Part I: Introduction
Most, if not all, modern discourse on Islam rests on the following notion: to what extent can 'Islam' be 'secularised'?
The reason why is not hard to see: in order for Muslims to match the undoubted advantage of 'the West', they must follow what happened in 'the West'. That is, they must 'secularise'.
Sadly, the Muslim response is either one of unquestioned acquiesce to this Euro-centric view, or to rail against it in the form of 'Islamist politics', a culture which is often full of rage and anger. Even worse, segments of Islamist politics is very often demagoguery by another name.
But the former, the Muslim 'modernist' or 'secularist', is much worse, in my opinion. For at least the latter has allowed some sort of emotional attachment to Islam and Islamic history, even if the extreme fringes of this group often promote a form political and moral nihilism. The former, however, seeks to conduct a botched transplant, and impose the blandest of edificies, under the guise of 'modernisation'; namely those we can call 'Westernisms' . The crudity of these two positions is not something which is new. Shibli Num'ani noted as much in his travels across the Muslim world. 
The main point of this post is merely to look at a few issues relating to secularism, secularisation and its relationship with Islam, and the Muslim community.
One of the most fumdamental points, we are told, is that 'secularism' actually confers on society a 'value-neutral' stance. That is, there is no 'bias' which is often the case when religious views meet on the 'battlefield' of ideas (that different religions do, and have, clashed is true). Secularism, it is said, confers upon society 'progress', 'modernisation' and a more 'sceintific' outlook, helping to rationalise, at least partly, the foundations upon which it stands. In addition, it is often suggested that religion in public life causes 'stagnation', and the 'culture' produced from this 'stagnation' cannot meet the challanges they face today.
But is that the case?
What is overlooked, is the ideological baggage which 'secularisation', especially in the Muslim world, has come to carry. Secularism, as an '-ism', is more than the mere 'seperation of church and state'. Secularism, as an '-ism', becomes a world view. A better definition of secularism is 'a sphere of knowledge, values and action, which is free from religious authority'. In other words it is a theory of truth. Just as the 'secular' physical sciences provide us with 'truths' about the world, then 'secularism', can provide us with a set of norms, values and ethics, which can help us live our life.
But it is 'secularisation', which is better defined as a practical process, in which secularism as ideology manifests itself. 'Secularisation' sees itself as a process, primarily of history, in which the social, political and ecnomic institutions of society are freed from 'ecclesiastical authority'. Practically then, secularisation involves the removal of 'ecclesiatical authority' over the education system (the social level), the consfication of church lands (the economic level), the seperation of the state from the church (the political level), and so on. Yet secularism also manifests itself as a 'culture', a state of mind. This is referred to as 'secularity'. In fact, secularism even manifests itself as an 'ethical' code: secular humanism could be construed as one such attempt. 
The main points to consider, therefore, are:
i. Secularism vis-a-vis Islam.
ii. Secularisation of Islam.
iii. The concept of 'the secular' in Islamic history.
 See Fazlur Rahman, Islam, 2nd Edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979, among others by the author.
 See Muhammad Sibli Nu'mani, Safarnama (Travels), Lahore: Ghulam Ali and Sons, 1961.
 See the following post to this series for sources (following soon insha'Allah). For a sharp rebuttal of secularism and secularisation, which verges on the polemical, but nonetheless an essential read, see S. Parvez Manzoor, "Desacralizing Secularism", In: Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, Azzam Tamimi, John L. Esposito (Eds.), C. Hurst & Co, 2000. Also available online.