Islam, Catholicism, and Religion-State Separation: An Essential or Historical Difference?
Keywords:Islam, Catholicism, separation, state, essentialism
There exist severe restrictions over religious dissent in most Muslim-majority countries. This problem is associated with the alliance between religious and political authorities in these cases. I argue that the alliance between Islamic scholars (the ulema) and the state authorities was historically constructed, instead of being a characteristic of Islam. Hence, the essentialist idea that Islam inherently rejects religion-state separation, whereas Christianity endorses it, is misleading. Instead, this article shows that the ulema-state alliance in the Muslim world was constructed after the mid-eleventh century, as well as revealing that the church-state separation in Western Europe was also historically institutionalized during that period. Using comparative-historical methods, the article explains the political and socioeconomic backgrounds of these epochal transformations. It particularly focuses on the relations between religious, political, intellectual, and economic classes.