His newspaper just ran this piece quoting a speech he made about India, a country in which I spent two years of my boyhood. I was intrigued by Khaled's view that "secularism" must be India's future if it is avoid the kind of religious extremism that has stained Saudi Arabia. (That's my paraphrase of his remarks.)
When Khaled talks about a secular polity in India, I think he means that the country must avoid turning governing power over to leaders of any particular religion to rule on the basis of their religious beliefs. India is predominantly Hindu (just over 80 percent), with Muslims making up about 12 percent and with Christians and Sikhs each accounting for about 2 percent.
In such a country -- and I would include the United States among such countries -- it's crucial to maintain peace among the followers of various religious traditions. So when Khaled uses the term secularism, I think he means a system of governance that does not -- unlike Saudi Arabia -- give preference to any particular religion.
It's fascinating to hear this argument coming from an influential Saudi. I may be reading too much into this, but I take Khaled's remarks as something of a criticism of the Saudi polity. In Saudi Arabia, the Qur'an is considered the Constitution. And the only religion anyone is allowed to practice there publicly is Islam.
So I see Khaled Almaeena as another voice for reform in the kingdom. And, for sure, it needs more such voices.
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PROTECT RELIGION? NOT THIS WAY
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P.S.: My latest column for The Presbyterian Outlook now is online. For that plus earlier Outlook columns, click here.
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