We often hear this word a lot of times, especially during elections or during some kind of political activity that maybe going on in our surroundings. We have heard about this word in school during our civics classes and we hear it quite often in institutions and in political science classes. However, today my objective is not to elaborate on this word but actually to elucidate on the meaning that this word carries and the misinterpretation of this word that people often tend to make. Friends, today I want to discuss about a very sensitive issue for our country and that is secularism. I am going to unearth some myths associated with this word so that there may not be any kind of skepticism associated with this word for the radicals as well as for the moderates in our society.
What secularism doesn’t mean?
Secularism, as it is often taught to us, doesn’t mean equal respect for religion only. However, this is the only meaning that is taught to us. It is always taught to us that being secular is actually to respect each and every religion and emulate the good things. This maybe a part of the meaning of what secularism is but is not the entire meaning for this deep word. By this context one may imagine that a person who is an atheist is never, or can never become, a secular person, which I believe is not true. You cannot believe in God and yet you can be as secular as any God-fearing person maybe without altering the domains and sensitivities of secularism. Secularism doesn’t mean providing reservations or any kind of privilege to the minority community. This, my friend, is not a gesture of being secular, but is a gesture of showing sympathy towards the minority and further attacking their self-respect. Being in minority is not a handicap, and so should not be ornamented with any kind of handicap policies such as reservations or any privileges. This only leads to vote-bank politics and not any kind of secular development of the nation/state that is supposed to be the primary objective of such policies.
So then what is secularism?
Well, I should have got the answers long back in my school days, however sometimes it feels very good to get answers by your own-self, by experience and not by the black ink of the book, which often negates any sort of ideas that your grey cells may be nurturing at that time. Well, now I have the answer.
Socially, secularism is about tolerance and co-existence. The moment a nation/city starts having specific areas dominated by a specific community of people, in that case the secular principles take a back seat. My apartment has people of all religions living in complete harmony without marginalizing any one and this my friends is the most appropriate example of being secular at a social level.
Politically, secularism is not about propounding and pronouncing the unique value propositions of all the religions, but on the contrary it is to actually eliminate the factor or religion in any and every political discussion/decision. A political statement containing elements of religious nature in it, however secular maybe the intention, doesn’t remain secular. This is because of the fact that in any case it gives rise to a sort of debate, which actually is not of a secular nature.
Administratively, secularism is not about giving privileges to the minorities or giving equal opportunities to all religions. Alternatively it is the principle of elimination of any kind of religious interventions in the administrative process that is being carried over. The moment you are asked about your religion when you are filling up an admission form of the college or filling up a form for your electricity connection, the administration is actually flouting the principle of secularism. If the dispatch of electric-power or education has nothing to do with your religion then why on earth is your religion a subject-matter for the entrée level scenario? This itself is a big question mark on the principle of secularism. The moment we have application forms that are devoid of any kind of religious divulgences that I may make then automatically the policies would not be religion driven but they would be kind of secular in real sense.
Other cases which are not secular
Showing any kind of sympathy or mercy towards a person doing a kind of an act that is actually gruesome and inhuman in nature is not being secular. In direct terms let me confront the situation, where we had our administration, nourishing a terrorist in the secure domains of our jail just for the pretext of a fair trial and for the reason of him being from a minority. This is being pro-terror and not being secular. Secularism, on the contrary is the union of all religious beliefs for a common cause, maybe achievable through different means, but common cause.
Essence of the words secularism lies more in non-existence than co-existence.