Call for papers: ECPR Joint Sessions, Nottingham, 25-30 April, 2017 (deadline: 1 December 2016)
WORKSHOP TITLE: Political Secularism and Religious Difference in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa
KEYWORDS: Citizenship, Conflict, Conflict Resolution, Identity, Islam, Christianity, Religion
London Metropolitan University
It was long assumed that one of the main outcomes of a secular political order in plural societies was to encourage both emancipation and political equality for religious minorities. These assumptions are now strongly challenged by recent events in two neighbouring regions. First, in recent years, coinciding with but not necessarily caused by the post-2010 ‘Arab Spring’, violence against Christians and other religious minorities has grown in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Some scholars have sought to explain this as either a continuation or re-emergence of deep-rooted primordial conflicts or to Islam’s supposed ‘inherent intolerance’. In the MENA, political secularism was imposed from outside by Western colonial rule. Over the last few decades of independence mainly unelected rulers have sought to impose and perpetuate their rule via processes of political secularisation whose ultimate aim was to divide and rule the various religious groups in their polities. Second, recent and current events in Europe point to growing polarisation in many countries between the non-Muslim majority and Muslim minorities; and, often, growing intolerance and declining ability to live together seems to be the outcome in several European countries. In Europe, the overall result is that while religious equality, including between Muslims and non-Muslims, is a cornerstone of the region’s democratic foundations and constitutional arrangements, equality between religious groups is rapidly being whittled away. The purpose of the workshop is to compare and contrast the impact of political secular regimes in the countries of both the MENA and Europe. The aim is to understand the impact of political secularism in both regions, as a key component of inter-religious and cultural discord and contention.