The Multiple Secularisms of Modern Democratic and Non-Democratic Regimes - Rethinking Secularism - Craig J. Calhoun

Rethinking Secularism - Craig J. Calhoun (2011)

Chapter 5. The Multiple Secularisms of Modern Democratic and Non-Democratic Regimes

Alfred Stepan

What is the variety of possible, and actual, democratic patterns of state-religion-society relations? I want to suggest seven responses, not all of which I have space to develop and defend fully but which I will weave through this chapter.

First, patterns of state-religion-society relations that happen to coexist with democracy at any given time are best seen as conjunctural, socially constructed, political arrangements, rather than as fixed, normative models.

Second, religions are transnational, and we are living in a time of global movement of populations that are able to stay in contact with the sources of their religion and influence the interpretation and practice of their religion, as well as being influenced by it, via the media, the Internet, and actual religious leaders from their countries resident in the diasporas. Thus, most conjuncturally settled patterns of state-society-religion relations are becoming conjuncturally unsettled and in need of some social, religious, and political reconstruction.

Third, the modern political analysis of democracy, while it absolutely requires use of such concepts as voting and relative freedom to organize, does not necessarily need the concept of secularism. But democratic institutions do need sufficient political space from religion to function, just as citizens need to be given sufficient space by democratic institutions to exercise their religious freedom. I call this mutual giving of space the “twin tolerations.” A central point that I will develop in this chapter is that there are many varieties of secularism that can satisfy the twin tolerations and be democratic.1 Fourth, if we want to use the concept of secularism, it should be conceptually reformulated as “multiple secularisms,” for many of the same reasons that S. N. Eisenstadt and, later, Sudipta Kaviraj reformulated and used the concept of “multiple modernities.”2 Many analysts and advocates think that the “separatist pattern” found in France and the United States is the norm in modern Western democracies. It is not. I will demonstrate that western Europe has two other patterns that are not strictly separatist: the “established religion” pattern dominant in such twentieth-century democracies as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway and what I call the “positive accommodation” pattern quite prominent in such democracies as the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany.

Fifth, if we examine closely the three countries in the world with large Muslim populations and whose political systems receive the highest ranking for the quality of their democracy—India, Senegal, and Indonesia—all of them have a fourth pattern that I call the “respect all, positive cooperation, principled distance” model.

Sixth, all four state-society-religion models I will discuss (and there are more) have at some time coexisted with democracies and respected the twin tolerations; hence the “multiple secularisms” of modern democracies.

Seventh, “separatist secularism,” as well as the other patterns of secularism, can be and, as I will show, have been an integral part of regimes that are nondemocratic. Secularism is thus not a sufficient condition of democracy and, as we shall now see, is not a necessary concept for the analysis of democracy.

Is the Concept of “Secularism” Necessary to Analyze Democracy?

Robert Dahl, Arend Lijphart, and Juan L. Linz (the first three winners of the Johan Skytte Prize, often called the Nobel Prize of Political Science) have not felt the need to include any discussion of secularism in their definitions of modern democracies, much less to include secularism as a “necessary condition” for a democracy. Dahl, in his elaboration of the “institutional guarantees” that must be created for the functioning of a democracy, or what he prefers to call a “polyarchy,” nowhere mentions secularism.3 Neither does Lijphart in his analysis of long-standing democracies in the modern world.4 Linz and I, in our analysis of what we considered the five major regime types in the modern world in Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, also decided not to use the concept of secularism in characterizing any of our regime types, because each type includes some regimes that call themselves secular.5

Linz and I are, of course, aware that many countries that are now democratic could not have become so without a variety of empirical and historical processes, often called “secularization,” that facilitated the reduction of religious prerogatives in the polity, but it did not seem to us conceptually or empirically correct to use the normative concept of secularism as a defining or distinguishing characteristic of any regime type per se.

Despite my general reservation about the term “secularism,” in my current research, I use the concept of “multiple secularisms” to get around some of the difficulties of a single meaning of “secular” and to help me identify and analyze the great variations in state-religion-society relations that can and do exist in modern democracies.

Many people view secularism through a narrow prism, defining it as the end result of the narrative of modernity. Some simplistic versions of modernization theory imply that there are at least four reinforcing and compounding dichotomies related to modernity and religion: traditional versus modern societies; high-religious-practicing societies versus low-religious-practicing societies; little separation of religion and state versus strict separation of church and state; and nondemocratic regimes versus democratic regimes. According to this view, properly modern polities are on the right-hand side of all four dimensions.

In a strict sense, however, perhaps only France between 1905 and 1959 is found on the right-hand side of all four dichotomous sets. Eisenstadt, in his important Daedalus article on “multiple modernities,” draws attention to the United States as the first Western case of an exception to the modernity thesis, because the United States, though obviously a modern democracy, falls on the high-religious-practicing side in the dichotomous set listed above.6 In the same issue of Daedalus, Sudipta Kaviraj correctly notes that India in some respects has been modernizing, while parts of Hinduism have been “re-traditionalizing.”7 In a later, magisterial work, Kaviraj develops a convincing argument about how and why different “modernities” were socially and politically crafted.8

In general, I find it more useful when discussing democracy and the world’s religions to speak of what I have called the twin tolerations. By this I mean the minimal degree of toleration that democracy needs to receive or induce from religion and the minimal degree of toleration that religion (and civil society, more generally) needs to receive or induce from the state for the polity to be democratic. Religious institutions should not have constitutionally privileged prerogatives that allow them authoritatively to mandate public policy to democratically elected officials or effectively to deny critical freedoms to any citizens. The minimal degree of toleration that religion needs to receive from democracy, if a democracy respects Dahl’s eight institutional guarantees, is not only the complete right to worship but the freedom of religious individuals and groups to advance their values in civil society publicly and to sponsor organizations and movements in political society, as long as their public advancement of these beliefs does not impinge negatively on the liberties of other citizens or violate democracy and the law by violence or other means.9 After a period of self-secularization, the Christian Democratic political parties of Europe, as Stathis N. Kalyvas has shown, became autonomous democratic parties in contexts where neither of the twin tolerations was violated.10

Let us briefly examine three different models of secularism as they relate to state-religion-society relations in modern European and North American democracies, with the intention of reflecting on what these models mean, and do not mean, for religion, peaceful societal pluralism, and democracy in general and, specifically, for polities such as India, Indonesia, and Senegal, with sharply different histories and conditions.

Separatist Model: Varieties and Vicissitudes

The historical influence of the American and the French revolutions and the fact that both France and the United States are close to the “separatist” pole make many commentators assume that separatism is the normatively preferable and empirically predominant form of modern democracies.

But, for comparative purposes, particularly for readers in the United States, it is important to be aware of how many of the existing twenty-seven members of the European Union violate U.S. norms of a “wall of separation between the state and religion” but are nonetheless strong democracies. Indeed, any serious analysis of state policies toward religion in the twenty-seven European Union democracies documents that 100 percent of them fund religious education in some way: 89 percent have religious education in state schools as a standard offering (many, but not all, with the option not to attend), 44 percent fund the clergy, and 19 percent have established religions. (See Table 5.1.)

Table 5.1, by itself, should make it absolutely clear that complete separation of religion and the state is not a necessary condition for democracy to function and that complete separation of religion and the state is not the empirical norm in modern European democracies.

TABLE 5.1 Percentage of the 27 European Union Countries with State Policies of Support for Religion


We should also be aware that “separatism” as a model, even in its democratic variants, can historically be established for completely different purposes, with sharply different results. France and the United States are the two long-standing democracies with the greatest legal separation between religion and state. However, the forms of separation of religion and state are polar opposites in their origins and consequences. In France, the Catholic church had been an intrinsic part of the prerevolutionary regime and continued to be a powerful part of the anti-Republican coalition in the Third Republic. Laïcité was thus created in France in 1905 as a clerically hostile form of “freedom of the state from religion.” In sharp contrast, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed as a clerically friendly form of “freedom of religion from the federal state.”

