Akeel Bilgrami’s “Secularism: It’s Content and Context” is both fascinating and wide-ranging… Whether or not one agrees with the notion of an internally cohesive concept of secularism—and whether or not one agrees that this concept is more limited than we have come to think it is—one might still ask if secularism should assert itself through a lexical ordering like the one envisioned by Bilgrami. Will a prioritization of political ideals seem fair to members of a secular society, and, perhaps more importantly, does it capture the challenges that face the kind of democracies we currently characterize as governed by secularism?
Posts Tagged ‘Europe’
Is there a crisis of secularism in Western Europe? Is Tariq Modood’s “moderate secularism” the solution, or should we go “beyond moderate secularism” and embrace the “alternative conception of secularism,” that of “principled distance,” proposed by Rajeev Bhargava? In this piece I hope to show that, for the purposes of normative thinking—in the realms of political and legal theory, constitutional law, and jurisprudence in particular—we had better drop the language of secularism altogether and reframe the contested issues in terms of the language of liberal-democratic constitutionalism and its respective principles, rights, and institutional arrangements.
For Modood, moderate secularism can and should go on more or less as it is, but, in order to accommodate Muslims, must undergo some institutional adjustments. How then can we speak of—that horrible term—a crisis of secularism in Europe? Surely, this is hyperbolic, a gross exaggeration! Here is where we profoundly disagree. Moderate secularism, for me, is irretrievably flawed.
Even quite sober academics speak of “a contemporary crisis of secularism,” claiming that “today, political secularisms are in crisis in almost every corner of the globe.” Olivier Roy, in an analysis focused on France, writes of “The Crisis of the Secular State,” and Rajeev Bhargava of the “crisis of secular states in Europe.” Yet this is quite a misleading view of what is happening in Western Europe.
Two writers at the The Guardian enter into the conversation about this year’s World Youth Day and the public reaction that accompanied Pope Benedict’s visit to Madrid. Andrew Brown asks why the public appears not to recognize the Church’s accomplishment, citing the role of the media in creating a narrow narrative of the event, while Miguel-Anxo Murado turns the discussion to politics, claiming that the protests were perhaps not as successful as it may have appeared.
Pietro della Valle. Pietro della Valle was a highly sociable geek with an interest in all things Middle Eastern, c. 1620. His extensive surviving personal correspondence, preserved in the Vatican Archives in Rome, allows me to reconstruct the far-flung intellectual community of which he was a part. By exploring Della Valle and his world, I hope to discover why Europeans suddenly became so interested in Arabic and other “Orientalist” studies in the early seventeenth century, and how this knowledge affected the ways in which they related to Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims.
“Under what conditions does freedom of speech become freedom to hate?” Judith Butler recently asked. Here I will explore these issues in light of recent developments concerning the freedom of speech in Norway. I will argue that applying a cosmopolitan liberal approach to freedom of speech (i.e., along U. S. First Amendment lines) in a European context in which anti-Muslim and anti-immigration discourses are becoming ever more poisonous and pervasive risks underestimating the power dynamics inherent to the practice of free speech in contemporary Europe as well as overestimating the “mainstream” political and intellectual will to mobilize against the populist right-wing’s instrumentalized Islamophobia.
With the ascent of Marine Le Pen to the head of the National Front and her growing popularity in the polls, France joins the surge of nationalist parties that is sweeping over all of Europe. We must understand the new dynamics that underlie this relapse toward a continent-wide far-right movement: in its latest change of face, the far-right misappropriates the legacy of 1968 at the same time that it targets Islam under the guise of defending national values, just as its leaders claim to embody the value of personal liberty all the while asserting their belonging to the “land” of popular imagination, thus forging a new rhetorical repertoire and introducing it into European political culture.
On April 11th, the hotly debated “burqa ban” went into effect in France.
Recently the European Court of Human Rights decided to allow the display of crucifixes in public school classrooms (Lautsi and Others v. Italy, March 18). As Justin Reynolds noted here a few days ago, this decision applies not only to Italy, where a lower court previously reached the opposite verdict, but to all 47 member nations. In a New York Times piece, Stanley Fish outlines the reasoning of the court and analyzes the implications of its decision.