Each time has its own secularism.
In Europe two versions of secularism emerged: hard secularism and soft secularism.
The difference between them is the strictness of a solid secularism in limiting the appearance of religion and religious symbols in the public sphere, especially in places of education and work.
But they are based on the same foundations: the separation between religious and political, freedom of conscience, the establishment of the state on natural rights and the social contract, not on Sharia and religion.
Soft secularism appeared in European countries with a Protestant doctrine, while hard secularism appeared in Catholic countries due to the strictness of Catholicism in the exercise of political power and control in public life.
As much as the challenge comes the strictness or softness of secularism, noting that the two secularisms guarantee freedom of belief for all without discrimination.
Secularism in Europe was beginning to tend, even in France, towards soft secularism. But the Islamic challenge made it gradually turn towards a solid secularism, and it seems that it is a more solid secularism than the previous one.
France’s secularism faces, once again, the challenge of “universal religion”, which is satisfied only with complete control of the public sphere.
Islam is closer to Catholicism in its desire to control the public sphere, noting that we are here in front of an unfair comparison, because Catholicism recognizes a kind of distinction between religious and political, unlike Islam, which does not accept anything less than the complete amalgamation of the two spheres.
The extent of religious extremism comes the extent of extremism in the appropriate secular formula.
Today in Europe, the confrontation is no longer between church and state, but between secularism and political Islam.. European secularism will be shaped according to the course of the conflict between the two parties.
(Perhaps it is useful to recall that the global “new atheism” movement emerged because of the terrorist events of September 11. And because the old atheism appeared in the face of Christianity, whose fangs had been snatched away, the old atheism was soft and flexible. As for the new atheism, it is solid atheism and in sharp confrontation with religions back to the front. ).
The toughness of the challenge comes the hardness of the response.
I expect that discussions about secularism in Europe in the coming years will focus on Islamic issues and challenges and will enter into a struggle that will bring back solid secularism to the fore.