But the U.S. story is more complicated than this implies. By and large, of course, American societies, and the American colonies, created a very supportive context for religion. However, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which states that the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” is misunderstood by many contemporary U.S. citizens. The amendment did not prohibit the thirteen original states from having their own established religions. The First Amendment was meant to ensure that the federal Congress could never establish one official religion for the United States as a whole. In fact, on the eve of the Revolution, only three of the thirteen colonies—Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Delaware—had no provision for an established church. Even after the Revolution, the South Carolina constitution of 1778 established the “Christian Protestant Religion.” Four New England states continued for some time with state-subsidized, largely Congregational churches.11

Moreover, even if it exists, complete separatism may produce its own tensions and inflexibilities in democracies. The classic French and U.S models have not changed fundamentally since they were created, but their societies certainly have, in ways that challenge their models’ capacity to sustain the twin tolerations. France, because of its model of republican representation of interests, finds it difficult to manage the ethnic and religious demands of some of its second- and third-generation Muslim citizens. Affirmative action is virtually illegal. The census cannot collect much information about religion. French citizens with Arabic- or Muslim-appearing names have been in a sharply disadvantageous position in job applications, despite all of the rhetoric of republican equality. Moreover, the French state has had more restrictive policies toward Muslims than almost any other western European state.12 Such policies include the ban on students wearing head scarves in public primary and secondary schools, the bureaucratic barriers against mosque construction, and the lack of significant funding for Islamic instruction, although since 1959, France funds Catholic primary schools.13

The United States, because of its great toleration of almost all activities of religious groups, finds it politically and to some extent even constitutionally difficult to control some of the demands of rapidly growing and politically assertive fundamentalist religious groups from virtually all religions. For example, at least forty U.S.-based Christian Evangelical and Jewish religious groups violate the U.S. Tax Code, international law, and the formal goals of U.S. policy by funding the growth of illegal settlements in the West Bank. They also get a tax break for doing so. One of the many reasons the U.S. government does not prosecute offenders is that the religiously friendly U.S. tradition discourages detailed inquiry into sources and uses of religious funds. As a page one New York Times story noted, “tax breaks for the [illegal] donations remain largely unchallenged and unexamined by the American government.”14 In many cases, this violation of U.S. law is completely open. For example, the Web site of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities explicitly campaigns for donations that are exclusively for settlements in the West Bank, settlements that international and U.S. law say are illegal.

Separatist Secularism as Dichotomy (and as Democratic-Authoritarian Continuum)

There can be separatist secularisms with very low state controls on minority and majority religions and secularisms with such high controls on minority and majority religions that the label “separatist autocracy,” “authoritarian secularism,” or even “fundamentalist secularism” might be appropriate. Low-state-controlling separatist secularism is fully consistent with the twin tolerations in a democracy, while state controls at the high end of the continuum are not.

Turkey is seen by many scholars as following the 1905 French model of strict separation of church and state (laïcité) and thus democratic secularism. The fallacy of this approach is its exclusive focus on the separatist-versus-nonseparatist dichotomy and its implicit modernist assumption that since Turkey is on the separatist side, this implies that its secularism is fundamentally democratic. With dichotomous lenses, France and Turkey are both classifiable as forms of laïcité separatism and are thus seen by many as politically similar. But from the perspective of a continuum, we can and should classify political systems by how much and how they control minority and majority religions.

Consider the following six sharp differences between Turkey and France. First, in Turkey, the Diyanet (the department of religious affairs under the prime minister), a state office, determines the weekly topics of Friday sermons (Hutbe) recited by the imam in mosques nationwide. Every word of the sermon text is written by the Diyanet. There is nothing comparable concerning control of the content of prayers for majority or minority religions in France. Second, in Turkey, all mosques that are allowed to have public ceremonies are controlled by the state, and clerics in these mosques must be authorized and approved state employees. No similar nationalization and control of religious establishments and of the clergy are found in France. Third, in Turkey, two large groups of citizens—Sufis, even though they are Sunni Muslims, and Alevis, who self-identify as nontraditional Sunni Muslims—are excluded from the financial support of the Diyanet. More important, from the perspective of the twin tolerations, neither Sufis nor Alevis are allowed to practice their religion in a public space. It is illegal for them to construct religious spaces. While it is somewhat difficult for some religions to build places of worship in France, no mainstream religion is prohibited from constructing such buildings.15 Fourth, in Turkey, the graduates of public Islamic schools (imam-hatip) are not allowed to attend universities, except the departments of theology, whereas in France, the graduates of Catholic schools have no such exclusion. Fifth, it is banned in Turkey to teach the Qur’an to those younger than twelve, while in France, there is no prohibition on teaching the Qur’an or the Bible. Sixth, the Turkish state still does not fully recognize the rights of association and temple construction of non-Muslim minorities, despite the reforms the current AKP government has pursued in order to conform more closely to European Union norms. 16 Each of the above practices violates one of Dahl’s eight institutional guarantees that he argues are necessary for a democracy.

Jonathan Fox, for more than a decade, has been working on a database that examines laws passed by states that control religion. The lowest score is zero if there are no controlling laws (but of course, there could still be controlling state behavior). When one examines the constitutions of Turkey, France, and Senegal (which was a French colony that from 1848 until independence in 1960 sent elected deputies to the French Assembly every year elections for this chamber were held in France), one notes that all three declare their commitment to separatist laïcité. However, Senegal has negotiated its relations between Islam and Catholicism, and among its four major Sufi orders, while passing only one religious controlling law and thus receives a score from Fox of 1. France, given its origins in a hostile separation of church and state and wanting to have “freedom of the state from religion,” scores 6 on the Fox scale. Turkey, following a policy I would call “control all religions, but financially support (and control) the majority religion,” scores 15 in Fox and in our continuum.17

I argued earlier that the degree of secularism is not always an indicator of the degree of democracy. Here, I simply note that when I combine Fox’s 2008 scores for control over minority religions and majority religions, four Middle Eastern regimes normally classified as authoritarian are less controlling of religion than Turkey. For example, on the Fox religious-control index, authoritarian Algeria receives 9, and Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt received scores of 11, 12 and 14, respectively, but Turkey received a score of 15, indicating that it has more control measures over religion than any of those authoritarian regimes.18

It goes without saying that many authoritarian regimes, such as contemporary Syria, call themselves secular. Separatist secularism is obviously neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for social peace and democracy.

The “Established Religion” Model: Varieties and Problems

From the perspective of democratic theory, what can we say, and not say, about the established religion model? Many twentieth-century western European democracies, such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and the United Kingdom, had established religions, so obviously, there can be democracies with established religions. However, we need to analyze the possible interrelationships and tensions among democracy, the twin tolerations, and established religions.

A polity with an established religion can respect the twin tolerations. For example, all of the Scandinavian states—Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland—have had constitutionally embedded Evangelical Lutheranism as their established religion.19 Church officials in the socialdemocratic welfare-state era by and large did not enjoy prerogatives to block policies of democratically elected officials or to constrain the individual religious freedom of the members of the majority or minority religions. However, before the democratic period, the state, in almost all of these established religion polities, exercised such strong “erastian,” or what Max Weber called “caesaropapist,” control over religion that they violated this aspect of the twin tolerations. In fact, in many of the Scandinavian countries, any religion besides Evangelical Lutheranism was illegal until around the 1870s. The United Kingdom has established churches in England and Scotland, and Greece has established the Greek Orthodox church, all of which have more prerogatives than the Scandinavian official churches; and as their populations change, they also will have to change. Obviously, some established religions violate the twin tolerations, and some do not. Thus, if we want to assess the impact of established religions on individual religious freedom and democracy, it is best to analyze established religions not only as a dichotomous variable (established religion versus no established religion) but also as a continuum of the degree of state control within the polities that have established religions. For example, Jonathan Fox’s valuable “Religion and State Dataset” allows us to construct a continuum of state control of majority religions. This continuum has a four-point scale for eleven variables concerning state control of majority religions. Composite scores on this continuum range from zero (Denmark and Norway) to 1 (Bangladesh) to 5 (Pakistan and Egypt). We can also construct a continuum for state control of minority religions based on scores for sixteen variables. The composite scores for control of minorities in polities with established religions range from 1 (Denmark) to 3 (Norway and Bangladesh) to 21 (Pakistan) to 38 and 46, respectively, for the two most controlling (Iran and Saudi Arabia). (See Table 5.2.)

