Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 1A

Religion and “Fundamental National Values” in the UK, France and Pakistan

Chair: Nina ter Laan (Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Room: Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21

‘Is the Emergence of “Fundamental British Values” the Answer to the Question of Difference in the UK?’ – Shereen Fernandez (PhD Candidate, School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London)
The term “fundamental British values” (fBv) was introduced by the British government in 2014 and schools are now obliged to actively promote such values or risk being penalised. The values to be promoted to children and young people are: democracy, individual liberty, rule of law, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Alongside promoting fBv, schools must also adhere to the Prevent strategy which aims to spot signs of radicalisation and extremism amongst pupils. The relationship between both duties is vague yet intertwined. This paper will explore the under-researched relationship between Prevent and fBv to examine the ways in which the identity of British Muslim communities is often securitised. Drawing on interviews conducted recently with educators, I will argue that rather than being an inclusive term, fBv alongside the Prevent duty could potentially have an exclusionary impact on British Muslim communities as well as others.

‘Religious Minority Representatives and the Local Governance of Diversity in France: Advocates or Political Agenda Carriers?’ – Julia Martínez-Ariño (Assistant Professor, Department of the Comparative Study of Religion, University of Groningen)
Public debates over religious minorities in France have almost exclusively focused on Islam, particularly after the Charlie Hebdo and November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. However, the requirement for assimilation and conformity to the “Republican creed” (Lamine, 2004) falls also on the shoulders of other religious minorities, particularly those deemed ‘suspicious’ (Hervieu-Léger, 2001). In my research, I investigate the governance of religious diversity in French cities. In this presentation, I will show how local representatives of religious minorities intervene in the definition and political regulation of those expressions of religiosity considered adequate and legitimate in the public sphere, thereby projecting particular self-representations more or less consistent with dominant political and social expectations. I will also argue that these religious minority representatives find themselves in an in-between role, that of carriers –in Weber’s terms– of local political agendas and that of advocates for the claims of the religious groups they represent.

‘Christian Teachers in Pakistan: Navigating Islamic Textbook Content and Christian Identity at Missionary School’ – Kor Grit (PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Church-affiliated schools in Pakistan, commonly called ‘missionary schools’, are sites of interaction between Christian teachers and a religiously diverse student population, primarily consisting of Muslim and Christian students. The teachers are required to teach from government-mandated textbooks, which, they argue, contain objectionable frames about religion and Islam in Pakistan. This study identifies the following five responses of the Christian teachers to this content: avoidance, foregrounding, critique, invocation, and copying. The first two responses enable the teachers to reconfigure the relations and the dominant identities in the classroom in order to harmonize a perceived tension between religious identities. The last three responses enable the teachers to redefine the textbook content and thereby construct a more pluralist narrative of Pakistan and represent Christianity and Christian identity as a part of the country’s history and society.