Why do many Muslims mistrust secularism?

Jorgen S. Nielsen
852 words

7 May 2007

Daily Star

(c) 2007 THE DAILY STAR, BEIRUT, LEBANON.

Beirut — Some years ago, the exiled Tunisian Islamist leader Rashid Ghannoushi wrote a book on public rights in Islam. He pointed out that there were particular historical reasons why Europe had separated religion and state. The church had misused its powers, had stood in the way of scientific progress, and the state had made religion a tool of oppression. That’s fine for Europe, he said, but in the Muslim world people didn’t share that history; they had to find their own way of doing things.

This is a pretty mild Muslim response to the concept of Western secularism. In sharper versions, secularism is one of a list of unfavorable Western inventions which include materialism, Zionism, promiscuity and imperialism – to mention but a few in no particular order. At the extreme, Osama bin Laden has his own list of evils.

Why is it that Muslims appear to find it so difficult to see anything positive in Western secularism? Are we so different after all?

There are some Islamic movements that are serious in their call for the complete integration of religion and state, with religion predominating in public life as in private. Additionally, in the languages of some Muslim populations, the discussion is made almost impossible by the fact that the word used for secularism translates into English as “no religion” or “without religion.” This is the case, for example, in Urdu, whereas the original meaning of the word was simply “that which has to do with this world, as opposed to the next.”

Once one gets underneath the surface of the topic, though, things become more complicated. And they differ from country to country. Saudi Arabia is not Egypt is not Iran is not Pakistan is not Syria, and so on.

Certainly, Muslims do not like a lot of what they view as being Western: the loneliness of the individual, the breakdown of the family, the destruction wrought by drug addiction, random violence, recreational sex. Of course, they are not alone in feeling these concerns, and it is natural to conclude that they are the result of the decline of religion. But this interpretation has also been popularized by Western media, especially by American films which everyone can now see on satellite television.

But there are other perspectives. In the mid-1920s, the Egyptian scholar Ali Abd al-Raziq, a professor at Al-Azhar, published a book entitled “Islam and the Roots of Government.” In it he argued that the Prophet Mohammad had founded a religion, not a state, so religion should not determine state structures today. The book was immediately condemned and, we are told by most Islamic scholars, is no longer of interest. But it has remained continuously in print since then and can still be bought in Cairo bookshops. So someone must be reading it.

In a conversation with a group of Islamic scholars in the United Kingdom recently from one of the more conservative movements, we got on to the topic of an “Islamic order.” Clearly, it was not enough that a government or economic system should call itself Islamic. It had to be Islamic. But what did that mean? For the scholars such a system had to offer social justice, a reliable legal system, personal liberty, equality, popular participation, accountable rulers and the like. One of them ventured that northern European welfare states were arguably a good deal more “Islamic” than any state in the Muslim world.

If such important values are shared, then why are there such mixed feelings about the idea of secularism in Muslim societies? Clearly the attack on secularism is encouraged by clerics. If religion in its traditional forms is pushed to the margins of public life, what remains for the clergy? But that on its own is an unsatisfactory explanation for the mistrust of secularism. After all clerics have a receptive audience for their views.

On the so-called Arab street, secularism is more often than not seen as a foreign import. It was brought in by foreign colonial powers as a way of limiting the power of Muslim religious institutions which often were at the forefront of resistance against the colonial powers. Many modern Muslim states are regarded as the heirs of the colonial powers by their people. Secular politics are associated with secular military dictatorships that were established during the years of the Cold War, and supported by one or the other of the secular superpowers.

Today, the only effective challenge to this inheritance, many Muslims believe, comes from Islamist movements, and people arguing for a secular perspective run the constant danger of being accused of collaboration with the West. It is this that makes it more likely that many will tilt away from modern, pluralistic secularism toward a religious political system.

Jorgen S. Nielsen is director of the Danish Institute of Damascus and a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. This article is part of a series on secularism and Muslim-Western dialogue distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

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I wasn’t sure I liked this artice. It was more opinion and less fact. Even if it is in the opinion section it assumed quite a bit… and was really biased. I added this story because it links together opposite things, secularism and islam.. They aren’t usually seen in the same sentence.

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Add comment May 9, 2007 amyladybug

Postcard: Tehran.

Moaveni, Azadeh
833 words

14 May 2007

Time

Volume 169; Issue 20; ISSN: 0040781X
English
© 2007 Time Incorporated. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.

