Quest for Covenant Community & Pluralist Democracy in an Islamic Context

What do we talk about? Benchmarks for Dialog Why it is that religion is such a sensitive issue? Religion by its nature deals with one’s fundamental values and commitments. Religion, in other words, is the basis of one’s self-identity. Participation in the rituals of a religious community deepens one’s selfhood and contribution to social projects … Continue reading “Quest for Covenant Community & Pluralist Democracy in an Islamic Context”

What do we talk about? Benchmarks for Dialog

Why it is that religion is such a sensitive issue? Religion by its nature deals with one’s fundamental values and commitments. Religion, in other words, is the basis of one’s self-identity. Participation in the rituals of a religious community deepens one’s selfhood and contribution to social projects provides one with a sense of solidarity and security with fellow believers. As such, any act that challenges one’s religion is perceived as a threat towards one’s self-identity. Conversely, proper recognition of a fellow neighbor entails recognition of his right to practice his religion.

The Malaysian Constitutional provisions for religious freedom should not therefore be seen merely as a pragmatic solution to maintain social harmony in a pluralistic society. To be sure, social harmony is paramount, but social harmony implies a community of equals who are prepared to extend mutual recognition to one another because each religious community has its own secure sense of self-identity and security. Otherwise, the nation will be plagued by groups of prickly and hyper-sensitive religious communities which will in time give rise to an endless spectre of potential conflicts. Following the laws of the jungle, the stronger religious community will seek to dominate the weaker. In other words, we cannot rely on the law alone to ensure social harmony. On the contrary, the law is often exploited to legitimize religious hegemony.

On the other hand, each of the various religions in Malaysia each has within itself immense ethical resources accumulated through millennia of social experimentation. The challenge then is for each religion to undertake its own self-examination and ask how its ethical resources may be retrieved to promote religious harmony. We suggest three areas for consideration.

1. Can each religion promote self-criticism in pursuit of truth and integrity?  Religion by nature is a potent force for social mobilization. Not surprisingly, politicians often exploit religions to gain support for their political agenda. One can imagine how even lawyers and journalists may be tempted to mislead the public so long as they can excuse their action as directed toward the interests of their own communities. This is particularly true if a religion endorses power in social control. But by the same token it is vital for each religion to develop a built-in capacity for self-criticism. Self-criticism implies submission to the question of truth and integrity. Truth and integrity in turn implies the freedom to follow the dictates of one’s conscience. In the final analysis, a religion in modern society has credibility to the extent it is able to submit power to the question of truth, and to respect religious freedom.

2. Can each religion promote mutual recognition among people who have different convictions and ways of life?  Credit must be given to the Malaysian government for its sensitivity in handling the complex challenges of a pluralistic society. It would be ironical if the various religious communities through their dogmatic self-interests create continual problems of social conflict in the first place. After all, religion should be a source of social harmony. Social harmony implies neighbors with the capacity to give and take, neighbors who are not overly sensitive to their personal interests or offended because they easily misread the intentions of their neighbors just because they are culturally and religiously different. The challenge for each religion would then be to nurture believers with ‘enlarged mentalities’.  By ‘enlarged mentalities’ we mean people capable of empathy and reciprocity in social interactions.

This challenge is particularly acute for religions that claim to have access to absolute revelation and to be the custodians of unchanging divine laws. But surely, humility is required even for such believers notwithstanding their personal convictions.  After all, our understanding of revelation can be culturally conditioned and vulnerable to distortion arising from personal interests. One only needs a cursory reading of recent history of social conflicts to know that the way to hell is paved with ‘holy’ intentions. It is more vital now than ever before that religions promote openness and ‘enlarged mentalities’. Indeed a religion evidenced by such virtues will itself become a highly persuasive and positive influence to social harmony. In other words, an openness characterized by humility towards the more encompassing truths of God is more able to promote social harmony.

