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Stathis Gourgouris, Lessons in Secular Criticism, Thinking Out Loud | NSRN Online
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Bill Flavell July 6, views. Are religious doctrinal differences primarily responsible for stoking intercommunal fear and hatred?
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What roles have state, sub-state and transnational actors played in fomenting sectarian discord? And what could be done to avert sectarian violence, to foster tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and to promote reconciliation? The essays in this series tackle these and other salient questions pertaining to sectarianism in the MENA and Asia Pacific regions.
Read more The logic underlining this false duality is obvious enough: a sect is, after all, a subgroup of a religious denomination that exists as a result of theological or jurisprudential peculiarity as shaped by history, politics, and geography. As intuitive as this undoubtedly seems, it remains a false dichotomy that misrepresents sectarian identities and sectarian dynamics in the Arab world and overlooks the role played by class, politics, and power in what is ostensibly a religious issue.
To be sure, there is a certain kind of sectarian agitator and a certain kind of sectarian belligerence that revolves almost entirely around religious dogma and religious issues. There undoubtedly exist people for whom the logic outlined above is the central driver behind sectarian competition and sectarian entrenchment.
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For such people, the issue is one of competing religious truths. Citizenship, nationalism, and the nation-state are of little relevance to this line of thinking, in which views toward the sectarian other are driven by the obsessive need to uphold religious orthodoxy and a pathological fear or hatred of apostasy.
Is Secular Humanism a Religion?
Naturally, a secular person would seem to be the antithesis of such people. The most consistently overlooked aspect of modern sectarian relations in the Arab world is that they are far more rooted in contests over national rather than religious truths. As a result, one need not be particularly devout nor especially concerned with questions of doctrine or dogma to harbor sectarian prejudices, or to be an advocate of sectarian entrenchment; hence the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon of secular but intensely sectarian individuals.
The emergence of the Arab nation-state, the concepts it supposedly stood for, and the consequent feelings it nurtured—things like citizenship, equality, entitlement, empowerment, and representation—transformed sectarian identities and sectarian relations by adding a layer, namely the national layer, to how sectarian identities were imagined. Thus, sectarian polemics between compatriots are likely to revolve around national issues: demographics, national authenticity, national history, political and economic discrimination, and so forth.
Conversely, sectarian polemics aimed at a transnational audience are far more likely to revolve around religious truths such as Islamic history, jurisprudence, and dogmatic differences.