“Berets are OK, Headscarves are Not: How French Cultural Norms Distort Religious Freedom” with Rim-Sarah Alouane
Relations between the French state and public visibility of religion, particularly Islam, became openly confrontational in the late 1980s with the infamous “headscarf affair” in public schools, where Muslim students were expelled from school for wearing a hijab (Islamic headscarf). With respect to public displays of religion, the initial response of public authorities was a lenient application of laïcité towards the general public but a rigid one towards civil servants. In the 2000s, there were escalating public struggles between public manifestations of religious affiliation and politicians increasingly fighting for a restrictive application of laïcité that regards religious displays as a violation of public order. This increasing politicization of laïcité, where religious freedom was seen as an assault on cultural and republican values, has resulted in a toughening of the legislative speech on religious signs, particularly against Muslims who were seen as more openly violating French cultural norms. While restrictions of expression of religious affiliation of students began in public schools, we are now observing an extension of this control to people in public spaces. This expansion of repressive policies will end badly not only for Muslim minorities in Europe, but also the overall legitimacy and integrity of modern European liberal values.
Book talk: "Interpreting Islam, Modernity, and Women's Rights in Pakistan" with Dr. Anita Weiss
October 30, 2015. In Pakistan, myriad constituencies are grappling with reinterpreting women's rights. This book analyzes the Government of Pakistan's construction of an understanding of what constitutes women's rights, moves on to address traditional views and contemporary popular opinion on women's rights, and then focuses on three very different groups' perceptions of women's rights: progressive women's organizations as represented by the Aurat Foundation and Shirkat Gah; orthodox Islamist views as represented by the Jama'at-i-Islami, the MMA government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2002-08) and al-Huda; and the Swat Taliban. Author Anita M. Weiss analyzes the resultant "culture wars" that are visibly ripping the country apart, as groups talk past one another - each confidant that they are the proprietors of culture and interpreters of religion while others are misrepresenting it.
"Islam in Turkey: the Case of Said Nursi" with Dr. Faris Kaya
In his presentation, Dr. Kaya began with a short introduction to the life of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960) and the historical context in which he lived and wrote his magnum opus the Risale-i Nur, a thematic commentary on the Qur’an. This was followed by presenting Nursi’s perspective on living in a secular environment as an observant Muslim, his understanding of jihad, political Islam, and Christian-Muslim relations. Finally, Dr. Kaya focused on the legacy of Nursi in Turkey and around the globe.
“The Austrian 2015 Islam Law: Effective security or Institutionalized Islamophobia?” with Farid Hafez
October 1, 2015. Co-sponsored with BMW Center for German and European Studies. Austria was the first Western European country to legally recognize Islam in 1912 and was for a long time known for its tolerant policies towards the Muslim community. After 9/11, the far right has discovered the topic of Islamophobia and used it strategically in election campaigns. When the 1912 Islam-law was renewed in 2015, the dominant Islamophobic discourse had made its imprint on public debates about the 2015 Islam-law. In this talk, Farid Hafez gave an overview over the most contested issues throughout the debate, the various stances of the parties in power and in opposition as well as the many possible implications of the law for the future of the Austrian Muslim community.
"Christians in the Holy Land" with Jonthan Kuttab & Naeim Ateek
September 25, 2015—Panel event: "Christians in the Holy Land" with Jonthan Kuttab & Naeim Ateek. In the endless stream of coverage on the Israel/Palestine conflict, Palestinian Christians receive scant attention. This is surprising in light of the overall concern for Christians in the Middle East in American society and politics. This panel featured prominent Palestinian Christian leaders who discussed the condition of those descendants of the original followers of Christ who remain in the holy land.
The Bridge Initiative pt 3-Roland Schatz
On April 30, 2015 the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding launched its new multi-year research project on Islamophobia, The Bridge Initiative. Born out of recognition that the age of the Internet—with its democratization of communications—presents unique challenges and opportunities for those seeking to educate the public and inform popular culture, The Bridge Initiative brings faculty, subject-matter experts, and researchers together to examine attitudes and behaviors towards Muslims; to dissect public discourses on Islam; to uncover the operational mechanisms of engineered Islamophobia; and to develop and disseminate alternative narratives that raise public awareness and enrich public discourse on this dangerous form of prejudice. Speakers at the spring launch included Anne Norton, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of On the Muslim Question; Mehdi Hasan, an award-winning British journalist and Al-Jazeera host; and Roland Schatz, president of the internationally acclaimed media organization, Media Tenor. The evening event also featured a special message of congratulations from Congressman Mike Honda. For more information on The Bridge Initiative, visit: bridge.georgetown.edu