Debrief Session of the Program "Secularization, Religion and State"

5 August, 2008 HANEDA Masashi, KATSUNUMA Satoshi, NAITO Mariko, OTA Keiko, SAWAI Kazuaki, Secularization, Religion, State

On July 18th, a debrief session of the program "Secularization, Religion and State" for this semester was held.

Prof. Masashi Haneda (Univ. of Tokyo) initiated the discussion by providing an overview of the program "Secularization, Religion and State". The program was established based on the recognition that the notion of the "Islamic world" was created in the process of secularization in the modern age in Europe (See Masashi Haneda, Isurâmu sekai no sôzô (The Creation of the "Islamic World"). Tokyo: Tôkyô daigaku shuppankai, 2005.) The program aims to develop an alternative way of interpreting the world, not only by focusing on Islamic revival but grasping religious revivals occurring on a worldwide scale as a whole.

Prof. Haneda's talk was followed by four presentations made respectively by Keiko Ota, Kazuaki Sawai, Satoshi Katsunuma, and Mariko Naito.

Keiko Ota (Research Fellow, UTCP) made the first one, entitled "The Concept of 'Justice' in Islamic Political Parties". She examined how the term "justice", which derives from the Koran, is incorporated into policies of Islamic political parties. Many political parties, which call themselves "Islamic parties," tend to include the term "justice" in their name. They seem to imply that they act based on the notion of justice taught in the Koran. However, when we take a closer look at these policies, we find that they don't necessarily reflect Islamic justice. We would rather find the influence of a socialist conception of justice in these policies. This tells us that we should question the assumption that what is called "Islam" is substantially fixed. We need to examine what motivates people to call for "Islamic" political parties and what is embodied in the notion of "Islam".

Next, Kazuaki Sawai (Research Fellow, UTCP) talked about "Secularism (Laiklik) Viewed from the Head Scarf Issue in Turkey." The concept of secularism in Turkey calls for the exclusion of religion from the public place. However, The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been the ruling Turkish political party since Nov. 2002, although it never identifies itself as an Islamic party, has brought on many changes based on Islamic thought. The same conflict over secularism can be also seen in the issue of the head scarf: parliament lifted a ban against women's head scarves at universities in Feb. 2008; however, the Constitutional Court delivered its verdict in June 2008 in opposition to the movement to keep head scarves off campuses. These problems can be seen as the conflict between the principles of secularism and parliamentary democracy.

Then, Satoshi Katsunuma (Research Fellow, UTCP) made the third presentation, entitled “Secularism and westernization: an example of the interwar Egypt". After Egypt became independent in1922, the Egyptian nationalist movement (tamsir) opened up in various fields. For example, Salama Musa (1887-1958), who was the leading figure of secularists, proposed a reform to shift Arabic language from the Koran to the national language. He also advocated compiling a "national history" that would replace Islamic history. The important thing here is that the Egyptian nationalist movement was promoted not only to establish its history, which would be separate from Islamic or Semitic traditions but also to connect it to European civilization. In other words, Egyptian secularism was closely linked to the ideology of westernization in the interwar period.

Mariko Naito (Research Fellow, UTCP) made the last presentation on the problem of secularization in Japan. The policy of separating religion and politics promoted by Meiji government has been interpreted as a process of secularization in modern Japan. However, some scholars have argued that we cannot apply the idea of secularization, which was established in modern Europe, to the Japanese context. The similar problem can be found when we discuss the notion of "religion". When the notion of "religion" was established based on the understanding of Christianity in modern period, religious categories such as Buddhism and Shinto were also systematized. The problem is that when we consider people's faith in pre-modern times, we tend to apply those religious categories to them. Examining the formation of the notions such as "secularization" and "religion" in the modern period could bring us to consider an alternative way of understanding religious situations in pre-modern times.

(Mariko Naito)

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