Reforms of Religions & Fundamentalism (was Re: Reply on Religionand Marxism: 2)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Jan 3 17:18:10 MST 2001

Mine wrote:

>Religion is not a monolithic
>entity. It changes as societies change with  secularism still
>remaining to be a
>continued terrain of struggle _within_ any religion.
>The same goes with anti-imperialist modernizing movements within
>Islam (especially
>among secular nationalist Arab thinkers such as Quasim Amin, Huda
>Sharawi). Given the
>attack on Islam by European orientalist scholars and _colonial rulers_, these
>moderate thinkers developed a _secular definition of religion_ as a
>response to
>colonial challenge. This transformation within _religion_ was a key
>to development
>of secular _national identity_ as well. I don't know the Latino case, but the
>coexistence of religion with national identity is definitely the
>case in the Arabic
>Middle East. For example,  Amin and Sharawi _never_ attempted to
>abandon Islamic
>religion, but still attempted to reformulate & modernize it new ways
>acceptable to
>Islamic milieu, such as restricting official polygamy, granting education,
>employment and voting rights to women, etc., whereas conservatives
>still continued to
>insist that Islam gave women all of her rights she needed, so reform
>was a sign of
>degeneration and westernization. Some secularists even offered reform within
>religion, trying to prove the capacity of Islamic societies to
>adjust to the needs
>of  a modern society "within their own boundaries".  They were
>hardly successful
>because they could not fully transform/secularize the structure of
>Islamic societies
>(its gender roles, relations, etc). What these people had mostly
>accomplished were
>bourgeois modernizing reforms such as the ones existed in the
>capitalist west. They
>did not aim at socialist transformation.  It is interesting but the Islamic
>fundamentalist polemical attack on Arab secularism generally regard
>reform attempts
>within Islam as sign of accommodating to cultural imperialism, hence
>an assault on
>Islam from within.

If our interest lies in giving aid to the modernizing & secularizing
currents of religious thoughts & practices which fundamentalism has
attacked, what we should do is _not_ to transform Marxist theory into
"objective idealism," "Christian socialism," etc. easily reconciled
philosophically with religions as some comrades appear to advocate
here.  Modernizing & secularizing currents _within_ religions become
strong only as _responses_ to the general struggles for political &
social emancipation, especially struggles for the emancipation of
women & (today if not in the past) the sexually oppressed (e.g.,
homosexuals).  Where the latter becomes weak, the former withers
also.  The solution lies in practical struggles, for which the
clarity of Marxist theory remains a weapon.  Blunting the weapon,
fearing that Marxist theory may alienate the religious, is likely to
produce -- if anything -- the effect opposite to modernization &
secularization of religions, in that making Marxist theory a variety
of agnosticism (which Engels called "shamefaced materialism") only
adds to the disturbing trend of "L'Amour intellectuel de Dieu":
religious revival in philosophy as a response to political defeat
that James Farmelant analyzed here.

>we need a better Marxist analysis of
>religion coming to grips with the colonial heritage of oppressed
>nations to avoid
>such religious polemics.

As a matter of fact, the tradition of Marxist analysis of religion
has been not to engage in "religious polemics" but to shed light on
the social struggles (class struggles, anti-colonial struggles,
struggles of women & the sexually oppressed, etc.) _hidden_ under
what may appear to be "religious struggles" at first sight.  "[I]t is
always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation
of the economic conditions of production...and the...ideological
forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it
out" (Marx, _A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy_,
NY: International Publishers, 1970, p. 21).


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