Many people believe that secular state steadfastly and sincerely upholds public functions without any influence from religious institutions and groups. That means a secular state purports to be officially impartial in case of religion. This is because people are believed that accepting secularism is the one and only democratic way by which themodern states can establish a liberal world where every individual is at liberty to pick his/her personal and diverse religion. However, in practice, modernism left no choice (lifestyles) to hold except secular lifestyle and to tell the truth “secularism has emerged as a modern ministration that does not tolerate other religions”.
If we think, for instance, about Muslim society where Islamic culture for a thousand years has been as essential as basic needs. So, secularism as a central of society and human life may bring undesired negative consequences in Muslim societies. Plowshares imported secularism to Muslim worlds arguing that there is no other option for them to be civilized except secularism. As we are now in the modern world, we must accept secularism. This mentality is very similar to Church ruling during European Middle ages. At that time, pope had a strong tendency of ruling to despise human affairs and to meditate between God and afterlife. As a reaction to this medieval tendency, secularism, at the time of the Renaissance, exhibited itself in the development of humanism, when people expected to respect dissident’s view i.e. Roman Protestants were vnot bound to obey the mythical views of Catholics and every group should be treated according to their faith.
This was the original notion of Peace Treaty of Westphalia that was the root of secular norms, concluded in 1648 at M¨unster and Osnabr¨uck and ending the Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Protestant was significantly different from todays’ concept of secularism. Now, most striking distortion of secular history is the denial of Christianity. Though after the completion of Westphalia Treaty, Church lost its supreme dominance over state functions but secular movement at that moment never had negated the philosophy of Jesus Christ. Even the Treaty commenced by narrating that, “In the name of the most holy and individual Trinity: Be it known to all, and every one whom it may concern, or to whom in any manner it may belong, That for many years past, Discords and Civil Divisions being stirred up in the Roman Empire, which increased to such a degree.” So, there is no reason to be dumbfounded being informed that philosophy of secularism is nothing but Christianity and it is evident that the motherlands of secularism (Western Countries) are not free from the influence of Christianity likewise Islam in Middle East.
It is said that secularism does not force people to leave their beloved faith and culture whereas in the name of public spaces and officialdom should be religion-neutral, secular states indirectly refrain people from practicing religion personally. With a view to deporting religion from public spaces, initiatives taken by secular states were not praiseworthy and to tell the truth they did the same things like Pope ruling.
In many European countries religious institutions were used for gymnasium and stabling purposes. The properties of Church were looted illegally; popes were exiled from their motherlands. Institutionally secular movement commenced in England at the Middle of Nineteenth by the leadership of Joerge Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906). Under this movement, he claimed that secularism must be taken as a fundamental principle of state policy. Many European countries were influenced by this movement and inserted secularism in their constitutions. Holyoake established secularism as a fundamental principle of state policy. Before selecting the term Secularism, two more words were trialed and they were Netheism and limitationism. The first one indicated the denial of the Creator and later one for limiting human functions within world life. Consequently, lots of European religious people protested emphatically against these ideas.
Then, with a tricky, the term ‘secularism’ was taken up although the adoption of the term ‘secularism’, to some extent was a debatable issue as many people used to believe that secularism is anti-Christian. However, it was justified by including a large number of persons who were not literally Atheists, and uniting them for worldly welfare action which had the object of secularism and not Atheism apparently. In this way, the adoption of a new term got rid of a vast amount of impediment from prejudice and the use of the name secularism was found advantageous. In fact, since the advent of secularism, interpretation of secularism has become a controversial issue all around the world as it is no longer clear whether secularism denotes equality of every religion, or privatization of religious belief, or denial of life after death.
Unfortunately, the presumption of common people came into true. It was claimed that secularism means being unbiased; that is, in accordance with the principle of freedom of conscience, it refers to a government that does not interfere with religiously-minded and pious people, the same as it does not interfere with the irreligious and dissolute. While this is ultimately true, there were oppositely many rules and regulations occurred as such banning wearing of the headscarf, refraining believers from fasting, imposing censorship on religious learning, and the other practices opposite to religion implemented. In Turkey and Iran, secularism serves to disestablish Islam, to limit its powers to matters of belief and practice. In Egypt President Mursy has lost his presidency for not welcoming secularism as state policy though he was fairly elected by the people in general. Secularization, hence, does not polarise religious identity, rather it cannot stand religion to be exact Islam in the name of reason, logic, and evidence. If it is argued that secularism does not allow religion in politics and President Mursy did so. Then, another question automatically raises that whether the politics of America and Britain is religion-neutral? The answer is, of course, not. Britain is constitutionally religious country whereas American president takes oath touching Holy Bibel, commences his/her speech by saying, “God bless America” and their Dollar contains “We trust in God”. Is not it a violation of secular norms or secularism? Does it only applicable for Muslim worlds? Perplexing fact is that there is a fundamental push from secular worlds to non-secular states-whether this is the way they furnish their houses or the way they dress or this is the way to be civilized.
Thus, it’s really difficult to differentiate between the philosophy of secularism and Church. In the Mediaeval ages, nothing was just if it displeased the Church similarly nowadays, nothing can be fair if it goes against Secularism. Only Church had the power to interpret the Holy Bibel and dissidents were brutally punished. In the same way secularists make the decline of religion inevitable – they think it is a phase through which human beings have passed and which they have outgrown. In addition to this, they make a bid that the decline of religion is desirable – in leaving religion more primitive beliefs and practices can be discarded and might be moved to more enlightened ones. As a result, what was supposed to happen is just happening all around the modern world such as religion can be loathed for its traditional character and modernism is always acceptable as it is ?presumed to be eternal. If anyone goes against this stubborn attitude, then he/she must be ready to be unnerved, to be sent to the jail and even it would be just to kill them. All of these abhorrent activities are not simply disturbing and humiliating but eye-opening.
However, the phenomena of postmodernism can be seen as a condition most conducive to the growth of Islam that it is termed as political Islam by western world. Consequently, secularism triggered to coexist with religion in the constitutions of Muslim states, i.e. The Constitution of Bangladesh could be a glaring example of this hypocrisy where Islam is the state religion and secularism is one of the four basic principles. The State Religion.—The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religion.” Holding Islam as the ‘state religion’ and rearing of secularism at the same time are nothing but a continual two-facedness of secularism in Muslim worlds. Islam itself denotes the notion of non-sectarianism, so placing of secularism and Islam at the same time is a redundancy. In addition to this, secular education simply directs abstaining secular knowledge without mixing theology with it and secularism welcomes no ontology except logic, accepts no lifestyle but that of science and conscience while Islam does not solely rely on logic rather Islam is a combination of divine command as well as logic. Significantly, main stream Muslims also do not support this double standard position as theocratisation in a secular constitution can never be allowed, but this is happening. This is causing undesired negative consequences such as social problems and unrest in society. Interestingly, like Popes, many people in Western world describe this attitude as fully justifiable though ontologically it cannot be understandable. To sum up, let me quote President Abraham Linckon: “You can make foolish some people for some time, some people forever, but you cannot make foolish all people forever.” Therefore, it is time to evaluate the philosophy of secularism from an objective and balanced perspective.
Mohammad Delwar Hossan is Student of Law at the Jagannath University.