Despite a culture that thrives on lavish weddings, men and women are officially barred from celebrating together. How some Iranians skirt the law in order to tie the knot.

When I found out that my husband and I had been invited to a gender-segregated wedding reception in Tehran, it was too late to concoct an excuse. So for the first time in my life, I put on a chiffon gown to go hang out with 400 other women. I waved goodbye to my husband as he headed for the men’s ballroom, and we agreed that if the evening grew intolerable, we would send text messages to plan our escape.

Inside, the atmosphere was more like an expensive tea party than a wedding. For an hour, the female guests just stared at one another’s jewelry. Shortly before dinner, my husband messaged to inform me that the men’s side had a stand-up comic. So unfair. Even the bride looked dejected, arms folded tightly across her designer gown. After the sumptuous meal, intended to lighten the misery (it didn’t), the guests eagerly filed out to look for their men. “I’m not sure what’s worse,” a friend mused on the way out, “having a fun mixed wedding that gets raided by police or a wake like this.”

Weddings anywhere are famous for the hassle, but nuptials in Iran, where young couples confront the myriad social restrictions imposed by the clerical regime, add unbearable layers of bridal stress. For starters, Iran’s Islamic law forbids unmarried men and women to dance together, so the hosts are forced to separate their guests. At a segregated gathering, women can remove their veils and both sides dance among themselves. A less popular option is to hold a dinner rather than a proper reception, as men and women are permitted to have meals in one another’s company. But without music, these gatherings also end up being solemn affairs that don’t include some traditional rites of an Iranian wedding, like the “knife dance,” in which the bride must retrieve a blade from the partygoers in order to cut the cake.

Luckily for many newlyweds, a thriving clandestine industry has emerged to liven up wedding receptions. The first wedding I attended in Iran, for example, was at a rented garden in Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran. Men and unveiled women mingled late into the night, periodically slipping flasks out of their purses and jackets. The cops never showed up. No one knows exactly who owns the rental gardens of Karaj, but the owners clearly work with the authorities’ tacit permission. The rental fee–about $6,000 an evening, exorbitant by local standards–should guarantee that the party will be safe from the police. The popularity of the gardens, however, has dwindled in recent months. Authorities have stepped up their raids of private homes and parties under the tenure of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Young couples are reluctant to bear the expense of a secure garden that might still be raided. “This is why I didn’t get married in Iran myself,” a wedding coordinator confided to me. “The anxiety is just not worth three horrible hours of showing off.”

As a result of the raids, wedding coordinators are now offering cake, a band and beefy security guards. On the day of the wedding, the coordinator shows up with a handful of men–dressed discreetly in suits and ties, with walkie-talkie earpieces–who surround a private home. Often the guards use cones to set up a roadblock down the street, so that if police arrive there will be sufficient time to warn those inside. In many cases, the wedding coordinator is able to fend off the police with an ample bribe (cash or cases of alcohol, which can later be resold).

Given the headaches, Iranians should probably forgo spectacular weddings and hold quiet ceremonies instead. But in a culture where displays of wealth are crucial, parents usually insist on grander events. One sign of this commitment to excess: it is common for parents to circulate DVDs of their children’s weddings, so friends and family can view the lamb-on-a-spit from every angle. As the mother of my recently married friend put it, “Weddings are for the community, and if the laws get in the way, not having a party is not the answer.”

MORE FROM AROUND THE WORLD To read a new postcard every day, visit time.com

‘I’m not sure what’s worse, having a fun mixed wedding that gets raided by police or a wake like this.’ –GUEST AT A TEHRAN WEDDING RECEPTION

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This story is an interesting piece and would catch people’s attention bcause this particular part of Tehran’s culture is fairly unknown to the western world.
It has the shock factor, the western world has a different culture for celebrations. I think that it is interesting that this culture is still thriving in other countries.

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Add comment May 8, 2007 amyladybug

Why can’t we all just get along… as a team?

756 words

8 May 2007

Irish Independent

English

(c) 2007 Independent Newspapers Ireland Ltd

There are times when religion, in all its glorious madness, can truly make the world a better, or at least brighter, place.

Whether it’s Pope Benny railing against rock music, that hideous little troll the Dalai Lama condemning oral sex or those Muslim chaps cutting each others’ heads off, it seems that religious types are always angry about something. Which, when you consider that they are all convinced that they, and they alone, are on the fast track to Paradise, seems rather peevish.

