History of the relationship between religion and politics in south africa

Religion and Politics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

history of the relationship between religion and politics in south africa

South Africa is a country of many cultures and many religions -indeed, a country of . Eventually political parties will also be engaged to inform them about the due to the history of the relationship between church and state in South Africa. The attitude towards South Africa can be divided between two approaches. Concluding a history of Islamic political struggle in South Africa, Davids captures the spells out this contractual relationship between Muslims and South Africa. In Religion and Politics in South Africa, Abdulkader Tayob and other contributing authors explore the role of religion in fashioning a more.

The idea is that only then can children autonomously choose a way of life for themselves, free of undue influence of upbringing and custom. A related argument holds that this critical distance will allow children to develop a sufficient sense of respect for different social groups, a respect that is necessary for the practice of democratic citizenship. However, this critical distance is antithetical to authentic religious commitment, at least on some accounts see the following section.

Also, religious parents typically wish to pass on their faith to their children, and doing so involves cultivating religious devotion through practices and rituals, rather than presenting their faith as just one among many equally good or true ones.

For such parents, passing on their religious faith is central to good parenting, and in this respect it does not differ from passing on good moral values, for instance. Thus, politically mandated education that is aimed at developing autonomy runs up against the right of some parents to practice their religion and the right to raise their children as they choose. Many, though not all, liberals argue that autonomy is such an important good that its promotion justifies using techniques that make it harder for such parents to pass on their faith—such a result is an unfortunate side-effect of a desirable or necessary policy.

history of the relationship between religion and politics in south africa

Yet a different source of political conflict for religious students in recent years concerns the teaching of evolution in science classes.

Some religious parents of children in public schools see the teaching of evolution as a direct threat to their faith, insofar as it implies the falsity of their biblical-literalist understanding of the origins of life. They argue that it is unfair to expect them to expose their children to teaching that directly challenges their religion and to fund it with their taxes. Among these parents, some want schools to include discussions of intelligent design and creationism some who write on this issue see intelligent design and creationism as conceptually distinct positions; others see no significant difference between themwhile others would be content if schools skirted the issue altogether, refusing to teach anything at all about the origin of life or the evolution of species.

Their opponents see the former proposal as an attempt to introduce an explicitly religious worldview into the classroom, hence one that runs afoul of the separation of church and state.

Nor would they be satisfied with ignoring the issue altogether, for evolution is an integral part of the framework of modern biology and a well-established scientific theory.

Conflicts concerning religion and politics arise outside of curricular contexts, as well. For example, in France, a law was recently passed that made it illegal for students to wear clothing and adornments that are explicitly associated with a religion. This law was especially opposed by students whose religion explicitly requires them to wear particular clothing, such as a hijab or a turban.

Religion and Politics

The justification given by the French government was that such a measure was necessary to honor the separation of church and state, and useful for ensuring that the French citizenry is united into a whole, rather than divided by religion. However, it is also possible to see this law as an unwarranted interference of the state in religious practice.

If liberty of conscience includes not simply a right to believe what one chooses, but also to give public expression to that belief, then it seems that people should be free to wear clothing consistent with their religious beliefs. Crucial to this discussion of the effect of public policy on religious groups is an important distinction regarding neutrality. The liberal state is supposed to remain neutral with regard to religion as well as race, sexual orientation, physical status, age, etc.

In one sense, neutrality can be understood in terms of a procedure that is justified without appeal to any conception of the human good. In this sense, it is wrong for the state to intend to disadvantage one group of citizens, at least for its own sake and with respect to practices that are not otherwise unjust or politically undesirable. Thus it would be a violation of neutrality in this sense and therefore wrong for the state simply to outlaw the worship of Allah.

Alternatively, neutrality can be understood in terms of effect. The state abides by this sense of neutrality by not taking actions whose consequences are such that some individuals or groups in society are disadvantaged in their pursuit of the good. For a state committed to neutrality thus understood, even if it were not explicitly intending to disadvantage a particular group, any such disadvantage that may result is a prima facie reason to revoke the policy that causes it.

