By: Yasin Aktay*
When you get into Charles Taylor’s book, “The Secular Age,” you see that secularism happens differently in different societies. You will actually see an effort that struggles with orientalism or a Eurocentric writing of history, but in the end you are filled with a narrative that the world is in an evolution toward secularism. The narrative being done in an evolution fiction where secularism is being illustrated as achieving victory in the end is actually, as we mentioned earlier, a different aspect of all modernization narratives.
Whereas, the same realities can be experienced differently in other social groups and surroundings. When we look from where we stand, we don’t see a secular age, but instead we see being overwhelmed with religious bigotry. The world is sinking into religious bigotry by the day and rightist conservatives are taking over the once secularist European continent. This increase also brings with it an increase in religious identities.The number of people who look at the incidents that occur in the Middle East from a religious window and the religious motivation of those who are involved in this phase cannot be overlooked. The big adventures the U.S. experiences for the security of Israel cannot be explained with the U.S.’s economic interests or any other rationality. Many people in America and Europe of course believe that everything that happens in this region is done for the religious future. Even if from another perspective, so do many Muslims in the world.
When you look at the issue from this perspective, you realize that the character of this age is not a secularist one, but instead a rather religious one.
This is how man is; as it is said in Surah Yasin in the Quran, “But they have taken besides Allah [false] deities that perhaps they would be helped. They are not able to help them, and they [themselves] are to them soldiers in attendance.”
There is idolatry in this, but there is no divergence from religiosity: on the contrary there is intense spirituality.
It is inevitable to not measure the level of religiosity or secularism with visibility. Discourse that explains secularism, religiousness and conservatism all based their claims on the visibility of religion. However, when the issue is being religious there really is no objective criterion to measure intentions, the heart or sincerity. A prayer that is done so others see, but lacks the spirituality, is written in the religiosity statistics. But that prayer is actually rather secularist. On the other hand, when someone does something solely believing that Allah will reward him and that he is worshipping in some way, this act can in no way be categorized as a religious act. However, this act is extremely religious. For this reason, a believer will perform the worldliest act in such a spiritual way (starting by reciting the “bismillah”) that his act is religious. The same act can be done by another in a secular way. Someone looking from the outside would not be able to tell the difference in the actions, but these acts will be totally different within the inner worlds.
A Muslim who reads the Quran and fills his mind and heart with its verses, believes that everything that happens in the world is done within Allah’s knowledge and surveillance, and Allah is not withdrawn from this world. What the secular age narrative tries to preach is that Allah, or God as it is called in secular literature, is no longer favored by people: therefore they have withdrawn from this world. This isn’t factually possible, as there is no decrease in the demand people have for religion: instead there is a serious increase. You only need to change your point of view to see this.
I believe that those who look at secularism from a pessimist Muslim or conservative perspective, are also doing the wrong thing. As they try to defend religiousness against secularist winds, they are actually helping secularism declare its victory.
*Yasin Aktay is the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey.
(Published in Yeni Şafak Turkısh newspaper on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016)