The phrase "the challenge of secularism" was written rather specifically to describe the position of Roman Catholicism in England in the mid-twentieth century. There are two major issues making this rather unlike Islam in Muslim societies. The first is that the Church of England, officially established in the sixteenth century, was Protestant, and Roman Catholics were a persecuted minority in England well into the nineteenth century. The second difference is that only 20 percent of people in England regularly attend some form of religious service. Dawson attributes the precipitous decline of of religious thought, both in quality or quantity, to a lack of engagement with theological studies on the post-secondary level. The situation being described by Dawson is quite alien to the situation in countries such as Saudi Arabia in which Islam is a much more integral part of the social and political fabric.
The challenges faced by Islam are rather more complex, as modernism in thought, political structure, and culture is seen as culturally alien, associated with imported western ideas. Islamic societies have responded in two ways. One is to attempt to resist the growth of modernism, by such means as enacting and enforcing laws against blasphemy and apostasy. Another choice has been the development of more moderate and pluralistic approaches to Islam, trying to understand the religious insights of the Koran in terms of modern society. Many Islamic societies such as Indonesia have managed to create a synthesis of pluralistic democracy with a primarily Islamic population.