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close this bookThe Self and the Other: Sustainability and Self-Empowerment (WB, 1996, 76 p.)
close this folderCulture and development
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View the document(introduction...)
View the documentApproaching the issue of religion
View the documentPsychoanalysis in Eastern Europe
View the documentWomen in Egypt: Education and modernity
View the documentBrazil and Guatemala: The culture of violence and the culture of hope
View the documentDiscussion

Approaching the issue of religion

Mohamed Arkoun, Universite la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III

I would like to bring the religious aspect of the issues we are discussing to your attention. When we speak about the enormous problems of development, sustainable or nonsustainable, we assume that the religious issue is known and is something that can assist the development process. We can always turn toward religion to bring back a culture that promotes peace. Many people have been linking peace with religion and have been trying to bring back God since his death was proclaimed at the end of the nineteenth century by a great philosopher and by many philosophers after that.

Violence makes truth work in society. After it is established through violence, truth becomes sacred and legitimate - Mohamed Arkoun

Realistic appraisal of the limitations imposed by the environment helps determine the appropriate psychoanalytic treatment of individuals - John Kafka

The history of various religions is taught in several Western universities, although religious doctrines are often juxtaposed more than they are analyzed from an anthropological perspective. However, this subject is still absent, neglected, or presented in terms of heresies in several universities recently created in the Muslim world. We are ignorant of the teachings of the world's religions and of the phenomenon of religion as that which has driven the entire history of humanity and all human sciences. We still approach religion through theological systems developed to enhance a sense of orthodoxy in each community. We do not approach it in a manner that establishes ways to make this universal phenomenon more intelligible to those of us who speak about it in ignorance.

Why don't we have time to consider this issue, which is bringing violence back into human life in a very unexpected way? Violence is a dimension of human life. There is a deep universal relationship among three concepts that has not been considered in our scholarship as it should have been. These concepts are violence, sacredness, and truth. My contention is that throughout history no proposition about truth has been uttered by a human being without being enforced through the use of violence. Violence makes truth work in society. After truth is established through violence, it becomes sacred and legitimate. Intellectuals, theologians, philosophers, and political scientists are among those who find strategies to legitimize the violence that is the starting point of what we call truth.

We should not continue to focus on Islamic fundamentalism as if Islam were the only religion that generated this pattern of religious expression. We should pay attention to other expressions of Islam. There is a liberal Islam, and there is even a radical scientific and intellectual criticism of Islamic reason.