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Secularism is not militant but tolerant

Published 16/02/2012

In HER speech at the Vatican, and her Daily Telegraph article on Tuesday, Sayeeda Warsi has once again criticised 'militant secularisation' as 'intolerant' and 'illiberal' and called for Christianity and 'Christian values' to be reaffirmed in Europe and in the European Constitution.

The irony seems to have escaped the Baroness that calling for 'God' to be included in the EU Constitution - a document which covers all the citizens of a continent - would itself be deeply intolerant in ignoring the rights of those growing numbers who do not believe in a God.

She also misunderstands secularism which, far from being 'militant', is moderate and inclusive of everyone. It argues for a neutral state in a pluralist society, where we all have the right to religious faith or none.

Religious and non-religious people are free to argue their respective corners on the political landscape and the state acts as a neutral referee.

The USA is a secular state, yet religion thrives. So is Turkey, yet there are mosques everywhere and regular calls to prayer. France and India are also examples of successful secular states.

The commitment to secularism is thus a political stance that is compatible with a wide range of personal views and beliefs. It is entirely possible for religious believers to be secularist and secularists to be religious believers.

Perhaps Baroness Warsi should come to live in Northern Ireland and, as a Muslim, experience the divisive nature of fundamentalist religious beliefs here.

We have largely segregated schools, segregated politics and segregated cultures. Abortion is still illegal, RE in schools is almost exclusively Christian, and some members of our executive want six-day creationism taught in science lessons.

Brian McClinton,

Director, Humanist Association of

Northern Ireland

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