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What is laïcité?

Laïcité (la-i-si-te) is the French principle of secularism and secularity. It is specified by French law and inscribed in their constitution, whereby the equal treatment of all religions is ensured, and the freedom of religion and conscience is protected. France prides itself in this clear separation of church and state, as laïcité forms the basis of the notions of indivisibility, democracy, equality and liberty of conscience.

Laïcité not only means that the state does not recognize any particular religion, it also means that religion has no place in public spaces or debates. Arguments for or against policies on religious grounds are deemed inappropriate; only reason prevails. There is a strict divide between the private sphere, where religion belongs, and the public sphere, where citizens appear as equal to each other, devoid of religious particularities.

By ensuring freedom of conscience and thought, laïcité treats the emancipation of minds as a fundamental aspect of education. This means that students are encouraged to think freely outside the confines of their own religion or culture, so as to give them the freedom to make choices for themselves.

I chose this name because laïcité represents a secular ideal. It represents a society where people can put their religious differences aside into their own private spaces, and live together in a truly secular environment where policies are made solely on the basis of reason and rationality. The ideal notion of laïcité represents the kind of society I deeply hope Singapore would one day progress into, because Singapore’s current justification of state-sanctioned intolerance based on the religious beliefs of some of its people can hardly be considered secularism.

Comments»

1. mark d - July 8, 2009

Great blog! Do keep writing!

2. AF - July 8, 2009

Laïcité so perfectly describes the way I feel about almost everything. I do subcribe to the belief that one should fight for the right of any person to believe in any (or no) religion as they see fit (as long as that tolerance is reciprocated), but I equally think that is entirely personal and should not be foisted onto others in any way at all.

Superb blog with very well thought out and expressed arguments.


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