Despite the predictions made by classical secularisation theory about sixty years ago, religion has all but disappeared from Western societies. While probably a relatively small part of Western Europe was the only region in the world where those predictions were even thinkable of coming true, also here religion has been put back on the political agenda. The area where this is most visible probably are the approaches at initiating a dialogue with Muslim immigrants undertaken by some European states. This dialogue, however, requires clear-cut concepts.
In my dissertation, I asked for the ways in which the categories “Muslims” and “Islam” were constructed by members of the German Bundestag between 1990 and 2009. To that end, I created a database of all parliamentary documents and protocols from 1990 to 2009 mentioning Islam or Muslims and assigned keywords to each of the about 2000 documents. Afterwards, I counted the keywords to get an overview. Based on this overview, I selected four debates which I analysed qualitatively. The main results were that Muslims were objectified as (potential) immigrants in need of special treatment, while Islam was always associated with threat. This way of constructing the categories not only obscures German converts, it also addresses people as religious based simply on their country of origin, leading to further problems for integration policies. On the basis of this data and against the theoretical backdrop of my approach on secularisation as struggle, I interpreted the secularism implied by the German Islam Conference as paradox. While it aims at minimizing the public influence and visibility of religion, it initiates a public dialogue on religion to reach this goal. Besides these main results, I discovered that the current German domestic dialogue with Islam is not the first attempt on such a dialogue. Rather, and almost forgotten today, in the 90s there was already an attempt at initiating dialogue in the form of an Islam Conference, however as foreign policy.
This is where I currently plan to continue working on. Asking for a possible overlap between domestic and foreign politics in questions concerning Islam, I analyse the the development of the political dialogue with Islam in Germany from the first attempt in 1995, over the “European-Islamic Dialogue on Culture” in the (early) 2000s to the German Islam Conference since 2006.
Schlerka, Sebastian Matthias. 2021. Islamdebatten im Deutschen Bundestag 1990-2009. Eine Habitusanalyse zur Formierungsphase deutscher Islampolitik. Wiesbaden: Springer VS (forthcoming).
Ten-page summary (in German)
Schlerka, Sebastian Matthias. 2018. “Secularization as Historical Struggle.” InterDisciplines 9 (2): 163–91. https://doi.org/10.4119/indi-1059.
Schlerka, Sebastian Matthias. 2016. Säkularisierung als Kampf. Entwurf eines feldtheoretischen Zugangs zu Säkularisierungsphänomenen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.