Sunday 7 June 2009

Secularism, Citizenship and Gender Equality the title of the opening lecture on Saturday at Religion Revisited (see post below) delivered by Deniz Kandiyoti from the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She explains how the meaning and practice of both secularism and citizenship derive from specific historical contexts. Turkey and India serve as illustrations for secularisms in crisis. A telling example is the near-religious cult devoted in Turkey to great secularist Ataturk. Illiberal secularism may affect women's rights just as negatively as religious dogma... In India, the key national dilemma - finding an integrative narrative in a post-colonial society divided by religious and caste cleavages - has produced a pluralism that accentuates rather than weakens the role of religion in public life, because it is a political pluralism, says Kandiyoti, not a religious one.

An intervention by Cassandra Balchin (Women Living under Muslim Laws) pointed to the risks associated with superficial "religious pluralism": When governments talk about dialoguing with religion, they invite the bearded men - who tend to be ineffective in protecting women's rights.

By the way, against commonly held views, many European countries are not secular. In Germany for example, the Reichskonkordat between the Nazi regime and the Holy See has never been abolished...

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