But it seems that even when they get together with other denominations to have a bit of fun things can still spiral out of control, if the recent attempts to stage a football match between priests and imams is anything to go by.

Last week saw an interfaith conference take place in Sweden and there were plans to finish the conference with a game.

Sadly, however, the imams objected to the presence of filthy women on their team and refused to play.

Then, just to further confuse matters, the Christian team agreed to drop its two women players and field an all-male team instead.

Which forced the Christian team’s captain to promptly storm off in disgust at the way the female members had been treated.

“Because we thought it would be a nice conclusion of the conference we didn’t want to call it off, so we decided to stage an all- men’s team game instead,” a spokesman said.

“We realise now that it was wrong to have a priest team without women.”

They can’t organise a match without falling out but they expect the rest of us to hand over our souls to them? You gotta love religious types.

Someone needs to get a hobbyWe are well used to politicians saying and doing stupid things. It’s one of the few reasons we keep them around, frankly.

Sadly, this current election campaign has been notable more for the weasel Ahern’s growing discomfort (when you have people cheering on Vincent Browne, of all people, over you, then you know the game is up) than any real gaffes, so we have to turn towards the frozen wastes of Canada for the most recent example of mad politician behaviour.

Local MP Mike Lake has decided that it’s time Canada gets serious about the real issues, which is why he wants to place Big Foot – or Sasquatch, if you’re a stickler for names – on the endangered species list.

The politician has collected 500 signatures in his home town of Alberta and wants to force the Canadian parliament to do more to protect the non- existent creature.

Bigfoot researcher Todd Standing, who was behind the petition, claims to have proof of the Sasquatch’s existence and says he fears for its safety.

Next week, Scottish MPs on why we need to protect the Loch Ness monster.

Junkie see, junkie doHaving already suggested that they might be interested in adopting their own little black baby, Kate Moss and Pete Doherty have now decided that they would actually like to have a baby the old fashioned way.

And while the thoughts of that scabby junkie engaging in any sort of intimate activity is rather repulsive, it seems that Moss refuses to listen to reason.

Doherty was once more arrested on Saturday night when he was busted with crack and hash in his car.

Despite the fact that Doherty is a serial offender, the judge refused to jail him on the rather remarkable grounds that he has been attending therapy sessions in the Priory.

Pity he didn’t get the judge who gave Paris Hilton a custodial sentence.

This is what you call a big whooopsSpare a thought for John Brandrick. He faces bankruptcy and will have to sell his house after he stopped paying his mortgage, donated all his clothes to charity and blew his remaining life savings on fancy meals and nights out.

And what was the cause of such profligate spending? Well, Brandrick was told he had less than a year to live because of cancer, and he decided to go out with a bang.

Now it has emerged that the test was incorrectly conducted and he is in fine physical, if not financial help.

Not surprisingly, he is planning to sue the hospital.

Still, it must be a record – is Brandrick the first man to become enraged by the news that hedidn’t have cancer?

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This article is hilarious. It brings in a few religions together not through the story but an organised interfaith meeting, it simply discusses the novelty happening during it. It really is quite funny when you read through it. Also i liked it because it was from a different country, a more international story..

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Add comment May 8, 2007 amyladybug

Richard Dawkins

By Michael Behe

Time CNN

Of Richard Dawkins’ nine books, none caused as much controversy or sold as well as last year’s The God Delusion. The central idea—popular among readers and deeply unsettling among proponents of intelligent design like myself—is that religion is a so-called virus of the mind, a simple artifact of cultural evolution, no more or less meaningful than eye color or height.
It is a measure of the artful way Dawkins, 66, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, tells a tale and the rigor he brings to his thinking that even those of us who profoundly disagree with what he has to say can tip our hats to the way he has invigorated the larger debate.
Dawkins had a mild Anglican youth but at 16 discovered Charles Darwin and believed he’d found a pearl of great price. I believe his new book follows much less from his data than from his premises, and yet I admire his determination. Concerning the big questions, the Bible advises us to be hot or cold but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm.
Behe is the author of the upcoming The Edge of Evolution

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This article, I found, was different to every other religion article that i have come across. It is an article commenting on a book about religion, rather than a story actually on religion. I thought it would be a good one to include because it shows that religion articles are not just found in feature and breaking news sections. Its rather clever, because to actually realise it has anything to do with religion you have to really start reading the story, not the headline, de to the fact that the headline is simply the name of the author of the religion book.

