Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘French Secularism Dies In the Middle East’

Full post here.

Mead takes brief survey:

‘The Atlantic world developed many models of secularism over the last 300 years.  The four most prominent ones today are the British, German, American and French models.’

And on Mead’s argument:

‘The French system is the most aggressively secular Atlantic system.  It grows out of the experience of the French Revolution, when the Republic and the Catholic Church were at daggers drawn.  The hierarchical and highly organized nature of the Catholic church, its deep involvement with the monarchy and aristocracy, its wealth and land holdings, its extraterritorial connections with Rome and the intense loyalty to the church felt by many French people all made the Catholic Church a potentially hostile and powerful force.’

He argues that this has been the primary model in much of the Arab world and is possibly at its end, producing stability only really successfully in Turkey and a bit in Pakistan:

‘It was the French vision that most appealed to the modernizers and independence activists who brought secularism to the Middle East.  Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish general who defeated the Allies at Gallipoli and then overthrew Allied plans to partition what is now modern Turkey, was a fluent francophone who saw a close analogy between the power of Islam in Turkey and the power of Catholicism in France’

So then,  would the Arab world perhaps be throwing out that model…mostly in favor of an Islamic revival against outside influences? (Western generally as I’ve heard most everyone still harbors some resentment at the British, especially Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, where we find ourselves now).  Part of that revival has produced Al Qaeda and other violent, sometimes well-educated, narrowly religious violent ideologues.

I don’t know how his analysis will hold up over time, but I agree as to the many problems of the French model.  So many moving parts.  Comments are worth a read.

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