x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 December 2017

Secularist who called for separation of religion and state

Academic was 'against all aspects of religious extremism, regardless of faith. He was a man of reason, and his priority was logic and rationality.'

DUBAI // Fouad Zakariyya's fierce secularism won him admirers and critics. One of his books, Myth and Reality in the Contemporary Islamist Movement, which was written in the aftermath of the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, was an analysis of contemporary Islamism. He argued that a secular, democratic civil society should serve as the model for Muslim countries, a thesis that brought him into direct conflict with adherents of Islamic rule.

Dr Abdul Mouti Souwed, a lecturer at the Emirates College of Management and Information Technology in Dubai, said Zakariyya "believed that religion and politics should remain separate. He was known to be against all aspects of religious extremism, regardless of faith. Fundamental Islamists prioritise religion and revelation, whereas Dr Zakariyya was a man of reason, and his priority was logic and rationality."

Dr Mohammad Munes Awad, a professor of medieval history at Sharjah University, said the thoughts of Zakariyya should be spread to galvanise debate in the region. "The solution today is to deepen scientific thought and give gifted people the opportunity for their thoughts and writings to flow freely," he said. "By republishing Fouad Zakariyya's writings we can give room for others to respond to his ideas."

Zakariyya's intellectual standpoint often meant he was not afraid to highlight problems in various religious ideologies, said Dr Abdullah al Jasmi, a professor of philosophy at Kuwait University. "He had the ability to pull apart a problem and pick out the controversial aspects within it," Dr al Jasmi said. "Dr Zakariyya didn't believe that fundamentalist Islam could offer a system that is workable within the context of reality."

@Email:balqabbani@thenational.ae