varieties of secularism :: session five
by Eric Daryl Meyer
In the fifth session of the conference last weekend, Nilüfer Göle and Courtney Bender offered papers with sharper criticism of Taylor and Taylor’s method than any of the previous presenters. Unfortunately, I did not get very good notes from Bender’s presentation, so I’ve omitted the fragments rather than posting them. [Why am I posting my notes?]
**Nilüfer Göle – SECULAR SPACES OF THE REPUBLIC
“Law” has been banning the access of Islam in public spaces, so giving this presentation in a Law school is a bit odd.
Islam has an odd undesirability and invisibility. Islam is entering the conversation here in the penultimate session, where all three panelists are women. Here come a number of hidden and marginalized groups.
What does it mean for a Muslim to live in secular European spaces.
The immanent frame seems “given” and “natural” we are captive to the “picture” that we have, so it is difficult to see around or outside this frame.
It is more difficult to question the secular from a Muslim perspective.
This is first of all because the two seem radically inimical, contradictory.
Muslim secularity, then, is often a paltry imitation of Western models, cf. Derrida’s “iterations.” Turkey’s secularism is modeled on France’s
What would a non-Western secularism look like?
What Göle wants to do is displace the conversation by looking at secularism from the perspective of a Muslim in Europe, and from Turkey (a secular Muslim nation).
Where Muslims bring their religious identity into public space in Europe they become identified as “Muslim migrants” and are differentiated from “European Natives”
Watch Pope Benedict mention Islam (uproar). Watch R. Williams mention Sharia law (uproar). The religious dialogue of these two important figures becomes “unpure” when they offer comments on Islam and scandal erupts. Islam is an uneasy figure within European identity. Intercultural conversation de-centers traditional identity.
Turkey and France – Two Secular Republics
Thinking about these two can help us move beyond the immigrant/native divide.
Thinking about these two can also help us transcend colonial/post-colonial polemics and helps us think secularity from the inside.
The ban of the headscarf in both countries has been the center of the conversation in both countries.
We can understand French Muslim secularity through understanding the Turkish variety.
1. Secularism as a universal claim
2. Secularism as way of life, result of didactic efforts, “discipline.”
3. Women’s visibility as a marker of secularity in their sexual corporality—women as the markers of embodied secularism. Photographs of unveiled, athletic, corporate women are symbols of secularity. Where are head-scarved women allowed and where are they not? Which spaces are secular? When markedly religious people enter these spaces and act, performative events take place which unsettle the status quo.
Islam can function as a new form of religiosity, for migrants, practicing Islam can be a way to distance oneself from national identities. Sometimes those national identities are sources of embarrassment, where Islam allows people to identify themselves in other ways.