‘Secularism’ stands for disengagement of state/government in people’s will to practice a certain religion. The idea of secularism proposes equal treatment of all religions in a state without any discrimination or personal intervention by the government.
It’s logical and desirable because human beings expect to have individual autonomy over their faith and beliefs and it’s ‘Secularism’ that fulfils this wish of theirs by freeing them from irrational intimidation and restrictions.
The splits and fights between people of the same nation due to religious differences might have led to it’s origin. However, the need for it’s presence is being felt more than ever before due to surging population and rising tensions between people of different communities all over the globe.
Countries like USA, India, Nepal and France have this term imbibed in their constitution making it a legal and constitutional right for the citizens of their nation.
Basically, the need for introduction of ‘secularism’ wouldn’t have emerged if people and state were considerate enough to understand that the supreme power is only ‘one’ and different religions are just ‘different ways’ of preaching that same one God for all.
Why should a state thrive to be secular is an important question that can be addressed by understanding following arguments:-
- First of all, the term secularism in the most common words or say, in the layman language stands for ‘freedom of religion’ granted by the state to it’s civilians. A state should thrive to be secular because it’s a humane notion that ensures safeguarding of human rights.
- Secularism ensures ‘harmony’ and ‘brotherhood’ among the citizens of a nation.
- It respects and helps to contain the diversity of a nation.
- Freedom of faith and belief provides satisfaction to people and they work for the development of nation without getting indulged in fights and riots.
- The idea of secularism strengthens the sense of equality among all.
- It allows for construction of religious places, institutions, educational centres , propagation of religious ideas and conversion of people into different religions providing autonomy to people over their religious beliefs.
We generally don’t realise the importance of something until it’s gone. There has been times in the history when people weren’t allowed to openly practice their religion or the rulers used to demolish religious places and asked themselves to be worshipped instead.
We have a come a long way , far from that dreadful history but we must learn to value this blessing of living in a ‘secular’ state where no one holds an authority to devoid us of our religious rights and we are free to worship Allah, Ram , Guru sahib , Jesus, Buddha or just no God , all at our own will.
Though one can hardly think of any disadvantage of living in a ‘secular state’, few religious groups who form a minority and expect support from government in propagation of their religion find secularism to be a disadvantage for them as government of a secular country is not expected to intervene in such matters or lend a helping hand. However, the people of that very belief are free to do this on their own without facing any discrimination.
India as a Secular Nation
Seeing the diverse religions that thrive within the domain of Indian national boundaries, the framers of Indian constitution found it fitting to declare India as a ‘Secular State’.
The word was added to the Indian constitution with the 42nd Amendment of 1975 and was reflected in the preamble to the constitution which shows it’s importance in defining the governance of the nation. However, the Indian idea of secularism is pretty much different than what is globally accepted.
Unlike the western definition of separation of state from religion, India sticks to a completely modified version which defines it as ‘neutrality of state to all the religious groups’ ,that is, the Indian Government is not separated from the religion but rather is unbiased towards them all.
It does take part in religious hustle-bustle going on within the country premises though never tries to establish it’s dominion over any of them. The religious institutions, charities and trusts fall under the concurrent list giving right to both state and central governments to frame laws regarding them.
The diversity of India allows flourishing of many religious groups in the country including, Hindus , Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains , Buddhists, Parsis and many other minorities.
All the religions in India have had a harmonious past amongst each other but because of the Hindus being present in majority and rising suspicion of Muslim involvement in terror activities has instilled a sense of biasness against the Islamic community present in the country.
The casualties of Indo-Pak division and enmity between Hindus and Muslims is still afresh in hearts of people whose families had to face the vagaries of the situation back then.
Christians too, are not considered indigenous but rather converted Indians or offspring of Britishers by some people and hence these two communities have been the worst sufferers of discrimination , though not always exposedly, but indirectly since the time of Independence .
Many cases of communal violence due to issues over religion and associated practices have been witnessed in the past raising serious questions over India’s belief in Secularism and Integrity which is definitely a matter of shame for a developing and religion- tolerant nation like India.
It’s our duty to carry forward the great ideas of the unforgettable leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar so that India of their dreams, India where all religions flourish and are equally respected prevails.
Difference at Global Level
It’s not that only India is facing the crisis of indifference among religious communities. Secularism and religious tolerance is an issue that is observable at the global level too. America’s intolerance towards Muslims is not unknown. Since the 9/11 attacks, Americans have developed a suspicion against the whole Islamic community.
The riots and killing of Sikhs in US is also somewhat related to this issue only. Then there are countries like Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan who are also struggling with the same problem.
The ideology of secularism has a way more to go. It needs to be redefined in the nature of civilians all over the globe. We need to understand that it’s ignorance and disrespect of minority religions that makes it’s followers turn up to terror activities in order to make their voices heard.
The belief in superiority of no religion and equal treatment of all should be strengthened to deal with the serious threats to secularism. There’s a dire need of realisation among people that all religions preach the same values of morality and that there’s always a scope of development if we take the good teachings of them all and imbibe it in our lives.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “We should believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. They are all God-given and were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And we should understand that if only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of these faiths, we will find that they are at the bottom all one and are all helpful to one another.”
Secularism is a significant notion that needs to be sustained in today’s society and that could be done only when we learn to respect individual choices regarding faith and rise above narrow mindedness believing in the universal religion of ‘HUMANITY’.
Each country of the world today should ensure ‘unity in diversity’ amongst it’s people because secularism is something we all should have supreme faith on ,otherwise it will just remain written in books as an ideology even the whole world together could not act upon.