Following are excerpts from an interview with Egyptian philosopher Murad Wahba, which aired on Nile Life TV on November 8, 2010:
Murad Wahaba: Secularism is a way of thinking in this world.
Interviewer: In your view, this way of thinking is the only way to emerge from our crisis of lack of rationality?
Murad Wahaba: When there is no secularism, there is no rationality. Why is this? How do you reach a lack of rationality? By eliminating rational criticism. There are state institutions whose sole goal is to eliminate rational criticism. When this happens, people resign themselves to these institutions.
Interviewer: And the main institutions are the educational ones.
Murad Wahaba: That's right. From my experience with two [education] ministers, I can say that this is a fundamentalist ministry.
Murad Wahaba: Yes. And from my experience of university teaching, I can tell you that the university is fundamentalist as well.
Interviewer: As you know, the Egyptians are religious by nature. They belong either to a mosque or to a church. The issue of religion is very central to our lives.
Murad Wahaba: What does it meant to be "religious by nature"? Are there any people that are atheist [by nature]? What does it mean to say people are "religious by nature"? You can say that a person is religious, but that's it. By saying it is part of his nature, you preclude any possibility of change. This is like saying it is a second nature, something you are born with. That's impossible. That leaves no room for progress. You never need to... Certain terms are harmful. For example, we say: "sectarian civil strife," but this is not true – these are two fundamentalist ideologies battling one another.
If [the fundamentalists] get a real chance, without being curbed, they will take over the regime, and they will do it through elections.
Interviewer: Through the elections ballot?
Murad Wahaba: Yes, just like in Gaza. Any intellectual who wants change must understand the mechanism of this process.
Interviewer: What will be the outcome? Do you view this as a danger, or perhaps this will be advantageous, as in the case of Turkey, for example? I'm playing devil's advocate, I'm using rational criticism.
Murad Wahaba: Yes. Because we talk about the example of Turkey, let me ask: What did the Turkish intellectuals do? They established the Turkey Al-Fatat, which consisted of a group of young intellectuals. They established a secular ideology, and took responsibility for it. Along came Kemal Ataturk, and developed the ideology. His problem was that he placed too much emphasis on the army. It would have been better if he had focused on the intellectuals. When you focus on the army, it is dangerous, because secularism is a way of thinking, not a political regime.