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Add comment May 8, 2007 amyladybug

Muslim wounds ‘deep’, Pope told

Herald Sun

By Philip Pullella in Vatican City

May 04, 2007 09:53pm

FORMER Iranian president Mohammad Khatami met Pope Benedict today and said the wounds between Christians and Muslims were still “very deep”, including those caused by a controversial papal speech last September.

Mr Khatami became one of the most prominent Muslim clerics to visit the Vatican since the Pope’s controversial Regensburg speech which angered Muslims by appearing to link Islam and violence.

“These wounds are very deep. There are many wounds and they cannot heal that easily,” Mr Khatami said just before the papal meeting, when asked if the wounds that followed the Pontiff’s speech in his native Germany had been healed.

“For sure, a meeting with the Holy Father cannot be enough to heal all these wounds but at least we are making a joint effort in order to start healing these wounds,” Mr Khatami said.

In his September speech, the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword, a method that was unreasonable and contrary to God’s nature.

He used the quote to launch into a much longer discussion of the key influence of ancient Greek philosophical reasoning on the early Christian faith and invited Muslim scholars to enter into a dialogue about faith and reason with Christians.

The Pope later said he regretted any misunderstanding it caused among Muslims, after protests including attacks on churches in the Middle East and the killing of a nun in Somalia.

The Vatican said Mr Khatami and the Pope met for about 30 minutes and spoke through interpreters about the “dialogue among cultures” to overcome current tensions and promote peace.

In talks that a spokesman called cordial, they also discussed the problems of minority Christians in Iran and the Middle East and encouraged peace efforts such as the conference on Iraq’s future taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Mr Khatami, speaking through a translator, said that Christianity and Islam needed to rediscover their common roots as monotheistic religions in order to improve relations.

“If Christian and Islamic societies could only rely on love and justice and get back to these founding principles and if together we fought against violence and extremism … then we can lay the foundations to heal any wound,” he said.

The conference on religious dialogue Mr Khatami attended was to have been held in October but was postponed following the fallout in the Muslim world over Benedict’s Regensburg speech.

At the conference before meeting the Pope, Mr Khatami said no one could use God’s name to “instigate war or hate or speak ignorantly of crusades”.

He said both religions must enter a “sincere and practical dialogue and commitment to achieve peace and eliminate terrorism and war”.

Christian Cross and Muslim Crescent

This was a good piece, it linked two very different faiths together by discussing the wounds between them, it is a fairly rational piece where neither leader says anything horrible to the other. It isnt often you find two religious denominations getting along in the same story.

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Add comment May 7, 2007 amyladybug

Sacred Path To Enlightenment

FEATURE STORY

The Canberra Times

1 May 2007

We are told that we live in godless times, yet more and more people all over the world are going on pilgrimages: as if being on the road to somewhere holy suits us better than being inside the building at the end of it. The new pilgrims are Christians and Muslims but also Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains. There are also swelling numbers of don’t knows: people with little commitment to any established religion whose marriage has collapsed, or whose wife has died, who have lost their job or retired, and decide to take time off on the road to somewhere ancient, beautiful and reputedly holy, to sort their lives out. The clear and the woolly, the devout and the troubled, those who know exactly where they are going and why and those who haven’t a clue, increasingly walk shoulder to shoulder along these ancient tracks. The rise in popularity of pilgrimages all over the world in the past 80 years has been dramatic.

In 1925, 90,662 Muslim pilgrims performed the Hajj, but by 1995 the figure had gone up more than tenfold; by December last year it had doubled again to over two million. For centuries, interest in walking ”the Way of St James”, the 1000 mile pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago di Compostela in north- western Spain, legendary resting place of St James, was on the wane: by the late ’80s only a handful of pilgrims arrived at the city’s cathedral every day. But then came the revival: by 1998 the numbers had jumped from 3500 per year to nearly 10 times that number; by 2006 they had topped 100,000. The Kumbh Mela, the moving Hindu festival on the Ganges, has always drawn crowds but today they are stupendous, the biggest assemblies of humanity ever seen in history, numbering tens of millions and readily visible from space. Also in north India, the site of Buddha’s enlightenment, the bodi tree in Bodhgaya and the Mahabodi temple that stands next to it, have attracted monks and lay Buddhists from around the world for decades but in modest numbers. But despite Bihar’s reputation as one of the poorest and most dangerous corners of India, the crowds of pilgrims have continued to multiply: now more than 350,000 come every year and the small town is crammed with monasteries, temples and meditation centres. Last month the Indian Government inaugurated a special train connecting Bodhgaya with the other main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. But it is in Europe that the pilgrimage, while enjoying a surge of popularity, has also undergone a subtle change of meaning. In the Middle Ages, a pilgrimage to Lourdes or Medjugorje was like the Hajj for Muslims or a dip in the Ganges for Hindus, performed to obtain specific benefits from heaven. But the huge rise in numbers of Western pilgrims today derives from a desire to reduce one’s life to its simplest elements and see what is left. This August the Reverend Edward Condry, an Anglican priest and canon treasurer of Britain’s Canterbury Cathedral, is leading a group of 30 pilgrims from Canterbury to Rome by bicycle along the restored Via Francigena, an ancient network of modern roads and restored trails that in 1994 was

