By Nadeem F Paracha
Dawn: Many people get sick at the mere mention of secularism because they don’t really understand what it means.
Like any other ideology, secularism too has produced a number of variants that were moulded and informed by the cultural, economic and social dynamics of the regions that they emerged in.
The central plank of secularism that remains constant across all variants is the separation of church and state and/or the parting of religion and politics.
In Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan however, secularism has largely been denounced (by religious ideologues and sometimes even by the state), as a doctrinal construct that is anti-religion and negates the existence of God.
The advocates of this claim do not differ between secularism that began emerging as an idea in Europe (from the 17th and 18th centuries), and that variant of secularism that was influenced by the writings of Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Tse Tung.
Though it began as an entirely intellectual pursuit and was a gradual mutation of the Protestant rebellion against Catholicism, modern European secularism first exploded into prominence during the French Revolution (1789) as an aggressive ideology. It saw the Church and Christian priesthood to be historical tools and avenues of oppression used by exploitative monarchs and feudal lords against the people.
However, by the 19th century, European secularism evolved and balanced itself as an important component of democracy that merely wanted to keep religion within the confines of the church and around an individual’s personal space.