So far, we have clearly documented that some countries have established religions but are nonetheless inclusive democracies in which the rights of religious minorities and majorities are respected. But can we make reasonable estimates about the societal and religious conditions in a society that would be relatively supportive or relatively unsupportive of such outcomes? The following proposition seems plausible. The greater the degree of religious homogeneity in a polity and the less the intensity of religious practices, the easier it will be for an established religion and an inclusive democracy to coexist.

TABLE 5.2 Some Established Religions in Democracies and Nondemocracies: Continuum of Controls over Majority and Minority Religions


Let us compare Denmark and Northern Ireland. Denmark—the country with an established religion that used to (but no longer does) score best on tolerance toward minority and majority religions—has high religious and denominational homogeneity and low intensity of religious practice. For much of the 1980s, roughly 95 percent of Denmark’s population was Lutheran, and 3 percent was other Protestants. From 1973 to 1999, the percentage of respondents in Denmark who said they went to church at least once a week, 3 percent to 7 percent, was the lowest in Europe.20 Northern Ireland is near the opposite pole: 53 percent of the population is Protestant, and 44 percent is Catholic.21 Also, from 1973 to1992, the percentage of all respondents in Northern Ireland who said they went to church at least once a week never fell below 54 percent.22 Given this combination of religious heterogeneity, intensity of religious practice, and ethnoreligious conflict, the Anglican Church was disestablished in Northern Ireland in 1920.23

John Madeley has created invaluable maps and tables of the “Historic Mono-Cultural” zones in Europe. The only country in western Europe that has an established religion and that is not in one of Madeley’s historic monoculture zones is the United Kingdom, which has witnessed historic conflicts over Catholic rights. It will be increasingly important to assess how the prerogatives of the established Anglican Church of England (its monopoly of religious representation in the House of Lords, its control over entrance to the state-financed but Anglican-run schools in England, and, indeed, its veto on some matters of the entire state-school curriculum) are increasingly coming into tension with new socioreligious migrant populations and thus have more contested issues concerning the status of the official religion than in the Scandinavian countries. Religious homogeneity in the United Kingdom was never as high as in the Scandinavian countries or religious practice as low. In the last few decades, migration into the United Kingdom of committed Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus from India, Evangelical Protestants from Africa and the Caribbean, and a new wave of Catholics from Poland has reduced religious homogeneity and increased religious intensity. The state-society-religion formula has undergone great changes in its societal and religious components but not enough in its overall formula.

In 2000, Sweden started a process of disestablishment of the Evangelical Lutheran church and an opening up of numerous lines of contact with Muslim immigrants. Denmark did neither. Partly as a result of these openings, Sweden managed the cartoon crisis much better than Denmark did.24

The “Positive Accommodation” Model

The hypothesis that established religions in a democracy fare best in a context of high religious homogeneity and low religious intensity is borne out when we consider major European countries that have never had an established church in the democratic age. Since World War I, none of the historically most multiconfessional polities in western Europe—such as Germany, the Netherlands, or Switzerland—had or created established religions.25 Also, given the important role that religion played in social life, the separatist model was not adopted in any of these multiconfessional polities. Rather, they are the home of intensely negotiated “consociational” power and “space-sharing” arrangements that I call the “positive accommodation” model of democratic secularism. “Positive” because, as one of Germany’s leading analysts of state-religion relations in Germany, Gerhard Robbers, has written, “Neutrality… means positive neutrality. This concept obligates the state to actively support religion and to provide for the space religion needs to flourish in the polity. This makes possible and requires for example that the state include religious needs in planning law…. This concept of positive neutrality is predominant in the official discourses and not only in law. It is actively supported and implemented by the courts and state officials.”26 The word “accommodation” is also crucial because this model accommodates the major traditional Christian religions in numerous areas. Robbers estimates that there is near parity in numbers among Catholics and Protestants in Germany (26.1 million Catholics and 25.8 million Protestants).27 The state accommodates these two largest churches by helping them collect a church tax. According to Robbers, “the rate of the church tax is between eight and nine percent of the individual’s wage and income liability…. Approximately 80 percent of the entire budget of the two major religious communities, the Catholic and the Protestant Churches… is covered by the church tax.”28 With this money, the social power of the two major churches is not only accommodated but also reinforced. “Hospitals run by religious communities, which in some parts of Germany make up the majority of the available hospital beds, are thus part of the public-run financing systems for hospitals.”29 However, Muslims, whom Robbers estimates as having a population in Germany of 3.2 million, had not yet legally won acceptance as a German public law corporation and thus did not have the benefits of this arrangement.30

The Netherlands is a particularly strong example of negotiated accommodation that resulted in constitutionally and socially embedded positive public policies and consociational practices. In 1917, there was a heated conflict among Catholics, Calvinists, and a secularizing liberal government over the role of the traditional churches in education, a conflict that at times threatened to create a deep crisis in democracy. In the constitution of 1917, a consociational formula was introduced by which local communities, if they were overwhelmingly of a specific religious community, could choose to have the local school be a private Calvinist or a private Catholic school and to receive state support. By 1975, almost 75 percent of Dutch children were in state-financed Calvinist or Catholic schools, and the programming on the two largest radio and television stateowned networks were run largely by dues-paying Calvinist members (NCRV) or dues-paying Catholic members (KRO).31 As in Germany, such arrangements are part of a positive accommodation, or consociational, public philosophy. For example, in the judgment of one of the leading authorities on state-religion relations in the Netherlands, Sophie van Bijsterveld, “in the field of subsidies, public authorities may not exclude confessional organizations from subsidies just because they are confessional; their application for subsidy must be considered purely on the basis of whether they fulfill the objective criteria that are set.”32 Elsewhere, she has argued that the Dutch constitution entails that the “government should enable the free exercise of religion, not make it impossible. So [it means] the positive protection of religion,” and that article 23 of the constitution, which provides for virtual full funding at all levels of privately given religious education, should be interpreted as a “neutrality clause which requires a positive attitude toward religion.”33

The positive accommodation model in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland has proved quite flexible in facilitating mutual accommodations among the historic Christian religions in their countries with one another and with democratic state authorities, secular or not.

New immigrants, such as Muslims, in principle, could be included in such accommodation, but much of the positive accommodation has historically been developed by the European states’ tradition of treating religions as hierarchical legal bodies that qualify as public corporations that can enter into legal agreements with state authorities. In Germany, the state raises the church tax for Catholics, Protestants, and, in some Länder, Jews but not for Muslims. This is so because from the German state’s perspective, Muslims do not yet qualify as a public corporation, mainly for reasons of their internal diversity, which makes them difficult to fit into long-standing German law. In Belgium, all “faiths” concerning spirituality are recognized, and clerics and leaders of five religions, as well as “nonbelieving humanists,” receive salary support, but Muslim imams do not receive such salary support, because the state, as in Germany, says that it does not know which body represents the imams. The state in the Netherlands often treats groups, even Muslim groups, not only as public corporations but as parts of civil society negotiating with the state and does give some funds to Muslims, but the literature nonetheless frequently analyzes the special difficulties of Muslim self-organization and political integration into existing state/society forms of cooperation.

A major feature of the positive accommodation model, therefore, is that it has historically emerged in Europe fundamentally as a way of managing conflict involving Christian religions. Non-Christian religions were not sociologically and politically present as constituent parts of these historically constructed and negotiated, often consociational, bargains of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. To the extent that these legal formulas acquired a certain path-dependency—such as state money only flowing to religions as legal corporations—such requirements often made new non-Christian religions nonrecipients, not as a matter of principle but as a matter of practice, convenient or not.

Are Muslims “Secular-Resistant”? What State-Religion-Society Models Seem to Work?

In the spirit of this book’s general concern with “rethinking secularism” and my specific concern with the “multiple secularisms” of contemporary democracies, I would like to offer a challenge to the idea that Muslims are generically “secular-resistant” to all types of secularism. I will do this through an analysis of two Muslim majority democracies, Indonesia and Senegal, and of India, whose democracy has the third-largest Muslim population of any country in the world.

I pick these three countries because for much of the last decade, Indonesia, Senegal, and India have been highly ranked democracies. For example, in the most recent ranking of all countries in the world on the democracy scale in Ted Gurr’s Polity IV, of the forty-three Muslim-majority countries ranked, Senegal and Indonesia received the highest scores, and India has been ranked at that level for more than thirty years.

