ahmad,
The Making
6 On Turkey's
secular modernisation,
Turkey, New York:
of Modern
and National
& R Kasaba
1993; S Bozdogan
Identity in
(eds), Rethinking Modernity
'Turk Modernle?mesi,
of Washington
1997; ? Mardin,
Turkey, Seattle, WA:
'Turkish Islamic
4' (Turkish Modernization,
Essays 4), Istanbul: iletisjm, 2003; and Mardin,

in operational
yesterday and today: continuity, rupture and reconstruction
Turkish Studies, 6 (2), 2005, pp 145-165.
7 Among others, JL Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality, New York: Oxford University Press,
'The rise ofMuslim democracy'. For a recent critical account, see J Schwedler, Islamist
1995; and Nasr,
Parties in Jordan and Yemen, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
8 Among others, 'Secularists stage mass protest in Turkey', International Herald Tribune, 13May 2007.
9 In August 2002, Abdullah G?l became Turkey's eleventh president.
10 In Turkey, there is a ban on the wearing of headscarves by government employees and by students and
professors on university campuses. The proponents of the ban claim that its object is its use in a specific
Islamic style, which they call 'turban' and claim that it is used as a political symbol. The opponents of
the ban prefer the term 'headscarf, argue that the ban targets the students' personal religious choices,
and highlight the fact that in effect the ban restricts any type of headscarf.
International Herald
11 'Stability doubts despite early elections move',
Tribune, 3 May
2007, emphasis
12 'Secularism versus democracy', The Economist,
3May 2007.
'Turkish presidential candidate withdraws, as voting stalls again', New York Times, 1May
13 S Tavernise,

14 Among others, see A Bugra, 'Political islam in Turkey in historical context: strengths and weaknesses',
inN Balkan & S Savran (eds), The Politics of Permanent Crisis: Class, Ideology and State in Turkey,
Science Publishers, 2002, pp 107-144; EF Keyman & B Koyuncu,
New York: Nova
of Turkey', Review
and the political
alternative modernities
of International Political

and European
12 (1), 2005, pp 105-128;
Stability Initiative, Islamic Calvinists: Change and
in Central Anatolia, Berlin/Istanbul:
Stability Initiative, 2005.
'TurkModernle?mesi, Makaleler
15 For competing accounts of Turkish secularism, seeMardin,
4'; and N
in Turkey, New York: Routledge,
1998. For accounts
Berkes, The Development
of Secularism
of Turkish religious markets,
'laicism vs secularism', and 'objective and subjective secularisation'
South Atlantic Quarterly,
A Davison,
state? The challenge of description',
'Turkey, a "secular"
a view based on the
'Turkish religious market(s):
102 (2-3),
2003, pp 333-350;
and EF Keyman,
The Emergence
of a New Turkey, pp 23-48;
religious economy theory', inYavuz,


secularism and Islam: the case of Turkey', Theory, Culture & Society, 24 (2), 2007,
pp 215-234.
16 See J Fox, 'World separation of religion and state into the 21st century', Comparative Political Studies,
39 (5), 2006, pp 537-569;
and A Stepan,
and the twin tolerations',
'Religion, democracy,
L Diamond,
MF Plattner & PJ Costopoulos
Baltimore, MD:
(eds), World Religions and Democracy,
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, pp 3-23.
& B Toprak, Degi?en Tiirkiye'de Din, Toplum
17 For empirical evidence on these points, see A ?arkoglu
ve Siyaset (Religion, Society, and Politics in a Changing Turkey), Istanbul: TESEV Yaymlan,
et al, World Religions
'Muslims and democracy',
in L Diamond
18 Among others, see A Filali-Ansary,
and Democracy.
'A fatwa free-for-all in the
19 For a recent commentary based on other Muslim
countries, seeM Sackman,
Islamic world', International Herald Tribune, 11 June 2007. The 'moderate center in Turkish religious
could prevent a conservative outcome.
p 41.
Introvigne, 'Turkish religious market(s)',

20 On


pp 350-364.
21 See T Kuran,

see LR Iannaccone,
R Finke & R Stark,
leading to 'vitality' in religious markets,
of religion: the economics
of church and state', Economic
Inquiry, 35 (2), 1997,

The Economic Predicaments

Islam and Mammon:
University Press, 2004 for an extensive discussion of Islamism
22 'Secularism versus democracy'.

of Islamism, Princeton, NJ: Princeton

and economics.

