In almost every society today citizens belong to different religious persuasions or none. This raises the question of how the state can achieve its two basic goals of respecting people’s deeply held beliefs and ensure them equal treatment. Secularism is often offered as an answer. In it the spheres of religion and state are separated, and the state’s jurisdiction is limited to secular affairs. That is however not possible because the state and religion for their own different regions cannot remain indifferent to each other. This is as true of France as of the US, the two dominant models of secularism. This involves rethinking secularism, especially in the light of the recent resurgence of religion in a new form. The state should not be held hostage to a particular religion. At the same time it should be able to accommodate it and establish a working relationship with it. This seminar explores the basic outlines of such a secular state.
About the Speaker
Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh is currently Emeritus Professor at the Universities of Hull and Westminster, and prior to that was Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. He has been Visiting Professor at McGill, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and the Institute of Advance Study in Vienna, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Baroda. He is the author of Rethinking Multiculturalism, A New Politics of Identity, Gandhi and half a dozen other widely acclaimed books in political philosophy. Lord Parekh has received many awards throughout his career: the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for lifetime contribution to political philosophy by the Political Studies Association (2002), the Distinguished Global Thinker Award by the India International Centre Delhi (2006), and the Padma Bhushan honours in the 2007 Indian Republic Day Honours list. Parekh’s work has been translated into twenty languages. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, past President of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a member of the House of Lords.