Arab & Secular
OF BEING AN ARAB SECULARIST
In this keynote address for Canada’s Couchiching Think tank, the blog’s author discusses the challenges faced by Secularists in “post-Spring” Arab World.
Excerpts from the summary (long version here):
Across the Arab world – despite laws prohibiting everything from premarital sex to alcohol consumption – a powerful sub-culture practices these activities while suffering from a overwhelming sense of guilt for not living up to the religious ideals encoded in Arab laws.
So how does a culture live with these contradictions? Ahmed Benchemsi answered that it is done through an “insane internal dialogue by which Islam is not the defining paradigm of Arab societies – hypocrisy is.”
From Benchemsi’s experience, the best way the Arab world can overcome this schizophrenic internal monologue is by authentically describing the present – he describes this concept as “secularism from within.” In other words, they should describe the lives they live, expunge the guilt felt for breaking and disobeying unrealistic rules, and adopt the label of secularism to cultivate the individual freedom that is inextricable from democracy.
He concluded that secularism from within is really honesty from within. He believes that is what young secular Arabs should begin practicing, for “a society based on lying and cheating is not sustainable in the long term”. Honesty is a revolutionary force. If secularists can label and practice honesty, who knows? They might win.