3. Can each religion go beyond the bounds of self-interest and extend recognition to others based on common humanity and shared citizenship? The impact of the recent Asian currency crisis has emphasized the need for all citizens to work together in order to ensure the economic prosperity of our nation and the flourishing of our uniquely multi-religious society. But surely, such cooperation implies a prior willingness to accommodate the concerns of wider society. It is understandable that each religious community naturally begins with the welfare of its own members. There is no sin in being concerned for members of one’s own religious community so long as this is not translated into prejudices or hostilities against others. As one commandment puts it, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Put positively, a religion transcends its self-interests in proportion to its capacity to accept its neighbors on grounds of shared civic values and to work together in building a common society. In other words, power must submit to peaceableness if religion is to be credible.

Thesis 2 – So long as Malaysian politics is negotiated along racial/religious terms, political discourse and public policies will increasingly become Islamic. Only an Islam that undertakes a process of Ijtihad which reforms the Shariah Law can prevent the eventual emergence of an Islamic state.

Admittedly, the benchmarks proposed above seem like impossible ideals when we are confronted by difficult and discouraging ground realities. Participants seeking dialog with Islam may well despair when confronted by what seems to be a religion that is fixed and unchangeable. Conservative ulamas (scholars) insist that there can be no fundamental reforms to Shariah since the gate to itjihad (new knowledge and new reforms to Shariah) has already been closed in the 10th century.

Indeed, many Muslims take pride in the claim that all that is necessary for salvation and for the ordering of society has already been revealed. Likewise, Syed H. Nasr emphasizing that it should not be the case of divine law accommodating to changing society; rather, it should be a case of changing society to meet the requirements of God’s immutable law.

How can dialog be possible if participants are not open to rational discussion? In this regard, it is encouraging to note the emergence of Muslim scholars calling for reformation of Islamic law as a necessity for successful engagement with Modernity. These Islamic social reformers are only too aware how risky it is for them to suggest making changes to Shariah law since they can be easily stigmatized as apostates who can then be judged to death. The danger is well captured by Abdullah An-Na’im, a Sudanese scholar now teaching at Emory University,

To Muslims, Shari‘a is the “Whole Duty of Mankind,” moral and pastoral theology and ethics, high spiritual aspiration, and detailed ritualistic and formal observance; it encompasses all aspects of public and private law, hygiene, and even courtesy and good manners. To attribute inadequacy to any part of Shari‘a is regarded as heresy by the majority of Muslims, who believe that the whole of Shari‘a is divine. This widespread view creates a formidable psychological barrier, which is reinforced by the threat of criminal prosecution for the capital offense of apostasy (ridda), a real threat today in countries such as the Sudan.[15]

Given such an entrenched attitude, one may well give up hope that dialog with Muslims can ever be meaningful. How can there be dialog if your counterpart claims absolute knowledge that can never in principle be open to change and where death threats are served to scholars who dare to critique the religion? It is therefore not surprising that there are few Islamic activists who dare to suggest fundamental reforms for Shariah law.

However, I find the proposal for reformation of Shariah law by Abdullahi An-Na’im, having the most potential for opening new possibilities for dialogue.

Abdullahi An-Na’im builds on the bold initiative of his teacher Ustadh Mahmoud Mohamed Taha.

The basic premise of Ustadh Mahmoud is that a close examination of the content of the Qur’an and Sunna reveals two levels or stages of the message of Islam, one of the earlier Mecca period and the other of the subsequent Medina stage. Furthermore, he maintained that the earlier message of Mecca is in fact the eternal and fundamental message of Islam, emphasizing the inherent dignity of all human beings, regardless of gender, religious belief, race, and so forth. That message was characterized by equality between men and women and complete freedom of choice in matters of religion and faith. Both the substance of the message of Islam and the manner of its propagation during the Mecca period were predicated on ismah, freedom of choice without any form or shade of compulsion or coercion.[16]

However, the Meccans rejected Muhammad’s early message despite its message of freedom and justice. Evidently, society at that time was not yet ready to implement the Islamic ideal. Muhammad responded with a more realistic message embodied in the Medina message that was more appropriate to the seventh century society. An-Na’im explains,

