Debate reviews and deconstructs Islam and secularism

  • Students at debate on the notion “Islam is Secular by Definition"- photo by Eyad Jadallah

Students in the Modern Arab Thought course, part of the Master Program in Contemporary Arab Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University, organized a debate on “Islam is Secular by Definition,” on December 12, 2017.

The debate, supervised by the course instructor Dr. Abdul Karim Barghothi, was based on Adel Thaher’s work on secularism and Islam. Debate participants followed the rules of the Birzeit University Debate Forum, a student initiative supervised by the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies.

Participants split into two teams: proponents and opponents, and engaged in a democratic atmosphere in which speakers respected their allotted time and their rivals’ right to rebut. The participants, including members of the audience, also supported their arguments and contested the opposing ones through scientific reasoning and logic.

Dr. Barghothi presented his point of view, in which he historicized secularism, by definition, as an epistemic index – much like what Adel Thaher theorized. He also explained the pitfall that many intellectuals and thinkers, even secularists of them, succumb to, which is defining secularism through one of its canons – separation of state and religion.

“It is extremely important to create an environment that encourages discussion. Such an environment allows students to build their arguments logically and critique ideas methodologically in such a fashion that shies away from critiquing form only and instead focuses on content and how it can best be developed,” said Dr. Barghothi.