Gellner on the Unique Resistance of Islamic Societies to Secularization

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995) was a British-Czech philosopher and social anthropologist. His anthropological interests extended to Islamdom, notably the 1981 study Muslim Society. In 1995, an obituarist described Gellner as a “defender of positivism, empiricism and rationalism,” who,   “with cold clarity” and “sternness” critiqued “…religious and leftist seekers after umma…linguistic philosophy, relativism, psychoanalysis, and post-modernism.”

Here are Gellner’s apposite, and characteristically unapologetic observations on the unique, striking resistance of Islamic societies to secularization, circa 1991, ever more relevant, two decades later as the Spingtime for Sharia in Araby proceeds apace:

I think it is fair to say that no secularization has taken place in the world of Islam: that the hold of Islam over its’ believers is as strong, and in some ways stronger, now than it was 100 years ago. Somehow or other Islam is secularization-resistant, and the striking thing is that this remains true under a whole range of political regimes. It is true under socially radical regimes which try to fuse Islam with socialist terminology and ideas; it is equally true under traditionalist regimes whose elites belong to the world of Ibn Khaldun and come from a ruling tribal network; and it is true of the regimes in between.

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