According to Ustadh Mahmoud, “the Meccan and the Medinese texts [of the Qur’an] differ, not because of the time and place of revelation, but especially because of the audience to which they are addressed. The phrase ‘O believers’ [frequently used in the Qur’an of Medina] addresses a particular nation, while ‘O humankind’ [characteristic of the Qur’an of Mecca] speaks to all people.” This shift in audience was dictated by the violent and irrational rejection of the earlier message.[17]

That is to say, the Meccan message was suspended and replaced by the Medina message out of practical necessity. Ustadh Mahmoud, however, maintained that the suspension of the Meccan message was only temporary. Otherwise, the superior and eternal aspects of Islam would be irredeemably lost. The Meccan message was only postponed, waiting for Islamic society to develop and attain the pre-requisite conditions necessary for its implementation.

But Ustadh Mahmoud’s proposal seems to go against the Islamic doctrine of Abrogation, naskh, which suggests that later texts (Medinan) permanently abrogate the earlier texts (Meccan). Mahmoud rejects this doctrine as self-defeating since it renders the earlier revelation pointless. More seriously, the doctrine of permanent abrogation amounts to denying Muslims the best part of their religion. An-Na’im defends Mahmoud with an alternative interpretation of the crucial Quranic passage.

God said: “Whenever We abrogate any verse (ayah) or postpone it (nunsi’ha), We bring a better verse, or a similar one. Do you not know that God is capable of everything?” [the Qur’an 2:106]. The phrase, “When we abrogate any verse” means cancel or repeal it, and the phrase “or postpone it” means to delay its action or implementation. The phrase “We bring a better verse” means bringing one that is closer to the understanding of the people and more relevant to their time than the postponed verse; “or a similar one” means reinstating the same verse when the time comes for its implementation. It is as if the abrogated verses were abrogated in accordance with the needs of time, and postponed until their appropriate time comes. When it does, they become the suitable and operative verses and are implemented, while those that were implemented in the seventh century become abrogated… This is the rationale of abrogation. … [In other words, it was not intended to be] final and conclusive abrogation, but merely postponement until the appropriate time.[18]

Abdullahi An-Na’im’s and Mahmoud Taha’s proposal turns the doctrine of Abrogation on its head. The traditional Islamic scholar view is that the superior Medinah revelation abrogated the earlier Meccan revelation. But Taha suggested the contrary – it is the case of temporary abrogation, that is, the Meccan revelation was only postponed temporarily in response to limitation of historical circumstances. As such, when better circumstances are achieved in the evolutionary development of societies, it will be time to abrogate the Medinah revelation and apply the superior Meccan revelation.

Undoubtedly, many conservative scholars reject strongly the radical proposal of Taha’s. Indeed, Taha was executed by the Islamic government of Sudan and Abdullahi An-Na’im himself was imprisoned and eventually went into exile.

Nevertheless, Taha’s view has gained acceptance among Muslims scholars who teach in higher institutions of learning that are not controlled by traditional ulamas. These scholars represent the most promising participants in inter-religious dialog between Christians and Muslims, since they are at least in principle open to more universally accepted views of fundamental liberties and equality to all people regardless of religious affiliation.


Adding Concreteness to Dialog: Covenant and Social Critique

Social philosophers like Peter Berger have pointed to the necessity of ‘plausibility structures’ to sustain belief systems. Michel Foucault likewise emphasizes that knowledge is not an eternal abstraction. Knowledge is ‘material’ and linked to power relations. Real change is achieved through change in power relationships in social restructuring, and redistribution of wealth and political power. As such, those who want to see social change must be prepared for a long haul struggle. Reinhold Niebuhr himself observed that “There is as yet no evidence that a privileged class, which yields advantage after advantage peacefully, will finally yield the very basis of its special position in society without conflict.”[19]

The word ‘struggle’ would raise eyebrows among Christians brought up in traditions which emphasize passivity and submission in authorities.  However, the fact is that no change is arrived at through passivity. Those who advocate passivity should realize that Christian love is an active concern, whether for one’s personhood or for the rights of one’s neighbor. J. Philip Wogaman counters such attitudes.

