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Cooperation with ERC-project "Private Pieties"

On 19 May 2017 members of the KFG "Multiple Secularities" and the ERC-project "Private Pieties. Mundane Islam and New Forms of Muslim Religiosity: Impact on Contemporary Social and Political Dynamics" (Göttingen University)  met in Leipzig for a workshop to explore prospects for future cooperation.

The ERC-project led by Roman Loimeier asks about the social and political consequences of individual piety in the Islamicate world. The project focuses on Muslims whose ideas and beliefs are characterized by their individualistic character and hence are not subject to the scrutiny of Islamist or political movements. This might have an impact on the social developments of Muslim societies as well as on Islamist movements and their ability to mobilize Muslims for political aims. The research group argued that the maintenance on privacy of belief has a political role which challenges the claims to hegemony by various authorities although it looks rather a-political in the first moment. In fact one can observe growing social and religious groups which dispute and question the interpretational sovereignty of Islamist movements within the public community in many different countries of North Africa, Western Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. These new religious and social voices insist that faith should be a private matter and position themselves against the political and social exploitation of Islam. 

On a concrete level the research project will examine developments in six countries through case studies and the survey of empirical data: Senegal, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan. The research group tries to answer the question whether the insistence on individual belief is linked to a relevant loss of the authoritarian-religious discourse in the public and the consequent loss of influence of religious authorities - in particular radical Islamist groups, who have tried in the past decades to recruit Muslims for their political objectives.  

During our joint workshop on 19 May, the lively discussions and varied presentations demonstrated that the subjects of both research groups are linked to each other. It seems that the trans-regional comparative perspective of the research group from Göttingen fits the overarching interests of the KFG Multiple Secularities well, which tries to investigate, describe and explain the relationship between religion and other social functional areas. Since the distinctions and differentiations of arrangements between religion and non-religion are subject to processes of conflict and sanction, in which the right of interpretation and claims for validity are negotiated, the focus of individual piety and belief of the ERC-project complements the perspective of the KFG and vice versa.

Reported by Tarek El-Sourani