The attendance requirement may nevertheless be unavoidable, but as it stands, it is less than optimal. Obviously, this is a more demanding standard, for it requires the state to consider possible consequences—both short term and long term—on a wide range of social groups and then choose from those policies that do not have bad consequences or the one that has the fewest and least bad. For most, and arguably all, societies, it is a standard that cannot feasibly be met.

Consequently, most liberals argue that the state should be neutral in the first sense, but it need not be neutral in the second sense. Thus, if the institutions and practices of a basically just society make it more challenging for some religious people to preserve their ways of life, it is perhaps regrettable, but not unjust, so long as these institutions and practices are justified impartially.

Liberalism and Its Demands on Private Self-Understanding In addition to examining issues of toleration and accommodation on the level of praxis, there has also been much recent work about the extent to which particular political theories themselves are acceptable or unacceptable from religious perspectives.

Rather than requiring citizens to accept any particular comprehensive doctrine of liberalism, a theory of justice should aim at deriving principles that each citizen may reasonably accept from his or her own comprehensive doctrine. The aim, then, for a political conception of justice is for all reasonable citizens to be able to affirm principles of justice without having to weaken their hold on their own private comprehensive views.

One such argument comes from Eomann Callan, in his book Creating Citizens. If Rawlsian liberalism requires acceptance of the burdens of judgment, then the overlapping consensus will not include some kinds of religious citizens.

Thus, a religious citizen could feel an acute conflict between her identity qua citizen and qua religious adherent.

One way of resolving the conflict is to argue that one aspect of her identity should take priority over the other. For many religious citizens, political authority is subservient to—and perhaps even derived from—divine authority, and therefore they see their religious commitments as taking precedence over their civic ones. But this tendency makes it more challenging for liberals to adjudicate conflicts between religion and politics.

One possibility is for the liberal to argue that the demands of justice are prior to the pursuit of the good which would include religious practice. If so, and if the demands of justice require one to honor duties of citizenship, then one might argue that people should not allow their religious beliefs and practices to restrict or interfere with their roles as citizens.

history of the relationship between religion and politics in south africa

Religious Reasons in Public Deliberation One recent trend in democratic theory is an emphasis on the need for democratic decisions to emerge from processes that are informed by deliberation on the part of the citizenry, rather than from a mere aggregation of preferences. As a result, there has been much attention devoted to the kinds of reasons that may or may not be appropriate for public deliberation in a pluralistic society.

While responses to this issue have made reference to all kinds of beliefs, much of the discussion has centered on religious beliefs. One reason for this emphasis is that, both historically and in contemporary societies, religion has played a central role in political life, and often it has done so for the worse witness the wars of religion in Europe that came in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, for example.

As such, it is a powerful political force, and it strikes many who write about this issue as a source of social instability and repression. Another reason is that, due to the nature of religious belief itself, if any kind of belief is inappropriate for public deliberation, then religious beliefs will be the prime candidate, either because they are irrational, or immune to critique, or unverifiable, etc.

history of the relationship between religion and politics in south africa

In other words, religion provides a useful test case in evaluating theories of public deliberation. Since citizens have sharp disagreements on comprehensive doctrines, any law or policy that necessarily depends on such a doctrine could not be reasonably accepted by those who reject the doctrine.

A prime example of a justification for a law that is publicly inaccessible in this way is one that is explicitly religious. For example, if the rationale for a law that outlawed working on Sunday was simply that it displeases the Christian God, non-Christians could not reasonably accept it. Since only secular reasons are publicly accessible in this way, civic virtue requires offering secular reasons and being sufficiently motivated by them to support or oppose the law or policy under debate.