declared a Cultural Route by the Council of Europe. ”Thanks to Thomas a Becket,” says Condry, ”in the Middle Ages Canterbury was one of the four great pilgrimage destinations, along with Santiago, Jerusalem and Rome. But the Reformation killed it off. Calvin’s view was typical: a pilgrimage, he said, never gained anyone salvation. ”Even today we Protestants feel strange at sites like Lourdes. But for me the pilgrimage is the dominant metaphor for what faith is like: walking embodies the spirit of faith.” Condry is also walking to Santiago, doing the 1000 mile pilgrimage a week at a time, one week per year. ”People go on pilgrimages for hundreds of different reasons,” he says, ”as a physical challenge, as tourists, to sort their lives out, or a combination of those. But whatever the reason, they always find some spiritual meaning in it.”

Perhaps the most truly modern pilgrimages are like those conducted by the Dalai Lama when he travelled to Lourdes and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, or by the Christians who travelled with him to Bodhgaya, or the joint pilgrimages of Jews, Muslims and Christians who tramp between places of intense meaning to all three religions in the Holy Land. Because, as Condry explains, the pilgrimage’s goal is no longer necessarily the point. ”Walking is such a minimalist activity,” he says, ”the less you have in your rucksack the better, and with this stripping away of possessions you are left startlingly exposed. And that’s the significance of the pilgrimage. Reaching Santiago is important but do I really want to reach Santiago?” The Independent

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I think this is a great story. Its a feature story, and I haven’t found many religion based feature story, it also manages to link quite a few different religions together which is interesting. I thought it was well rounded.

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Add comment May 7, 2007 amyladybug

Nepal’s First Bishop Appointed Officially

6 May 2007

Indo-Asian News Service
English

© Copyright 2007. Hindustan Times. All rights reserved.

Indo-Asian News Service Kathmandu, May 6 — Nepal began celebrating the official appointment of its first bishop by the Vatican with the incumbent, Bishop Anthony Francis Sharma, pledging greater participation by Christians for the development of the nation.

The 69-year-old, who was named Nepal’s first bishop in February by Pope Benedict almost a year after Nepal’s parliament abolished Hinduism as the state religion, was ceremonially ordained Saturday in Kathmandu’s Assumption Church by the Vatican’s ambassador for India and Nepal, Pedro Lopez Quintana.

Sharma, born as Amulya Nath Sharma, originally belonged to a Brahmin family who were the priests of the royal family of the former Gorkha kingdom of Nepal. He embraced Christianity at the age of four along with his mother, a widow, who converted in India’s Assam district to obtain a better life for both of them.

Bishops from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Japan attended the ordainment ceremony when Quintana placed the mitre on the new bishop’s head, the official ring on his finger and the pastoral staff in his hand.

The new bishop plans to devote his tenure to the education, healthcare and empowerment of women. “Education is the best means of fighting the caste system prevalent in Nepal,” he said.

Sharma is also advocating that Christians join politics now that the country has “opened up”.

“I do not mean a Christian party but lay Christians joining any existing party they feel welcomed in and that follows Christian principles. The Christian principle is people’s welfare.

“Christians have in the past been falsely accused of conversions though our work lies in development. People who are capable should come forward from the Christian community to work for their own community and contribute to the development of the nation.”

Though there are prominent Muslim politicians in Nepal, there are no representatives from the Christian community.

Only one prominent royalist politician embraced Christianity but that is regarded as more due to personal considerations.