Polity uses a twenty-one-point scale, with +10 being the most democratic and -10 being the least; India, Senegal, and Indonesia all received +7 or +8 in Polity IV. With the exception of Lebanon, which had a +5, every other Arab majority country ranked at least ten points lower than India, Senegal, or Indonesia.

The other frequently cited survey is the “Freedom in the World Index” by Freedom House, which, despite its different panel of experts, methodology, and political orientation, arrives at virtually the same overall rankings as Polity IV. On the Freedom House’s seven-point scale (1 is the best score, 7 the worst), Senegal, Indonesia, and India in 2007 (and Muslim-majority Albania and Mali) all received a score of 2. None of the sixteen Arab countries in the same survey received a score higher than 5 for that year.

From a quantitative perspective, the point is not so much that Muslims do not do well on these indicators but that Arab Muslims do not. In a study using 2004 data, I documented that 396 million Muslims—that is, 50 percent of the total population of Muslims who lived in non-Arab League Muslim-majority states—lived in “electorally competitive states” but that none of the 269 million Muslims living in Arab League Muslim-majority states did so.34 The issue, therefore, is not that there are no Muslim-majority states classifiable as democracies but that there are no Arab countries that are. There are many issues raised by these data that must be researched in much greater detail, such as whether the “oil curse,” the Arab-Israeli conflict, the presence of “tribes,” and a widely shared common language weaken the territorial dimension of democratic claims in many Arab countries.

In this chapter, however, I explore another potentially important factor that may help us analyze our cases of relative democratic success—indeed, “democratic overperformance,” if we just look at socioeconomic data—in Indonesia, Senegal, and India. Did the models of state-religion-society facilitate or hinder social peace and political pluralism in these countries?

What is theoretically interesting for our examination of varieties of democratic secularism is that none of these three democratically exemplar countries has either a U.S.- or French-style notion of secularism, meaning a strict separation of religion and the state or an established religion. All, however, have a strong degree of “positive accommodation,” indeed, of what I will describe as “positive cooperation.” Taken as a whole, Indonesia, Senegal, and India are variants of a fourth, quite distinctive model of secularism that is compatible with democracy and the twin tolerations.

The “Respect All, Positive Cooperation, Principled Distance” Model

The remainder of this chapter describes the “respect all, positive cooperation, principled distance” model.35 I call attention to three features of this model or, better, ideal type to show how it contrasts or compares with the other three models discussed so far; state-given respect in the private and public spheres to all major majority and minority religions in the polity, positive cooperation, and principled distance.36


One indicator of the degree to which the state gives respect in the public sphere to majority and minority religions alike is whether the state mandates at least one obligatory paid public holiday for minority religions if it mandates such holidays for the majority religion. When we look at three key separatist polities (France, the United States, and Turkey), three of the most inclusive established religion polities (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), and three of the most inclusionary of the positive accommodationist polities (Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland), we note that none of the countries offer holidays for the minority religion. In the case of the Christian countries, there is a combined number of seventy-nine paid obligatory Christian holidays but none for any minority religion. In sharp contrast, the three “respect all” polities (Senegal, Indonesia, and India) have eighteen obligatory paid holidays for the majority religion but even more, twenty-three, for the minority religions.37 (See Table 5.3.)

Such recognition in the public sphere of minority and majority religions is a key part of the respect all model and puts it in sharp contrast with three dominant European and U.S. models that we have discussed so far. Table 5.3also reveals a state attitude toward religion that is quite different from Muslim-majority Turkey and from most Arab Muslim-majority countries, many of whose leaders in the immediate postindependence period were not Islamists but, like Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Algeria’s Ahmed Ben Bella, or Tunisia’s Habib Bourguiba, were secular nationalists who (like Turkey’s Atatürk) used authoritarian measures to control and repress many religious leaders in the name of modernity.

What approaches toward secularism were and were not used in India, Senegal, and Indonesia? Nehru privately was a secularist, and he admired Atatürk, but as a democratic political leader of a mass democratic movement for independence in a religiously heterogeneous society, he chose not to be an aggressive secularist; neither was Senghor in Senegal nor Sukarno in Indonesia.

The public respect accorded to majority and minority religions as indicated in Table 5.3 meant that none of these three countries, whether in the predemocratic independent periods or democratic periods, has, unlike Turkey, ever declared any major majority or minority religion illegal or ineligible for state aid.

Likewise, none of the founding leaders in this model, Nehru and Gandhi, Senghor, or Sukarno, unlike the founding leader of Turkey, Atatürk—or many of the Arab nationalist independent leaders—ever attempted, in the name of modernity and secularism, to drive groups such as the Sufis or the Alevis out of the public square or to stop them from building visible structures in which to worship.

TABLE 5.3 Comparison of Paid Religious Holidays in Four State-Religion-Society Models


Far from hostility to any religion, all three countries within this model embraced an inclusive interreligious positive accommodation, whereas Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are, in fact, examples of restricted intra-Christian positive accommodation. In India, Indonesia, and Senegal, active policy cooperation between the state and all religions is more pronounced. In the widely disseminated version of the Senegalese constitution, the second president of independent Senegal, Abdou Diouf, is clear that Senegalese laïcité involves both accommodation and respect: “Laïcité in itself is a manifestation of respect of others. It acts in this way if it is not to be antireligious, but neither if it is a true laïcité can it become an established religion. I would say further that such a laic state cannot ignore religious institutions. From the fact that Citizens embrace religion flows the obligation for the state to facilitate the practice of that religion, as it does for all other vital activities of citizens …. Respect of religion does not only mean tolerance, it does not mean only to allow or to ignore, but to respect the beliefs and practices of the other. Laïcité is the consequence of this respect for the other, and the condition of our harmony.”38

To rule Senegal effectively without costly military conflicts and to develop the interior of the country commercially with Sufi help, the French colonial state itself, in a fascinating accommodation illustrating the great contextuality of secularism, adopted a radically different form of laïcité from what it was then following in either French colonial Algeria or Third Republic France. In Senegal in the early twentieth century, the French dropped their form of religiously hostile secularism and aspired to be an “Islamic power.” To further this goal, they supported pilgrimages of influential Sufis to Mecca, gave financial support for mosque construction, supported Arabic-language training for Islamic schools, increasingly attended major Sufi ceremonies, and were seen to give public respect to Sufi religious leaders known as marabouts.39 All of these policies violated 1905 French-style laïcité, but none of them violated human rights, democratic values, or the twin tolerations.

Given the profoundly different normative and empirical implications of laïcité in 1905 France and in contemporary Senegal, it should be clear why I argue that democratic theorists should speak not of “secularism” as a singular democratic universal but, instead, of the “multiple secularisms of modern democracies.”

Let us now look at the question of an established religion in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Senegal and Hindu-majority India. The first thing we must take cognizance of is that, unlike Scandinavia, India and Indonesia have high religious heterogeneity, coupled with high intensity of religious practice. It is thus a sign of respect, or at least accommodation, of this religious pluralism that neither India nor Indonesia nor somewhat more homogeneous Senegal has an established religion.40

Let us explore why and how Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority state, did not establish an Islamic state. The most influential actors and arguments were Indonesian, and as Rajeev Bhargava argued was the case for India, the secularism that has emerged is multivalued; a positive value is attached to a successful and peaceful nationalism, a positive value—or at least the positive recognition—of Indonesia’s inherent diversity, and a positive interpretation of what Islam entailed, and did not entail, concerning religious and public life.

In Indonesia, Bali has a Hindu-majority population, many of the smaller outer islands have Catholic or Protestant majorities, Buddhist and Confucian Chinese businessmen are prominent in the major cities, and, of course, there are varieties of Islam and strong animist traditions. In this context, the demand by some Islamist groups in Indonesia for a shari’a state during the constitution-making moments of 1945 and 1955 and after the recent democratic transition began in 1998 was defeated. Shari’a as an obligatory state policy for all citizens in Indonesia was defeated because it was perceived by religious minorities, as well as by many Muslims, secular or not, as a policy that would create threats to Indonesia’s territorial integrity, social peace, and way of life.