When Christians mistakenly allow the denial of their basic civil rights (such as freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of worship, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detainment, and the right to vote) they weaken such rights for others. For democracy to function, it is important to insist upon the rights of all, including oneself.[20]

Indeed our refusal to protest against infringements of our democratic rights may be due to a lack of courage and integrity which we hide under a cloak of faith. What ought to be without controversy is the necessity for Christians to take active measure to preserve the democratic freedom which they enjoy. Undoubtedly, realism must be kept especially with regard to the prospect of change in the short term. Christians may claim the high moral ground, but as a minority they cannot expect to be treated with greater toleration just because they appeal to some universal values or moral sentiments of the majority. Christians need to develop strategies which resist any attempt to unseat the delicate balance so as to ensure that no group may acquire so much power that it can abuse weaker groups with impunity. Christians engaged in political struggles need to be supported by a community which affirms the social values they are fighting for and to be nurtured by a common faith in the future. Wallis urged,

We have to create a base that is internally strong enough to enable us to survive as Christians and to empower us to be actively engaged in the world. The community is the place where the healing of our lives become the foundation for the healing of the nations. The making of community is finally the only thing strong enough to resist the system and to provide an adequate spiritual foundation for better and more human ways to live.[21]

These insights suggest the necessity for an embodied vision if Christian values are to be effective. For this reason, John Yoder comments on how the Church may succeed in its social witness.

What needs to be seen is . . . that the primary social structure through which the gospel works to change other social structures is that of the Christian community. Here, within this community, men are rendered humble and changed in the way they behave, not simply by a proclamation directed to their sense of guilt but also by genuine social relationships to other persons who ask them about their obedience.[22]

Aristotle once boasted that if he were given a place outside the world, he would find the leverage to move the world. In the same way, the Christian community will find moral authority to change society if it is prepared to stand outside the securities offered by the world. Such freedom is achieved if the community is freed from the rewards and inducements of the world. Freedom to be oneself allows one to offer oneself to live for a cause one believes to be true.

It is when Christians band together and exhibit their faith as a sociopolitical reality that they incur hostility from the government. After all, governments consider the control of social groups to be their exclusive domain. Political authorities are prepared to tolerate Christianity if it is held only at the level of personal beliefs. Isolated Christians may be ignored as politically irrelevant but a sociopolitical faith represents a challenge to the powers that be. It is a well known fact that both the Nazis and the Stalinists concentrated their attacks not so much against Christian beliefs per se, but sought to destroy the institutions of Christianity.

It would clearly be disastrous if the churches in Malaysia succumb to Islamic propaganda that claims Christianity is merely an individualistic belief to be excluded from the public square. The claim is made to project the superiority of Islam as a comprehensive way of life. But if we should reject such suggestions to confine Christianity to private beliefs, we can expect the government bureaucracy to attempt to suffocate any effort by Christian to institutionalize their faith. The challenge then is to creatively explore how Christianity may express its values in a public manner sufficient to influence our social ethos to ensure the preservation of democracy and religious freedom.[23]

The Covenant that the Bible describes goes beyond legal requirements since the two parties enter into a special relationship, pledging a mutual commitment of an intensely personal kind. Hence, loyalty and faithfulness are the central qualities of the Biblical Covenant. Christianity offers resources for social renewal. In particular, the Biblical Covenant supports the creation of a community which embodies a way of life that upholds justice and integrity, emphasis on mutual accountability in the presence of a transcendental authority and peaceableness and hope in a world rent by tragic conflicts.

Covenant solidarity results in a caring and supportive community. Nevertheless, solidarity must not be confused with collectivism where the individual is sacrificed on the altar of social engineering. Sociality does not absorb individuality. Every person is held to be responsible both for his individual acts and for the acts of his community. Specifically, each member is expected to fulfill his obligation to maintain the covenantal social order. A religious vision leads to a struggle to secure a social arrangement congruent with that vision. On the other hand, the vision takes practical effect only in the context of a concrete social order.


What happens if the Covenant community becomes a minority within larger secular society? Under such circumstances, implementation of the ideals to wider society is not given up. Submission to superior ruling powers must not lead to abandonment of the self-identity of the community. Interestingly, the secular authorities were seen as limited but relatively legitimate. Some specific responses include the following.

