A couple of days ago a French eight-year-old kid was interrogated by the police for more than two hours. The reason? According to his primary school teacher and the authorities he “expressed ‘solidarity’ with the Islamist gunmen” authors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Last year European Courts ruled in favor of French ban on burqa, a political decision based on “security issues”. Well, in France women that wear that garment are only 367, or 0.015% of the population (according to an investigation carried out by the French Police). What a threat to national security!
Priests, other clerics and nuns cannot wear ecclesiastic clothing in public buildings or when appointed in academic positions. And all of this happens in the progressive France!
Is that the correct path to achieve real integration of religious and ethnic minorities and immigrants? It seems that France, and at some extend the rest of Western Europe have chosen the path of “Secularization”. Secularization refers to a phenomenon where religion is excluded “from having any role in political and social affairs”, relegated exclusively to the private sphere. A secularist extremist would advocate for the eradication of all religious holidays, public manifestations of religious festivities (for instance Christmas trees, Hanuka candles and popular street processions of saint and Madonnas).
In my opinion secularization leads to a worrying homogenization of human beings, to a reductionist gaze of the phenomenon of humanity itself and to an imposition of the Western ways to a diverse, complex and beautiful world.
But there is a different path. I strongly believe in “Secularism”, which deeply differs from secularization. Secularism refers to the separation between religion and the state, and the end of dogmatic and doctrinal influences in the legislative process. But Secularism also implies an egalitarian treatment to all religions, majoritarian and minorities, and unbelievers, allowing the public manifestation of beliefs, religious expressions and traditions in pacific and democratic manners.
The option for Secularism is not easy. It is a position that must be stood against theocracies, fundamentalists, and false progressives and liberals. This stand implies tolerance, acceptance of diversity and also challenges to our own personal beliefs. And is a stand worthy to fight for.