Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity in a (Post) Secular Society

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1 Stud Philos Educ DOI /s Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity in a (Post) Secular Society Nuraan Davids Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013 Abstract Women s bodies, states Benhabib (Dignity in adversity: human rights in troubled times, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011: 168), have become the site of symbolic confrontations between a re-essentialized understanding of religious and cultural differences and the forces of state power, whether in their civic-republican, liberal-democratic or multicultural form. One of the main reasons for the emergence of these confrontations or public debates, says Benhabib (2011: 169), is because of the actual location of political theology. She asserts that within the context of globalization, the concept of political theology is complicated by its unstable location between religion and the public square; between the private and official; and between individual rights to freedom of religion versus state security and public well-being. Ultimately, therefore, the nature of the tension between religion as a political theology and the forces of state power can at best be described as a clash between identities of a collective nature (as envisaged by the nation-state) and identities of an individual nature (as manifested in different religions and cultures). Ongoing attempts to counter the ascendancy of religion, and as will be discussed in this article, specifically the ascendancy and visibility of Islamic identity as practiced by Muslim women, has brought into serious debate the notion of a (post) secular society and its implications for religious rights. What emerges from the state s insistence that individuals not be allowed to enter the public discourse as religious beings, are, on the one hand, the constraints imposed on Muslim women by liberal democracies, and on the other hand, that Islam, as represented by Muslim women, is not constitutive of democratic citizenship. Will the inclusion and recognition of Muslim women, therefore, necessarily augment a democratic citizenship agenda, and will it lead to an alleviation of the conflict? Then, in exploring a re-articulation of an inclusive citizenship one which is held accountable by its minimization of social inequality what ought to be the parameters of inclusion and how should it unfold differently to what is already happening in liberal democracies? N. Davids (&) Department of Education Policy Studies, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7602, South Africa

2 N. Davids Keywords Muslim women (Post) secular society Religious freedom Democratic citizenship Religious Freedom in a (Post) Secularist Society In the light of a liberal constitution, states Habermas (2008), religion must be tolerated, but it cannot lay claim to provide a cultural resource for the self-understanding of any truly modern mind. Faith, or worldviews shrouded in theocentricism and metaphysics are diametrically opposed to the modern mind of science and reason. It is the purported diametric opposition, the irreconcilability between the eternal salvation offered by temples of religions and the enlightened modern (wo)man which serves as the basis and reasoning of the discourse of secularism. In a modern society of causal existence, and in which human beings believe that they, and only they, have control over what life they lead, the language and offerings of a higher Being has no role to play, and should any individual feel to the contrary, then any interaction with that Being is best performed out of the sight of modern society. So what emerges, or rather, what secularism hopes to ratify, is a doctrinal delineation between expression of religion and expression of modern citizenship. My deliberate use of the term expression here is to draw attention to the mercurial premise of the very notion of secularism. It might be plausible to call for a separation between that which governs the state, and that which governs religion, but it would be implausible to assume that these calls for separation actually have any bearing on the internal governance of the human mind. It would seem, and this will serve as the basis of my argument throughout this article, that while a minimal understanding of secularism speaks to a departure between state and religion, a maximal understanding speaks to a re-examination of the languages and expression of both secularism and religion, since both (secularism and religion) have shaped and informed the other. While secularism, as Mahmood (2009: 65) explains, is calling for a rearticulation of religion in a manner that is commensurate with modern sensibilities and modes of governance, it remains unclear, given the resurgence of religion (Habermas 2008), what type of (re)articulation, if any, religion is expecting of its adherents in meeting the perceived needs of modern sensibilities and modes of governance. And perhaps, it is not so much the tension between religion and secularism which informs this dichotomy, as it is the languages and modes of expression of the former and the latter, which stimulate the tension between two ideologies, which, in fact, might not be residing on opposite ends of a continuum. Perhaps, one way of analyzing the perceived dichotomous relationship between religion and secularism, is to understand that secularism, which informs the discourse of the modern nation state, is irreligious meaning that while it might not reject religion, it neither sees religion as playing a role within a modern society, nor does it view the eternal salvation offered by religion as reconcilable with the discourse of individuals who believe that they have absolute control over their lives. So, while religion must be tolerated within a liberal constitution, it cannot lay claim to providing a cultural resource for the selfunderstanding of any truly modern mind (Habermas 2008). This understanding might begin to clarify why secularism has pre-occupied itself with the representation and enactment of religion, rather than with the substance of religion itself. According to Mahmood (2009: 70), The rather impoverished understanding of images, icons, and signs not only naturalizes a certain concept of a religious subject ensconced in a world of encoded meanings

