Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Secularization of a country or a Secular individual

In an article published by Medantahreer.com with the above title by Hala Dergham on the 13th Oct, 2011, one could see that the term "Secularization " has been misunderstood by those who object to new ideas, modernity and anything that is far from tradition. Those are mostly men of religion, radical institutions and others who strive on the ignorance and illiteracy of individuals who blindly follow. Dergham quotes at the start of her article that a Sheikh responded to a question about the term "secularization " and its meaning by saying that it means "your mum takes off her head scarf" which is a phrase that reveals one's misunderstanding and ignorance of the term. To the wider non-educated audience who would hear that in a country where religion is strong and considered to be the main tool of manipulating the public, such a phrase encourages others to take a ready-made stand against globalization as something which destroys tradition, culture and everything that one believes in.

Those who use religion to manipulate others ignore the fact that in the Quran God's first command to mankind was to "Read" which confirms the necessity and importance of an educated individual who is not brain washed or steered away by others from obvious realities and truths. Islamic institutions, Sheikhs and radical organisations benefit the most from keeping the public away from realising the power of education and taking control of one's destiny. In fact, like the Egyptian government, the more the public are ignorant, unaware and divided, the more power the government, and those who benefit from the situation, gain by the minute. 

Dergham touches in her article on a very sensitive subject which many Egyptians would rather not admit to or talk about, that which is laziness and dependence. It is evident that over the years, the public has relied totally on the media which was at first under the government control and now is in the hands of those who are capable of funding it and hence, privatising it. Also, the fact that the new generation would rather get information from others than look for it themselves is a worrying issue because those who provide ready-made answers may be giving the wrong solution or far from the truth. On many occasions, I have witnessed whilst in Cairo a situation where an individual would rather have the solution ready made or a piece of information quickly instead of looking further for it, researching and investigating. Some people could blame that on the technology that we have today beyond the 21st century, but the older generations who exhausted themselves to reach where they are today and who worked hard in the past know very well that this dependency is a killer to our nation today and to the coming generations in the future. Dergham stressed on this issues and explained that in Wikipedia, the term "secularization" refers to a looser term from what people believe it to be which includes the increasing unification of transnational circulation of ideas, languages and multi-cultures. The closest way to explain this, according to Dergham, is to say that one should separate religion from politics and that governments should not force anyone to adopt any religion, views or beliefs, in other words- the liberalisation of oneself is a must. An interesting point that Dergham brings to light is the fact that we, Egyptian, today are occupied by our judgement day that we ignore and forget about every day matters in our current lives. Dergham believes that this is how the West view Egyptians and that it is part of the Egyptian religion and culture to be thinking of God and judgement throughout one's life.

Secularization has been compared to Christianity since the 18th century. Dergham quotes a British writer stating in the mid 18th century that one cannot understand globalization as that which is against Christianity. It is independent from it, secularization does not force anyone onto anything. Hence, by the 21st century and beyond, it is clear that secularization is not a religion that one calls others to abide by or follow, neither is secularization linked to any ready established religions like Islam or Christianity. According to Dergham, secularization as a way of ruling, government and political thinking which rejects attaching to it any religion as a basis for a political life- even if it should not contradict any religion in any country. Secularization refers mainly to everyday life and businesses of individuals and societies on a daily basis which contributes ultimately to the development of nations. 
regardless of the controversy around Turkey and Iran and the allegations against Turkey today, Dergham uses Turkey as an example of a country that has established itself on secularization as a way of ruling and forming a government that protects both minorities and the Muslim majority alike. 

The question now, Dergham says, is how can the Arab world develop today- whether following Turkey's footsteps or others, the important thing is progress...

According to a Palestinian writer Hesham Sharabi, in his book The Intellectual Arabs and the West, that we, Egyptians today, are capable of taking from the West what suits our religion and culture  from democracy, freedom, justice and equality. From Turkey's president perspective, secularization takes into consideration development, heritage and culture side by side religion without contradicting it. In "The reason why Arabs and Muslims are behind", Sheikh Mohamed el Ghazali distinguishes between two kinds of generosity and greatness which were reasons behind the Islamic country's progress in the olden days.El Ghazali said: there is a man who knows what is right and abides by it, and a man who in addition to that includes training others on rightness and control, he is a guide who guides. Whilst there is a righteous man who performs his duties, and a man who adds on this, spreading the message of rightness in society and between the public till it blossoms, he is a good reformer. The later is greater than the previous. In other words, what Dergham is quoting on behalf of El Ghazali shows that it is not enough to be a righteous man alone, but more importantly, one should share such a blessing with others and urge others to follow the same paths.

In conclusion, education seems to be again the main reason for Arab and Muslims' delay in seeing reason and progress. Every one of those who take their roles in society seriously and duties like doctors, engineers, farmers, managers...etc are contributing to a nation's development, hence should be appreciated and encouraged. According to Sheikh Mohamed Abdou, after his travels in Europe, that he found "Muslims but no Islam, and in the East he found Islam with no Muslims", that is due to the fact that in Europe, people adopted the notion of hard work, honesty and dedication which is an idea rooted originally in Islam, whilst Muslims in the East are still up to this day and age far from it.

Original article in Arabic published on: 

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