by Barry A. Kosmin, Research Professor in Public Policy and Law and founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College & Ariela Keysar, Associate Research Professor in Public Policy and Law and the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College
This volume grew out of a salon or conversazione on the theme of “The Prospects for the Secular State in the Mediterranean World in the 21st Century” hosted by ISSSC—the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. The event took place during June 2007 at Trinity College’s campus located on the historic and beautiful Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy. The purpose of this gathering was to assemble a diverse group of people from diﬀerent Mediterranean nations, academic disciplines and professions for a relaxed, multi-cultural exchange of information and opinion on one of the key political and intellectual questions of the moment, one which is on the agenda today in one way or another in every country in the Mediterranean region. How should the state and government respond to diversity of beliefs and worldviews in today’s society?
by Manar Shorbagy, Arab Center for Development and Future Studies & Political Science Department, The American University in Cairo
The relationship between religion and politics is at the top of the political agenda in Egypt, and, as I shall argue, it has important implications for the political rights of Egyptian women and minorities. However, the issue is not a simple secular/religious divide. It is, rather, the problem of how to deﬁne the nature and characteristics of a civil, democratic state that is neither a theocracy nor an Islamically “naked” public space. The Islamist/secularist dichotomy is a false one; it has little or no relevance to actual political processes and possibilities in Egypt, where a middle ground is both theoretically and practically conceivable. Such a middle ground, however, must be deliberately sought and found by Egyptians, so that a national consensus on the relationship between religion and politics can emerge.