3 Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity but also fails to attend to the affective and embodied practices through which a subject comes to relate to a particular sign. This pre-occupation with that which is observed, rather than with that which is experienced and known, highlights two points worthwhile pursuing. The first point is that it is precisely secularism s emphasis on encoded meanings that begins to problematise the conceptual understanding of secularism itself. The second point, which informs the first, is that secularism s response to the encoded meanings of religion is couched within a rigid and customized understanding of religion. Mahmood (2009: 87) asserts that rather than focusing on the doctrinal separation of religion and state (which is what secularism purports to do), secularism has historically involved two processes: the regulation and reformation of religious beliefs and practices to yield a particular normative conception of religion (that is largely Protestant Christian in its contours); and has sought to re-shape religion through the agency of law. The re-shaping and re-representation of religion have, without question, juxtaposed the notions of freedom and rights, as perceivably espoused by secularism, with that of notions of orthodoxy, fundamentalism, extremism, and more recently, terrorism, the latter almost being exclusively associated with the religion of Islam. And so when secularism speaks of the doctrinal separation of religion and state, it does so through using a combative language of tolerance versus intolerance; equality versus oppression (think the banning of the veil in France); peaceful co-existence versus violent clashes; and ultimately, democracy versus dictatorship leading Mahmood (2009: 90) to conclude that not only are the secular liberal principles of freedom of religion and speech not neutral mechanisms for the negotiation of religious difference, but it remains partial to certain normative conceptions of religion, language, and injury. The inherent impartiality of the language of secularism lends itself to a language of indifference and apathy, which (in)advertently deconstructs any potential of a caring discourse between secularism and religion. The language of secularism, therefore, constructs a dichotomy between itself as the champion of freedom and rights, tolerance, equality and peaceful co-existence, and religion as the origin of orthodoxy, fundamentalism, intolerance, oppression and violent existence. Furthermore, the construction is such that regardless of the enshrouded negativity of religion, secularism, by virtue of its own language, would need to exercise freedom, tolerance, equality and peaceful co-existence. In other words, the relationship between secularism and religion is that the practice and expression of religious identity is somehow at the mercy of a secularist and compassionate nation-state. So, what has been the response of religion, and specifically Islam, within this construction? By increasingly assuming the role of communities of interpretation in the public arena of secular societies, Habermas (2008) maintains that religion is resurging and (re)asserting its authority within national public spheres. The resurgence could, of course, be manifested in various ways: Muslims who might not have attached too much significance to being Muslim before, might feel the need to re-assess this label of Muslim; Muslim men might decide to shave their heads and grow their bears in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Muslim women might decide to dress more modestly, including wearing the hijab (head covering), or one might witness a proliferation in the number of mosques or madrassahs. Either way, inasmuch as secularism exists in response to religion, those who practice religion will respond when provoked to do so. And so it would not be unreasonable to assert that secularism plays a critical role in religious fervour often serving as a catalyst for a shift from indifference to concern and confrontation. Habermas (2008) is of the opinion that the increasing role of religion, is both as a consequence of and a response to the dissension, that emerges when immigrant cultures have to integrate socially ultimately raising serious concerns and challenges for tolerant

