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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fundamentalist Secularism

This article started from my old post entitled "My Spiritual Journey" that I reposted in my FB a few days ago. A dear good friend commented jokingly, "what a spiritual snob you are..."
I responded, "I am absolutely not a spiritual snob. An intellectual snob, well, yes you can say that again!"
She replied, "Well, yes, first cognitive then affective ..."
Jokingly I asked her, "Spiritual snob is different from religious snob, isn't it? You know, in our country, there are abundant religious snobs who believe that they are 'ahlul jannah' and the rest are 'ahlun naar'."
However, since she tried to be careful -- offending people in the networking sites can be considered a crime in Indonesia recently, and no longer just a misdemeanor -- she continued discussing this topic via personal message, or more popularly known INBOX on FB. And she introduced me to a (for me) new term, "fundamentalist secular".
My curiosity on this term made me do googling. And ... here is the article I promised her to write.

Term 'fundamentalist secularism' comes from two terms, 'fundamentalism' and 'secularism'. I will start from giving definition of terms 'fundamentalism' and 'secularism.
Wikipedia encyclopedia defines 'fundamentalism' as a belief in a strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. The term has been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity, but has by and large retained religious connotations.
Furthermore, Karen Armstrong defines fundamentalist movements as 'embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis" -- namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality. This concern is shared mostly by Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Secularism, according to Wikipedia encyclopedia, is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact unbiased by religious influence

So, what is fundamentalist secularism?

Tobias Jones, the author of “The Dark Heart of Italy”, in stated that "Secular fundamentalists are the new totalitarians*". He cited an example of the hijab ban in French schools. The government doesn't give any space for their citizens to practice their religion freely. Another example cited by Jones was when the government considered the wearing of crucifix or a veil or a turban as offensive to other faiths.
It reminded me of a topic discussed when I was in college. In 1620 the early immigrants left England and sailed to North America, on the ship 'Mayflower'. In the 'newfoundland' they formed Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. They did this because they could not practice the religions they adhered to freely in the home country. However, when they succeeded establishing a new 'country', they did the same thing: they forced the settlers to follow the religion of the chosen 'ruler'. When a group of people didn't accept the rule, they had to move to another area, or they would be hanged to death.
Does fundamentalist secularism only exist in the western countries?
I observe that this secularism thrives everywhere, including in Indonesia. Indonesian government is not a secular one. Indonesia is not a Muslim country either although it has MUI that obviously has interfered the citizens' lives by issuing some ‘useless’ fatwas, although some provincial governments have issued some 'unfriendly' (and sadly misogynist) Islamic (or other religious) bylaws. However, I guess there are abundant people (I know via internet) in Indonesia claiming themselves as secular, thinking that the government should separate itself from any religions' teachings, the government should respect citizens' freedom either to adhere a religion or not. Secular people -- I am one example -- do not mix their religious beliefs with their daily routine. They also believe that people must respect each other's religions, no judging that other people will go to hell only because -- let's say -- they are not praying five times a day (for Muslim) or not going to church (for Christians) etc.
Referring to my post "My Spiritual Journey" where the main theme is "there is no such chosen (or best) people (to go to heaven)", I recently have recognized that these secular people -- perhaps I am also included in this case -- start to ridiculously think themselves as the "best" one. They start to laugh at other people who adhere their religions rigidly, they consider people praying together to alleviate their sufferings as fool. They have lost their empathy. They no longer respect other people's faiths.
From some examples above, let me conclude the definition of ‘fundamentalist secularism’. It refers to the concept that government or other entities are separate from religion so rigidly or strictly that until a certain rank it eradicates the existence of religions, or more hostile it regards religions – and their adherents – evil.
As a secular Muslim, I want to end this article by citing one famous verse in Alquran, "lakum dinukum waliyadin" -> your religion is for you, my religion is for me. In a wider sense, it can be interpreted as “whatever faith (that I consider having broader sense than ‘religion’) you have, or even if you are agnostic, deist, nihilist, or atheist, keep remembering that difference is beautiful, respecting other people is necessary, being empathetic to other people is awesome.

Nana Podungge
-- the secular Muslim --
PBIS 12.12 190210

* (Totalitarianism = a form of government in which the state controls all phases of the people's lives. Totalitarianism allows only one party, headed by an absolute leader. He maintains his power over the party and the rest of the people by force and violence. Freedom of religion does not exist. => "The World Book Encyclopedia)


johnorford said...

I totally agree with you. Sometimes I slip into an egotistical secularism, which is so stupid...

A Feminist Blog said...

thanks for the supportive comment. :)
In my other blog, I got attacking comment you know :-p

delvi said...

eh,secular muslim?

A Feminist Blog said...

Delvi, yup, you can say that again :)

Dikkiman Sujengkol said...

Dig the blog. Great to see a new generation of Indonesians (of all ages), having such conversations and debate. For someone like yourself, I imagine the pinging Blackberry world of malls and macet can get a bit vapid at times, so I'm grateful to the internet allowing you to put it out there. I don't have much literary background myself, so it's great to have someone synthesizing it. Also good to know about defamation on the net being criminalized.

johnorford said...

attacking comment? sometimes that's good, it's good to pinch nerves with ones writings every once in a while : )