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Second International Congress of PLURIEL: “Islam and Belonging”

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Islam and Belonging

Dear Colleagues,

The Editorial Committee of PLURIEL is pleased to inform you of the organization of its second Congress which will be held in Rome in June 2018. After the theme of “Islam in the Plural. Thought, Faith and Society”, which took place in Lyon, the next Congress will focus on the theme of: “Islam and Belonging”.

The notion of belonging offers the double advantage of being less unyielding than the concept of identity and closer to the phenomena of “recompositions”. The notion may lead our reflection to sociological, political and theological fields, which is specific to modernity. Indeed, contemporary transformations need to be dealt with through the modes of transition, rupture and antagonisms that interact with tradition and modernity.

From this perspective of unity/diversity, uniqueness/multiplicity, how are the notions of singular and plural linked to the theme of belonging? How can we grasp the multiple characteristics of modern pluralism, and the plurality of belongings and opinions within Islam? Contrary to totalizing discourses that consider Islam as a global referent, the modes of belonging to Islam are, on the contrary, as rich as they are diversified. In other words, plurality is not the privilege of modernity, insofar as it can obey other logics.

From this synthetic introduction, three main themes emerge: citizenship, territory(ies), community(ies).


I – Membership(s) and Citizenship

Insofar as it is not reduced to nationality, citizenship is thought of in terms of a philosophical value and a political principle. Under what conditions and in what contexts is belonging to Islam perceived as a superior referent, disqualifying citizenship? To what extent did the Arab Spring raise issues in relation to the status of citizenship? How do the processes of conciliation and antagonism take place, between, on the one hand, Islam as identity and source of legislation, and on the other hand, the modes of political, legal and intellectual functioning of citizenship? In the European context, what about forms of citizen expression that claim to belong to Islam? How do the discourses borrowed from the Islamic, canonical and/or theological corpus produce new relationships to citizenship, integration, and public policy? How can those discourses bypass citizenship as a value for cohesion and act against the plurality of belonging to Islam? In what way do inherited languages, particularly Arabic, interfere with the vernacular, with citizenship and with the modes of belonging to Islam?

To illustrate this rich theme, three approaches will be privileged:

1) Comparative Study Among European States

Europe is the birthplace of citizenship as a universal value. The common references do not, however, prevent differences – not only in the legal and political treatment of religions, notably Islam, but also in the way the two terms “Islam” and “citizenship” are articulated and coexist.

2) Comparative Study Among Southern Mediterranean Countries

On the other side of the Mediterranean, Islam, which is the main religion, is a source of political and legislative reference which can be more or less important. What does citizen status mean? How has citizenship emerged in public debates in recent years? What status for non-Muslim citizens? What about citizenship in the absence of equal rights?

3) Comparative Study Among Muslim authors and/or actors

In positioning themselves on the relationship between Islam and citizenship, creators of public discourse are very diverse. They may be ideologues, faith actors and activists, researchers and academics, or isolated thinkers. How to distinguish between them? How do they act on the public stage? What is their impact on the social, intellectual and political spheres?


II – Belonging(s) and Territory(ies)

To what extent is the notion of territory a component of belonging, given that it refers to Islam as well as to other references: citizen/national, regional, cultural, ideological, intellectual, etc.

1) Concepts and Categories

Different notions of belonging are used: community(ies), society(ies), umma, watan, sha’b, etc. They draw as much from the Islamic corpus as from the concepts of social science, Islamology, or from the common language. Further insight will be devoted to these notions as well as to the uses made of them.

2) Interreligious Dialogue and Territory

A traditional object of conflict between the great universal religions, territory may, on the contrary, be a place of sharing and living together. Taking the territorial register into consideration, how does the transition from an antagonistic relationship vis-à-vis the Other’s faith to a recognition of religious plurality operate? In a comparative approach, what importance does the constitution of a proper territory occupy in the theological foundations and the historical constructions of religions?

3) Geopolitics and Territory

Climate change, economic crises, wars, migratory movements, exoduses; conflicts in the Middle East have been particularly murderous in recent decades, providing a fresh perception of Arab and European national territories.


III – Belonging(s) and Community(ies)

1) Community(ies), plurality, alterity

Europe under construction is breaking from its intra-conflictual past; it is also a space of pluralism, as a legal and philosophical foundation. How, in differentiated societies, can the notion of community as belonging be understood? Diversity of opinions and political divisions take place in public debates, beyond the different configurations in each country.

2) Community(ies) and fraternity

The notion of brotherhood is a key category in religions, especially in Islam. What are the anthropological, theological and ideological uses? What is the status of the Other in the understanding of brotherhood as belonging to a community? What about the debate between communitarians and liberals when applied to Muslims in Europe?

3) Community(ies) under reconstruction

The notion of community tends to diversify and to recompose itself in order to apply itself to new networks, to rebuild itself according to new relations: considering the evolution of the new networks, the notion of community tends to be referred to in different ways leading to the emergence of new kind of relations.


Kind regards,

The Editorial Committee of PLURIEL

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