Turkey shifting from assertive to passive form of secularism
Massimo Rosati (PHOTO Sunday’s Zaman)
3 February 2013 /UĞUR KÖMEÇOĞLU, İSTANBUL
Massimo Rosati, who co-edited a new book titled “Multiple Modernities and Postsecular Societies,” says secularization has always been considered one of the key features of the central value system of modern societies, and that Turkey is slowly shifting from an assertive form of secularism -- or ideological laicism, as is said in Italy to mean anti-religious and aggressive -- to a passive form of secularism.
How they arrange the spaces they live in; all these matters can be highly revealing of the new relationships between secular and religious [people],” the author said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman.
Here is the full transcript of the Sunday’s Zaman interview with Rosati:
Kömeçoğlu: I want to begin with the usual kind of question for someone publishing a book. What is the purpose of editing this kind of a book? As co-editor, what is the motivation for you to use the concepts of “multiple modernities” and “postsecularism” together? They are mostly discussed as separate realms, not in a close conceptual relationship.
Rosati: The book is the outcome of a workshop and series of seminars that Kristina Stoeckl [the other co-editor] and I organized at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. The starting point, both for the seminars and the activities of theoretical reflection and research we do there, is the awareness that naive theories of secularization are no longer reasonable. Of course there is not one single theory of secularization, but all of them in their different versions are not aware enough of the role that religions, new religious movements, forms of individual religiosity and, above all, traditional religions, play in the contemporary world.
Furthermore, we are interested in the new keyword, postsecular, which, in our view, is the best way to approach complex relationships between religious and secular forms of life in contemporary societies. It is true that concepts of multiple modernities and the postsecular are usually conceptualized in different realms, but putting them together is quite logical and important. As you clearly maintained, for example, at the beginning of your own chapter, secularization has always been considered one of the key features of the central value system of modern societies. The idea was, roughly speaking, that being a modern society means becoming a secularized society where religions lose their public role and remain important -- if at all -- in the private sanctuary of individuals in a spiritualized way.
Now there is clear evidence that this is true only in a few cases and in some specific contexts -- basically post-Protestant or Protestant-like -- but it is not a common feature of every society and there are no social laws to predict the future. Nowadays, we are becoming more and more aware that there are not only different paths to modernity, but also there is not one single way to be a modern society. As a consequence, the pair of “modernity-secularization” must be critically examined case by case, culture by culture, context by context. The original form of modernity, the European experience, uneven and multiple in itself, cannot be universalized. There are ways of being fully modern and fully religious, and we wanted to examine some of these ways. The postsecular, a concept that in itself needs to be clarified, can be one of the new solutions given to the relationship between religious and secular forms of life in contemporary contexts. In some contexts, which we call laboratories (such as Turkey and others considered in the book), the postsecular may be the best concept to grasp this new relationship.
Kömeçoğlu: The concept of postsecularism from its birth is mostly used for Western contexts, such as Western European countries and North America. And the debate started as a very theoretical discussion. But your book brings the notion of postsecular to the non-Western context as well. And it departs from an empirical domain, instead of purely abstract thinking. Why did you need to shift the axis of the concept?
Rosati: You are right; we are interested in empirical analysis, as well as theoretical discussions. If you take empirical cases into consideration, you will see that the concept of the postsecular -- despite its original Western context -- has a force that overcomes Western borders. In the beginning, it indicated a new awareness, appropriate to Western modernity that religions are still there as a matter of fact and also as a value: They are part and parcel of pluralism, despite modernist (positivistic, liberal, Enlightened, rationalistic) dreams. However, what is interesting is this awareness is also appropriate to religious traditions.