4 N. Davids coexistence. What Habermas does not clarify, however, is whose concerns he is referring to who should exercise tolerance and who should be tolerated. Given the particular language assigned to religion by secularism, the resurgence can also be ascribed to religion s own attempt to counter what is perceivably a contentious account of religion to the extent that one has to ultimately question what exactly secularism is referring to in its dichotomous construction. Is it religion, culture, or specific communities of interpretation in other words, how much of this construction can be linked to representations of religion and impoverished understanding of images and signs (Mahmood 2009: 70), rather than with the religion itself? Referring to l affaire du foulard (the scarf affair), and later l affaire la voile (the veil affair) in France, as an example of the confrontations encountered specifically by Muslim women, Benhabib (2011: ) highlights, by citing the research of sociologists, Gaspard and Khosrokhavar (1995), that had the 23 Muslim girls involved in the exclusion from their schools in November 1996, been asked as to why they persisted in wearing their scarves it would have become apparent that the meaning of wearing the scarf itself was changing from being a religious act to one of cultural defiance and increasing politicization. Benhabib (2011: 174) explains that Ironically, it was the very egalitarian norms of the French public educational system which brought these girls out of the patriarchal structures of the home and into the French public sphere, and gave them the confidence and the ability to resignify the wearing of the scarf. What l affaire du foulard (the scarf affair) or l affaire la voile (the veil affair), as do the scarf affairs in Germany, Turkey, Belgium, the UK, etc. bring into contention, especially in light of Benhabib s (2011: 181) argument that the wearing of the scarf has been construed not as an act of religious conscience, but as a potential political threat, and that it needs to be regulated at that level is what exactly is understood by secularism s freedom and rights, and by extension what is understood by the modern nation-state s conception of freedom of religion? The role of the state, explains Habermas (2008), is to provide its citizens with equal freedom of religion, but only if minority groups, whether religious or not, free their individual members from their embrace so that these citizens can mutually recognize one another in civil society as members of one and the same political community, and if these citizens do not isolate themselves from other religious communities by withdrawing into themselves. What exactly Habermas means by withdrawing into themselves, is unclear, but it does bring into question to which extent Muslim women will not withdraw when their participation with the other religious communities to which Habermas refers, is conditioned and curtailed by how they ought not to dress. The mere fact that the provision of equal freedom of religion is conditioned by the individual or community s level of participation brings into disrepute the very conception of freedom. Whose freedom is ensured here those who are providing it (in this case, the modern state), or the recipients thereof (the citizens)? What does the notion of equal freedom of religion actually mean when religions are neither equal in dogma or practice, nor is the state in the position to know this when individuals of religion are not allowed to enter the public discourse as religious beings? Upon closer examination, then, it becomes apparent that the re-essentialized understanding of religious and cultural differences and the forces of state power (Benhabib 2011: 168) has little to do with any understanding, except for a clear positioning of the state as the one in authority, but with a willingness to exercise a measure of tolerance. This tolerance calls for a subjugation of individual religious adherence and identity in favour of a collective political one; that equal freedom of religion can only be guaranteed if that same religion is not made visible in the individual s role of political citizen. The mutual recognition of citizens, it would seem, is only plausible and possible if and when

5 Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity individuals share a common and mutually recognized belief system and in this case, that belief system is one informed and shaped by a public discourse of citizenry, rather than a private language of individual belonging. So, assuming that the religious identity of Muslim women includes the wearing of the scarf or hijāb, how has the symbolic confrontation with Muslim women through the wearing of the scarf, lead to misunderstandings about the identities of Muslim women? Confronting the Misunderstandings About the Identities of Muslim Women To know who we are, explains Taylor (1989: 28), is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good or bad, what is worth doing and what is not, what has meaning and importance for you and what is trivial and secondary. When one looks at what has meaning and importance to Muslim women, then one has to look at their community, because, on the one hand, the identity of the individual has to be understood in relation to the plural, and on the other hand, the individual, says Benhabib (1992: 79), cannot be delinked from the community in which it has been shaped and in which it lives. So who or what is the community of Muslim women? According to Halstead (2004: 523), the sense of community in Islām extends from the local level of the family to the global community of believers (ummah), who are connected through the equality of all believers in the eyes of the divine law of Islam. Stowasser (1994: 98) describes the true citizenship of Muslim women as being located in the community of her faith. What emerges, therefore, is that one cannot understand Muslim women in the absence of their community, and that community is not determined only by their geographical or social locations and conditions, but also, and perhaps more importantly, by a greater community, who are essentially linked by a shared faith. From the outset, I want to stress that a shared faith does not translate into a shared belief system, and that Muslim women enter into multiple relationships