Contrary to common wisdom, the so-called “return of the sacred” is not a sign that people are becoming more religious. Instead, it is a consequence of a process of secularization that is disconnecting religious faith from the values of the dominant culture (sexual freedom, abortion, gay-rights).This disconnect makes religions more visible, precisely because they are less and less embedded in the daily culture.
During the “Arab spring” religious slogans were basically absent, which shows that this secularization is also at work in Muslim societies.
Examples for this are the alliance of the most fundamentalist of Islamic groups in Egypt – the Salafis – with the military and with the secularists, and the adoption of the most progressive constitution of the Arab world in Tunisia by an Islamist dominated Parliament.
Olivier Roy is Professor at the European University Institute Florence and Director of the “ReligioWest” project at the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies. He was previously a Research Director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a lecturer for both the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) and the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (IEP). He is a specialist on Islam in the Middle East and in Europe. His book The Failure of Political Islam (1994) is a standard text for students of political Islam, and his latest book Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways (2010; dt. Heilige Einfalt, 2011) is an analysis of the consequences of the disconnect between religion, ethnicity and culture.
Funded by the European Research Council, ReligioWest-project