Secular islam?

Out at lunch today, I was pleased I had taken a copy of Le Monde with me because I came across its review of "L'Islam Republicain: Ankara, Teheran, Dakar" by Jean-Francois Bayart. In one sense the book is a investigation of the relationship between religion and the state in three majority-Muslim countries.In another, it's a polemic, sparked off by the discussion on a burka ban, with a prevailing intellectual atmosphere in France that asserts a fundamental incompatibility between Islam and Republican values, such as the equality of women, and according to which "Republican Islam" is an oxymoron. Bayart starts his book by pointing out that the French Republic was not always noted for its commitment to equality - only with the 4th Republic in 1946 were women given the right to vote for example. He then goes on to analyse Islam in Turkey, Senegal and Iran, noting that the relationship between Islam and the state in all three cases - including in the Islamic Republic of Iran  is far more complicated than claims that Islam and the state are inevitable intertwined and mixed up together. In his final chapter, he returns again to France, asserting that the republic has transformed its pragmatic sense of secularity into a new state religion, in which the armed wing is the continued recourse to the law, laws ever more prohibitive and therefore more repressive. It's not a short book - 450 pages - so I will have  plenty to read on the 'plane to the United States.


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