We are living in a world that is interconnected with knowledge, media and economics, and a world which has an over-investment of religion in the political market leading to an intolerant society characterized by hatred for others and terrorism that has struck our homelands and the homelands of others. It is therefore time to reconsider our attitude towards secularism. Is secularism really hostile to Islam?
At the outset, I do not mean secularism as applied in Europe, because we are first and foremost an Islamic society, and our great religion is guiding public affairs in our society. At the same time our religion does not restrict the movement of society, and does not impede development and progress, and does not stop us from benefiting from the experiences of our forefathers.
I see benefits from the positive elements of secularism as applied in the West, countries that have achieved great economic prosperity and scientific, technical and military superiority, and peace and quality of life, and life of dignity. These elements of Western countries made millions of Muslims dream of emigrating to the West. Secularism is hostile to Islam, but at the same time millions of Muslim immigrants prefer secular countries to their Islamic homelands, and in the West they enjoy human dignity, and practise their religious rituals freely!
What are the positive aspects of secularism?
First: Ensuring freedom of both the religious and non-religious citizens, their beliefs, individually and collectively and the right to change one’s belief without any legal consequences, the freedom of groups to practise their rituals, and the right to establish their temples. In secular countries, the religious or sectarian majority have no right to impose their religious convictions on others. Secularism adopts an anti-religious stance, but it does not tolerate an ideological group or a religious institution that tries to seize power to impose its views.
Second: Full equality of people of different religions before the law, regardless of whether they are a majority or a minority. All are citizens with full rights and duties, and there is no discriminatory value for a religious or non-religious belief before the Constitution.
Third: State neutrality on all issues whether at the religious level or not. The state does not adopt a specific religion or doctrine of jurisprudence, or in legislation, decision-making and the judiciary. The state does not observe the teachings of a particular religion, except for what is approved by the legislative authority, or at the level of implementation. State employees abide by the application of official legislation and not their religious convictions, and religious institutions have no right to interfere in the decisions of the three authorities.
Religious neutrality does not mean that the secular state does not care about religious, moral and human values and principles, but it differs from the religious state, in the method of choosing these values and principles, as the secular state chooses these values and principles according to the democratic method, through freely elected representatives of the people. The state is continuously reviewing them according to societal awareness, unlike the religious state that takes religious values and principles, set by jurists loyal to its authority, and then imposes them on society as a whole.
Fourth: Separation between the public and private spheres guarantees freedom of belief. Secularism separates the private sphere, for an individual or group, from the public sphere, for all citizens. The individual as a citizen of the state and his affiliation to a religion or belief are considered separate. They make a distinction between what is sacred and what is worldly.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the secular neutralism on religion is not derogatory, nor a lack of respect and veneration for its men, but rather a preservation of its values and principles, and a protection of it from political exploitation.