- DemocracyIslamic MovementsPolitical Islam StudiesReform Issues
- November 10, 2009
- 4 minutes read
Interference with religion
The discussion of whether religion influences politics or vice versa has been a controversial issue. It is hard to draw a conclusion that can apply to every religion. No generalization is applicable to all major religions.
Both may be true in regards to the teachings of certain religions, their historical backgrounds and their current state of affairs. For instance, we all know that the Church held hegemonic power and influence over material and worldly authorities in the Middle Ages.
Both Islam and Eastern Christianity remained on relatively good terms with the state; their existence did not lead to serious unease with states. For the Judaic tradition, the period of exile is different from the period after the foundation of the Israeli state. There is no need to recall that the actual problem erupted in Europe after the Renaissance and Reformation eras and spread all over the world from there.
Even though different models and styles of relationships with other religions have been tested in the context of history by all three divine faiths and other religions, we may argue that the divine religions have been influenced by different factors in terms of the materialization of their historical goals. Historically, the doctrine of Judaism, the interpretation of Christianity and the politics of Islam stand out as troublesome areas and factors leading to problems. These three major factors led to the exploitation and abuse of these three religions and the misinterpretation of their fundamental teachings and precepts. This left indelible imprints on the scholastic circles of these religions and had disruptive impacts.
If we set aside the issue that the doctrine and its interpretation created problems for Christianity and Judaism in some fields and focus on politics in Islam and its historical background, we would observe that despite the emphasis of this religion on the world and politics, the influence of politics has been exaggerated compared to its original focus and the reference to other dimensions in this religion; politics has been made an excessively important element that overwhelmingly occupies minds. All three divine religions have something to say on life in this world and political order. Of course, the emphasis of Islam on politics is stronger and more visible. Despite this, the influence of politics on religion as an institution regulating the power relations has been negative, exploitative and restrictive.
This is a relationship shaped by consecutive political requests and interventions. Political authorities and administrations sought to base their legitimacy on religion, viewing religion as a tool to achieve their political goals. It is redundant to search for the legitimacy of a sultan who views himself as the representative of God in this world in the eyes of the people. The same sultan would seek to make religion subordinate to the state as an institution, while he would also make impossible requests from religion if he deems necessary.
To make a reference to the current age, it should be noted that this historical relationship has politicized religion. As the state and the political administration relying on the central power of the state made requests from religion in regards to their sphere of administration and policies, religion became more politicized in the state of tension that emerged.
The historical practice is not free of certain tensions even though it did not lead to excessive discomforts over time. It could be argued that our history is the history of the division of power between the administration and the civilian sphere. Individuals and social groups have tried to make sure that a greater influence is reserved for them, whereas the state sought to consolidate and reinforce its sphere of authority.
The process by which the individual and society were included in a sphere of authority of the modern state started with Westernization. This may be seen as the start of a whole new tension over the axis of religion. Westernization led to the emergence of initial repression of religion and, of course, the politicization of religion.