International Workshop: The Future of Religious Pluralism in Europe

International Workshop: The Future of Religious Pluralism in Europe
Friday, May 17th – Saturday, May 18th 2013

Academic Direction: Volker Heins (KWI), Riem Spielhaus, (EZIRE)
Location: Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI), Gartensaal, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen, Germany
Organizer: Research Unit “Interculturality” at the KWI & Erlangen Centre for Islam & Law in Europe (EZIRE)

Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center indicate that globalization and migration are changing the relations between the state and religion, because the world population, with the notable exception of Europeans, is becoming more religious and devout. Through immigration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries, the ramifications of this trend are increasingly felt in Europe too. With regard to Muslims, we are witnessing new combinations of well-known forms of xenophobia and racism with a more subtle and insidious anti-religious impulse of the “enlightened” sections of the population. These new ideological combinations have found expression in recent public controversies about Muslim headscarves, halal/kosher butchering, the ritual circumcision of Jewish and Muslim boys and, more generally, on the place and visibility of religion in European society. Overall, these controversies – and the policies they inspire – have a tendency to restrict the freedom of cultural and religious minorities and to favour a shift from a “passive” or “open” to a more “coercive” or “fundamentalist” type of secularism, in line with the broader European trend away from multiculturalism.
However, this trend doesn’t go unchallenged. As forces from both ends of the political spectrum join hands to restrict the space for minorities, other unlikely coalitions are forming to reshape European societies in the light of more inclusive ideals of civil solidarity. While we acknowledge that the “backlash against multiculturalism” is real, we believe that not enough attention has been given to the meaning of the intellectual and political responses and contributions of relevant minorities themselves to the current situation.
The forthcoming conference at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) will address this gap. Focusing on Muslim and Jewish communities in Germany, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark, the conference will explore various aspects of the triangular relationship between those two paradigmatic minorities and mainstream society. What are the available cultural strategies and spaces to express religious minority identity within late modern Western Europe? What significance does the activism of Muslims and Jews have on their mutual perception as well as on the perception of their situation within society? What strategies are available to groups that are historically perceived in terms of their stigmatized ethno-religious practices or cultural heritage? Are there structural similarities between exclusivist tendencies towards Jews and Muslims (“Islamophobia” and Antisemitism)? Do we see connections between an emergent European identity and new forms of ethno-religious hierarchization of non-European populations within Europe?

Academic Direction:
Volker Heins<>, Senior Fellow and Head of the Research Unit “Interculturality” at the KW
Riem Spielhaus<>, Research Fellow at the Erlangen Centre for Islam & Law in Europe (EZIRE)

Contributors (et al.):
Michal Bodemann (Dept of Sociology, University of Toronto)
Gerdien Jonker (Erlangen Centre for Islam & Law in Europe, EZIRE)
Riva Kastoryano (CERI, Paris) Brian Klug (Dept of Philosophy, Oxford University)
Tariq Modood (Dept of Sociology, University of Bristol)
Yasemin Shooman (Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin)

Volker Heins, Senior Fellow and Head of the Research Unit “Interculturality” at the KWI,
Please register (until May 10th 2013) at:
Maria Klauwer, KWI, Tel. 0201 7204-153,