Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Modern misunderstanding of secularism.

This is based on something I wrote as feedback after listening to a Canadaland episode.

I was cringing during parts of your discussion with Former Executive Director of the World Sikh Organization Jaskaran Sandhu.  I thought I would offer a different perspective.

The term secularism has been co-opted recently by those with a very specific political viewpoint that differs from the secularism movement. They are suggesting that secularism is the separation of state from church, meaning only that the state doesn't intervene in the church.

The term is more broadly understood to be the separation of church from state, meaning that it was understood that over humanity's history that it is the church that is the aggressive entity that needs to be removed from any attempt at fair/impartial governance infrastructure.

Some shortformed it by saying "separation of church and state", to include both the times when the state was the aggressor as well as the more common situation when the church is the aggressor.

Prior to British occupation, religious groups in India were able to coexist fairly peacefully.  This is in relative terms, considering how "peaceful" other regions of the world were in the same eras, and the occupation of India by the Mughal Empire.

In a far worse version of what Trump can be seen doing today, the British lit and fanned flames of religious tension as a divide-and-conquer technique.

At the time of independence there was widespread opposition to partition from across religious groups (including Hindus, Muslims, Indian Christians, Sikh, etc).

The leadership of the Muslim League would not agree to Indian independence without partition. Partition resulted in massive deaths (estimates between 200,000 and high estimates at 2,000,000, and it was so messy that we will never know).

Partition looms over the thoughts of Indians to this day as one of India's darkest moments (and considering the occupations, "The Emergency", and other events that is saying something).  My mother-in-law survived it, living near Kolkata at the time.  She won't talk about it, but what I have heard is horrifying.

I am someone who believes in Indian reunification, and one of the many things that stands in the way of that ideal is the reduction of secularism that happened in India post-partition. With some Muslims being seen to "take their ball and go home" and cause so much death during partition, this eroded secularism such that Hindu nationalists have been trying to take over the remaining parts of India. Narendra Modi's BJP is an obvious result of partition, with Muslims being less safe in India and elsewhere as the years go on.

It is understood that some horrible things have been done in India to the Sikh by Hindu nationalists.  This is because of a lack of separation of church from the state (true secularism) in India, and not as you and your guest were suggesting that it was a lack of separation of state from church.  Creating a separate Sikh state will not make Sikh more safe, but will result in further segregation and make Sikh living outside of their separate state less safe.

I would hope it is recognized that segregation is not some ideal we should actively strive for, whether we are talking about different races or people with different religious views.

Note: I am not advocating for assimilation, with Canada being a country that claims to be secular but pushes Christian world views onto occupants. This includes peoples that pre-dated European/Christian colonization/occupation.  Residential schools aren't the only Christian atrocities against non-Christians in North America.

I'm advocating for the government to be free from any religion within the operations of government, and religion to be free of government within one's home and religious communities.

As to Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, you won't be surprised I have views on that as well.

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