A key aspect of the 1945 Indonesian compromise version of state-society-religious relations was the doctrine of Pancasila (a Sanskrit word). The five principles of Pancasila that were included in the preamble to the Indonesian constitution of 1945 were: (1) belief in God, (2) a just and civilized humanitarianism, (3) national unity, (4) Indonesian democracy through consultation and consensus, and (5) social justice.

Despite numerous challenges from Islamists who wanted an Islamic state, Pancasila has endured. The five principles were developed by Sukarno, the nationalist leader of the independence movement and the first president of independent Indonesia. He developed the doctrine with the active collaboration of some military leaders—some secularist, some not—who were frightened by the threat of religious conflict and territorial fragmentation and some Islamic leaders, including the father of the three-times-elected president of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, NU, Abdurrahman Wahid, who also wanted to avoid such conflicts.41

Pancasila has some political virtues in Indonesia’s intensely religious and heterogeneous society. Pancasila facilitates the state recognition and granting of some financial and bureaucratic support to the five largest organized religions in addition to Islam: Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and, with the advent of democracy, Confucianism. Official state inclusion in the Pancasila system means that these five non-Islamic religions, with a total of 27 million adherents, all were accorded rights within Indonesia.42 In my interviews with leaders of minority religions in Indonesia, it became clear that such official recognition is valued highly because it allows them to call upon, and demand as a right, protection by the state coercive apparatus if they are threatened and also to have some call on state financial resources.

Who articulates public arguments in Indonesia for or against a shari’a state in Indonesia? And why? And how? In my article on the twin tolerations, I argued that all religions are multivocal. What this means for Islam is that any officially implemented system of shari’a law must necessarily have a strong element of “state shari’a,” because one side of the multivocality would be state-privileged and have the coercive powers of the state behind it. Given the deep differences between “traditionalist” democratic Muslims in Nahdatul Ulama (NU) and “modernist” democratic Muslims in Muhammadiyah—and their political and cultural sensitivity to the existence and rights of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and nonpracticing Muslims—leaders of both of these massive organizations, with members numbering more than 30 million each, are now opposed to an Islamic state, which they argue would lead to the nonconsensual imposition on a diverse polity of a single group’s vision of “state shari’a.”

Amien Rais, a former president of Muhammadiyah, speaker of the Consultative Assembly, and presidential candidate, again and again advanced variants of the following argument against Indonesia becoming a shari’a state: “First of all, the Qur’an does not say anything about the formation of an Islamic state, or about the necessity and obligations on the part of Muslims, to establish a shari’a or Islamic state. Secondly, the Qur’an is not a book of law but a source of law. If the Qur’an is considered a book of law, Muslims will become the most wretched people in the world…. We should not establish Islamic justice as it will create controversy and conflict. Indonesia should be built on the principles of Pancasila to be a modern state, and to allow every citizen of Indonesia to pursue his or her aspiration.”43

Abdurrahman Wahid (who died in December 2009) of NU rejected, in particular, any Rawlsian idea of “keeping religion off the public agenda.” Precisely because he knew that in multivocal Indonesia there are religious advocates of an exclusionary approach to religion and politics, he articulated alternative public discourses. He was a constant participant in public arguments making the case for why Indonesia, given its great social and religious diversity, which he saw as an empirical fact, should make the normative political choice for a pluralist polity—a tolerant inclusive Islam in a tolerant inclusive Indonesia.44 He also worked to create religious schools and organizations that advance these religious and democratic goals not only inside religious spaces but also in civil society and in political society. He could not have carried out these public-sphere agendas in a context of Turkish secularism or, in the judgment of the leading specialist on Indonesian-French comparisons, John Bowen, even of French secularism.45


The three polities in this model, normally within the twin tolerations, all have an explicit positive accommodation but also policy cooperation approach to state-religion-society relations. More than in Germany or Switzerland, they give state aid to help all religions carry out some of their activities. In Senegal, this started even under the French once they announced that they were a “Muslim power” in West Africa. This positive accommodation has been continued and broadened after independence. The Senegalese state now gives some support to Catholics to take pilgrimages to the Vatican.

In India, as D. E. Smith has stressed, “the idea that government should not extend financial aid and other forms of patronage to religion finds no support in Hindu, Buddhist, or Islamic traditions …. [Also] during certain periods in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, grants of money were given by the British government for the support of Hindu temples and Muslim mosques.”46 The constitution of independent and democratic India kept up the tradition of some financial support for all religions. Article 30 stipulates: “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” To make this right financially possible, Article 30 further stipulates: “The state shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.” Significantly, the positive norm of the state helping religious minorities fulfill their religious duties is so entrenched that even under Hindu nationalist BJP governments, the tradition of the state giving subsidies to help Muslims make pilgrimages to Mecca was maintained.

In Indonesia, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Catholic, and Protestant organizations, as well as Muslim ones, as part of Pancasila, can apply for financial support to carry out their functions to the section in the Ministry of Religion dedicated to their religion.47

In Indonesia in particular, but also in Senegal, the combination of a very inclusive positive accommodation toward religions, with some financial aid to religious schools, has opened the way to forms of active, policy-making cooperation between the “respect all” secular state and religions. For example, in Indonesia, if a religious school wants official recognition, there has recently been a growing process of consensual co-design of books on the history of religion by state authorities from the Ministry of Education and religious leaders from major Muslim organizations. Robert W. Hefner and Muhammad Zaman have recently edited an invaluable book that reviews madrasas in eight different countries. One of the most inclusive and tolerant systems described in the volume, and the one that now works most cooperatively with a democratic state, is in Indonesia. The chapter on Indonesia shows how NU and Muhammadiyah, via negotiations facilitated by Pancasila, have made substantial contributions to this educationally high-quality and politically pluralist outcome.48

In Senegal, the constant mutual rituals of respect, between the state and all religions and between all religions and the state, have facilitated policy cooperation even in some sensitive areas of human-rights abuses. They have also facilitated an atmosphere in which religious leaders have felt free to make arguments from within Islam against practices and policies that violate human rights. When I argued in “The Twin Tolerations” that all religions are “multivocal,” I also drew the conclusion that this necessarily implied, contra early John Rawls, that it would be a mistake to “take religion off the agenda.”49 I did so because proponents of some human-rights-violating policies often use religious arguments to support their positions. There thus must be the possibility of a religious counterresponse in defense of rights put on the agenda.

Ideally, this response is not only from abroad, in the name of “universal human rights.” The most effective counterresponse is by a local authoritative figure, who, from within the core values of the religion and culture of the country, makes a powerful, religiously based argument against the specific practice that violates human rights. Let us look at an example of such Senegalese state-religion policy cooperation in the area of human rights, the campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM).

A variety of national and international feminist and human-rights movements wanted to ban the practice of FGM but had been countered by powerful religious-based attacks. In the end, secular movements in the government and some national and international NGOs were greatly helped by Senegalese religious leaders. The secretary general, N’Diaye, of the National Association of Imams of Senegal (ANIOS) publicly argued that there is nothing in the Qur’an commanding the practice and that there was no evidence in Haddiths that the Prophet had his own daughters circumcised.50 A law banning female circumcision was passed in 1999. To avoid the law being a dead letter, ANIOS enlisted the help of government health authorities to train imams in how to speak authoritatively about the health problems that circumcision presents and to help with anti-FGM talks by imams on radio and television. Since patterns of female circumcision are closely related to perceptions of marriage eligibility, the government, ANIOS, and national and international women’s rights organizations worked together with entire adjacent villages to develop policies of “coordinated abandonment” of female circumcision, so as to preclude jeopardizing marriage prospects within participating villages.51

Even with such a law banning FGM, the law can best start to become a growing social reality if the most authoritative religious bodies in the country continue to campaign against the practice so that it is increasingly delegitimized in the religious norms and social customs of the country. To help advance this crucial goal, Abdoul Aziz Kebe, coordinator for the Tivaouane-based largest Sufi order in Senegal, the Tijans, wrote a powerful forty-five-page attack on FGM. The report systematically argued that FGM is a violation of women’s rights, bodies, and health, with absolutely no justification in the Qur’an or in approved Haddiths. Kebe argued that not only is there no Islamic justification for FGM, but given current medical knowledge and current Islamic scholarship, there is a moral obligation for communities and individuals to bring a halt to FGM. The report was distributed by Tijan networks, secular ministries, and the World Health Organization.52


I can be quite brief about the question of “principled distance” because the concept has been brilliantly developed by my colleague, the Indian political theorist, Rajeev Bhargava.53 India and also to a lesser extent Indonesia and Senegal all have versions of the secular state that can impose, if necessary, some normative and constitutional constraints on religious majoritarianism and/or on possible religious violations of human rights by following the norm of “principled distance.” Along with Bhargava, I use the term “principled distance” not to mean “equidistance” between all religions. If religion A is violating citizens’ rights and religion B is not, neither the principle of “equidistance” nor that of “neutrality” should be invoked to restrain the state from employing its legitimate democratic coercive powers against religion A and not against religion B.

