French-style Secularism in decline in ... The Middle East?

I stumbled upon a blog post by Walter Russell Mead (writing for The American Interest) that mentions different forms of secularism developed by several Europe (and American) cultures.


French secularism dies in the Middle East


According to Mead, French anti-clerical secularism is the most aggressive form of secularism to emerge from the group of post-revolutionary nations. Take for evidence the ongoing controversy about the French outlawing the wearing of Muslim head scarves in public by women.

What made the article so thought provoking for me was that Mead claims that it was this French-style anti-clerical version of secularism that inspired a number of Muslim visionaries to attempt to bring their countries into the Modern World in the 20th century. He uses the examples of the Turkey at the turn of the 20th century, Lebanon, the Baathist movement, and others.

For me there are a number of questions that come from Mead's article: How many American secularists (including atheists) do or would have considered Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon as model examples of the way things should be in the Middle East? If these secular societies are crumbling, why have they failed? If atheists want to reduce the influence of religion in the United States, what aspects of these secular middle eastern regimes should be adopted to enforce an more secular agenda in the United States? Would you support an anti-clerical secular movement in the US?


Tags: Arab, France, Turkey, secularism

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