Debate needed on future of secularism in emerging democracies, historian says

Historians in the News

Cambridge, England, March 9 (ENInews)--The sudden spread of "democratic liberation" in the Middle East means that a discussion needs to begin on whether secularism has a future in Middle East democracies, said historian Simon Schama in an 8 March lecture at Cambridge University.

Sponsored by the Woolf Institute, which is dedicated to studying relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims, Schama's lecture was entitled, "The Difficulties of Toleration: Jews amidst the Christians and Muslims."

Schama told an audience of 200 that if the West has any kind of "moral dignity and integrity," it has to open up debate about the future of democracy as enshrined in the 18th century Enlightenment, which advanced the ideas of universal human rights and toleration, or supporting the rights of others to hold different ideas and beliefs.

"As politics becomes more organized in Egypt," he said, "we need to know what kind of Muslim brotherhood we're dealing with. Is it the Muslim Brotherhood that is sort of committed to sharia [severe religious law] or is it the kind that is kinder and gentler, which indeed it might be?"...

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