Disruptiveness, as [renowned professor of sociology] Nilüfer Göle taught me, is a sociological condition to trigger reflectivity. I can give you an example, which is very familiar to you. In post-Erbakan Turkey, so to speak, a woman’s right to wear the headscarf has been defended not on behalf of Islam but on behalf of human rights. There could be many other examples like this taken from other contexts, but the point is that religious traditions are learning to adjust to the modern world, as Taylor describes a world in which the religious option is just one among others. But not only are the religious forms of life improving, but also secular forms of life are doing the same. As a sociologist, I am interested in this middle area, in the new hybrid practices where the old modern borders blur, and something new takes shape. Maybe.
Kömeçoğlu: The concept of postsecular had various meanings among social scientists. What do you personally mean by the postsecular?
Rosati: The evolution of the concept of the postsecular depends on Jürgen Habermas. He didn’t invent it but he has the Midas touch. What Habermas means by the postsecular is that reason and faith, religious and secular forms of life should engage with each other in a process that he calls “complementary learning.” Given Habermas’ background, it is a huge proof of his intellectual openness. However, it is basically a normative definition. It is like saying that reason and faith are not self-sufficient, and everyone should recognize they have something to learn from one another. It is a good starting point, but not enough. Consequently, in our book we tried to give some sociological depth to the concept.
Kömeçoğlu: In Islam, Habermasian opposition between reason and faith is less obvious; the dichotomy is artificial for many Muslims. I think his approach somehow makes it hard to understand Islam.
Rosati: I suggest a slightly different interpretation: To me, the postsecular means we live in a largely secularized world within secularized political institutions (that is not at all bad), but that society is characterized by the presence and coexistence -- sometimes peaceful, sometimes not -- of religious and secular forms of life in a condition of pluralism. There are at least two pieces of good news in a condition like that: more religious pluralism, the erosion of religious monopolies in many contexts (also as a consequence of globalization, immigration and similar), and a new awareness. Pluralism and syncretism are not appropriate just to contemporary society, but awareness maybe is something appropriate to contemporary modernities.
Kömeçoğlu: You also wrote the third chapter of the book, which is about Turkey. Why do you use this word “laboratory”? Is Turkey experimenting with the idea of postsecularity?
Rosati: Yes, I think so. On a political level, many commentators say that Turkey is slowly shifting from an assertive form of secularism, ideological, laicist -- as we say in Italy to mean anti-religious and aggressive -- to a passive form of secularism, understood as neutrality of the state towards conceptions of the good life. In other words, from a French to an Anglo-Saxon model of secularism. I think that these shifts grasp something important, but they leave out of the equation what is happening at the social level. Here, in the realm of everyday social practices, new ways of life are negotiated, and the very fabric of social life is made by an unusual mix of religious and secular ingredients. It is in the realm of the aesthetics maybe that we have to look for these changes: What people eat, what they wear, but also where they pray and how they do it, how they arrange spaces they live in -- all these matters can be highly revealing of the new relationship between the secular and the religious. Turkey offers dozens of examples of things like this.
You studied old Ottoman and Islamic places, which are now recovering their importance under the new post-Kemalist Zeitgeist, but mediating between tradition and modernity. Architecture seems to me another field where Turkey experiences a new balance between modernity and tradition -- think Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu’s mosque in İstanbul. But think also of a symbol such as the Aya Sofia: an Orthodox church, a mosque and now a museum. Apparently no one discusses its current status, unless sometimes groups of Orthodox Christians or group of Muslims would like to reopen it as a place of worship for just one religion. But there are also a few people who sometimes advocate the reopening of the Aya Sofya [Hagia Sophia] to worship for different religions, and to art lovers and tourists alike. Imagine Aya Sofya as a symbol of a pluralistic, multi-religious country where secular and religious groups live together differently. Wouldn’t it be fantastic? Wouldn’t it be a great signal to Europe, too? As far as I know, Ali Bardakoğlu -- while still head of the Religious Affairs Directorate -- was in favor of such a solution; [the late Turkish-Armenian journalist] Hrant Dink was in favor of a solution like this, and others are today. What I mean is that in everyday life, in cultural and religious arenas, Turkey is a country in flux that tries to experiment with new relationships between the secular and the religious. You know better than I do that frequently this is a troubled process, but an ongoing one.