Religious reasons are not suitable for public deliberation since they are not shared by the non-religious or people of differing religions and people who reject these reasons would justifiably resent being coerced on the basis of them. Others try to show that religious justifications can contribute positively to democratic polities; the two most common examples in support of this position are the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the twentieth-century civil rights movement, both of which achieved desirable political change in large part by appealing directly to the Christian beliefs prevalent in Great Britain and the United States.

A third inclusivist argument is that it is unfair to hamstring certain groups in their attempts to effect change that they believe is required by justice. Many—though not all—who defend the pro-life position do so by appealing to the actual or potential personhood of fetuses.

Consequently, on some versions of exclusivism, citizens who wish to argue against abortion should do so without claiming that fetuses are persons. To ask them to refrain from focusing on this aspect of the issue looks like an attempt to settle the issue by default, then.


Instead, inclusivists argue that citizens should feel free to introduce any considerations whatsoever that they think are relevant to the topic under public discussion. Even the most secularized countries Sweden is typically cited as a prime example include substantial numbers of people who still identify themselves as religious.

These people are often given substantial democratic rights, sometimes including formal citizenship. And the confrontation between radical Islam and the West shows few signs of abating anytime soon. Consequently, the problems discussed above will likely continue to be important ones for political philosophers in the foreseeable future.

References and Further Reading Audi, Robert. Religious Commitment and Secular Reason. Cambridge University Press, Audi, Robert, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Religion in the Public Square: An accessible, well-reasoned exchange between an inclusivist Wolterstorff and an exclusivist Audiwith rebuttals. Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences School Choice and Social Justice.

Oxford University Press, Portions of this book deal with education for autonomy and religious opposition to such proposals. Callan, Eomann, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy. An exploration of civic education in light of Rawlsian political liberalism.

The Culture of Disbelief: Religion and Democratic Citizenship: Inquiry and Conviction in the American Public Square. Princeton University Press, A collection of essays on political topics from a wide array of Christian traditions. Religion in the Liberal Polity.

University of Notre Dame Press, A collection of essays on religion, rights, public deliberation, and related topics. Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism.

Book 3 of this work concerns the relation and division between Church and State. Social dynamics in Africa may best be viewed as an entwined triple-stranded helix of state, class, and ethnicity. The metaphor of the triple strand is useful in understanding the political and social role of religion in Africa, with the three strands of the helix comprising religion, ethnicity, and politics.

Politics and Religion: Politics and African Religious Traditions | immobilier-haute-garonne.info

Each appears to be a facet of most Africans' individual worldviews, and in certain situations and at certain times, one element may, as least temporarily, dominate the others.

For example, sometimes religious beliefs or solidarity will serve to form the main context for political action, with political concerns imbued with religious notions that help determine the nature of a particular group's collective response. Examples in this regard include recent political developments in both Nigeria and Sudan, where interreligious conflict—in both cases between Muslims and non-Muslims—reflects an array of both spiritual and material concerns that interact within very fluid boundaries.

Colonialization This points to how religious and political power have developed historically in and between African religious traditions.

The nature and characteristics of the contemporary African state are in large part a function of the legacy of the colonial era, a period of time that ended in most cases, in the s. During the main period of European colonization in Africa s—the two main colonizing countries, France and Britain, were themselves evolving their own democratic political systems.

However, the political institutions both countries created in Africa during colonialism were little, if anything, more than naked instruments of domination. With administrative networks often grafted on to preexisting institutions, European hegemony and security were very closely linked. Colonial administrations attempted to employ religion as a tactic in their pursuit of political domination.

Yet religious interaction between ordinary Africans and the colonial authorities was by no means a straightforward relationship between dominance and dependence.

Africans often used their religious beliefs as a means to adjust the relationship between themselves and colonial authorities in their favor as far as possible. Whether through the founding of independent churches or via Africanized modes of Islam, religious leaders sought to create and develop socially and communally relevant and popular religious organizations. Such religious organizations tended to function well during the colonial period because they served as appropriate focal points for ordinary people's attempts to come to terms with and to adapt to the forces of change summarized as modernizationthat were a result of the intrusion of European rule.