Though Tulsi Giri, a former prime minister who was also King Gyanendra’s deputy during the 15-month royal regime, converted to Christianity, he has no links with Nepal’s Catholic church.

Before the pro-democracy movement of 1990, conversions were punished and even the discovery of a Bible among one’s possessions was liable to be treated harshly by the authorities.

Sharma estimates that currently there are about 1 million Christians in Nepal and over 6,500 Catholic churches.

The appointment of the first bishop has been hailed by the Christian community in Nepal.

“It’s good news not only for Christians but for Hindus and Buddhists as well,” said Fr Eusebio Gomes, a Catholic priest teaching in Pokhara city.

“Our work is in the fields of education, healthcare and supporting the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. With Nepal becoming a secular nation, the church can grow. People who come from poor and marginalised communities are helped by our work, especially women and children.”

It would seem that this story is rather interesting. A new bishop, the first bishop in Nepal actually, I enjoyed reading it, it is exactly what religion news beat would like, a new exciting religious story

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Add comment May 7, 2007 amyladybug

A Test for Turkish Democracy

The military may have overplayed its hand in challenging Abdullah Gul’s candidacy for president.

April 30, 2007 6:00 PM

The Guardian

The Turkish generals’ implicit midnight warning that, as the “absolute defender of secularism”, the army would not tolerate Islamist meddling with the constitutional legacy of Kemal Ataturk carried a dark echo of previous military coups.

It is only 10 years since tanks were sent on to the streets to help topple Necmettin Erbakan, a prime minister who, the army believed, had confused his politics with religion. Earlier interventions were even less subtle and left lasting scars

Turkey’s historically uncertain embrace of democratic governance is one reason why its fitness to join the EU has been questioned. Proponents of Ankara’s membership say this is exactly why Turkey should be locked into the European community without more ado.

But the contours of the latest crisis, over the moderate Islamist government’s choice of foreign minister Abdullah Gul as the next president, suggest times have changed, even if Turkey’s detractors have not noticed.

The military’s statement was hardly an ultimatum. It expressed “solid determination” to uphold the law – then rather lamely complained that it wanted to be “one of the sides in this debate”. It is hard to see that as a direct threat to violently overthrow the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Erdogan’s confident reaction also suggested Turkey has moved on – that a decade is a very long time in politics. In a disdainful swipe at the military, he said it was “unthinkable” that the armed forces should challenge an elected government in modern Turkey. Mr Gul said withdrawal of his candidacy was “out of the question”.

Semih Idiz, a leading columnist with Milliyet newspaper, said these exchanges marked a “watershed” in Turkey’s development. “It may be that the military overplayed its hand this time,” he said. “The government had to make a stand against the army and it did. It has been strengthened morally. It has enabled it to stress its democratic agenda.”

The 700,000 demonstrators protesting the choice of Mr Gul in Istanbul at the weekend were equally opposed to a military coup and had said so volubly, Mr Idiz added.

He said the government could probably rally even greater numbers of supporters if it had to. And it had been heartened by backing from the US and EU. The latter described the confrontation as a “test case” for Turkish democracy.

Faruk Logoglu, a former ambassador to Washington who heads the Centre for Eurasian Strategic Studies in Ankara, said fears of intervention by the generals were exaggerated. “Whatever happens next, it will not be a military coup,” he said.

The army had a right and even a duty to express its point of view, Dr Logoglu added. “But the ultimate bottom line is that all these difficulties will be resolved by political and judicial means or via the ballot box. I think we will muddle through.”

Interviewed last month at the foreign ministry in Ankara, Mr Gul said he expected the opposition to kick up a row about supposed threats to secular institutions, whoever his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) selected. One contentious issue is that Mr Gul’s wife, Hayrunisa, wears a headscarf.

“We will have a debate. We are listening. Presidential elections are always controversial. [But] no one finds these arguments convincing any more,” Mr Gul said. Mr Erdogan’s reform record, and 35% overall economic growth in the past four years, were what mattered.

Political analysts and officials agree that if the constitutional court suspends the presidential election in a ruling expected on Wednesday, an early general election (a poll is due in any case by November) will almost certainly be called. They also mostly agree that Mr Erdogan and the AKP will win again.

“What is happening is a very healthy democratic debate,” a senior government official said. “It has crystallised the issues facing Turkey for Turks and for the world, and there is full transparency. The military was compelled to make its statement. But it is not like the old days. The institutions are functioning according to the constitution.”

