Religious Freedom between Belief and Politics.. First Generation Approaches to the Arab Renaissance (2/3)


Throughout the course of Islamic civilization, Arab and Islamic societies – in the contexts in which they were dominant – have known richness and richness in their social fabric, and this did not constitute cases of turmoil and conflict, not because their civilizational situation was created in systems that absorb diversity and difference only, such as the mechanisms that were created with the nation state, Or the development of the bond from identity and belief to citizenship that is not based on creed, sectarian or ethnic biases.

The corruption of politics and the disease of power, which was obtained by force and oppression, were and still are, to the present moment, two elements feeding the conflict, which prompted the Ennahda figures as a whole – and they are approaching the responses regarding pluralism and religious freedom – to political motives, as well as to the centrality of political reform, along with the rest areas, to achieve progress and overcome the reality of backwardness that produces fanaticism.

This is an important and urgent entry into contemporary contexts to overcome the crises that erupted with the settlement of modern political systems and the sharp contradictions that they left in traditional societies that did not know the general religious, philosophical and political climate that produced the system of modernity, as well as to overcome the furnace of narrow identities affiliations, which define the self in The negation and cancellation of the other, when the rhetoric of fanaticism and sectarianism swells under the influence of politicization and the internal and external recruitment of sub-identities. We say that there was no conflict, because the motives for accepting pluralism are a societal issue arising from awareness of difference, an awareness to which, in addition to the civilizational situation, the assets that constituted that awareness contributed, and was reflected in both knowledge and society; Therefore, moving away from these theoretical foundations – under the influence of the disease of fanaticism and ignorance that feeds on backwardness – constituted a motive for conflict, just as the corruption of politics and the disease of power, which was obtained by force and oppression, were and still are to the present moment two elements nourishing the conflict, which prompted the flags of the Renaissance. In their entirety – they approach the responses regarding pluralism and religious freedom – to political motives, as well as to the centrality of political reform, along with other fields, to achieve progress and overcome the reality of backwardness that produces intolerance.

  1. Coercion is an inherent feature of religion.. Farah Anton’s perspective

Contrary to what we concluded about it in the previous article, given that “the issue of difference expands in the sphere of religion in view of its reliance on freedom and non-coercion, and narrows in the sphere of politics in which the Sultan uses the logic of force and oppression,” we find Farah Anton – through the reasons for the separation between religious and political authorities He tends to say that the nature of compulsion inherent in religion, and oppression of intelligence and free thinking, because religions, in his view, tend to endorse religious unity, which caused wars that decimated most of Europe in the so-called religious wars. Eliminate the right of the other to express and think, and then basically to exist.

Truth, by its nature, in religions is “absolute, and there is no truth after its truth,” says Anton, which throughout history has produced several disturbances, and if “religions took over the reins of governments, they were compelled by their nature to put pressure on human thought as was happening in Europe and resisted every new thought. That is why What happened in Islam and Christianity was the persecution of scholars and philosophers” (Farah Antoun, Ibn Rushd and his philosophy, p. 151), because religions contest the mind’s autonomy, as religion “equalizes intelligence in the nation when intelligence tends to independence by itself, even a little.” Independence in vision, which was a major transformation factor with the dawn of modernity, whether in patterns of thinking or at the political and social level, so that the mite of religious discord that ate the guts of the nation was absorbed and “destructed it with weakness and decadence” (Farah Anton, Ibn Rushd and his philosophy).

Here, with Anton, we find an important critical tendency that established the general atmosphere that characterized the period that accompanied his companion Abdu, Al-Afghani, Al-Bustani, Al-Kawakibi and others. This critical tendency may differ according to the various premises that the first generation of the Renaissance imbibed, and despite the difference in visions, their opinions that they expressed reflect the extent of awareness With the problems that were raised and needed an outlet of light through which the winds of modernization and renaissance would pass, but Anton’s critical tendency would be disguised as the adoption of the critical theses popular at the time in the relationship of the nature of power between the religious and the political, as it embodies the inherent weakness of the religious government (understood by its formulation) motivating it to win the emotions The public, “in order to build its legitimacy, as its purpose is to preserve its entity not to advance the people, which leads it to beg in various ways, including inciting religious fanaticism to remain supported by the people” (Anton, Ibn Rushd and his philosophy).

