The clash within civilisations : Islam and the accommodation of plurality

Trautner, Bernhard J.

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/487/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: INIIS Uni Bremen
Schriftenreihe: InIIS-Arbeitspapier
Bandnummer: 13
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 1999
Publikationsdatum: 16.08.2008
Originalveröffentlichung: http://www.iniis.uni-bremen.de/pages/arbeitspapierBeschreibung.php?ID=18&SPRACHE=DE (1999)
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 11.84 (Islam: Sonstiges), 89.30 (Politische Systeme: Allgemeines), 89.76 (Friedensforschung, Konfliktforschung), 89.90 (Außenpolitik, Internationale Politik)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

The ‘Clash of Civilisations’ is not only imminent but it is already taking place. Contrary to general assumptions, however, for the most part the real clash is not taking place between distinct ‘civilisations’ or cultural entities ("Kulturkreise") but within each of them. Islam or rather, Muslim civilisation is one–arguably the most ‘prominent’–case in point for the struggle with plurality. "Plurality" first of all denotes the general condition of most contemporary societies in the world. As for the empirical part of the paper, the notion of plurality shall not imply a normative predisposition toward the praise of ”pluralism” as a value sui generis. "Plurality" will, however, acquire additional meaning in the theoretical second part of the paper. In the first part, "plurality" denotes the empirical observation of diverging opinions, values, beliefs and interests within contemporary groups, societies, and states. In contrast to traditional societies, conflict over these divergences surpasses the limits of even the most general frame of common reference–be it the religious community, the nation etc. The main question here is whether these divergences are being dealt with peacefully or not, by suppression or by accommodation, by indifference toward public virtues or by public negotiation of morality. The problem is lucidly exhibited by historian M. Talbi (Tunis): "Nous allons vers un pluralisme universel qu"il nous faut penser et que l"on doit apprendre à gérer." The main target is thus: "Tout homme doit accepter le pluralisme, c"est-à-dire la cohabitation pacifique avec autrui sur la base du droit à la différence." Today, the most important pluralist challenge is that of the nominally "secular" public order being questioned by both ever larger and ever more militant groups in Muslim society. This, of course, is only omprehensible against the background of a rather negative balance sheet of the secular project in Muslim societies. In this paper I will argue that the imposition of nationalist, socialist and (to a lesser extent and only recently) liberal secular political systems on Muslim societies has failed to create peaceful political cultures in general and in the long-run, i.e. since the abolition of the caliphate in 1924 up to today. This is mainly due to three inter-linked factors: The strong refutation by secular regimes of the most demands for public recognition of Muslim values or even basic religious ordinances as a public code of conduct in public space. Against the background of serious development-crises and its well known consequences (rural exodus, urbanisation, unemployment) gradually more and more segments of society became politicised. An anti-secular, though not in always militant counter-intelligentsia emerged. Arguably following Gramsci"s model of first attaining ideological superiority before entering in the political arena, this intelligentsia eventually also gained political influence. Islamist ideology attracted attention from those parts of society that so far either had been marginalised (Iran, Algeria, Indonesia). Alternatively, it attracted those, who had merely been instrumentalised against the threat from the political left (Egypt, Turkey) by secularist élites. In any case, this resulted in the establishment of an anti-(or, chronologically: post-) secularist counter public ("Gegenöffentlichkeit") or counter-culture. The very process of secularisation "from above" incited or at least enhanced the ideologisation of political conflict over the question of modernisation. Secularism"s potentially appeasing effect on ideological conflict was thus reversed into that of a catalyst for the eruption of antagonisms into open conflict. Only as the failure of implementing the secularist projects in Muslim societies became obvious and resulted in a material threat to the power of the ruling élites, the latter more or less openly bowed to anti-secularist movements–according to the respective power constellations to various degrees, and at different stages. The results were ambivalent: On the whole, by admitting religious parties to elections or by partially accepting sharÐÝah alongside secular law, the ideological spectrum within the respective society is represented more accurately in the "official" political process. For specific groups, however, this transformation has resulted in an adverse effect, like certain sharÐÝah-stipulations in family law have discriminatory effects on women or sharÐÝah-stipulations in penal law for criminal offenders (Îadd-penalties). The operation of half-heartedly bowing to anti-secularist demands defused political tension and relieved the pressure on ruling élites only for a short term. The (re-)introduction of Islamic law mostly having lacked adaptation to contemporary times, the backlash did not wait for long. As a result, de-secularising political systems end up with the very same problems of accommodating plurality as they did when they were more secular.Not even synthetic political systems have escaped the dilemma: neither traditionalist syntheses of secular and pre-secular constitutional orders (Morocco, Saudi-Arabia), nor modernist ones (Iran) have produced convincing models for a reconciliation of religious legitimacy of government on the one hand and political pluralism, on the other. This clearly establishes the need for innovation in the field of political and legal theory. Contemporary projects overcoming secularist ideology and the deadlocks of both Islamic orthodoxy and Muslim fundamentalism will be presented in the second part of the paper. At this stage, the notion of "plurality" acquires a fuller meaning, not merely denoting the subject–but in addition, the mode of theoretical deliberation within contemporary Muslim political discourse: It will become clear that there exists a variety of approaches that differ from each other in various dimensions. This plurality of political thought concerning contemporary problems of Muslim societies clearly surpasses the popular analytical dichotomisations of "secular" vs. "fundamentalist" and "authentic" vs. "imported". If any at all, alternative categories of conceptualisation will be applied here. The last part of the paper endeavours an evaluation of the said approaches with regard to their potential contribution in dealing with plurality of against the background of the empirical overlook.


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