Coronavirus pandemic strengthens secular outlook in Islamic world
The coronavirus will affect the entire international order. At the same time, this phenomenon is bound to strengthen some dynamics in the Islamic world while it weakens others.
The COVID-19 crisis has come about at a time when the current generation’s reaction against traditional Islamic interpretations and Islamist politics was already gaining steam. The virus will strengthen this new generation’s stance and distance it further from the old.
In the example of
Those protests, first kicked off by activist Masih Alinejad, have quickly become a focus of great attention, and tens of thousands have joined the campaign. Now, many people supported Alinejad on social media, and the videos shared by women who have removed their headscarves have rocked the Iranian regime.
A poll in 2018 found that nearly half of Iranians believed the headscarf was a personal choice in which the state should not interfere.
We must not forget that debating the mandatory headscarf means debating the spirit of the Iranian regime. From this perspective, the young generation’s resistance to the imposed headscarf symbolises the rift that has grown between it and the established politics and Islamic discourse.
For a range of economic reasons, and predominantly the problem of unemployment, the Iranian generation under 25 years old has disengaged from the Islamist regime. The Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi describes dissatisfaction with the regime as a common value that has spread across diverse segments of the country’s society.
Two points require emphasis here. Firstly, that the new perception of society and the state that will arise from the coronavirus crisis in
Thus, the crisis will have a profound impact on how the new, rising generation of urban youths’ views on religion, society and the political regime evolve.
You could say this is analogous with the 1999 earthquake that struck İzmit in northwest
With the COVID-19 crisis, the tables have turned and it is a growing demand for secularism that stands against the weakening religious political actors in the
The virus since it broke out has dealt a heavy blow to traditional religious interpretations. Mosques have been closed and religious figures have been shrouded in silence as every television channel hosts members of scientific organisations to explain the situation, bringing them a new sense of authority.
We are witnessing the first time in modern Turkish history that scientists have become the primary reference on a social level, above religious figures.
The government’s slogans on policies that are reshaping families lives are essentially telling citizens to “do what science says.” Traditional religious actors who for the past decade have presented themselves as the answer to all kinds of problems are able to do nothing but watch on from the sidelines and try to avoid attention.
The second point is that the Islamist actors in both
Without the resources for the large public spending needed for urgent problems, the administrations in
But there is one more point to remember: Large phenomena that leave humanity in a state of shock may have a very different impact on religiosity. For example, in the days after the bubonic plague pandemic struck
We can foresee two groups in the Islamic world following a similar path.
First, those whose age and education means they will never foreswear the traditionalist religious interpretation. They are likely to take a more mystical view to world events.
This type of view is likely to grow stronger in provincial parts of countries like
We are also likely to see a similar radicalisation who remain loyal to the core structure of Islamic sects and congregations. These groups, who see the world as a group illusion, will interpret the deaths from the coronavirus as a divine punishment.
For that reason, Islamic sects and congregations are likely to become even more closed off in the world after the coronavirus. These groups already have a messianic vision of the world at their roots, but they are bound to break away even further from natural causality and to full adopt a millennialist world view, making it ever more difficult for people who believe in scientific rationalism and value individual liberty to exist in them.