The challenges that confront Singapore's model of secularism

By opting to intervene to keep the peace in a multi-religious society, it has a complex job defusing threats on many fronts from within and abroad

Sri Lankan soldiers inspecting the St Sebastian Church in Negombo after a bomb blast in April last year, with the authorities blaming a Muslim militant group for the attack. Extremism is not restricted to Muslims, and radical Sri Lankan, Thai and Myanmar
Buddhist monks have also contributed to an atmosphere of Islamophobia in South and South-east Asia in recent years. The Singapore response has been to be impartial in cracking down on threats to its religious harmony, no matter what their source. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The French government's decision, to support the right of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons offensive to the religious beliefs of Muslims, has implicated France in a war between religious and secular absolutists.

In religious absolutism, the secular sphere has no place, and in secular absolutism, the religious sphere has no place. Religious absolutism takes political form in the confessional state, where the idea of citizenship is tied to a set of religious beliefs underwritten and enforced by the state.

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