with Islam, as they embrace multiple ways of expressing their beliefs and identity the wearing of the hijāb being just one of them. One way, perhaps, of providing greater clarity on the conception of a community of faith of Muslim women is by understanding it within Williams notion of communities of shared fate a construction which she draws from the long association between conceptions of peoplehood and assumptions of either a shared territorial base or a shared ethnic heritage (2009: 43). Appealing to Williams about the language of communities of fate, which she stresses, is not to be confused with destiny or that there is little or no scope for creative human agency, is its connotation that the ethically significant relationships that exist among human beings are not all of conscious choosing. While unchosen relationships, explains Williams (2009: 44) emerge from historical patterns of human migration (not unlike the position of Muslims in Europe), communities of fate can be constituted by bonds of culture, language, or religion. To Williams, the unchosen relationships in which we might find ourselves are as unchosen as the communities into which we are born. Whether we choose to embrace or discard the elements of the identity which constitute these communities is not the issue for Williams; what is of consequence is that we may feel that we have little choice but to act within the set of relationships they structure. While most Muslim women share a fundamental ideological understanding of what Islamic identity means it is the interpretation and lived expression of that understanding which creates the difference. Consequently, while some Muslim women opt to wear the hijāb, due to a belief that it is obligatory to do so, or to attain community approval, others might not, believing instead that it is not mandatory. While this might reflect a fairly

6 N. Davids simplistic view of the hijāb, it is not so much how Muslim women consider it, as it is the contentious way the state has decided to frame it. Indeed, much of the conflict surrounding the hijāb is precisely because of what Mahmood (2009: 70) describes as secularism s impoverished understanding of images and signs, rather than paying attention to the embodied practice which informs a particular image or sign. Reducing the hijāb to a scrap of cloth, that Muslim men have imposed on Muslim women (which is how secularism and by extension, the modern state have chosen to understand it), says Mernissi (1995: 95) is to drain it of its meaning. What the state chooses to ignore is that, for Muslims, the hijāb is an expression of the spiritual and sacred dimension of being: It is about expressing, in our social life, that we are not body, that our worth is not in our forms and that our dignity lies in respect of our being and not in the visibility of our appeals and seductions (Ramadan 2004: 55 56). Wadud (2006: ) explains that while the hijāb signals a Muslim woman s affiliation to Islām, it does not offer any assurances of respect or protection. She continues that there is no difference between the hijāb of coercion and the hijāb of choice, as there is no difference between the hijāb of oppression and the hijāb of liberation, and as there is no difference between the hijāb of deception and the hijāb of integrity. The manner in which secularism and the modern state have chosen to address Muslim women, who wear the hijāb, does not demonstrate any understanding of the practice itself. To treat it merely as a symbol of something else namely oppression and backwardness highlights the serious misrecognition of Muslim women. It would seem that secularism s pre-occupation with images has placed Muslim women at the mercy of those images, and by implication, at the mercy of the state. But, there is, however, a deep irony attached to the centrality of Muslim women in this symbolic confrontation. From a normative Islamic point of view, the primary space of women (at least according to traditional Qur anic exegesis) is in the home, so the fact that their dress have taken on the form of a symbolic confrontation between the modern state authority and Islamic laws in the public sphere should serve as a serious point of re-consideration for Islam, and the role of Muslim women in Islam and in a pluralist society. The Muslim woman says Stowasser s (1994: 7) fights a holy war for the sake of Islamic values where her conduct, domesticity, and dress are vital for the survival of the Islamic way of life. Religion, morality, and culture stand and fall with her. So, on the one hand, Muslim women, in their traditional private roles, occupy the domesticated position of the custodians of Islamic values. And on the other hand, Muslim women, by virtue of their dress in public, have become the symbols of the modern day conflict between individual rights to freedom of religion and what the west has constructed as security and public well-being. But if, as Stowasser (1994: 5) asserts that women s questions are a parameter of the greater search for Islam s identity and role in the modern world, then one has to ask why the state has chosen to act in the way that it has, and what these actions mean to Muslim women in particular? If Muslim women, says the state, wish to interact and be acknowledged in the public sphere, they would need to literally de-veil their Islamic identity. If they refuse to do, then they will be denied access to the public sphere on the basis that their veiled (private) identity is in conflict with the public space of the state. Within these two constructions, it would appear that when Muslim women walk across the continuum from private to public, they need to systematically discard their religious identities in order to access their identities as citizen. The public construction of citizenship, it would appear, cannot simultaneously hold the private construction of religion, or more specifically, Islam. Democracy in this instance, therefore, refuses to recognize the veiled difference as symbolized by Muslim women. And so while Stowasser s (1994: 7) observation that Muslim women fight a holy war for the sake of Islamic values might be correct, they might be