23 Nasr,
'The rise of Muslim
see O Roy, The Failure of
24 For the argument that Islamism has failed to create a political model,
Political Islam, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.
& Toprak, Degi?en Tiirkiye'de Din, Toplum ve Siyaset.
25 ?arkoglu
'Presidential pick in Turkey is sign of a rising Islamic middle class',
26 Among
others, see S Tavernise,
New York Times, 25 April 2007.
International Herald
27 See 'Turkey calms markets with appointment',
Tribune, 18 April 2006. For a
critical account, see Y Kanli,
'Eligibility or ideology', Turkish Daily News, 2 April 2006.
836 Nakil',
'Diyanetten MEB'e
(836 transfers from Religious Affairs to Education Ministry) Radikal,
29 'The AKP government's attempt to move Turkey from secularism to Islamism (Part 1): the clash with
Turkey's universities', memri Special Dispatch Series, 1014, 1November
1 June 2007; and 'Prayer scandal at
30 See 'Parents reveal scandal at high schools', Turkish Daily News,
'A secular Turkish city feels
15 June 2007. See also S Tavernise,
Bagcilar High School', Today's Zaman,

Islam's pulse beating stronger, causing divisions', New York Times, 1 June 2007.
31 Statistics from the Turkish Treasury.
Transition and Consolidation:
Southern Europe, South
32 JL Linz & A Stepan, Problems of Democratic
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. See also
America, and Post-Communist Europe, Baltimore, MD:
G O'Donnell
A Przeworski,
'The games of transition', in S Mainwaring,
& JS Valenzuel
(eds), Issues in
IN: University of Notre Dame
Transition, Notre Dame,
Press, 1992.
to Northern
33 Among
others, 'Top general calls for a cross-border
Iraq', Turkish Daily
14 April
13 April 2007; and 'System faces its greatest threat since 1923', Turkish Daily News,

Islam and Mammon.
34 For preference falsification, see Kuran,
35 Among
others, see 'Sezer: definition of secularism clear', Turkish Daily News, 6 February 2007; and
F Dish,
1 February 2007.
'Sezer stokes secularism debate', Today's Zaman,
36 Stepan, 'Religion, democracy, and the twin tolerations', p 8.
37 See H Smith, 'Turkey split by plan to criminalize adultery', Guardian, 6 September 2004; F Zakaria,
27 August 2004; and V Boland,
'Mutual incomprehension
'How not to win Muslim
allies', Newsweek,
between Turkey and EU', Financial
38 See references in note 13.


27 August


in T Kselman
'Unsecular politics and religious mobilization',
& JA Buttigieg
IN: University
of Notre
pp 293-320.
40 HW Lowry, 'Betwixt and between: Turkey's political structure on the cusp of the twenty-first century',
inM Abramowitz
(ed), Turkey's Transformation and American Policy, New York: Century Foundation
the Turkish case in
and T Demirel,
'Lessons of military regimes and democracy:
Press, 2000, pp 61-93;
a comparative perspective', Armed Forces & Society, 31 (2), 2005, pp 245-271.
39 SN Kalyvas,

41 An


42 Kalyvas,

43 Stepan,



of light'.





in Iraq may


religious mobilization';
the twin tolerations',


the military's

and Mecham,
p 8.




the ashes



of virtue, a



'Muslims and
the importance of philosophical
such as these, see A Filali-Ansary,
in D Potter, D Goldblatt, M Kilch & P Lewis
and NH Ayubi
'Islam and Democracy',
The Polity Press, 1997, pp 345-366.
(eds) Democratization,
45 Among others, H Smith, 'Fury at Turkish ban on bikini ads', Guardian, 22 May 2007.
in Turkey, Boulder, CO:
46 Among others, see S Sayan & Y Esmer (eds), Politics, Parties, and Elections
Lynne Rienner, 2002.
47 However,
since 1961 voter preferences have roughly been stable between 'left' and 'right' parties, with
some shift to the right during the 1990s. For a recent contribution, see Y Hazama,
Electoral Volatility
44 For

vs theEconomy, Chiba: Institute of Developing

inTurkey: Cleavages
Japan External Trade
2007. Importantly, Hazama
argues that, since the 1990s, volatility has mainly been
caused by 'retrospective voting', whereby voters punish incumbent governments for bad governance
rather than voting for values or along identity cleavages.
in Turkey.
48 Sayan & Esmer, Politics, Parties, and Elections

49 Lowry,
'Betwixt and between', p 24.
50 Ibid. See also Sayan,
'The changing party system'.
51 Among others, S Tepe, 'A pro-Islamic party? Promises and limits of Turkey's Justice and Development
The Emergence
Party', inYavuz,
of a New Turkey, pp 107-135.
52 M Heper,
'The consolidation
of democracy versus democratization
in Turkey', Turkish Studies, 3 (1),
2002, pl41.
53 Lowry, 'Betwixt and between', p 39.
in Turkey', New York Times, 1May 2007.
54 'Secularism and democracy

JA Cheibub
& F Limongi
'What makes
Przeworski, M Alvarez,
L Diamond, MF Plattner, Y Chu & H Tien (eds), Consolidating
the Third Wave Democracies:
and Perspectives, Baltimore, MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; also see DL Epstein, R Bates,
I Kristensen & S O'Halloran,
J Goldstone,
'Democratic Transitions',
American Journal of Political
Science, 50 (3) 2006, pp 551-569. All figures are in purchasing power parity US dollars. Nominal GNP
per capita was $5477 in 2006.

55 A

56 E





in Turkey,