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Religious institutions try to justify discrimination by saying they must preserve their special "ethos". But why? Maybe they should remember another Greek word, the all-inclusive term that gave us "laicity". This word, which means "everybody", seems a better ideal for the world today.

By Luis Mateus from "A question to Salman Rushdie"

The Classical Greeks had two words to express the idea of "people" : the word "ethnos" / "ethnikos" and the word "laos" / "laikos". The "ethnos" concept was a narrow and exclusive idea, demanding a common shared identity, (the Athenians, the Spartans, …) . The "laos" concept, on the other hand, expressed the universal idea of "people"; it  was wide and inclusive, meaning effectively "everyone" and excluding no one.

The modern concepts of "laicism" and "laicity" were formed from the Ancient Greek word, "laos" / "laikos". "Laicism" is the principle that states that societies should never be controlled, permanently and exclusively, by any single group ("ethnos") with a particular historical, racial, cultural, linguistic, religious, ethic, economic, aesthetic, or any other background not shared by all. "Laicity", by contrast, refers to the various ways in which a society can convert the principle of "laicism" into practice – and one must be aware of the fact that there is quite a wide space for a continuous cultural, social and political experiment.

In English-speaking countries, people refer to "secularism" and "secularity" – meaning that church and state should be separated from each other and that society should be free from clerical control.  ["Secularism" is thus merely a means to achieving "laicity", and not an end in itself. More precisely, "secularism" is a  a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for reaching the goal of "laicity".]

However, in our contemporary world tending to globalisation this wider concept of "laicity" has become among the most positive and challenging ideas for mankind.


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