Words of Wisdom:

"if you hold the ladder for the thief you are just as bad as he is" - Heto

Secularism a Misunderstood Concept

  • Date Submitted: 03/23/2011 11:41 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 36 
  • Words: 500
  • Essay Grade: no grades
  • Report this Essay
I REFER to “Human rightism vs religion” (The Star, Sept 22). I wonder if the writer realises the supreme irony of the final statement in his piece which calls for more open-minded dialogues to foster understanding and harmonious co-existence.

Does he purport to do this by continually caricaturing proponents of human rights and secularism as nefarious agents determined to undermine the faith of Muslims and to destroy Islam?

It may come as a surprise to him that several of the fundamental concepts which underpin modern human rights principles can be traced back to ancient civilisations, including Muslim civilisations.

A little closer to home, every one of the rights contained within the Fundamental Liberties section of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution mirrors a corresponding set of rights to be found within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Contrary to what the writer says, human rights does not provide for absolute freedom of the individual – an individual’s freedom is limited at the point where it would affect the rights of others.

Human rights are also flexible enough to accommodate diverse cultural and religious practices provided they do not impinge on the core set of rights.

Secularism is a vastly misunderstood concept. It is crucial to distinguish between secularism as a personal outlook and way of life and secularism as a form or style of governance. Secularism as an individual outlook may involve a partial or even a total rejection of organised religion, though not necessarily God.

On the other hand, secular governance refers to a form of governance that is devoid of subjective influences. It therefore lends itself easily to promoting the objective notion of human rights. There are many practising and pious Muslims who choose to reside in secular democracies.

I am convinced that human rights, secularism and Islam are compatible, provided that Islam and its tenets are interpreted with compassion.

Let us not forget...


Express your owns thoughts and ideas on this essay by writing a grade and/or critique.

  1. No comments