All the same, Mr Gul’s presidential candidacy has highlighted political, religious, and geographical divisions and may not survive the ruckus. “Civil society is becoming more active. It shows the system of democratic checks and balances is not yet fully developed,” Dr Logoglu said. “They may have to find somebody else.”

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At first glance this story doesn’t really seem to have much to do with religion but i read on and figured out it was all about religion, or rather lack of it…. SECULARISM…. I liked it because it linked other issues as well including democracy, politics, and world issues. It was however still based around secularism. An interesting article..

What is most interesting however, is the fact that it was incredibly widely covered, there are numerous stories in mainstream publications. Including;

The Sydney Morning Herald

          Protesters take to the streets in Turkey
At least one million Turks took to the streets of Izmir on Sunday to demand their country remain a secular state, stepping up pressure on the Islamist-rooted government before July elections.
World
14/5/07
Turks protest ahead of early elections
At least 1 million Turks have taken to the streets of Izmir to demand their country remain a secular state, stepping up pressure on the Islamist-rooted government before July elections.
Breaking News
14/5/07
Thousands of Turks defy blast to rally for secular rule
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Izmir on Sunday for the latest in a series of pro-secular rallies across Turkey sparked by turmoil over choosing the country’s next president.
World
13/5/07
          Turkey’s Gul withdraws from election
Former Islamist Abdullah Gul withdrew his candidacy for Turkey’s presidency after pressure from the military and demonstrators who accuse his ruling party of subverting the nation’s secular order.

 

The Advertiser

 Turkey’s Gul Withdraws candidacy

 8 days, 18 hours, 44 minutes ago

FORMER Islamist Abdullah Gul withdrew his candidacy for Turkey’s presidency overnight after pressure from the military and demonstrators who accuse his ruling party of subverting the nation’s secular order. 

Turkey to hold snap elections

12days, 2 hours, 20mins ago

TURKEY’S Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a ruling party call for snap general elections in a bid to resolve a damaging crisis sparked by secularist objections to having a former Islamist as president.

Time Magazine

Trouble in Turkey

May. 14, 2007
…democratically elected government. The protest was part of a larger revolt by Turkey‘s “secular establishment,” which includes the army and…

These are all articles from different news sources, and to avoid goining on forever there are many other publications that published this particular issue. Feel free to find more if you wish 🙂

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Add comment May 2, 2007 amyladybug

School of death – and it’s all legal

KIM WHEATLEY
May 01, 2007 02:15am

The Advertiser

FORTY South Australians will attend a workshop today to learn how to end their lives.

Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke admits his day-long workshops are borderline illegal but authorities have failed to close them.
Most who attend are elderly and in reasonable health, a state Dr Nitschke prefers as they are better able to deal with the information.

The morning will be set aside for theory while the afternoon is a hands-on practical workshop.

That includes a lesson in “kitchen chemistry” to extend the life of the death drug Nembutal.

People will also be shown how to control the flow of helium gas which is used in conjunction with the so-called “exit bag” or plastic bag.

Dr Nitschke has just completed the workshop in Sydney, where 50 people turned up for what he describes as “practical end of life choices which stops the elderly from worrying”.

Despite the February banning of his book The Peaceful Pill, and Federal Government legislation prohibiting the assistance of suicide via the phone or internet, he is able to continue with his workshops.

“When information is transmitted by telephone it would be in clear breach of the law,” he said.

“We’re actually talking face-to-face, so there’s no outlawing at this stage of the rights of association. We can still get away with it.”

He also says it would be different if his group was giving tools to people to end their lives. “If we just made it and gave it to them there’d be a strong legal case,” he said. “But they’re doing it themselves.”

The Australian Medical Association said doctors would have difficulty endorsing workshops which proposed ending life rather than relieving pain and suffering.

“Taking people who have a chronic illness, which is some of the people Dr Nitschke tends to embrace who don’t have a life threatening condition, it becomes much more difficult to put controls and conditions around that sort of process,” AMA (SA) president Dr Chris Cain said.

Right to Life Australia president Margaret Tighe called for the workshops to be banned. “They’re very dangerous,” she said.

ethicsindex_euthanasia.jpg

This article is interesting. It has a massive impact culturally because its a topic that has stark contrasting opinions. The uproar that this story could cause through many culture groups is quite startling because every religion and cultural group would have their own opinion about it.