7 Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity doing it for reasons other than those depicted by Stowasser. It would appear that inasmuch as Muslim women have stood on the sidelines of the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of Qur anic exegesis, they find themselves in a similar peripheral position of being excluded from the democratic state s concerted efforts to re-dress and re-define their role in a (post)secular society. And so, perhaps, the most fascinating aspect of the parameters of this debate might not be whether Muslim women succeed in their holy war against the secular accusation of being a threat to public well-being, but to which extent secularism and religion actually operate along the same continuum a continuum balanced by language. The question has to be asked: to which extent has the state s attempt to regulate the dress code of Muslim women prevented them from participating in the state, and by so doing, is hampering the construction of a new type of community one in which access to the modern state is not dependent on a denial of the principles of one s faith? The message drawn by Muslim women is that they cannot be faithful to both Islam and the state. And when they voice their protest against these enforced dichotomies, as seen in l affaire du foulard (the scarf affair) or l affaire la voile (the veil affair), then they are misunderstood to be belligerent, combative, fundamentalist, and certainly not peaceful. To assume, says Benhabib (2011: 174), that the meaning of their actions is purely one of religious defiance of the secular state denigrates these women s own capacity to define the meaning of their own actions, and, ironically, reimprisons them within the walls of patriarchal meaning from which they are trying to escape And the conclusion drawn, by the modern state, as I will next discuss, is that ultimately, Islam is at odds with a modern day pluralist state. The (Ir)reconcilability of Democratic Citizenship and Islam Benhabib (1992) explains that access to the public sphere has always been limited by issues of race, class, gender and religion, as well as money and power. But she also states that religion, as a value system, presents one vehicle through which the problems of individualism, egotism and alienation in modern societies can be recovered. She refers to this as the integrationist strain, which is in contrast to the participatory strain, which ascribes the dilemmas of modernity more to a loss of a sense of political agency and efficacy than to a loss of belonging and unity. Benhabib (1992: 77 78) elaborates that this loss of political agency is not as a result of the disconnection between the political and the personal, but rather as a result of two possibilities. One is the incongruity between the various spheres which reduces one s possibilities for agency in one sphere on the basis of one s position in another sphere. The second possibility is the fact that belonging in the various spheres effectively becomes exclusive due to the nature of the activities involved, while the mutual exclusivity of the spheres are fortified by the system. To Benhabib (1992: 78 79), mere participation is not enough to solve the problems of modern identity and estrangement. Instead, she argues that what is required is not reconciliation, but political agency in the form of engagement. Active participation and belonging, states Waghid (2010: 20), are both conceptually connected to some form of engagement in relation to someone else I participate with others in a conversation, so I engage with them; and I belong to a group where members are in conversation, so I engage with them by being attached to the conversation. Meaning, therefore, can only be produced when there is another, in the same way that cultures, says Benhabib (2002), are formed through dialogues with other cultures. In the absence, therefore, of engagement, active participation and belonging, Muslim women in modern societies are unable to produce meaning in those

8 N. Davids societies, and are prevented from forming new types of communities. And when they do try to enter the conversation, as Muslim women in hijāb, their actions are seen as defiant and confrontational, and the more the state attempts to re-mould them into what secularism expects, the deeper the confrontation, and the only meaning produced is one of irreconcilability between Islam and the modern state, and between Islam and democratic citizenship. Democratic citizenship, says Benhabib (2002: 134), is comprised of at least three interrelated elements: collective identity, privileges of membership, and social rights and benefits (2002: 134). Through exposure to these three inter-related items it is hoped that through the teaching and learning of cultural, linguistic and religious commonalities and differences, that what will emerge is a participatory climate of deliberation in which, ultimately, the rights of all people are recognised and respected (Waghid 2010: ). We know, by virtue of the symbolic confrontation with Muslim women, that the rights of all people are not being recognized and respected, which, of course, is possibly due to a weak participatory climate