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Workshop: "The Relationship between State and Religion in the Arab and Islamicate Contexts. Civil State, Secular State, Religious/Islamic State"

Workshop, Leipzig University, 9–10 December 2021

Conveners: Housamedden Darwish (Leipzig University), Markus Dreßler (Leipzig University)

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The workshop aims at understanding the concepts of ‘civil state’, ‘secular state’ and ‘religious/Islamic state’ and their relation to (the concept/ideal of) democracy in Arab and Islamicate contexts. It starts from a political and philosophical perspective and addresses from there normative and descriptive questions concerning the actual and/or potential forms of the relationship between (democratic) state and/or politics and religion.

In recent decades, the concept of ‘civil state’ has, next to the concepts of ‘secular state’ and ‘religious/Islamic state’, gained prominence among religious and secular intellectuals, politicians and scholars in the Arab and Islamicate worlds. The descriptive content of the concept ‘civil state’ appears to be rather fluid and sometimes ambivalent – it has been used as synonymous to ‘secular state’ in some contexts, and to ‘religious/Islamic state’ in other contexts.

The workshop seeks to bring together case studies and theoretical reflections and discussions on the three concepts in different disciplines and academic and political contexts in Arab and Islamicate states, with the aim of answering the following questions: How could/should we approach these concepts theoretically? What is the relationship between state and religion in the intellectual and political Arab and Islamicate Contexts? In what sense and to what extent can we talk about a state as civil, secular and/or religious/Islamic state? Does secularism mean separation religion (or church) from state, politics or sovereignty? Or does it mean the separation of religious and political authorities? What are the practical and conceptual differences between these definitions and meanings of secularism? Can the concept of ‘civil state’ be a complementary, substitute or an alternative concept to the concepts of ‘secular state’ and ‘religious/Islamic state’? In what sense and to what extent can (not) each of these states be democratic?

The workshop will be held in English. Costs for travel and accommodation (2 nights) will be covered. In the event of travel restrictions due to coronavirus, the workshop will be held in a hybrid format, allowing for virtual participation. Please send your applications and direct all inquiries to Housamedden Darwish.

The workshop will take place as an online event. If you wish to attend the workshop, please send a short inquiry to