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Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Gokce Yurdakul

Prof. Dr. Gökçe Yurdakul
Department of Diversity and Social Conflict
Humboldt University of Berlin

Jews, Muslims and Self-representations: The Headscarf and Ritual Male Circumcision Debates
Many scholars have tried to define European identity by referring to belonging and diversity. Some scholars argued for a post-national European identity (Delanty 2014), transnational identities (Risse 2010) or super diversity (Vertovec 2007). It is however not clear what should be the original historical attachment of this identity (Held 2014) or what the future holds for the European identity (Fligstein 2010). I propose to look at the European identity debates from a different angle, by focusing on self-representations of minorities. In this paper, I will focus on the controversial public debates about women and men’s bodies in European countries with a specific focus on the Muslim women’s headscarf and Jewish and Muslim ritual male circumcision. The relationship between secular and religion is currently undergoing a change through minority and immigrant claims for religious accommodation. This change is best observed with Muslim and Jewish claims for practicing their religion. I will use examples from Germany’s ritual male circumcision debate, which both affected Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as the headscarf debates of Muslim women in Germany. I argue that Jewish and Muslim communities form new alliances with each other, which point out to the contradictions within European identity, diversity, secularism / religion discourses. Muslims and Jews, in this context, represent themselves as belonging to Europe, despite of the fact that their religious and traditional practices are contested in European politics and legal system. I attempt to show the alliances, cooperations and strategies within this context between two minorities, which are self-representing themselves as diversity examples in Europe.