(more…)

Add comment May 2, 2007 amyladybug

A nuanced, unabashed look at teens, sex and religion

Eileen E. Flynn

14 April 2007

Austin American-Statesman

Sociology professor and author Mark D. Regnerus says teens who participate more in church are less likely to be sexually active.

Warning: This column might make you blush.

I know it’s going to make me a little squeamish. And I think that’s part of the point. Religion and sex, to adapt a phrase, make uneasy bedfellows.

But they intersect regularly in the lives of American teenagers. And Mark D. Regnerus, assistant sociology professor at the University of Texas, has found some surprising accounts of how faith influences the sexual decisions of teens.

In his new book, “Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers,” Regnerus debunks some myths about trends in teen sexuality, explores the effectiveness of abstinence-only education and hears from those who pledge virginity until marriage or try to determine their “emotional readiness” for sex.

You can catch him talking about the book 5 p.m. Tuesday at Follett’s Intellectual Property bookstore, 2402 Guadalupe St. (For more information, call 478-0007 or go to http://www.intellectualpropertyaustin.com [http://www.intellectualpropertyaustin.com].)

Regnerus used survey data and in-person interviews with more than 250 teens across the country to find out how beliefs and participation in faith communities shape their actions.

The news and entertainment media send frightening, and often not fully accurate, messages, he says. “More teen girls experiment with bisexuality,” announces one headline. “Kids who take abstinence pledges more likely to have anal sex,” blares another. Movies and TV shows glamourize budding teen sexuality.

What are parents and church leaders to do with this information?

“Forbidden Fruit” paints a more nuanced picture, offering insight into that emotionally volatile world of teenhood. The interviews yield some expected accounts of sex: “I thought I was ready, but you know, obviously I wasn’t,” says one Catholic girl who had sex at 16.

But the book reveals some misconceptions about Evangelical Protestant teens whom we most often associate with abstinence pledges and sexual purity. Though they tend to hold more conservative attitudes about sex, Regnerus found that, as a group, their sexual activity is fairly average.

The key is being plugged into a religious community, Regnerus says. Participation, rather than denomination, is the factor that makes a difference.

Let me give you a little background here about Regnerus. He’s 36 and grew up in Michigan, the son of a minister in the Reformed Church in America, a small denomination founded in the colonial period by Dutch settlers. He now attends Covenant Presbyterian Church in North Austin with his wife and two children.

As a person of faith, he appreciates the influence of religion on teenagers. As a dad, he’s well aware of the challenges he’ll face when his own kids reach their raging hormones phase.

He understands that it’s not easy to talk about sex. And in the age of easy access to Internet pornography, religious and nonreligious parents alike fret about the images and messages that could confront their children.

“It’s a strange new world,” Regnerus said, adding that porn is “radically shaping how adolescent boys and (young) men think about sex, think about women.”

With those images so prevalent, how should churches treat sex? Is it a sacred act? A profane one? Is it both?

These are good questions, but Regnerus says religious communities aren’t raising them. Most teens would be hard-pressed to articulate their denomination’s teachings on sex, other than “it’s best to wait for marriage.”

I asked him what approach best serves teens.

“The emotionally healthiest thing to do is wait,” Regnerus said. “That seems pretty clear for the evidence.”

But he immediately anticipated the next question: Wait for what? Marriage? A monogamous adult relationship? How do parents and religious institutions prepare young people?

In his “unscientific postscript,” Regnerus stresses that his book aims to show “what is, not what ought to be.” But he’s not afraid to share his opposition to abstinence-only education, and he stresses that kids do want to hear about sex from their parents.

“The idea of ‘the talk’ has to go away,” he said. “It must be an ongoing dialogue.”

And another thing troubled him: the gender double standard.

“We wink at (boys) and we tell girls to wait,” he said.

Yet another complicated issue. It is different for girls. Regnerus found that teen girls struggled more with the guilt and emotional pain associated with sex.

He writes in his postscript, “. . . if congregations intend to be faithful to their own teachings about the body and sexuality, they should stop winking at this double standard, acknowledge it, and start having more frank conversations about the real sexual issues that real people face.”

Provided they can stop blushing long enough.

confession..?

I liked this article because it is an ongoing debate. Almost everyone is aware that religion and Sex don’t mix so to have somebody involved in religion talk about sex the way they do in this story is refreshing. I think it is a well written article and I like the way there is a little humour injected

(more…)

Add comment May 1, 2007 amyladybug

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