Abstract and Keywords
This chapter explores how Muslims understand secularism and respond to the idea of separating religion from the state. For many Muslims, secularism has negative connotations, as they understand it to be against religion, equivalent to irreligion or antireligion. Due to these preconceptions, a Muslim who calls for secularism to be accepted may face significant resistance in many Muslim-majority countries. Various historical, social, and political reasons account for why much of the Western world has moved to separate religion or the church from the state, even while religion has remained, in several instances, an explicit part of the state. There is ample room in Islamic thought to explore the basic issue of state neutrality vis--vis religion, but the language of political discourse must shift toward more neutral terms. The term “state neutrality” is more acceptable. Muslims can come to accept state neutrality, despite their negative historical experiences associated with secularism.
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