2. Different references mean different readings…or Farah Antoun’s reading in the mirror of Muhammad Abdo

Anton’s reading of the problem of minorities – which came to the surface in the middle of the nineteenth century and over which conflicts of a religious nature occurred, and between them and the Sublime Porte, i.e. the Ottoman Sultanate – remains important in its context, but the focus on the ideological aspect and the omission of other factors leading to unrest in the context of a conflict An international colonialist that seeks to dismantle the Ottoman Empire and damage its social fabric by establishing a struggle on the ground of sub-identities, which makes its reading deficient – in our view – about understanding the origin of the problem and then finding a way out.

Both Abdo and Anton believe that the struggle for power was to stir up social and religious unrest, but they differ in the motives and premises on which each of them relied on both religion and politics.

It is noted that the problem of minorities and subsidiary identities in pluralistic societies is still continuing in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iraq due to external interference that seeks to dominate and formulate loyalties that transcend national borders. Throughout the region, it has been more harmful to pluralism in Eastern societies than before, and this is one of its failures.

We refer to this in a critical form through our reading of the processes of renaissance thought, its theoretical and social problems, and the contexts that produced its statements by virtue of the time distance that separates us from that reality and what these problems have become in light of the various approaches at the time and at the present moment, without neglecting the emphasis on the importance of Anton’s reference to the factor of power. And its use of religious fanaticism and other forms of sectarianism, which is still present today, and we add to it the factor of external interference and provoking contradictions between the various components. The question that arises here, what is the nature of the intersections or the difference that we find between Farah Antoun and Muhammad Abdo through the above?

In fact, we find an implicit overlap in some interpretations of the conflict that the political authority is working to provoke, but the general framework that surrounds it remains different between Antoun’s approach and Abdo’s approach, which indicates the emergence of a difference between two intellectual references at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century that will extend to the present moment. It is the difference that Munir Shafiq expressed in a precise descriptive term for the division that occurred at the level of awareness and moved to the society “two societies under one roof” (Munir Shafiq, issues of development and independence in the civilized conflict).

Both Abdo and Anton believe that the struggle for power was to provoke social and religious unrest, but they differ in the motives and premises on which each of them relied on religion and politics together. This is because Muhammad Abdo works to distinguish between the normative aspect of religion and the historical aspect, and identifies the circles of overlap and differentiation between them. Rather, the historical aspect itself has remained in which belief, knowledge and pluralism in society are protected by the freedom fence that is based on assets in awareness and circulated knowledge, which have turned into systems and laws that prevent Authority comes from the practice of coercion in beliefs, as authority in his view is a political authority that takes its legitimacy from the nation that has the right to control the ruler, and not a religious authority that tends to the ruler is the shadow of God on earth, which was inherited in the sultan literature or in the religious and political conflict in European historical context.

This distinction between the normative and the historical is somewhat absent from Farah Anton; As the embodiment is seen historically in the relationship to pluralism and religious freedoms, because through the practices that have been connected to it, it expresses a tendency that finds its roots in the essence of religion, and not in history, interests and whims, in addition to the matching between the Arab, Islamic and European experiences in the apparent forms of coercion that descends from higher, and he has – contrary to what we have mentioned – that the religious element internalizes an exclusionary tendency through coercion, while politics internalizes a spacious space for various forms of pluralism.

In conclusion, the formulation of theoretical opinions on the issues that were the subject of intellectual debate among the prominent Arab renaissance thought was not separated from the general intellectual climate due to the qualitative shift of European modernity, and therefore it cast a shadow on the Arab and Islamic renaissance awareness, and this was evident in Farah’s approach Antoun, who took a path contrary to Muhammad Abdo and before him al-Tahtawi and Khair al-Din al-Tunisi and al-Afghani, who continued to look at modernization through the lens of reconciling the elements of modern civilization and the bright aspects of heritage.

Rather, Anton, in his vision of the problem of pluralism and religious freedom within the field of Arab and Islamic civilization, was not surrounding the various productive aspects of religious coercion and causing conflict between the different components of the eastern social fabric. The totalitarianism to which the Church has historically tended through monopolizing the reading and interpretation of the religious text, confiscating opposing philosophical, scientific and political opinions and accusing them of heresy, a pattern that Arab and Islamic civilization has not witnessed, or let us say that belief was not based on coercion, whether religious or political by a symbolic authority Or materialism, just as pluralism and difference, or the other, in another way, is at the heart of the self and expresses its being. Christians or other people of boredom and bees are Christians – or what they condemn – by culture, Muslims by civilization.

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