Secularism is not secularisation. An excellent distillation of this point has been made on CiF by Humeira Iqtidar and it is a must-read for people who (often wilfully) confuse a secular state with a secularised society.
Secularisation is not just the increase or decrease in visible markers of religiosity or in church attendance, but also a fundamental shift in religious belief towards rationalisation and objectification. The Protestant reformers were not arguing for less religion, they were asking for more – for a continuously religious life against the Catholic cycles of sin and repentance. Yet, as Max Weber’s influential work suggests, they ended up rationalising and secularising. To say all this is not to suggest that Pakistani Islamists will have exactly the same impact as the German Protestants. There can be little doubt that they will produce a very different subject and citizen because of the disparity in context.
This point has been wholly lost on lawmakers in the Netherlands who have outlawed “ritual slaughter” practised by Jews and Muslims, because it implements a “no stun” policy. Outwardly this has all the marks of a repressive measure applied exclusively to Jews and Muslims but dressed up as “rationalism” and opposition to “medieval obscurantism”.
This would be an example of what Humerira Iqtidar would refer to as “secularisation of society”. But I can’t help thinking that the Dutch, by applying this self-inflicted folly, are less concerned about cruelty to animals than about a stupid and ineffectual majoritorian grandstand to its minorities. It’s a point that’s picked up by the Humanist:
If the humanist reason for wanting a ban on religious slaughter is animal welfare, then the implication is that animal welfare is a humanist issue. Perhaps so (one for you to debate in the comments). But if that is the case, then why should ritual slaughter be the only animal welfare issue pursued by humanists? The animal rights group VIVA state that, of the 900 million animals slaughtered for food each year in Britain, around 12 million are killed by Muslim or Jewish ritual methods. I think in order for me to want to throw my support behind a ban on ritual slaughter I’d have to be convinced that the suffering endured by that 1.3 per cent of animals at the moment of death is somehow greater than the suffering inflicted upon far greater percentages during the course of their lives through transport and living conditions. Otherwise, campaigning specifically on the issue of religious slaughter feels, for me, uncomfortably like scapegoating. As someone whose meat-eating involves plenty of ethical inconsistencies, I’m not sure I’m in a position to lecture a religious minority about theirs.
It’s a shame that the Dutch, by imposing this ban, have denied themselves the pleasure of lamb-kebab rolls and salt-beef bagels. Holland is made much worse off for it.