1. God’s people are urged to pray for the rulers and even seek their welfare (Jeremiah 29)

2. God’s people should be ready to serve under secular governments with integrity and for the common good so long as religious integrity is not compromised (Book of Daniel).

3. The religious identity of believers must be nurtured by renewed dedication to the laws of the Covenant.

4. Religious devotion must seek to sustain hope in God’s final deliverance and vindication of the believing community.

In this regard, both Daniel and Joseph served as exemplars on how to serve fruitfully under an unbelieving authority. Believers should try to influence and shape public policy for the welfare of the economically deprived and socially marginalized.  Ezra and Nehemiah suggest the remarkable possibility and indeed the responsibility, of believing officials to avail the resources of their public office for the betterment of the community of faith.

Old Testament eschatology relativizes the present ruling powers, granting them only provisional validity. Nevertheless, since these powers are ultimately subjected to God’s divine rule, they indirectly promotes the work of God in sustaining life in a broken and fallen world. Therefore, the Covenant community cannot retreat into a ghetto given her responsibility to contribute her share in the promotion of relative peace and justice.

Commitment to the Covenant community does not entail rejection of the believers’ social status, whatever station they are in. The Christian will conscientiously explore new and creative ways to serve Christ and the neighbor. Cultural forms and social roles are relative. The Christian is free to accept them as provisionally valid provided they are subject to the law of the love and freedom in Christ. The Covenant community allows for a diversity of cultural roles and celebrates pluralism.

It should be stressed that the Covenant community exists not only to cater for the needs of the well-off and socially adjusted. The remarkable role of the Covenant community lies precisely in its ability to attract and integrate the socially marginalized groups and the underprivileged of society. The message of hope in the Gospel motivates them to release suppressed energy and redirect them constructively towards building a common community. Marginalization should not generate social apathy. Believers are to strengthen their communal identity and through their caring relationships testify to an alternative and more attractive society. In a sense we may view the Covenant community as a special social experiment to practice a set of values different from larger society. Still, such commitment should not be used as an excuse for social disengagement.

Christians may draw lessons from the early Church which was successful in engaging an oppressive regime like the Roman Empire. First, Christianity was not merely concerned with abstract beliefs. It provided a way of life where members often lived together sharing resources in looking after the welfare of one another. Second, Roman society was disintegrating. But Christianity provided a place of refuge, security and order. Third, Christianity successfully adapted a revered social model. The Christian household was proffered as the highest of all types of family structures. John H. Elliott observes,

Christianity’s response to society is given an integrated accentuation. In its message the strangers, the rootless, the homeless of any age can take comfort: in the community of the faithful the stranger is no longer an isolated alien but a brother or sister. For the paroikoi of society there is a possibility of life and communion in the oikos tou theou, a home for the homeless.[24]

In summary the Christian accepts the relative validity of contemporary earthly institutions as the arena wherein he discharges faithfully the divine vocation to be a responsible and caring citizen. The community of faith exists to nurture such responsible faith and promotes such ideals that declare God’s agenda of transformation of social and cultural life.

III. Toward a Constructive Compromise: Constructive Religion in Context of Social Diversity

Democracy has emerged as the unchallenged political ideal in the third world.  But democracy requires disciplined citizens in order to function properly.  John Wogaman explains,

A democratic society is well served by a citizenry not fanatically attached to single issues or causes but capable of rounded judgment and a careful weighing of ambiguous alternatives.  That maturity is grounded, first, in a secure sense of personal worth.  And it is at this point that the personal faith of Christians is a distinct contribution to democratic disciplines.[25]

It is vital that each religion spells out how its beliefs specifically contribute to the building of a common society where human dignity is respected and where the only force accepted is the force of truth in a fair and equal dialogue. The purpose is to set up a  social and political mechanism that promotes virtue and compromise. Public democracy is sustained by private virtues that enable individuals to set aside personal interests.  A sense of transcendent authority typified by the Christian God of grace will encourage politics to be conducted by rules of courtesy, mutual respect, fair dealings and personal integrity that cross communal lines.  With such democratic disciplines in place, potential conflicts are more likely to be resolved and demagogues will find it more difficult to exploit ‘primordial sentiments’ for their personal gain.