Many of India’s independence leaders were not strongly attracted to the U.S. “wall of separation” doctrine or to what I have labeled U.S. “freedom of religion from the state” secularism. Hinduism involves the public practice of religion as much as, or more than, private worship. Thus, the tradition of forbidding what were then called “untouchables” from entering Hindu temples was considered by many, especially by the chair of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution for the Constituent Assembly, ex-untouchable B. R. Ambedkar, as a violation by the majority religion of Hindu citizens’ basic human and democratic rights. Therefore, the Indian constitution, in Article 17, directly declared illegal a fundamental aspect of Hinduism when it mandated that “‘Untouchability’ is abolished and its practice forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of ‘untouchability’ shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.” Article 25, clause 1, opens with a declaration that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion.” But clause 2 of Article 25 goes on to state a classic principle of “principled distance” thinking, and, I believe, of the twin tolerations: that nothing in clause 1 about religious freedom should prevent the state from “throwing open Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.” Armed with this constitutional principle, state after state in India’s federal system passed highly debated temple entry laws.

To show how different such Indian “principled distance” actions by the state to reform religious institutions is from much U.S. jurisprudence concerning state-religion relations, I note that the standard account of Indian secularism by a U.S. scholar, Donald E. Smith, critically argues that Article 25 and the subsequent “temple entry laws… raise[s] important questions of religious freedom.”54

In Senegal, Leopold Senghor used principled-distance-type reasoning to block strong demands by Muslim religious leaders to weaken the relatively progressive family code left by the French. In Indonesia, rule-of-law arguments and principled-distance-type arguments have had to be urged upon state authorities to try to make them less responsive to some majoritarian demands that might violate citizens’ rights and, at times, safety.


I opened the section on the respect all model with documentation showing that three of the most highly democratically ranked polities in the world with Muslim majority or large Muslim populations are Indonesia, India, and Senegal. All three polities follow variants of the respect all model.

But do we have any evidence that such a model is actually associated with democratic or nondemocratic attitudes among citizens at large in these polities, especially among those citizens, of whatever religion, who indicate in their self-reported responses to a battery of questions that they are in the most intensely religious practicing category of respondents?

I do not want to make the case that the Indian model of secularism, by itself, created the attitudinal and behavioral patterns I am about to present. In our book Crafting “State Nations”: India and Other Multinational Democracies, Juan J. Linz, Yogendra Yadav, and I argue that many things in India’s “state nation” acceptance of more than fifteen official languages, its asymmetrical federal system, and its coalition-requiring and coalition-sustaining parliamentary system have been crucial to the functioning of India’s often troubled but long-standing democracy. But I believe that the “respect all, positive cooperation, principled distance” qualities of India’s secular model helped Indians address their great religious heterogeneity and their great intensity of religious practice and might have been constitutive of the remarkable prodemocratic consensus among all religions concerning democracy that I will document.55

India has some of the highest levels of religious belief and practice in the world: 93 percent of the population describe themselves as believing in God, 87 percent as being “very” or “somewhat” religious, 53 percent as praying daily. Almost half (at least 400 million people) say they have gone on a pilgrimage or traveled to another place for religious purposes in the last ten years. Finally, against this very high base, 3.9 times as many respondents say that in the last ten years, their “family’s engagement in religious activities” has increased as say they have decreased.56

The first point I would like to stress is that the percentage of members of all four of the major religions in India who self-identify as having a “preference for democracy as opposed to any other system” is very high by world standards: Muslims 71 percent, Hindus 71 percent, Sikhs 71 percent, and Christians 74 percent.57 The Muslims, the largest and the least socioeconomically developed religious community in India, essentially have the same percentage as the national norm of all four of the categories concerning democracy. (See Table 5.4.)

Given the self-reported increase in religious practice in India, Linz, Yadav, and I constructed an index of religious intensity, from low to medium to high, to see if the trend toward growing intensity of religious practice correlates with growing undemocratic attitudes and practices, as some fear. From our data, the exact opposite is found. For all four major religions in India, for each increase in religious intensity, there is an increase in support for democracy. (See Figure 5.1.)

For the State of Democracy in South Asia Survey: 2005, Yadav, Linz, and I also constructed a battery of questions exploring the relationship between religion and democracy. Unfortunately, our sample size (5387 compared with the 27,189 for the National Election Study, India: 2004) permits us to do detailed comparative study of only the two largest religions in India: Hinduism and Islam. The sample size for other minority religions is too small for a robust analysis. A key question we wanted to explore was the relationship of increased levels of “the intensity of religious practice,” our independent variable, to four critical components of democratic political society, which will be our dependent variables: “political efficacy,” “overall trust in political institutions,” “satisfaction with the way democracy works in this country,” and “voting ratios.” As Table 5.5 makes clear, again counterintuitively from the perspective of much of the literature, on all eight observations (Hindus and Muslims on each of the four variables), the groups with “high religiosity” have higher scores on each of the four variables than do the groups with “low religiosity.”

TABLE 5.4 The Great Similarity in India of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh Support for Democracy



Intensity of religious practice index


FIGURE 5.1 In all four of India’s major religions, the greater the intensity of religious practice, the greater the support for democracy.

Notes: The analysis is based on valid answers in the National Election Study, India: 2004. Total n = 27,189. Valid responses for the table are: Hindus = 17,261; Muslims = 2549; Sikhs = 544; and Christians = 697. The findings for Hindus are statistically significant (Pearson’s Chi-Square < .001), which means that the possibility of the findings occurring by chance are less than one in 1000. The findings for Muslims are also statistically significant (Pearson’s Chi-Square < .050), which means that the possibility of the findings occurring by chance are less than one in 20. The findings for Sikhs and Christians are also positive but not statistically significant. In order to analyze further the impact of intensity of religious practice on support for democracy, we made a binary logistic regression model. In addition to the intensity of religious practice, we added as control variables efficacy of vote (Q21), membership of organizations other than caste or religious organization (Q19), whether the respondent voted or not in the 2004 parliamentary election (Q3), gender, respondent’s education (B4), monthly household income (B19), and level of urbanity (B10). The coefficient on the index of religiosity is. 138. Using the rule of four, we say that a one-unit increase in the index of religiosity (controlling for other factors) predicts approximately a 3.5-percent increase in the probability of support for democracy.

The findings of our surveys indicate that among all four major religions in “respect all” India, at the aggregate level, there is a relative consensus among devotees that both their practice of religion and their practice of democracy are integral and valued parts of their public and their private lives.

Somewhat similar findings about the relation between the intensity of religious practice and the support for democracy were found by Saiful Mujani, Indonesia’s most prestigious public-opinion-poll specialist, in his doctoral dissertation at Ohio State University, “Religious Democrats: Democratic Culture and Muslim Political Participation in Post-Suharto Indonesia.”58 In his data and regressions, he found that high-practicing Muslims joined more organizations (both “bonding” among active Muslim citizens and “bridging” with secular citizens) than did low-practicing Muslims, that respondents who joined more organizations trusted people more than those who joined fewer, that respondents who trusted people more trusted the state more, and that respondents who trusted the state more trusted democracy more.

