A Secular Age beyond the West: Religion, Law and Secularity in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa

Shylashri Shankar
Mirjam Künkler, John Madeley
Cambridge Core

The book analyses notions of religion and secularity in Japan, China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Morocco to identify parallels and contrasts with Charles Taylor’s grand narrative, A Secular Age, written for the North Atlantic world. A key finding is that, enhanced by post-colonial and post-imperial legacies, the state in all eleven cases highly determines religious experience, by variably regulating religious belief, practice, property, education, and/or law. Taylor’s core condition of secularity, namely legal permissibility and social acceptance of open religious unbelief (Secularity III), is largely absent in these societies. The areas affected by state regulation, however, differ greatly. While in India, Israel and most Muslim countries, questions of religious law are central to state regulation, in China it is religious education and organization, and in Russia church property and public practice that bear the brunt. These differences can best be captured, it is suggested, by the concept of “differential burdening.”

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