Secularism and State Neutrality: The 2015 Muslim Protest of Discrimination in the Public Schools in Ghana

In: Journal of Religion in Africa

Abstract

Pluralism is a discernible feature of many modern states. However, among the variants of pluralism, religious pluralism appears to be the most intractable in many modern states because faiths and values underpin the conflicts that are associated with it. As one of the legacies of the Enlightenment, secularism is a normative prescription for managing religious pluralism. Nevertheless, while many African states profess to be secular, more often than not there are no concrete strategies to objectify the secular arrangement thereby provoking questions on the status quo. Such was the case with the 2015 Muslims’ protest of discrimination in the public basic and second cycles schools in Ghana. Through primary (interviews and archival and historical documents) and secondary data, this paper examines the protest in light of the secularist arrangement. It first reviews the contours of the secularist’s lenses. Second, it historicizes Muslim-Christian relations in Ghana. It also analyzes the checkered partnership between the state and the Christian missions in the provision of education. Moreover, it evaluates the debates that ensued and the ambivalent communiqué that the National Peace Council (NPC) issued. The paper concludes with a note that underscores the dynamics and tensions that characterize many plural societies in their attempt to objectify the secularist principle.

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