Tue 21 - Fri 24 Oct 2014 | NISIS Autumn School |The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world | Nijmegen

From Tuesday 21 until Friday 24 October 2014, NISIS organised its fifth Autumn School. This year's theme was: "The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world." Conveners: professor Karin van Nieuwkerk (Radboud Univeristy Nijmegen) and professor Léon Buskens (Leiden University). Location: Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The NISIS Autumn School is part of the NISIS Training Programme. Participants can obtain 4 EC after successful completion of the programme. 

The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world

The religious /secular divide is a problem that haunts both public debate about the Muslim world as well as academic studies in the field of religious studies and Islam at university. More than ever, the divisions between Islamists and secularists appear to be at the forefront in socio-political struggles in the Middle East and beyond. Particularly the argument of “secularism under threat” or the fear for an “Islamization of the public sphere” or - on the contrary - “Islam under threat” and the fear for a “secularization of the public sphere” are forceful ways to frame present conflictive ideals. This not only assumes a clear demarcation between the field of the religious and the field of the secular, but also a conceptualization of the two fields as mutually exclusive and antagonistic.
Recent academic debate questions these assumptions and raises important topics for research that are highly relevant for Islamic studies. Starting with the seminal work of Talal Asad, other scholars have deconstructed the religious/secular divide and show its diverse historical and contextual meanings of which the mutually exclusive notion is a relatively recent outcome with material consequences. Several scholars now try to move beyond the religious/secular divide in their approaches to Islam. They highlight that in everyday life, religious and the secular discourses are intertwined, and that both inform daily practices and subjectivities of Muslims. Others deal with issues such as religious freedom, blasphemy, and apostasy as well as with topics related to the headscarf and women’s piety movements. Also analyses of current political issues in the region point at a need to re-assess the religious/secularist or Islamist/secularist paradigm.

Speakers in this Autumn School were invited to reflect on the tension between the concepts of the religious and the secular from a variety of subdisciplines in the study of Islam, that is, history, religious studies, political sciences, and anthropology.

Aims of the Autumn School

The three main aims of the autumn school were:

1. To critically reflect on theoretical issue connected to the religious/secular divide.
2. To critically reflect on the consequences of the approaches in which the religious and secular are perceived as mutually exclusive and antagonistic.
3. To empirically illustrate ways to move beyond the religious/secular and Islamist/secularist division.

Keynote speakers

Professor Yolande Jansen | VU University Amsterdam | more information
Professor Sherine Hafez | Univeristy of California | more information
Dr Nadia Fadil | KU Leuven | more information
Professor Markus Dressler | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen | more information
Professor Gudrun Krämer | Freie Universität Berlin | more information
Professor John Bowen | Washington University in St Louis | more information

Last Modified: 16-04-2015