TABLE 5.5 Relationship between Intensity of Religious Practice and Support for Political Institutions


Surveys are not very abundant in Senegal, but those that we have are consistent with the account of relatively widespread tolerance of “other” religious groups, especially by the more religiously active. Three political scientists from the University of Connecticut interviewed 200 Islamic religious leaders and a national sample of 1500 respondents in Senegal. They constructed a tolerance measure based on responses to twelve questions. The religious leaders were by no means tolerant across the board; for example, only 12 percent of them were tolerant of “drug addicts.” But 92 percent of religious leaders, in contrast with 78 percent of the general population, were tolerant of “people from another religious group.”59 Pew surveyed people in seventeen Muslim-majority countries about whether democracy “could work in their country or was only a Western way.” The country with the highest percentage of respondents who felt that democracy “can work here” was Senegal, with 87 percent.60


The use of the phrase “multiple secularisms” in the title of this chapter is not just a normative or methodological assertion but also an empirical claim. Secular patterns of democracy are not singular in their practice and values but are multiple. To support and clarify this claim, I have documented four distinct patterns of secularism: (1) “separatist,” (2) “established religion,” (3) “positive accommodation,” and (4) “respect all, positive cooperation, and principled distance.”

Let me conclude with some reflections about the third pattern, “positive accommodation,” and the fourth pattern, “respect all, positive cooperation, and principled distance,” to help us better understand how and why new patterns emerged in the past and may continue to emerge in the future. The “positive accommodation” pattern was historically constructed and negotiated in Europe over hundreds of years, initially as a way to accommodate conflicts withinthe Christian religions and later between Christianity and liberalism, both of which often distrusted, and attempted to curtail, the other. These accommodations often took the form of socially constructed institutional arrangements that, once created, often took on “path dependent” qualities, and were even conflated over time with fixed normative values. However, in the 21st century, many of the positive accommodation countries like Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium are experiencing growing difficulties accommodating new immigrants from religions, such as Muslims, who have not been a party to the highly negotiated, often even consociational, agreements. A particular, for some no doubt convenient, sticking point with Muslims was that a key vehicle for accommodating religions was to give them subsidies and space in the public sphere in their capacity as “hierarchically organized public corporations.” As we have seen, this formula implicitly excluded most Muslim organizations because, owing to Islam’s inherent, but not necessarily undemocratic, structures most of the Muslims in Europe are not in hierarchical organizations.

A salient distinctive quality of the countries that adopted the “respect all, positive cooperation, principled distance” model, particularly India and Indonesia, was that they were vastly more religiously heterogeneous than Holland, Belgium, Germany, or Switzerland, so if they were to accommodate religions they had to invent more inclusive formulas than Europe’s “positive accommodation.” This helps explain the origins of the “respect all” dimension.

Also, all three countries in the “respect all” set were newly independent and had to construct new constitutions, so the historically negotiated dimension of “positive accommodation” was not an available option. Conjuncturally, these politically constructed models at independence (particularly in India after the partition and in Indonesia threatened with the succession of some of the Christian outer islands) had to immediately take into consideration new religious threats to social peace and territorial integrity. As we saw, independence leaders in India, Indonesia, and Senegal created a new model to help them respond to a new set of challenges. Because these models were newly negotiated, there were fewer existing “path dependent” obstacles (such as the “hierarchically organized public corporation” requirement) to preclude innovative formulas of accommodation. In particular, as we have seen, the addition of the “positive cooperation” dimension of the model opened up the possibility of secular education ministries and religious leaders co- designing, co-funding, and co-recognizing some academic curricula that may have violated French or American separatist norms, but fully respected the twin tolerations and did not violate fundamental democratic principles.

Given what we have seen of the conjunctural and socially and politically constructed nature of all four patterns we have analyzed in this paper, it is highly probable that in our increasingly globalized and multi-cultural societies, new state-society-religion patterns will have to be constructed, and old ones reconstructed, in order to respond adequately to new contingencies and new challenges to the twin tolerations in modern democracies.


1. I develop, conceptually, empirically, and historically, the roles of the “twin tolerations” in Alfred Stepan, Arguing Comparative Politics (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 213-255. For brevity, this chapter of Arguing Comparative Politics, “The World’s Religious Systems and Democracy: Crafting the ‘Twin Tolerations,’” will henceforth be referred to as Stepan, “The Twin Tolerations.”

2. See S. N. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus 129 (Winter 2000): 1-30; and Sudipta Kaviraj, “An Outline of a Revisionist Theory of Modernity,” European Journal of Sociology 46, no. 3 (2005): 497-526.

3. See Robert Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1971).

4. See Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999).

5. See Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore, Md., and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), chap. 3.

6. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities.” The reference to the United States as the first case of a multiple modernity in the West is on p. 13. See also S. N. Eisenstadt, “The Reconstruction of Religious Arenas in the Framework of ‘Multiple Modernities,’” Millennium 29, no. 3 (2000): 591-611.

7. Sudipta Kaviraj, “Modernity and Politics in India,” Daedalus 129 (Winter 2000): 137-162.

8. Kaviraj, “An Outline of a Revisionist Theory of Modernity,” European Journal of Sociology 46 (2005): 497-526.

9. See Stepan, “The Twin Tolerations,” esp. 215-227.

10. See Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996).

11. For the history of the establishment of churches in America and for debates about the First Amendment, see A. J. Reichley, Religion in American Public Life (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1985), 53-167.

12. See, for example, Joel S. Fetzer and J. Christopher Soper, Muslims and the State in Britain, France, and Germany (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

13. Ahmet T. Kuru, “Secularism, State Policies, and Muslims in Europe: Analyzing French Exceptionalism,” Comparative Politics 41, no. 1 (2008): 1-19.

14. On such funding of settlements in the West Bank by U.S.-based religious groups, see the extensively documented investigative story by Jim Rutenberg, Mike McIntyre, and Ethan Bronner, “Tax Exempt Funds Aiding Settlement in the West Bank,” New York Times, July 6, 2010, 1A.

15. Some religious groups in France, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, have experienced problems with this issue.

16. See Ahmet T. Kuru, “Passive and Assertive Secularism: Historical Conditions, Ideological Struggles, and State Policies towards Religion,” World Politics 59, no. 4 (2007): 568-594. See also Ahmet T. Kuru, Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 161-235.

17. See Jonathan Fox, A World Survey of Religion and the State (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), tables 5.4 for France, 8.4 for Turkey, 9.2 for Senegal.

18. Ibid., table 8.4.

19. In 2000, Sweden began a process of disestablishment. Finland also has an established Orthodox Christian church to service its small Orthodox population.

20. Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 72.

21. The data are from the 2001 census of Northern Ireland.

22. Norris and Inglehart, Sacred and Secular, 72.

23. See John T. S. Madeley, “A Framework for the Comparative Analysis of Church-State Relations in Europe,” West European Politics 26, no. 1 (2003): 23-50, esp. 45.

24. This is well documented in a series of papers that will be a part of Emily Beck’s doctoral dissertation in the Political Science Department of Columbia University.

25. See the maps of mono-confessional and multiconfessional polities in western Europe in Madeley, “A Framework.”

26. Gerhard Robbers, “Religion in the European Union Countries: Constitutional Foundations, Legislations, Religious Institutions and Religious Education; Country Report on Germany,” in a book that has not yet been published in English, Ali Köse and Talip Küçükcan, eds., Avrupa Birliği Ülkelerinde Din-Devlet Ilişkileri [State-Religion Relations in the European Union Members] (Istanbul: Center for Islamic Studies, 2008), 112; emphasis added. In this same collection, Rik Torfs, the author of the chapter on Belgium, “Belçika,” which has many positive accommodationist features, makes very similar arguments: “The state positively promotes the free development of religious and institutional activities without interfering with their independence. In that sense, one might call this positive neutrality” (58). This collection is extremely useful. In 2005, when the EU decided to start full membership negotiations with Turkey as a candidate country, Turkey, via the research wing of Diyanet, managed to get many of the most prestigious independent scholars on state-religion-society relations from twelve EU countries—such as Robbers from Germany, Grace Davie from the United Kingdom, Sophie van Bijsterveld from the Netherlands, and Silvio Ferrari from Italy—to write frank essays on the social, legal, and political status of religions in their own countries. I thank the editors for making all of the papers available to me.