In other words, such religious organizations functioned as statements of social, political, and economic interaction as well as important foci of community aims and strategy. European mission churches, on the other hand, were an important facet of attempted colonial cultural domination. They had both repressive and liberating functions as agents of European superiority and political domination.

However, they were also purveyors of modernization, especially Western education, the acquisition of which was quickly noted by many Christian Africans as the key route to advancement in colonial society. Preexisting Muslim communities, however, reacted to European-inspired modernization by attempting to deal with its impact without compromising Islamic ideals. Other Muslim groups adopted armed struggle against the Europeans, especially during the period from the s towhen they were soundly defeated by the superiority of the Europeans' military technology.

The consequences of the colonial period for the relation between religion and politics in Africa were profound. Consequently, it is appropriate to regard the nature and characteristics of religion's role in politics in contemporary Africa as a result of the multiple changes occasioned by European colonialism.

The few territories that did not undergo entrenched and formal foreign control Liberia, Ethiopia, and several others nevertheless absorbed European-led modernizing influences almost as though they had. Colonies, where a majority of the population were neither Christian nor Muslim during the period of colonial rule e.

As a result, the various traditional religious activities had to function within the Europeans' legal jurisdiction. In addition, throughout much of Africa, Muslims had to coexist with and be bound by European power, as they were ultimately under the latter's control.

It is important to note that the role of mission Christianity as an institutional force during the colonial period was not simply one of undifferentiated support of temporal political power. Whether or not the colony was settler-dominated was significant for an understanding of the relationship between Christian missionaries and colonial authorities. If large numbers of settlers were present e. On the other hand, where substantive numbers of white settlers were absent as in most of West and west-central Africa, as well as Ugandathen Christian missionaries and the colonial authorities tended to develop clearly mutually supportive relationships.

Yet because various Christian churches Roman Catholic, as well as a variety of Protestant denominations were in direct competition for converts, there was rivalry between them. Sometimes, however, a truce would be declared in face of the common enemy of Islam. When Islam appeared as a key threat to Christian dominance and well-being, steps were taken to try to undermine its attraction by offering Western education to putative converts.

However, where Islam was already religiously and culturally dominant, as in vast swathes of North, northwest, and East Africa, then the temptation of Western-style education and its attendant material rewards was usually insufficient in the face of cultural and community solidarity to win many, if any, converts to Christianity.

However, sometimes after serious opposition e. It is noteworthy that a particular form of transnational Islam, or pan-Islamism, was of great concern for colonial rulers in the early years of the twentieth century.

Especially around the time of World War Imany European colonial administrations were worried that both Germany and the Turkish Ottoman Empire were in tandem politically, seeking out and cultivating African Muslim leaders to be allies in their strategic rivalries with Britain and France. But in fact there was virtually no realistic chance of a pan-Islamic movement developing in Africa at that time because African Muslims were—and still are—often fundamentally divided, whether by ethnicity, nationality, area of domicile urban or rural locatedtheir view of the role of Islam in both private and public spheres, or a combination of these factors.

Modernization and Christianity As in the early twentieth century period in Africa, contemporary trends relating to the relation between religion and politics in Africa often reflect not only what occurs locally, but are also connected to what takes place outside the region. As is often noted, over the last three decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, religion has generally had a considerable impact on politics in many regions of the world, not just in Africa.

One common explanation points to a resurgence of religion in the face of failed or flawed modernization. That is, the earlier widespread affirmation that modernization i.

In Africa, what are widely perceived as unwelcome symptoms of modernization, such as a perceived breakdown of moral behavior especially among the youngeducational overliberalization, and generally worsening social habits, are frequently linked to persistent governmental failures throughout the region to push through and consolidate appropriate programs of social improvement.

