There are other threats to the secular state
Stabroek News
November 21, 2001

Dear Editor,

I disagree with your editorial captioned "The secular state" (17/11/01) [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in which you identify modern Muslim fundamentalist movements as the only threat to the secular state. Your editorial was one-sided and completely ignores the fact that the secular state is also constantly under attack in the United States. The recent murders of doctors who perform abortions and the bombing of abortion clinics were acts carried out by so-called fundamentalist Christians, who are the spiritual children of the Moral Majority, a movement of conservative, fundamentalist Christians, founded in 1979 and led by Jerry Falwell between 1979-1987. Yes, it is the same Jerry Falwell who was widely condemned in the U.S. for suggesting that the 9/11 attacks were God's judgment upon America for having abandoned Christian values.

Contrary to present U.S. law, the movement pressed for prayers and the teaching of creationism in schools, opposed the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. constitution, homosexual rights, abortion, and the disarmament treaties with the Soviet Union. Despite its dissolution in 1989, the movement's views have been adopted by a successor organization, the Christian Coalition, founded in 1989, and headed by Pat Robertson, a multimillionaire preacher who ran for the U.S. presidency in 1988.

Persons of the fundamentalist persuasion were very influential in the election of President Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and of both George Bushes. In fact, the current President Bush feels so beholden to the fundamentalists that he has, at their insistence, ended U.S. support for international birth control efforts and has established a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. This office will ensure that religious rather than secular groups will be the preferred conduits for government funds aimed at addressing social problems. Most stunningly, President Bush has exempted these religious groups from anti-discriminatory hiring laws, which, among other things, are meant to prevent the use of religious and sexual preferences as reasons for denying employment to job applicants. Your silence on this American reality obviously begs the question: Are Americans the only ones entitled to fight for a return to what they see as fundamental values? Or is it possible that you are totally unaware of what is happening in the United States?

I also found your characterization of Turkey as a democracy to be quite bewildering. I find it difficult to subscribe to the conventional wisdom, which defines democracy as the freedom to vote without regard to the absence or violation of other freedoms. Are you aware that the Kurdish minority is forbidden from being instructed in the Kurdish language in schools? Do you not know that Turkey's abysmal human rights record has been the main obstacle to its entry into the European Union?

It is my hope that future editorials on issues of this nature will be tackled with the objectivity and fairness that are demanded. Given the wide readership that this paper enjoys, this is an imperative.

Yours faithfully,

Carl Franklin

Editor's note

Mr Franklin is right on both counts. Islamic fundamentalism is not the only threat to the secular state but we believe the main one. The first line of the third paragraph of our editorial had been amended to read as follows: "The challenge to the secular state in recent time has come mainly from the modern Muslim fundamentalist movement". Regrettably the changes were not filed and saved.

That also happened with some changes in the last paragraph of the editorial. For the record we print below the amended last paragraph: "Whether that is so or not recent events have put on the agenda the questions both of fundamentalist ideology and of the future of Muslim states which range from a conservative monarchy like Saudi Arabia (which nevertheless provides money for some fundamentalists) to a democracy like Turkey and a transitional democracy like Iran. The fundamentalist threat to some of these governments (Egypt, Algeria) is something they will have to deal with themselves, indeed the whole question of the nature of government in the Arabic and non-Arabic Muslim world is likely to come under review. It may be an examination, and an opening, that is long overdue".

We agree that it is simplistic to describe Turkey as a democracy given its documented repression of the Kurdish minority.