UNDERSTANDING RELIGION-STATE RELATIONS IN MUSLIM SOCIETIES: Beyond Essentialist and Secular-Liberal Narratives
Scholars have offered different accounts in the debates over religion-state relations in the Muslim world. Central to their differing views are diverging premises on the degree to which religion-state relations in Muslim societies are dictated or determined by certain â€˜essentialâ€™ cultural, religious or even civilizational characteristics. Another main root of conflicting analyses is different assumptions on the extent to which the discourse of religion-state relations should be confined to their distinctively secular-liberal character. While some discuss religion-state relations within strictly secular-liberal terms, others choose to go beyond these particular narratives. This paper revisits the debate on religion-state relations in the Muslim world in light of these two main roots of contention. The chapter begins with a critical examination of the cultural essentialist approach and its limited analytical value in the discussion on religion-state relations in the Muslim world. It then examines the dominant secular-liberal narratives of state-religion and their problematic projection within the context of Muslim societies. Finally, it offers an overview of the internal debate within the Muslim world over the issue of religion-state relations, focusing more specifically on the extent to which secular liberal discourses are contested or critically embraced.
Keywords: Religion-state Relations, Secular-liberal Narratives, Muslim Societies
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