of deliberation. But one of the questions that need to be addressed is how a liberal form of democratic citizenship has actually contributed towards these symbolic confrontations. Firstly, the conception of a collective identity is highly problematic, as it is essentially an identity constructed by, and for the modern state, and by implication, for and by the dominant culture. In the case of Muslim women, access to a collective identity means a denial of their religious identity. Their refusal means exclusion from a collective identity and its related social benefits and rights as has already been demonstrated by l affaire du foulard (the scarf affair), and has resulted in what Benhabib (2011: 168) describes as a destabilization of identities and traditions. Significantly, the destabilization of identities and traditions does not only pertain to religious communities; it also challenges the authority of the nation-state, since deterritorialized religions dislodge national senses of collective identity (Benhabib 2011: 171). The conception of a collective identity, therefore, brings into conflict not only those, who do not conform to a collective identity, but also serves to erode whatever collective identity might have been in place by its insistence on destabilizing the identities and traditions of minority groups. It is my understanding that any constitution of a collective would need to acknowledge and accept the collective of the individual that means that the individual accesses a national collective, as an organic being, and not in parts, as determined by an externally defined set of norms. To insist on a discarding of religious, cultural, ethnic or linguistic indicators, undermines the very construction of a notion of democratic citizenship, as the individual would, therefore, not be entering the collective identity as an equal. Keaton (2006: 104) describes the insistence on a collective identity or common culture as follows: This is how symbolic violence and power works: through ideological saturation of dominant ideas that structure practices and beliefs toward a specific understanding of reality that goes unquestioned. The power to dominate or absorb a specific group is expressed not always in brute force, but rather in sustaining a legitimized ideology, such as a common culture, whose existence has yet to be proven beyond that discourses that make it so. Muslim women, who have de-veiled on the authority of the modern state, are compromised on three levels. On one level, when they de-veil in order to access the modern state s collective identity, privileges of membership, and social rights and benefits, they compromise their identity as Muslim women. On another level, when they do access the collective identity, as de-veiled Muslim women, they compromise their contribution to the collective identity, since they have not in fact brought their full identity to the collective. And on yet another level, when Muslim women succumb to the demands of the

9 Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity modern state and de-veil, they compromise their attachment and standing in their respective Muslim communities. Secondly a liberal conception of democratic citizenship, understands the latter as entailing a set of pre-determined rights and corresponding obligations that people enjoy equally as citizens of a political community (Waghid 2005: 323). But these rights are defined in relation to, and in the context of a particular culture, which is the dominant culture. And this means that if any minority groups wish to participate in the political community, or wish to construct meaning, they would need to subscribe to the norms and values of the dominant culture. In fact, what the modern state demands is that they become citizens of the dominant culture. Roy (2007: 4) explains that, When Muslims are called on to adopt a reformed and liberal Islam, they are expected to situate themselves in relation to an analytical framework that has been prepared for them without asking questions about the meaning of their practices and the nature of choices involving their identity. In the absence of establishing meaning no less because participation is dependent on one s subscription to the dominant culture the modern state can act only on images and signs. One of those (mis)understood signs says that traditional Islamic conceptions, such as shūrā (consultation) and ijtihād (independent or rational reasoning), for instance, are irreconcilable with notions of the modern state democracy. And so, if Muslims wish to be included in this democracy, they would need to be willing to forego their alignment to traditional Islam. Of course, as Roy (2007: ix) points out, these expectations appear to be only leveled at Islam, because of two essential (mis)perceptions: firstly, that Islam cannot separate politics from religion; and secondly, that Islam is in fact not a religion, but a culture. What, then, is needed to deal with the reality of deterritorialized religions within the nation state? And what is needed to alleviate the ongoing symbolic confrontation with Muslim women? According to Habermas (2008), the tension between political theology and state power cannot be addressed on the basis of what the state deems to be its compassionate response to minority groups; it can only be addressed on the basis of a complementary relationship between citizenship and cultural difference. So, one point of departure could be an acknowledgement of Habermas s (2008) earlier cited point that the resurgence of religion can be seen both as a consequence of and a response to the dissension, that emerges when immigrant cultures have to integrate socially