A Dialogue on Secularism and Religion: French and Singaporean Approaches


Both France and Singapore are multi-religious and secular societies. Government institutions are separate from religious institutions, and people of different faiths are equal before the law. While individuals of varied faiths have the licence to practice their own religion, Singapore has laws that allow the state to step in if any acts are found to threaten religious or racial harmony. In France, secular traditions are enforceable by law.

As trends in globalisation and modernity result in countries becoming more ethnically – and religiously – diverse and complex, how can countries guarantee its citizens the freedom to choose and practice their own faith while also combating exclusivism?



Valentine Zuber_ResizeValentine ZUBER is a Professor at École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) at the Sorbonne. The EPHE provides highly specialised practical training in basic and applied research within three core Sections: Earth and Life Sciences; Historical and Philological Sciences; and Religious Sciences. Professor Zuber has studied religious tolerance in Europe from the 16th century to today and is especially interested in the history of French secularism. She also studies the history and philosophy of human rights, and has published and edited a number of books on these topics.


YTO_ResizeYves TEYSSIER D’ORFEUIL is Deputy Counsellor for Religious Matters at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He joined the Foreign Service in 2002 and has served in various positions, including as Second Secretary at the French embassy in Libya, and in Tunisia. Mr Teyssier d’Orfeuil was also Second Secretary at the French Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels from 2008 to 2012.



Nazry Bahrawi_Resize

NAZRY Bahrawi is a Literary and Cultural Critic at the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Middle East Institute-National University of Singapore. He is an Associate Editor of Critical Muslim, a UK-based quarterly of ideas and issues which presents Muslim perspectives on the great debates of our times. Trained in comparative literature, his current research project explores secularism and modernity in Western and Muslim cultures. Dr Nazry has published essays on postsecular Islam in Indonesian and Egyptian fiction, secularity in the thoughts of Islamic thinkers in medieval Andalusia, as well as postsecular dissent in Jose Saramago’s last novel, Cain. Outside the academia, Dr Nazry has published op-ed commentaries on culture, society and politics in international newspapers, including The Guardian, South China Morning Post and Today.

CAL_Eugene Tan_resize_280814

Eugene TAN is Associate Professor of Law at the School of Law, Singapore Management University (SMU). At the SMU, he also co-directs the SMU Centre for Scholars’ Development. An Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore, Assoc Prof Tan is a graduate of the National University of Singapore, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Stanford University where he was a Fulbright Fellow. His inter-disciplinary research and teaching interests include the mutual interaction of law and public policy, constitutional and administrative law, the regulation of ethnic conflict, ethics and social responsibility, and the government and politics of Singapore. Assoc Prof Tan’s research on ethnic relations in Singapore, looking at various aspects of race, language, and religion, have appeared in various edited volumes and internationally-refereed journals such as The China Quarterly, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Ethnopolitics, Journal of Asian Business, Law and Policy, and Terrorism and Political Violence. Assoc Prof Tan also authored The State of Play of CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] in Singapore (Lien Centre for Social Innovation, 2011), and is completing a book-length manuscript on the management of ethnic relations in Singapore. Assoc Prof Tan is preparing the Singapore country report for the Jakarta-based Human Rights Resource Centre’s study, Keeping the Faith: A Study of Religious Freedom in ASEAN. Between February 2012 and August 2014, Assoc Prof Tan was a Nominated Member of Parliament in Singapore’s 12th Parliament.



If you have any enquiries, please contact Ms Vani Gunasilan at 6516-8377 or via email:

Tuesday, 23 September 2014
2.30pm - 5.30pm
Seminar Room 3-1, Manasseh Meyer Building National University of Singapore (Bukit Timah Campus)