Pluriel

University platform for research on Islam

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2018

A comparative study of Tala Asad’s and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na-im’s discussions of Muslims and their (non-)belonging in the secular-liberal state

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 populists 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.

Titre original : “A comparative study of Tala Asad’s and Abdullahi Ahmed an-Na-im’s discussions of Muslims and their (non-)belonging in the secular-liberal state”

Conférence de Michaela NEULINGER lors du deuxième Congrès international de PLURIEL à Rome.

De nos jours, le principe de la “citoyenneté” est défendu comme un concept inclusif réunissant les personnes dans des États pluriels sur le plan religieux et culturel ; d’autre part, il est remis en question par des acteurs religieux et instrumentalisé par les populistes politiques pour exclure certains groupes. Talal Asad et Abdullahi an-Na’im sont deux éminents intellectuels musulmans dans ce débat sur le rapport entre musulmans, islam et État laïc. Alors que pour an-Na’im cet État et son concept de citoyenneté sont une condition nécessaire à la coexistence pacifique dans des sociétés religieuses plurielles et un garant de l’espace et de la liberté également pour les musulmans, Talal Asad est profondément critique à l’égard de l’État laïc et de ses institutions. Pour Asad, le concept de citoyenneté tel qu’il est développé dans les États européens laïcs est en train de s’homogénéiser dans un sens particulièrement discriminatoire à l’encontre des musulmans et de l’islam.

Cet article vise à poser une comparaison critique entre les discussions d’Asad et d’an-Na’im sur l’État laïque, sa conception de la citoyenneté et les éventuels mécanismes discriminatoires. N’y a-t-il vraiment “aucune place pour les musulmans en tant que musulmans” dans les États européens laïcs et libéraux comme le prétend Asad ? Le concept de citoyenneté est-il définitivement le principe essentiel et inclusif des sociétés libérales ?

Dans un premier temps, l’article présentera le concept de citoyenneté dans une perspective laïque-libérale, avec son cadre et ses objectifs. Deuxièmement, les positions de Talal Asad et d’Abdullahi an-Na’im seront présentées et comparées de façon critique. Enfin, je tirerai des conclusions pour le développement d’un concept de “citoyenneté européenne” inclusive qui prenne au sérieux les identités religieuses des personnes comme ressource de solidarité et de coopération dans une Europe plurielle sur les plan religieux et culturel.

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