Confessions of a Secular Pragmatist

In an age of rising religiosity and asserting majoratarian  identities from beirut to banares to bandung, with religion driving political rhetoric in the developing world where most countries are anthropological melting pots, this is a real reason for concern, a precursor for impending sectarian strife. India being a Hindu majority but constitutionally secular state, like Turkey and Indonesia (Muslim Majority), religion based  intolerance is rising. The AKP or the Justice and Development Party  won its third term in Turkey, which has roots in the Islamist Movement. Indonesia is recently been in the news for its crackdown on a Shia Sect and persecution of the Christian minorities (just 2%)  of the 1.2 billion country, is in constant news feed all time. Pastors endure harassment, on charges of ‘so called forcible conversions ‘ by right ring Hindu fundamentalist organizations. Christian missionaries still provide education access and healthcare to the poorest of the poor in India where the government apparatus is dysfunctional. According to the Sachar committee, Muslims in India that make up 15% of the population are practically excluded from the mainstream by blocking access.

Secularism has its merits, we have far more pressing needs in the developing world concerning achieving developmental goals than to worry about un-necessary religion based issues, genocides have resulted from such sectarian politics. In Rwanda- Hutus versus Tutsis, a democratically elected Nazi government slaughtered six million souls on the poisonous rhetoric of identity. the Gujarat 2002 mass murder of Muslims and the Kandhamal Christian killings were a orchestration  of the Hindu Right in India. Separation of the ‘Temple and Throne ‘ is critical. Theocracies hardly make for effective states, apart from revenues  driven by natural resource rents. Value systems and religious societies have good informal social frameworks but governance is a different issue. Hard Multiculturalism in Singapore is the pillar of its strength.  Secularism is also the foundation on which the Indian Civilization is built. Societies which protect their minorities are strong because they prevent conflict by creating a positive buy in to the system. Nigeria, is divided down the middle between its Muslim North and its Christian South and sectarian strife is common, experienced its first suicide bombing yesterday. Hard Secularism and Multi Culturalism is the software based on which multi ethnic societies will survive and flourish peacefully.

In identity based conflicts, its the poverty stricken bottom strata which are used as pawns and made to pay the price for the rich who are living secular lifestyles but profess a religious ideological bent. Most of the insurgents in Af-Pak and Iraq are very poor, poverty is capability deprivation, religious issues are indeed very secondary.

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