Emory Report
March 3, 2008
Volume 60, Number 22


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March 3, 2008
Book offers guidance to keep religion and politics in balance

By april bogle

“The American Constitution got it right on the separation of church and state, but there isn’t much clarity of the relationship between religion and politics,” says Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law and senior fellow at Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

An-Na’im’s book, “Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari’a,” first published last year offers a formula for nations and peoples struggling with the separation of religion and politics.

“I want to help clarify the role of religion in society so that it is seen as a positive, humanizing force, not as a bigoted, narrow-minded, destructive force,” he said.

“The state is the institutional continuity. Countries must be able to keep this alive while allowing elected officials to lead, but without allowing them to take over the state.”

One of the ways An-Na’im proposes to keep religion and politics in balance is by using civic reason. “Law and public policy can’t be adopted based on religious convictions alone. Non-religious reasons that can be appreciated by all people, including non-believers, should be the basis of adopting a law,” he says.

Another major purpose of the book, says An-Na’im, is to “rehabilitate” Islam. “I worry about the demonization of Islam, which is driven by fear of what the extremists have done and threaten to do,” he says.