Racialism versus Secularism

Racialising Religious Affiliation to Oppose Secularism

2020-07-21

A few excepts from my long article The Battle Raging Between Racialism and Secularism published recently in Topical Magazine. The article criticizes the tendency of today’s so-called “antiracist” activists towards racialism and towards racialising religious affiliation as an anti-secularism strategy. The text presents several definitions in order to set the terms of the debate, followed by numerous examples of the racialisation of religious affiliation in France, in the United States and finally in Canada, with particular attention to the opponents of Quebec Bill 21.

Sommaire en français Quelques extraits de mon article, assez long, intitulé The Battle Raging Between Racialism and Secularism (La bataille farouche entre le racialisme et la laïcité) paru récemment dans la revue en ligne Topical Magazine. Il s’agit d’une critique de la tendance, chez les militants soi-disant « antiracistes » actuels, à verser dans le racialisme et à racialiser l’appartenance religieuse afin de lutter contre la laïcité. Le texte présente plusieurs définitions afin de préciser les termes du débat, suivies de nombreux exemples de la racialisation de l’appartenance religieuse en France, aux États-Unis et finalement au Canada, en particulier chez les adversaires de la Loi 21 québécoise.

…ethnicity, like race, refers principally to a person’s innate, immutable characteristics. Religion, on the other hand, is an ideology, a collection of ideas, beliefs and practices. Ethnicity is a personal identity, whereas religion is an opinion and an option. The distinction is crucial. To change one’s “race” is impossible. To change one’s religion may be easy or difficult, depending on one’s degree of indoctrination, but it is certainly not impossible. It may be as uncomplicated as changing one’s mind.

If religious affiliation is elevated to the status of ethnicity, then it becomes viewed as practically unchangeable, fixed for the person’s lifetime, making the individual a prisoner of the religion in which he or she was born and raised. Conflating race or ethnicity with religion implies the negation of freedom of conscience. It also opens the door to social—or even legal—censorship of criticism of religion, because if a religion is a “race” then is not criticising religion a form of “racism”?

Religious apologists tend to love the idea of conflating “race” or ethnicity and religion, because such conflation is a perfect tool for deflecting criticism of their religion. However, they need to think seriously about the implications. If we accept seriously the idea that anti-religious sentiment is indeed a form of “racism” then the three Abrahamic monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—become, for this very reason, explicitly and unequivocally racist. Judaism asserts that the Jewish people is chosen by Jehovah and tough luck for everyone else. Christianity holds that those who fail to accept Christ are doomed to an eternity of punishment in hell. As for Islam, its holy book the Quran repeatedly expresses violent hostility towards non-Muslims and, in some contexts, enjoins Muslims to kill them. Adherents of these three religions would do well to reflect on this before embracing the religion-equals-race fraud.

It is important to preserve the biological meaning of the word “race” in order to prevent the apologists of certain ideologies from hijacking the concept for their own dubious purposes.

The racialisation of religious affiliation and the specious accusations of “racism” which it facilitates are hallmarks of racialism and probably the most important and toxic propaganda weapons of the fiercest opponents of secularism. These opponents are currently on the warpath in several countries. Let us consider a few examples.

Bill 21 is eminently sensible and moderate legislation. It is a matter of professional ethics. A representative of the State, while on the job, should not display partisan political or religious symbols. To allow the wearing of such symbols by State employees represents an unwarranted and unacceptable privilege accorded to the ideology which the symbol promotes. Several nations—France and parts of Switzerland, Belgium and Germany—also ban the overt display of religious symbols worn by some or all State employees. Bill 21 also bans face-coverings worn when providing or receiving government services, which is also the case for many European and African countries, some of which are Muslim-majority countries.

…one particularly creative opponent of Bill 21 links the bill to anti-black and anti-indigenous racism and asserts that it could very well lead to genocide… In light of the examples listed above, to say that Bill 21 meets with a hostile reaction is an understatement. The reaction has been hysterical, fanatical and patently insane.

This disinformation was repeated by many mainstream media as if it were fact, thus establishing a false link between an act of violence directed at a particular religious community and an extreme form of racism. Proponents of racialism and their Islamist allies pushed for M-103 as a result. Furthermore, that motion led to the formation of a parliamentary committee whose recommendations would open the door to allowing federal funds destined for anti-racism programmes to be misdirected into defending religious minorities and, through them, the religions themselves.

Racialism and the racialisation of religious affiliation are both profoundly dishonest and a considerable step backwards towards religious obscurantism and tribalism. It amounts to jettisoning freedom of conscience and abandoning universalism by labelling each individual indelibly with an attribute—i.e. religious affiliation—which is no more significant than an opinion, an opinion which not only may change, but which must be allowed to be changeable if we are to respect the individual’s fundamental human rights.

Read the full article.


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