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Alternative Paradigms


Zubair Ahmad

SECULARISM, RELIGION AND POLITICS: INDIA AND EUROPE
Edited by Peter Losonczi , Walter Van Herck
Routledge, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 222, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 3 March 2015

The renewed presence of religion in the public sphere has allowed many to question the relevance of an extended cling to the conventional western usage of secularism or many of its existing forms and has initiated a new political discourse which although it doesn’t manifest in an anti-secularist or ‘alternative to secularism’ discourse in any way has set into motion a new ‘alternative secularism’ discourse. Therefore, while some have argued for the inter-contextual approach to this re-construction and re-definition of secularism in contemporary societies, others have made the case for religion to be treated as a market organization that the state needs to get engaged with. Others have argued for the re-definition of the relationship of the state with religion with the collective religious sentiments imagined and reflected in due public space and a proper recognition provided by the state to what people have popularly referred to as ‘de-privatization’. As Charles Taylor has suggested, ‘Contemporary democracies, as they progressively diversify, will have to undergo redefinitions of their historical identities, which may be far-reaching and painful’ in order that the contemporary multicultural societies get secularized. This book doesn’t even in the farthest sense of the term, although it frequently resonates with such claims, indulge in contributing to this ‘alternative secularism’ discourse and identifying the processes that may lead or provide an initiation codon to the redefinition of the historical identities in order that the pursuit for a secular-plural society or an alternatively secularized order be arrived at. Neera Chandhoke has reiterated her argument about secularism without taking it forward which seeks to validate the liberal model of tolerance through coupling of secularism with the universal principle of substantive equality. Secularism as a concept, formulated in a completely different context comes close to what secularism as an ideal has been enunciated constitutionally in India. However, a discrepancy arises in the absence of any special protection which can flow into the concept only through its coupling with the universal moral value of substantive equality for the purpose of which however, the concept of secularism has to be located within the constitutive context of equality, rights, freedom, and democracy. Gurpreet Mahajan, however, seems to be at odds with attaching this idea of distinctiveness in constitutional embodiment and has challenged the notion of universal secularism, suggesting in the process that there is no fixated meaning or concept of secularism; an argument that sounds ...


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