West must stick to secularism

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YOUR articles on the behaviour of Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt and the shooting of Christians by ­Jihadist elements in Syria focus on what is the real problem in the Middle East, namely the absence of secular democracy. People forget that democracy is not just about winning elections for a majority, but is also about the management of dissent and the protection of minorities.

It means dealing with opponents as legitimate adversaries, not as enemies of the state, and bestowing on them full and equal civil rights as citizens, regardless of religion. For a number of reasons, these civic accords, which we take for granted as part of the democratic process, do not seem to operate in Islamic countries.

This is because Islam as a faith is prescriptive and authoritarian, requiring obedience to its text and its teachings, known as Sharia law. Every Islamic regime therefore, by definition, becomes totalitarian and incompatible with democracy as we know it, demanding only surrender to its dictates however sectarian they may be. This is disastrous for democracy, for freedom of thought and the right to dissent. It is intellectual death. To avoid this, there is only one sure solution: secularism, and secular democracy.

This is what the battle is ­really about in the Middle East and in Turkey and in other parts of Europe and Africa. It is a battle for civilised values against dogma and super­stition; for the education 
and emancipation of women; and for the freedom of the mind. In this struggle for modernity, secularism is a key element, one which we in the West should recognise and support at all times, but especially now in the Middle East.

Randolph Murray, Rannoch