Conference of Michaela NEULINGER during the second International Congress of PLURIEL in Rome.
In contemporary times, the principle “citizenship” is defended as an inclusive concept uniting people in religiously and culturally plural states, on the other hand it is questioned by religious actors and abused by political populistists to exclude certain groups. Talal Asad and Abdullahi an-Na’im are two prominent Muslim intellectuals in the debate about Muslims, Islam and the secular state. While for an-Na’im this state and its concept of citizenship is a necessary prerequisite for peaceful coexistence in religiously plural societies and a guarantor of space and freedom also for Muslims, Talal Asad is deeply critical about the secular state and its institutions. For Asad the concept of citizenship as developed in the secular European states is homogenizing and in the end particularly discriminatory against Muslims and Islam.
The paper aims at a critical comparison of Asad’s and an-Na’im’s discussion of the secular state, its concept of citizenship and the possibly included discriminatory mechanisms. Is there really “no space for Muslims as Muslims” in secular-liberal European states as Asad claims? Is the concept of citizenship definitely the essential, inclusive principle for plural societies?
In a first step, the paper will introduce the concept of citizenship from a secular-liberal perspective, its framework and goals. Second, the positions of Talal Asad and Abdullahi an-Na’im will be presented and critically compared. Finally, I will draw conclusions for the development of a possible future concept of an inclusive “European Citizenship” that takes for serious the religious identities of people as a resource for solidarity and cooperation in a religiously and culturally plural Europe.