The Meaning of Secularism

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The demonstrative instance is an article by Mohamed Amer Meziane, which is an attempt to reveal what he observes as the impossibility of secularism, that is to say that secularism is internally conflicting. An object of criticism is, possibly, France. In a contrast, the French state polices Islam in order to ensure that the separation of religion and politics is respected, implementing the impossibility of secularism.

In clearer language, the point is that the secular state intervenes to secure secularist separation, and therefore, it conflicts with its own principle of non-intervention. But this criticism is based on an error, a misconception of the meaning of secularism. The author affirms: Far from the implementation of a radical separation, the 1905 French law can only be viewed as a means of recognizing religious liberty only to that range that it can be governed and limited in the name of public order.

The law of 1905 on the separation of Church and State stipulates in its first article that the French Republic ensures freedom of conscience and worship, within the limits set by law in the interest of public order. It then primarily addresses issues of church property, only briefly near the end that the law makes it clear what actions are considered disturbing public order. Even if it went as far as Meziane’s interpretation suggests, there would be nothing erroneous with this provision, a prior wording of which is found in Article 10 of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Ma that no man should be molested on account of his opinions, not even on account of his religious beliefs, with the condition that his open declaration does not disrupt the public order established by law.

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) has two clauses. The first clause, taken from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), states that each and every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Significantly, the article places conscience and religion on an equal footing with thought (an activity of this world) on which subject the reader can consult the important article by Heiner Bielefeldt, former Special Rapporteur of the UN on freedom of religion or belief. Simply put, the term secularism  means that you have every right to believe that you want to, but that your belief does not hold a higher place than any thought anyone else might have, all of which are protected, but only within limits, according to the second clause.