It is admitted that such ‘primordial sentiments’ are double edged factors for democracy. The recent explosion of communal violence in Indonesia shows that inter-communal hostilities remain deeply embedded within different sub-communities. Violence will break out in the absence of the slightest restraining power of a centralized civil state. All too often our bases for loyalty, solidarity and commitment only serve the self-interests of our own community.

The challenge then for each component cultural community in Malaysia in general and for the Christian community in particular is to demonstrate that its deeply held primordial sentiments do not undermine the bonds of common humanity which is vital for the unity of any nation state. It is natural to look to religion to help overcome the divisive tendencies of pluralistic societies. It is equally necessary to recognize the responsibilities entailed in relating religious sentiments to social issues. We do hear frequently the charge that Christianity is a religion for the weak, that it has no ability to exercise political power and therefore it has no relevance for social life. Islam is often portrayed as a better alternative that has succeeded in exercising power to foster nationhood. We are faced with the contrasting models of the ‘soldier-saint’ and the ‘crucified Savior.’

However, the Christian rejects the argument that exploitation of the sword of Caesar is the best way to attain social justice. First, Christianity rejects the idea that force is somehow acceptable if it is used in defence of religion. Indeed, the converse is often the case. Religion can intensify inter-communal conflicts and magnify injustices.[26] The secularists’ call for the separation between the religion and politics afterall, was in part triggered by the religious conflict in the Hundred Years War in Europe.[27]  However, Islam rose as a victorious power in its founding history. Its universal exemplar is a ‘soldier-saint’. A separation between religion and politics is inconceivable. Perhaps this helps explain its failure to recognize the inherent tendency of fallen human nature to abuse power. Perhaps it needs to be more sensitive to the tremendous suffering brought about by various regimes throughout history which tried to imposed a monistic political ideology on other peoples. The quest for homogeneity often demands unjustifiable and unnecessary human suffering of great and tragic proportions. The Islamic community also has the responsibility to assure the other communities that the mosque will not abuse the power of the sword and deny them justice. Islam has yet to demonstrate that its political system grants equal rights and justice to minorities under its rule.[28]

Second, given the fact that Malaysia is a pluralistic society, the responsibility is for each community to demonstrate that within itself are resources that promote common life with social values that best preserve democratic freedom and justice. We begin with the realistic expectation of Christianity. This realism is encapsulated by Reinhold Niebuhr, “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”[29]  Such realism is vital if only to avoid political disillusionment and indifference which often lead to tyranny.

[1] This suggestion comes from John Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (Uni. NotreDame, 1984). See also “The Legitimacy of a Sectarian Hermeneutic: 2 King 18-19” in Walter Bruggemann, Interpretation and Obedience (Fortress, 1991).

[2] For insights into how oppressors always attempt to define the terms of political discourse and the perception of the world see Paulo Fierro, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Penguin, 1972) and Cultural Action for Freedom, (Penguin, 1972). For the concept of hegemony see A. Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks (Lawrence and Wishart, 1972) who suggested that hegemony occurs “when the intellectual, moral and philosophical leadership provided by the class or alliance of class fractions which is ruling, successfully achieves its objective of providing the fundamental outlook for the whole society.”  Jurgen Habermas and Michel Foucault have alerted us to the inextricable relationships between truth, power and social relations. See The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (Pantheon, 1984).

[3] Steve Lukes, Power: A Radical View (Macmillan, 1974), p. 24. Vaclav Havel agrees and writes, “When a powerful government controls all mediums of information and utilizes them to legitimize even its arbitrary demands of power the character of legality is no guarantee for justice. Havel observes how the legal system is exploited to put authorities in good light; after all, the authorities provide the rules and procedure for the whole game. In effect the legal code provides a facade of legitimacy. “It wraps the base exercise of power in the noble apparel of the letter of the law; it creates the pleasing allusion that justice is done, society protected and the exercise of power objectively regulated.” Vaclav Havel, Living the Truth (Faber, 1986), p.95.

