In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Syrian poet Adonis talked about the need to separate religion from state, saying: "We must free religion from the clutches of political rule." "The fusion of political rule and religion prevents not only progress but knowledge and thought as well," he said.
Following are excerpts from the interview, which aired on August 10, 2014.
Adonis: The [Arab] peoples will not progress without carrying out revolutions, and unless they break away intellectually from their past – just like in Europe. If Europe had not broken away from the Church, it would not have developed. Similarly, we must break away politically and intellectually from our history, without renouncing this history. Europe rebelled against the Church, but Christianity survived. The fusion of political rule and religion prevents not only progress but knowledge and thought as well. Therefore, if we really want to embark on a new phase, we must conduct a new reading of Islam. We must examine the relations between text and life.
By linking religion to political rule, we turn religion into a mere tool in the hands of the regime. This constitution aggression against people, because it prevents thought, freedom, democracy, and all those things we are talking about. Therefore, we must free religion from the clutches of political rule. Is this possible? Yes, it is, but it requires a peaceful, non-violent, struggle. Violence deepens the link between religion and political rule. Therefore, all the violent methods that we are witnessing today in the Arab world do not move the Arabs a single step forward. On the contrary, these methods are taking them many steps backward.
I have always cared about the people. This is why I said to my friends, right from the start: Do not pin your hopes on the toppling of the regime, and do not use violence. These are the two basics. I told them that they had to be independent in order to be worthy of a revolution.
Having said that, I have opposed the ideology of the regime. The regime in Syria must be pluralistic and democratic, but this is impossible unless the people take action to separate religion and state. Democracy is not possible in Syria, or in any Arab country, so long as there is no separation of religion and state.
The mercenaries who came to fight in Syria only strengthened the regime. The regime today is stronger than it has ever been.
Interviewer: You are saying that the Syrian regime is stronger today than ever before?
Adonis: That's right because it was not the local people who took action – it was the mercenaries and a few people living abroad. At the same time, neither side recognizes the real, local, opposition. There is a flaw in… There is no revolution anymore…
Interviewer: But there was a revolution…
Adonis: A revolution began, and it should have continued in the same track. I said that I would never participate in a politically rally that sets out from a mosque. We, the Syrian people, must learn to struggle and die for our causes. If we examine our modern history, we will see that we have never fought for our independence like other peoples. Independence was handed to us as a gift from the colonialist powers.