7 July 2012

Mauritius: In the Name of God


Through her parliamentary question, fighting until the last ditch, about inserting the word ‘ secular’ in our constitution, MP Nita Deerpalsing has opened up a whole new can of worms.

Not that we did not know the worms existed and that they were eating our society from within. We ruddy well did. We just did not want to confront them. Now that an icy draught has been sent through the insulated corridors of religious groups, we have to.

New avenues for mature dialogue have opened up and, in the interest of society, we have to explore them. We have to decide what kind of society we want: one which tolerates all religions but also all manner of non- religious ethical beliefs as well or one where religion regulates everything in our lives. A society where faith is kept where it should be, that is in the private realm to be used as a source of solace for the individuals seeking comfort, or one where the only aim is to make a show of one’s religion at every possible opportunity.

The answer to our question is obvious and is implicit in the constitution. The reality of things is, however, skewed by different personal interests.

Some religious figures are already up in arms against the MP. As it is, I doubt that she represents the ideal picture they have of how a woman should be. But more than that, they probably already see their interests being threatened. So before long, the debate will take on dimensions which were never intended. Before it does, here's our two pennies' worth.

For us, secularism means a secular state, not a secular society. We are the fi rst to recognise that faith has an important role to play in the private sphere. By secularism, we mean respect and appreciation of all the faiths which have come from different places of the world and found a home in this country. But these faiths should remain private and should in no way be used for personal gain. Unfortunately, far too many opportunists have, in the name of religion, banked on widely held sentiments to catapult themselves to power helped by politicians of all boards who, in their hunger for votes, have encouraged abhorrent practices.

In the name of God, we have seen representatives of religions being parachuted to the helm of parastatals to do jobs they have not been trained for. In the name of God, we have seen others being given crown land to set up hotels and granted permission to exploit our natural reserves no questions asked. In the name of God, some of these selfproclaimed representatives of God have bestowed on their benefactors the title of " en ti git pli ti pti ki bon dié " . ( A little less than God.) In the name of God, an enormous patronage mill was created.

What saddens us in this rush for power and show of religion is that we have lost the essence of the reason why religions exist. By focusing on rites and rituals and making a show of them, we have forgotten that ALL religions preach the same things and that there are more things uniting individuals than dividing them. Because the spirit of religion has been nibbled to death by special interests, we have moved away from each other instead of getting closer.

Maybe becoming a truly secular state will highlight the commonness we share and have a soothing effect on society. So, let the debate begin.

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