Secularism and Women's Education

Sunday I interviewed a local dissident. It was a fascinating meeting, one I will write about in a longer post at some point in the future. I just wanted to highlight two interesting points that were made during the interview. The first is the role of secularism in the rise of Singapore. As my friend noted, “Singapore is a small Chinese fish swimming in a Muslim sea.” The removal of religion from politics here in Singapore has played a large part in its success. But one critical factor in removing religion from politics occurred to me later in the interview when we discussed the role of women in Singapore. I’ve traveled widely in Asia and the lot of women, while no where near as bad as that in the Middle East, especially Iran, or parts of India, isn’t very good either. Women in the East have all the responsibilities of men, but none of the rights. Except for Singapore. I’m constantly amazed at how free women are here, how free of the fetters of patriarchal society they are. It’s refreshing. Almost a Nordic country (but not quite) in an Eastern Sea.

And then it occurred to me: educating women is a key pillar in freeing people from religion. When you free half your society and free your entire society to worship or not worship as they see fit, you create the necessary conditions for prosperity.

Sure, it’s not as simplistic as that. But it’s a damn good start. And the two are linked.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • whaddayathink I’m doin here? 🙂


    “While not a Playboy reader, she invites a male acquaintance in for a quiet discussion of Chagall, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.” – not a Hugh Hefner quote

  • A couple of points:

    A modern society needs a larger labor pool, and giving women opportunities adds maybe 10-20% right away.

    To remake a traditional society into a modern industrial one, you have to break the traditional power structures. Ataturk’s Turkey, Russia, China, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Russia’s Afghanistan, it goes on: liberating women via education and job opportunities takes a hammer to the old tribal ways. This is why the Taliban are madly destroying girls’ schools, to turn back this tide.

    “The Playboy reader invites a female acquaintance in for a quiet discussion of Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.” – Hugh Hefner

  • make is that there is an important connection between women’s liberation and equality and secularism.

    “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

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