ultimately raising serious concerns and challenges for tolerant coexistence. Another point of departure could be the extent to which the modern state s emphasis on consensus and acquiescence has yielded an uncomfortable focus on difference and otherness inadvertently forcing those who do not agree, or who do subscribe to a particular dress code, to turn inward and away from the authority of the state. The state cannot expect a rearticulation of religion in a manner that is commensurate with modern sensibilities and modes of governance (Mahmood 2009: 65), if the state is not prepared to rearticulate a citizenship that is inclusive of all otherness. The rearticulation of an inclusive citizenship includes an acknowledgement that all people do not enter and participate in the public arena as autonomous agents (Young 1989: 257) an Arabspeaking Muslim woman does not enter the public discourse on the same footing as her French national counterpart. To this end, a rearticulated citizenship would have to, as Young (1989: 258) contends, take into account the private sphere of people, so that the potential for the exclusion of marginalized groups is minimized. Ultimately, what Young (1989) argues for is a non-separation between the public and private identities of people, and that people need to access the public sphere by and through voicing their private identities. Of course, this will still mean inequality in terms of the autonomy of people

10 N. Davids foreign minorities will be, by virtue of their origin, less likely to articulate their views, and less likely to be listened to by those who deem their own views as the only ones worthy of attention. And so a rearticulation of citizenship needs to be reciprocated by a rearticulation of religion so that what becomes the focus is not the outcome of the rearticulation, but the process of the engagement itself. If peaceful co-existence is the ultimate goal of both the modern state and minority groups, then it is not the business of the modern state to reform or regulate religion by way of secularist laws, because the outcome will always be that of marginalization and confrontation. As Keaton (2006: 182) explains, in reference to l affaire du foulard (the scarf affair), So although the court had sought to resolve this highly volatile issue in keeping with the established principles of religious freedom, the ambiguous phrasing of its ruling made it subject to multiple partisan interpretations that led to the same end: the expulsion of girls from schools whose sole crime is to be Muslim and to wish (or be forced) to cover their hair as part of their cultural or religious or religious practices. In turn, minority groups cannot expect to participate in, and benefit from the privileges of membership to a modern state, if they are not willing to enter the public sphere as law-abiding citizens. In other words, the symbolic confrontation experienced by Muslim women cannot be grounds for a combative response, as this, too, will be grounded in encoded meanings, rather than an understanding of rationale. The tension, therefore, between religion as a political theology and the forces of state power, which has manifested in the symbolic confrontation between identities of a collective nature (as envisaged by the nation-state) and identities of an individual nature (as manifested in different religions and cultures) can only be addressed through the establishment of a citizenship of moral compassion and common good. Matters and practices of religion, unless they infringe on the rights of others, ought to be left in the care of the theologians. The modern state ought to concern itself with the well-being of all its citizens, and this concern needs to be grounded in a conception of compassion, which seeks to empathize. The modern state needs to be seen as acting in the interest of the good of all, if it expects its citizens to respond in the perpetuation of all good. What, then, does this good entail, and what does the modern state have to do to ensure such a good for all? Firstly, the good needs to be premised on a substantive understanding that all communities have the potential of a common good regardless of their status, language, ethnicity, territoriality or deterritoriality. And because of the potential of a common good, these communities have to be understood as legitimate and therefore entitled to their own conceptions of identity construction and enactment. This means that the modern state cannot have an expectation that participation in the political community is prescribed by a subscription to the norms and values of the dominant culture. Participation in the modern state has to be within and from the recognized potential of a common good of all people. The insurance, by the modern state, of a good for all, therefore, is found firstly, in a moral responsibility of the recognition and acknowledgement of the equality of all people. Secondly, this recognition and acknowledgement need to be articulated through a language of deliberative engagement, which both embodies and gives due consideration to the potential of a common good. As such, the language of deliberative engagement would need to disconnect from a conception of a territorialized citizenship. The very emergence of new deterrorialised communities should serve as enough reason that the modern state will continue to be faced by identities of an individual nature, which may not always find resonance in the collective nature of the state. Whether this encounter will be within a discourse of deliberative engagement or symbolic confrontation will depend on how the modern state decides to ensure a common good for all its citizens.

