Secularism is the constitutional principle of separation of the state from religious institutions. Secularism forms the core element of the basic structure of the Indian constitution. And even France is an indivisible, secular democratic social Republic guaranteeing that all their citizens regardless of their origin, race or religion are treated as equals before the law and respecting all religious beliefs.
France approach towards secularism
• The French state does not favor any one religion & guarantees their peaceful coexistence in respect of laws and principles of the Republic.
• The idea of secularism envisaged in India is different from that of France • The paradigms of republicanism, as practiced in France or multiculturalism as implemented in a number of Western democracies, such as the UK and the US, or indeed employment-based integration models of Sweden or Germany, are all in crisis.
• French secularist objects Islamic clothing, kosher or halal meals and “burkinis”.
• France was a largely homogeneous Catholic country, where the clergy had an unduly high degree of influence over the state’s apparatus.
• In France people are not supposed to wear any religious signs in the public institutions like Schools.
• Any act which shows signs of preaching one’s religion, get ultimately banned in the France.
How France can learn from Indian constitution
• Secularism in France does not allow religion into public space, Indian secularism on the other hand is based on equal treatment to all religions and maintaining principle distance from all religious.
• Indian Secularism deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also with religious freedom of minority communities.
• Only separation of state and religion isn’t sufficient for the existence of a secular state. On this line Indian model of secularism is different, the idea of inter religious equality is crucial to the Indian conception. It equally opposed oppression of Dalits and women within Hinduism, discrimination against women within Islam or Christianity.
• In India – state provides Hajj subsidy to Muslims, administrative support for Amaranth Yatra to the pilgrimages, and allows Sikhs to carry Kripans along with them
• Indian deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also with religious freedom of minority communities. Article 29 and 30 is the constitutional tool to acquire it. Within a particular religion, an individual has the right to profess the religion of his or her choice.
• The Supreme Court of India progressively elaborated the “Essential practice of religion” doctrine to ascertain which elements are fundamental for a religious practice and which may be purged, considered as mere superstition by the intervention of state without infringing the principle of state neutrality in religious affairs.
• Article 25 provides for freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagates religion; Article 25(2) of Indian constitution creates a further exception to the right. It accords to the state a power to make legislation in the interests of social welfare and reform, throwing up Hindu religious institutions of public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
• A good example here would be of recent Sabarimala case where the verdict allowed women of all ages in the Ayyappan temple and declared the banning of entry of women as gender discrimination, the dissent judgment of the view that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evil like ‘sati’.
The ideal of secularism envisaged in India is different from that of France:
● The paradigms of republicanism, as practiced in France, or multiculturalism as implemented in a number of Western democracies, such as the UK and the US, or indeed employment-based integration models of Sweden or Germany, are all in crisis.
● This can be seen in the banning of Islamic clothing, kosher or halal meals and “burkinis” in France
● France was a largely homogeneous Catholic country, where the clergy had an unduly high degree of influence over the state’s apparatus.
● In France people are not supposed to wear any religious signs in the public institutions like Schools.
● In France any act which shows signs of preaching one’s religion, the act is banned in the society.
What can they learn from Indian secularism?
● Indian Secularism opposed oppression of Dalits and women within Hinduism. It also opposes the discrimination against women within Indian Islam or Christianity and the possible threats that a majority community might pose to the rights of the minority religious communities
● Indian Secularism deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also with religious freedom of minority communities.
● Indian Secularism has made room for and is compatible with the idea of state supported religious reform. For example, Indian constitution bans untouchability under Article 17.
● In India – state provides Hajj subsidy to Muslims, administrative support for Amarnathji Yatra to the pilgrimages, and allows Sikhs to carry Kripans along with them.
● in India the various religious laws are given importance and identification like Shariabased personal law of Muslims whereas in France only uniform civil law prevails ● The Indian state may engage with religion negatively to oppose religious tyranny. It may also choose a positive mode of engagement.
● The Indian Constitution grants all religious minorities, the rights to establish and maintain their own educational institutions, which may receive assistance from the state.
If secularism is a social philosophy of thick friendships and cross-cultural bonds, then it has to be guided by compassion and not merely a policy of tolerance. Such social concern has to be nurtured and made an integral part of the political culture of any nation.
So, while concluding we can say that complex religiously diverse societies are not to be ruled by over simplistic and uniform laws. Secularism is not an opinion among others, rather the freedom to have an opinion. It’s not a belief, rather principle authorizing all beliefs Secularism is a principle which advocates the separation of religion from politics. It is the principle of separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. Thus, religion should be separate from aspects of state and governance.
Religion is one of the toughest challenges facing modern secular societies in their search for identity, equality and cohesion. It’s increasingly a stronger source of identity than nationality or ethnicity for minorities and migrants while majorities appear to grow more and more religiously indifferent.
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