27. Robbers, “Religion in the European Union Countries,” 131.

28. Ibid., 120. In some, not all, Länder, the Jewish authorities have a similar arrangement. In positive accommodationist Switzerland, “most of the 26 cantons financially support a form of Catholicism or Protestant Christianity and collect taxes on behalf of whatever church or churches they support…. Religious education is standard in Swiss schools, generally in the majority denomination of the canton, but classes in other religions are usually offered and students may opt out of the classes.” Fox, A World Survey, 131.

29. Robbers, “Religion in the European Union Countries,” 121.

30. Ibid., 130.

31. See the classic book on the emergence of this type of consociational accommodation, Arend Lijphart, The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands, rev. ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 47-52.

32. See Sophie van Bijsterveld, “Religion and Law in the Netherlands: Constitutional Foundations, Legislation, Religious Institutions and Religious Education,” in Köse and Küçükcan, eds., State and Religion in Europe, 196.

33. See Sophie van Bijsterveld, “The Netherlands: Principled Pluralism,” in Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper, eds., The Challenge of Pluralism: Church and State in Five Democracies (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), 51-86, quotes from 65 and 73; emphasis added.

34. For comparisons of this set of non-Arab countries with large Muslim populations with Arab countries, see Alfred Stepan with Graeme Robertson, “An ‘Arab’ More Than ‘Muslim’ Electoral Gap,” Journal of Democracy 14, no. 3 (July 2003): 30-44; and the debate about this article with our response, “Arab, Not Muslim Exceptionalism,” Journal of Democracy 15, no. 4 (October 2004): 140-146.

35. I will frequently refer to this model simply as the “respect all” model. I am building on work on India of my colleague Rajeev Bhargava, particularly his idea of “principled distance.” See Rajeev Bhargava, “The Distinctiveness of Indian Secularism,” in T. N. Srinivasan, ed., The Future of Secularism (Oxford and Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), 20-53. For the moral and political theory behind India’s secularism, see Rajeev Bhargava, “Political Secularism,” in John S. Dryzek, Bonnie Honig, and Anne Phillips, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 636-655. See also Rajeev Bhargava, ed., Secularism and Its Critics (Oxford and Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), especially the articles by Bhargava, Akeel Bilgrami, and Amartya Sen.

36. More documentation and analysis for Senegal, India, and Indonesia can be found in Alfred Stepan, “Rituals of Respect: Sufis and Secularists in Senegal” (unpublished manuscript); Alfred Stepan, Juan J. Linz, and Yogendra Yadav, Crafting “State-Nations”: India and Other Multinational Democracies (Baltimore, Md., and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), esp. chap. 2; Alfred Stepan, Juan J. Linz, and Yogendra Yadav, “The Rise of ‘State-Nations,’” Journal of Democracy 21, no. 3 (July 2010): 50-68; and Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan, eds., Democracy and Islam in Indonesia: Comparative Perspectives, a forthcoming collection of papers from an April 2009 international conference at the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion, Columbia University, New York.

37. Interestingly, the other two most highly ranked Muslim-majority countries on these two democracy indexes are Albania and Mali, and both have this same pattern of public religious holidays. Albania has large Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic religious minorities, which together are accorded five national holidays, whereas the Muslim majority has only three holidays. In Mali, the majority Muslim population receives four religious holidays, and the small Christian minority receives three; see “Worldwide Public Holidays,”

38. Constitution of Senegal, Me Doudou Ndoye, ed. (Dakar: EDJA, 2001), 48-49; my translation.

39. For a documented and convincing discussion of “France as a ‘Muslim Power,’” see David Robinson, Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 1880-1920(Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000), 75-96. See also Donal Cruise O’Brien, “Towards an ‘Islamic Policy’ in French West Africa,” Journal of African History 8 (1967): 303-316.

40. Neither does Mali or Albania.

41. A basic book on the history and evolution of Pancasila is Azyumardi Azra, Indonesia, Islam, and Democracy: Dynamics in a Global Context (Jakarta: Solstice, 2006). An important work on the development of democratic Islamic thought, practices, and organizations in Indonesia is Mirjam Künkler, “Democratization, Islamic Thought and Social Movements: Coalitional Success and Failure in Indonesia and Iran,” PhD dissertation in Political Science, Columbia University, New York, 2008. See esp. chap. 3, “How Pluralist Democracy Became the Consensual Discourse among Secular and Non-Secular Muslims in Indonesia.”

42. The Indonesian state does not, however, officially recognize the small Jewish presence, the numerous animists within Indonesia’s estimated 400 ethnic and language groups, or the variant of Islam called Ahmadiyah, which recognizes a prophet after Muhammad, and, indeed, the state recently was very slow to dispatch police to protect Ahmadiyah from threatened mob attacks.

43. Mohammad Amien Rais, Putra Nasantara: Son of the Indonesian Archipelago (Singapore: Singapore Press, 2003), 11. See also the interview with Amien Rais by Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan, Journal of International Affairs 61, no. 1 (2007): 205-216.

44. In two long interviews I had with Wahid in September 1998 and October 2007, he paid particular attention to stressing these points. For diversity as a “sociological fact” and pluralism as a “political choice,” in Indonesia in general and in the speeches and actions of Wahid, see Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, “Indonesia: Realities of Diversity and Prospects of Pluralism,” in his Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari’a (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008), 223-266. For an analysis of Wahid’s political discourse, see the chapter “Abdurrahman Wahid: Scholar-President,” in John L. Esposito and John O. Voll, Makers of Contemporary Islam(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 199-216.

45. See, for example, the writings of the distinguished anthropologist who is a specialist on legal codes and practices in Indonesia and France, John Bowen, “Does French Islam Have Borders? Dilemmas of Domestication in a Global Religion Field,” American Anthropologist; 106, no. 1 (2004): 43-55; and Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006).

46. D. E. Smith, “India as a Secular State,” in Bhargava, ed., Secularism and Its Critics, 183, 189.

47. The Ministry of Religion building occupies an entire block in downtown Jakarta.

48. See Azyumardi Azra, Dina Afrianty, and Robert W. Hefner, “Pesantren and Madrassa: Muslim Schools and National Ideals in Indonesia,” in Robert W. Hefner and Muhammad Zaman, eds., Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007), 172-198. For recent analogous processes in the educational system in Senegal, see Stepan, “Rituals of Respect.”

49. See Stepan, “The Twin Tolerations,” 227-229.

50. See the long feature article in one of Senegal’s leading newspapers, Habibou Bangré, “Croisade muselmane contre l’excision: Les imams rétablissent la vérité sur cette tradition,” Walfadiri, June 8, 2004.

51. Ibid. A similar social policy of public pledges renouncing foot binding in neighboring Chinese villages with high patterns of intermarriages proved useful.

52. See Abdoul Aziz Kebe, Argumentaire religieux musulman pour l’abandon des MGF’s (Dakar: Organisation Mondiale de la Sante, 2003). Female circumcision is still a problem in Senegal, with an estimated 28 percent of women from the ages of fifteen to forty-nine having undergone FGM, according to UNICEF. The same source lists Egypt at 96 percent. Senegal’s three contiguous Muslim-majority countries have much higher rates; Mali, 92 percent; Guinea, 95 percent; and Mauritania, 71 percent.

53. See note 35, above.

54. Donald Eugene Smith, India as a Secular State (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963), 243.

55. The same question, using the same survey instrument, reveals that support for democracy by Muslims in India is approximately twice as high as that of Muslims in Pakistan. See Stepan, Linz, and Yadav, Crafting “State Nations,” chap. 2. These and other results demonstrate the great political contextuality of religion.

56. State of the Nation Survey, New Delhi, January 2007, Lokniti, CSDS, N = 15,373, questions B5, B3, B11, B6, B17.

57. National Election Study [India], CSDS, Delhi, 2004.

58. Saiful Mujani, “Religious Democrats: Democratic Culture and Muslim Political Participation in Post-Suharto Indonesia,” PhD dissertation, Department of Political Science, Ohio State University, 2003.

59. See Richard Vengroff, Lucy Creevy, and Abdou Ndoye, “Islamic Leaders’ Values and the Transition to Democracy: The Case of Senegal,” unpublished ms., University of Connecticut, 2005.

60. See The Pew Global Project Attitudes, February 3, 2005. The report also says that Pew polled twelve Muslim-majority countries about whether it was “very important to live in a country with honest multiparty elections,” and Senegal polled the highest.