[4] Stewart Clegg, Frameworks of Power (SAGE, 1989), p. 160.

[5] On the role of the church in moral formation see my article, “Moral Formation of the Church: A Socio-Theological Inquiry”, Macrux (1990), pp. 5-23.

[6] The idea that “primordial sentiments” playing a more fundamental role than the State is observed by Clifford Geertz, “The network of primordial alliance and opposition is a dense, intricate, but yet precisely articulated one, the product, in most cases, of centuries of gradual crystallization. The unfamiliar civil state, born yesterday from the meager remains of an exhausted colonial regime, is superimposed upon this fine-spun and lovingly conserved textual of pride and suspicion and must somehow contrive to weave it into the fabric of modern politics.” See Clifford Geertz, “The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States”, in Geertz, ed. Old Societies and New States (Free Press, 1963), p. 119. A more theological discussion can be found in James Gustafson, Treasure in Earthen Vessels: The Church as a Human Community (Uni. Chicago, 1961).

[7] Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic (Uni. of Notredame, 1981), p. 50.

[8]  Selya Benhabib, Situating the Self (RKP 1992), pp.53 – 54.

[9] Jurgen Habermas, “What is Universal Pragmatics?” in Jurgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (Heinemann, 1975).

[10]  Jurgen Habermas, Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification (MIT Press 1990), p. 65.

[11] Benhabib, Situating the Self, p. 31.

[12] Quoted in Benhabib,  p. 100.

[13] Charles Taylor, Philosophical Arguments (Harvard UP, 1995), p. 43. See Appendix

[14]  Ibid., p. 54.

[15] Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Toward Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law (Syracuse Uni. Press 1996), p. 11.

[16] Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Toward Islamic Reformation, p. 52.

[17] Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Toward Islamic Reformation, p. 55.

[18] Abdullahi An-’Naim, Toward Islamic Reformation, p. 59-60.

[19] Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society (Scribner, 1932), p. 210.

[20] J. Philip Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics (SCM, 1988), p. 168.

[21] Quoted by Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church (IVP, 1983), p. 127.

[22] Quoted by Miguez Bonino, Toward a Christian Political Ethics (Fortress, 1983), p. 35.

[23] For an instructive discussion on the possibilities of resistance in everyday life in a Malaysian setting see James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (Yale UP, 1985).

[24] John Elliott, A Home for the Homeless (Fortress, 1981), pp. 266-268.

[25] J. Philip Wogaman, Christian Perspectives on Politics (SCM, 1988), p.175.

[26] We refer to the insight by Rene Girard of the need for a religion which demands solidarity with the victim as the solution to human aggression banded against the ‘outsider’ in the scapegoat complex. See Andrew Mckenna ed., Rene Girard and Biblical Studies (SBL, 1985). Christianity is the only religion among the world religions that makes this identification central to its faith.

[27] Muslim polemists like S. N. Naquib al-Attas in his book Islam and Secularism (ABIM, 1978) echoes the standard charge that Christianity is responsible for the spread of secularism and therefore implicated in its ills. I shall only note that his discussion fails to convince without supporting evidence drawn from an analysis of social history. See the discussion by Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century (CUP, 1975). There is even a failure to define precisely the basic term “secularization”. The complexity becomes evident with Larry Shinner’s six meanins of secularizations, viz., the decline of religion, the shift of attention to this world, the disengagement of society from religion, the transposition of religious beliefs and institutions into products of human making and responsibility, the desacralization of the world, the movement from a fixed sacral order to the acceptance of social change. See “The Concept of Secularization in Empirical Research”, in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 6 (1967), 207-210.

[28] We have in mind the dhimma system which despite Islamic rhetoric effectively reduces non-Muslim subjects to second class citizens. See Bath Yeor The Dhimmis, (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985). See also S. Abul A’la Maududi, Islamic Law and Constitution, rev. ed., translated by Kurshid Ahmad. (Lahore: Islamic Publication, 1992 [1960]).

[29] Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (Scribners, 1944), p.xiii.