Reactions in many African countries not only to failed modernization but also to ideas such as democracy spread by globalization were often focused in vociferous demands for incumbent governments to resign.

In such protests, religious leaders were frequently well represented. In many African countries in the s, mass protests occurred in which millions of ordinary people took to the streets to protest at their venal and corrupt governments.

A consequence of such protests was that, in the s, many African countries underwent at least a degree of democratization. This involved a series of widespread political upheavals, focusing on demands for qualitative political change as well as more and better economic and human rights. This development reflected a reawakening of civil society's political voice, with trade union officials, higher-education students, businesspeople, civil servants, and, in many African countries, Christian leaders coordinating and leading protest efforts.

Such demands were later focused by professional politicians as integral parts of political programs. The hope was that following democratization elected leaders would tackle—with energy, resourcefulness, and imagination—the pressing economic, political, and social problems of the continent.

African demands for both democratization and economic change were the result of a rediscovery of political voice by long quiescent interest groups who were encouraged by international developments, most notably the shift away from Communism in the former Soviet Union.

Concerns were exacerbated by years of popular frustration and disappointment, for the promises of independence had turned out, almost everywhere, to be hollow. Frequently, senior Christian figures were instrumental in the clamor for political and economic changes—for example, in South AfricaKenya, and various francophone West African countries. Christian, especially Roman Catholic, leaders were often prominent in prodemocracy campaigns opposing, denouncing, and frustrating authoritarian regimes and, in several cases, these campaigns were successful in removing entrenched governments from power.

It is significant that such Christian leaders were not, on the whole, in the forefront of demands for similar political reforms during the twilight of colonial rule in the s and s.

The simple answer is that in the s and s senior Christian leaders in Africa were almost always Europeans. Such people tended overwhelmingly to support the concept—if not always every aspect of the practice—of colonial rule for three main reasons.

First, they shared racial bonds with colonial administrators. Second, they believed that colonial rule had provided much-needed law, order, and European civilization to Africa.

Third, both religious leaders and secular rulers were members of the same socioeconomic elite, with a class stake in the status quo.

In short, class, racial, and institutional bonds bound Christian leaders to the colonial regimes. During the s and s, mainline Christian churches swiftly Africanized, with control shifting from Europeans to Africans. Later, in the s and s, leaders of mainline African Christian churches were significantly involved in demands for democracy.

For example, senior Christian figures were involved in national democratization conferences in seven francophone African countries in the early s; these were events held to ascertain the best ways to deliver appropriate political reforms, notably democratization.

At times, Christian leaders were very prominent in the fight to oust nondemocratic governments. Such people tended to have prodemocracy convictions for three main reasons: Given their perceptions of their Christian leaders as spiritual guides, and in the customary absence of independent and effective political parties, ordinary Christians quite naturally turned to their religious leaders as appropriate figures to take action on their behalf.

In short, Africa's recent democratization was linked to the individual and collective efforts of many Christian leaders and was a testimony to their tenacity, clear-sightedness, and lack of fear of the consequences of their actions in leading popular protests. Such leaders were in a privileged position to head such protests because of the general, although not uniform, Christian institutional independence and integrity throughout much of Africa.

In the postcolonial period, African political leaders have generally accorded a high level of respect to leaders of the main religious institutions, both Christian and Muslim. Because most mainstream expressions of both Christianity and Islam tended to be unidentified with the main interest groups, whether ethnic or class, their leaders stood on relatively neutral ground and thus could serve as a mediating element when social or political conflict occurred.

Consequently, leaders of both religious traditions were often key interlocutors between state and society. Many were highly respected figures whose own personal desires and preferences were believed to be subsumed by their concern to mediate disinterestedly between followers and the state.

Islam and the State Regarding the relation between Islam and temporal power in contemporary Africa, it is often suggested that Muslims are less concerned with or interested in democracy than are many Christians.