Puzzled by pluralism

Muslim visitors question the American way
Since the 9-11 terrorist attacks the U.S. State Department has sponsored a number of study programs that bring Muslim scholars from around the world to the U.S. with the aim of showing off the American way of separating church and state, and demonstrating how American society is able to both nurture faith traditions and support religious diversity. The implied intent is to promote an American-style separation of mosque and state in Muslim countries.

After being an academic director for two of these programs, however, I am acutely aware of how appealing a religiously aligned state is for Muslims, especially for those who live in countries where Muslims are the majority. This may particularly be true in Iraq where Saddam Hussein’s brutally repressive secular regime is viewed by some as a cautionary tale of what happens when religious influence is absent from government.


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