Kömeçoğlu: Seven or eight different contexts discussed in your edited volume “Islam, Christianity and Hinduism” are considered in this debate. Judaism has a really complex relationship with secularism. To ask it empirically, do you think Israel has a postsecular dimension?
Rosati: There are also reasons that explain the shape a book takes. However, think of Jerusalem: Is there not secularity and religiosity (religions in the plural) in constant tension? The distribution of social groups, the sounds of the Sabbath, the ringing of the bells and the call of the muezzins are markers of a society in search for the coexistence of visible public religions and secular forms of life. Historically, “theologically” (if the concept makes any sense in Judaism) and at the level of social praxis, Judaism is of course another important reference and Israel a very intriguing context. It is possible that we can fill this gap…
*Uğur Kömeçoğlu is an associate professor of sociology at Süleyman Şah University.
Massimo Rosati co-edited with Kristina Stoeckla “Multiple Modernities and Postsecular Societies.” He is the director of the CSPS (Center for the Study and Documentation of Religious and Political Institutions in Postsecular Society, www.csps.uniroma2.it) and teaches sociology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He is the author of “Ritual and the Sacred: A Neo-Durkheimian Analysis of Politics, Religion and the Self” (2009). He co-edited with W.S.F. Pickering “Suffering and Evil: The Durkheimian Legacy” (2008).
Membaca temubual ini membuat saya keliru ; di antara rasa lega dan rasa terlalu bimbang. Lega kerana peranan agama diiktiraf semula dalam kehidupan bermasyarakat. Rakyat Turki dapat menzahirkan amalan agama mereka secara bebas tanpa tekanan daripada pihhak berkuasa, keadaan yang jauh lebih baik dari era Kemalism sebelum ini.
Rasa bimbang yang amat itu timbul daripada kerisauan tentang jati diri ummah. Bimbang yang kita akan terhanyut kerana kemudahan dan keselamatan yang ada, Kita kehilangan kewaspadaan dan kesungguhan untuk mempertahankan pegangan dan amalan kita.
Membaca tajuk secularism sebgini juga mengingatkan saya kepada buku yang saya pernah baca ketika saya berada di universiti suatu masa dahulu, tajuk buku itu ialah The History Of Secularism'.. Ianya mengisahkan bagaimana masyarakat kristian barat yang dahulunya dikuasai oleh golongan gereja , kerana kerajaan-kerajaan eropah semuanya bernaung di bawah The Holy Roman Empire telah memprotes terhadap penguasaan gereja.
Kezaliman pihak gereja dalam melaksanakan hukuman dan disertai ketamakan mereka terhadap harta dan kuasa telah menimbulkan rasa mual dan juak di kalangan rakyat. Mereka lakukan segala salah laku ini bertopengkan ajaran agama, mereka memberi alasan-alasan syurga atau neraka, rahmat atau bala'.
Salah laku yang mereka lakukan ini telah menyebabkan masyarakat menolak mereka, bahkan meminggirkan peranan agama di dalam amsyarakat.
Sekarang ini kita melihat keghairahan golongan berpendidikan aliran agama dari ummah ini untuk mendapat pengaruh politik . Mereka menggunakan istilah-istilah agama untuk memberi justifikasi kepada pegangan dan amalan politik mereka. Walaupun politik kita hari ini bukanlah politik yang bersistemkan kaedah Islam.
Sudah tentu kita memerlukan mereka yang bertanggung-jawab terhadap Allah dan agama untuk berperanan dalam politik, tetapi kita tidak berkehendak kepada golongan yang berpendidikan aliran agama yang kemaruk kuasa sehingga sanggup melelong Ayat dan hadith. Kita tidak berkehendak kepada orang yang sanggup berfatwa untuk kepentingan politik, memutuskan hukum berdasarkan kepentingan politik.
Semoga sejarah seckular di negara barat tidak akan berlaku di tanahair ummah ini, dengan rahmat Allah