In The Absent Truth, Fouda addresses the Islamists' call for the application of the religious shari'a law and for the establishment of the Islamic state as a solution to the decadence of Islamic societies in general and of Egyptian society in particular. He presents refutation of their claims and denounces their methods of intimidation and distortion. What Islamists portray as matters of doctrine and faith are in reality, according to Fouda, matters of power. What these people are seeking, he says, is political power, not paradise or spiritual salvation. Instead of answering their accusation of impiety and infidelity with counteraccusations, he proposes to offer reasoned arguments and proofs based on empirical, historical givens so that these important issues can be disuses in total freedom, rationality and transparency. He invites his readers to consider the following two points of view: that of the Islamists and that of the non-Islamists (without being anti-Islamic). The Islamists claim that Egypt has become a pagan, pre-Islamic (Jahili) society or, in a more moderate formulation, a society that has strayed from true religion, and they therefore argue that this situation necessitates the society's immediate reform by the introduction of shari'a law, which alone can bring the solution to the society's many problems. The other point of view does not come from outside or in opposition to Islam, he says. It affirms, first, that Egyptian society is not a pagan society and that it has proven throughout its history, from Pharaonic to the Christian and the Muslim eras, to be a religiously inclined society. Second, the call for applying shari'a law amounts to a political demand for an Islamic state, which requires from the advocates of this calla political program that explains to people how the application of shari'a in an Islamic state will solve the problems of housing, wages, inflation, external debt, productivity in the public sector, education, economy, and egalitarian citizenship, particularly with regard to women and religious minorities.
Clearly, he adds, it is easier to make accusations of heresy and apostasy than to come up with solutions to these critical national problems. Islamists have attacked and condemned those religious thinkers who have understood Islam in its core as a call for justice rather than a set of outdated formal measures.
In the final analysis, concludes Fouda, that we (secularists) want to fight is not religious thought per se, but violence. Those who believe that Islam is both a religion and a state project have the right to exist, and we should fight for their liberty of thought and expression. We differ from them and think that Islam is a religion, not a political doctrine, but they deserve our support because they and we are threatened by the intolerant attacks of the violent Islamists, and they more directly than we. ... Thinking, he says, should take precedence over anathematization (Anathema originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods), and tolerance shoiuld be able to contain us all. We all are Egyptians and equal patriots, Muslims and Copts, not a majority of rulers and conquerers versus a minority of ruled prisoners of war. As Muslims, we should not be terrorized by self-appointed representatives of Islam. Islam does not give sanctity to anyone but the Prophet. Fouda ends his introduction to The Absent Truth by saying that violent Islamists should know that the "future can be made only with pen, not the sword, by work and not by retreat, by reason not by Darwish life, by logic not by bullets, and most important they have to know the truth that has escaped them, namely that they are not alone ... [in] the community of Muslims."
In June 1992, two members of the Islamic Jihad shot Farag Fouda dead as he left his office with his fifteen-year-old son. He was forty-seven years old. The killers were never apprehended.
Fouda, Farag. Al-Haqiqa al-Gha'iba (The Absent Truth). Cairo: Dar al-Fikr, 1986; 3rd ed., 1988.
Fouda, Farag. Al-Haqiqa al-Gha'iba (The Absent Truth). Cairo: Dar al-Hay'a al-Misriyya al-`Amma li al-Kitab, 1992.
Adapted from Contemporary Arab Thought: cultural critique in comparative perspective , 2010, Columbia University Press