Hivos International

Secularism

Aiding populations of remote, poor countries is increasingly seen as a neglect of 'our own people'. The arts are perceived as a 'left-wing hobby'; the costly recreation of misguided idealists. And caring for the environment? This is no longer seen as self-evident, but as open for re-interpretation. 

Working paper 5 is the result of a review of the work of IKV Pax Christi in Morocco in the period 2007 – 2009. The review is commissioned by IKV Pax Christi to the University of Amsterdam and conducted by Dr. Francesco Cavatorta. IKV Pax Christi has co-organized a series of debates between Islamists and secularists in Morocco as part of a programme with Press Now entitled ‘Democratization through the media’. In these debates, participants discussed about various actual political problems in Morocco.

The topics of human rights and civil society provoke a lively debate on both sides of the Mediterranean. It is important to underline the fact that in the political arena these two issues are particularly emotive. This publication examines this synergy, looking at the role of external participants (in this case, Europeans) in promoting democratic values, and looking at the reception that has been given to this “interference” by official bodies of the societies in question. The debates and contradictions concerning the issue of human rights and the use to which it has been put – neutral or self-interested – explain the feelings of reticence and suspicion.

This research seeks to examine the factors that play a role in initiating and resolving conflict over places of worship. Places of worship are specifically limited in this study to Catholic churches and Protestant churches that are members of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia, PGI).

The link between politics and religion is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, they have overlapped and intersected in complex and various forms and under different circumstances in locations all over the world. Their interaction has continuously led to diverse and changing outcomes, thereby reflecting relations of power at local, national and international levels. The conceptualization of ‘the secular’ too can be understood against this fluid background.

The idea for this paper originated under special circumstances in the context of the international Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme. For several reasons, the relationship between the state and religion became a prominent issue in the regional programmes of India and Indonesia. Prompted by this development, we invited the prominent scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im to participate in a seminar in May 2009, to discuss his ideas on Islam and the secular state with the participating academics and practitioners in the Knowledge Programme.

The Supreme Court of India had to address, among others, issues of secularism from the very beginning of the independent constitution. Justice Alam’s perceptive and insightful paper lucidly presents this long history of judicial engagement regarding questions of secularism as they emerged over time in India. Although the paper primarily draws from the judgements of the Supreme Court of India, it also provides a larger analytical grid when referring to decisions of the Apex Court on minority issues.