Secularism and religious freedom : the impacts on governance and the economy




Sreepada, Kiran Venkata

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The role of secularism in government is an important question following the events of the Arab Spring. This report aims to look at how Turkey and India's political systems evolved in the 20th and 21st century against the backdrop of constitutional secularism. Moreover, this report explores some of the consequences of secular principles on economic and societal progress. Turkey, with a stance that separates religion and state, has had numerous problems between secular and religious groups. This strife has led to multiple coups and cycles of progress and political turmoil. The military sees its duty as guarding the secular principles of Turkey -- a problem for politicians perceived as overly religious. In India, which has a concept of secularism that requires government consideration and protection for all religions, what has evolved is a political system that pits a party devoted to secularism against a party that advocates a more Hindu national identity. In both Turkey and India, some social and economic interests are drowned out by more vocal religious political groups. While both these countries have different interpretations of secularism, the current atmosphere in both countries fosters civil unrest and, at times, violence. On a societal level the rhetoric only serves to divide people. So long as this rhetoric and atmosphere exists, there is a limit to economic progress, societal stability, and international influence. This last aspect is especially important for these two countries, which have broad historical reach. In Turkey, previous restrictions on religion have been repealed by the current government in order to follow more democratic principles, however, many also see this as the first step towards a politically Islamic Turkey. In India, the religious rhetoric concerns the religious minority groups. India is a country with relatively high governmental restriction and very high societal hostility towards religion. Much of this hostility manifests as public violence. The emergence and predicted victory of a more Hindu political party only fuels the public debate over secularism. The challenge is to balance secularism with freedom of religion, and perhaps accept an evolving stance that reflects each policy's limit.



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