11 Muslim Women and the Politics of Religious Identity Ultimately, democratic citizenship is not contingent on the level of commensurability amongst all citizens; but on the extent to which its democratic principles are available to all. The state cannot expect a re-articulation of religion that is commensurate with modern modes of governance, if it is not prepared to re-articulate a citizenship that is inclusive of all otherness, as is constituted by the otherness of Muslim women (Mahmood 2009: 65). The re-articulation of an inclusive citizenship is held accountable by the extent to which its parameters minimizes the exclusion of certain groups, and by its cultivation of social cohesion. The parameters of inclusion of a liberal democracy should not be determined by whether the inclusion of minority groups will guarantee the cultivation of democratic citizenship. Rather, it should be informed only by that which offers the maximum minimization of social inequality. A liberal democracy cannot lay claim to its own principles, if its actions has the potential for social exclusion. A re-articulated recognition of difference allows liberal democracy to shift from a notion of a singular citizenship and a singular public sphere to one which is distinctive and differentiated. Through acknowledging a citizenship which is differentiated, liberal democracy enacts the principles of multiple equalities, and bridges the gap between majority and minority groups. References Benhabib, S. (1992). Situating the self: Gender, community and postmodernism in contemporary ethics. London: Polity Press. Benhabib, S. (2002). The claims of culture: Equality and diversity in the global era. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Benhabib, S. (2011). Dignity in adversity: Human rights in troubled times. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gaspard, F., & Khosrokhavar, F. (1995). Le Foulard et la République. Paris: La Découverte. Habermas, J. (2008). Notes on a post-secular society. Accessed 23 July Halstead, J. M. (2004). An Islamic concept of education. Comparative Education, 40(4), Keaton, T. D. (2006). Muslim girls and the other France: Race, identity politics and social exclusion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Mahmood, S. (2009). Religious reason and the secular affect: An incommensurable divide? In T. Asad, W. Brown, & J. Butler (Eds.), Is critique secular? Blasphemy, injury, and free speech? (pp ). Berkeley: University of California. Mernissi, F. (1995). Women and Islam: An historical and theological enquiry. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Ramadan, T. (2004). Western Muslims and the future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roy, O. (2007). Secularism confronts Islam. New York: Columbia University Press. Stowasser, B. (1994). Women in the Qur an, traditions and interpretations. New York: Oxford University Press. Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the self: The making of the modern identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wadud, A. (2006). Inside the gender jihad: Women s reform in Islam. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. Waghid, Y. (2005). Action as an educational virtue: Toward a different understanding of democratic citizenship education. Educational Theory, 55(3), Waghid, Y. (2010). Education, democracy and citizenship revisited: Pedagogical encounters. Stellenbosch: Sun Press. Williams, M. S. (2009). Citizenship as agency within communities of shared fate. In S. Bernstein & W. Coleman (Eds.), Unsettled legitimacy: Political community, power, and authority in a global era (pp ). Vancouver: UBC Press. Young, I. M. (1989). Politics and group difference: A critique of the ideal of universal citizenship. Ethics, 99(2),

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