Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 6C

Claiming a Voice in the “Secular” Public Sphere

Chair: Pooyan Tamimi Arab (Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Room: Stijlkamer, Janskerkhof 13

‘Framing Male Circumcision: Norwegian Media Debates on Ritual Male Circumcision – Vebjørn L. Horsfjord (Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo)
The paper will present findings from a detailed study of media debates about male circumcision in Norway pertaining to a new law from 2014 regulating the practice and a recent proposal to ban circumcision altogether. The paper will analyse how minority and majority voices negotiate the understanding of ritual male circumcision. It will give particular attention to the framing of the topic: Is it a health issue or an issue pertaining to religion and religious freedom? Different framings privilege different voices and different types of arguments. Minority representatives may appear to be struggling to translate their arguments from their specific religious discourse into secular arguments that presumably are more acceptable to a broader public. However, on closer inspection several minority representatives rather appear to challenge the secular-religious dichotomy which if often presupposed by majority representatives. The paper will discuss whether majority assumptions about the nature of religion, religious belonging and the religious-secular divide are formed not least by specifically protestant notions of religion.

‘The Complexities of “Talking Back” – How Dutch Muslims Claim a Public Voice in the Face of the Racialization of Islam’ – Martijn de Koning (Assistant Professor, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam)
From the 1970s onwards Islam has been connected to danger, hindering integration and not belonging to the Dutch moral community by politicians, opinion leaders and policy makers. In this paper I explore the historical responses of Muslim organizations to this racialization of danger and focus in particular upon the recent reactions of three different platforms that centre around the idea of security: the G4 (a cooperation between four major mosque organizations), Call Islamophobia (an anti-Islamophobia organization) and Behind Bars (a former militant network). I will analyse their responses from an Althusserian perspective on interpellation and show how, in different ways, the different platforms resist, accommodate and attempt to ignore the ongoing racialization.

‘Ethnicity as a “Privileged Speaking Position”: Public Discourses on Scandinavian Muslims’ – Louise Lund Liebmann (Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Religion, Philosophy and History, University of Agder)
Based on empirical material from Denmark and Norway on public positions of Scandinavian Muslims, this paper explores how the stereotypical categories work and what work they do in minority-majority relations: the paper suggests that ethnicity is put forward as a ‘privileged speaking position’. The term points to ambivalent mechanisms by which ethnic minority agents, as both public speakers, authors and media sources, (are made to) speak from positions of ethnically based authenticity, which, in the discourses, essentially is linked to authority: as cultural and religious “insiders” minority agents are repeatedly ascribed ethnically funded and subjectively experienced expert roles on affairs pertaining to “their” minority culture but with the perspective of the distanced “outsider”. However, the position from which minority agents thus speak is in many ways ethnically disprivileged since the authority that undergirds their voices depends upon their relation to and status in the ethnic majority society in question.