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
Secularism and its variants are terms much discussed today, paradoxically as a consequence of religion seeming to have become more pervasive and inﬂuential in public life and society worldwide. This situation poses a number of questions. First, a deﬁnitional one: What are the spheres of secularity and secularism? According to our understanding secularity refers to individuals and their social and psychological characteristics and behavior while secularism refers to the realm of social institutions.
by Giulio Ercolessi, Prominent journalist and commentator and co-founder of the website italialaica.it; former Secretary-General of the Italian Radical Party
Religion matters in Italian public life today. Yet some of the problems arising from Italy’s new religious diversity—a result of a) recent immigration waves and b) secularization—are signiﬁcant. To understand their scope, a short excursion into the historical roots of the present situation is probably necessary. e issue of state-church relations played a crucial role in the formation of the Italian state in the 19th century. It was important, for instance, in the formation of Italy’s national liberal heritage. After the destruction of the French-established Napoleonic regional republics,the divide between the Catholic Church and liberal-minded milieus widened. The heritage of the Enlightenment combined with the Romantic movement’s mainstream assessment of Italy’s religious history. As a result, that history was recast in a negative light: the increasingly liberal public saw the Counter-Reformation as one of the main causes of the civic and political backwardness of Italian society after the end of the Renaissance in the 16th century.
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 Adrienne Fulco, Associate Professor and Director of the Public Policy and Law Program at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
Scholars who compare European and American political parties have custom-arily characterized the two major American political parties as distinctly non-ideological coalitions of voters who come together every four years to nominate and elect a president. Nicol C. Rae recently observed that “[i]n the comparative study of political parties in twentieth century advanced democracies, the United States has always been something of a problematic outlier owing to the absence of organized, disciplined, and ideological mass political parties.” Moreover, according to Rae, when compared with other advanced industrial democracies, “American national parties have traditionally been decentralized, loosely organized, and undisciplined, with party cleavages based on cultural or regional factors rather than social class divisions.” But today, according to researchers who have explored the problem of polarization in American politics since the 1980s, there is now “widespread agreement that the Democratic and Republican parties in the electorate have become more sharply divided on ideology and policy issues in recent decades.” Commentators agree that among the factors most responsible for the sharpening of distinctions between the two parties has been the infusion of white, Protestant, conservative, religiously motivated voters into the Republican Party. Thus, not only have American political parties become more ideologically oriented, but they have also come to resemble more closely the European model, in which parties represent distinct religious and secular constituencies.
by Frances Raday, Professor of Law: Elias Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Director of the Concord Research Institute for Integration of International Law in Israel, at Colman College of Management and Academic Studies; Chair of the Israeli Association of Feminist and Gender Studies
This chapter focuses on the confrontation between religious and constitutional authority, as it aﬀects the rights to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and gender and ethnic equality. It will analyze the Supreme Court’s reviews of decisions made by religious authorities. As background, I will ﬁrst discuss the way in which constitutional norms should, as a matter of constitutional principle, deal with clashes between the right to culture or religion, on one hand, and the right to equality and freedom of conscience and religion, on the other. I will then seek to measure the Court’s jurisprudence within this conceptual framework. In order to determine which principles should govern the role of constitutional law in regulating the interaction between religious values and equality, I shall examine the theoretical arguments supporting deference to cultural or religious values over universal values. ose arguments, I shall contend, must not prevail. ere are various situations in which constitutionalism must cope with claims for deference to religious authority. The boundaries of a religious culture will not necessarily be coextensive with the constitutional realm. Within the constitutional realm, there may be a dominant religious culture and minority subcultures, or there may be a mosaic of subcultures. Furthermore, even in a religiously homogeneous society, the imposition of religious norms may vary at the levels of family, workplace and church/mosque/synagogue. There may be a diﬀerent appreciation of the applicability of the norms in each of these institutional frameworks.
by Mine Eder, Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations at Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey
Religion and Islam have long been powerful political instruments for most of the center-right parties in Turkey. Parties on the left—and the People’s Republican Party, in particular—have used secularism, and strict separation of Islam and the state, as the fundamental platform to get votes. This paper will argue that behind the secularism debate that has continued for two decades in Turkey lies the utter failure of both sides to address and solve the classic issues of political economy: rising unemployment and poverty, declining incomes in the countryside, and the failure of the state to provide basic public services such as education and health care. While issues such as headscarves, the status of religious schools, and alcohol consumption occupy the country’s social and political agenda, the most crucial issues have been left out of the public discussion. The fact that issues such as poverty, inequality, and social/economic exclusion require basic structural policy and priority changes can also explain why both sides might prefer quick appeals to their constituencies through debates on secularism. This paper suggests that a host of factors—depoliticization of the economic issues since the 1980s against a backdrop of premature economic liberalization in Turkey; the “obsession with identity politics” rather than economic issues as a global trend, particularly since 9/11; and the absence of a genuinely social democratic platform in the country, despite lip service from both the Islamists and the so-called leftists—can be blamed for the crucial absence of such political economy issues from Turkey’s political agenda.
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.