How Sociology Can Mediate Between Islam and Western Modernity

The world’s biggest refugee crisis since the second world war is bringing ten thousands of migrants to Central Europe – former citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan or Somalia fleeing from war, dictatorship or religious extremism. The fact that most of the refugees are Muslims stirs new debate over the future of European society. From (formerly atheist) leaders calling to the defence of European Christianity to economists pointing to the necessity of migrants as part of the future workforce – Europe is in the process of re-negotiating its cultural identity. Earlier in 2015, the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo caused intense moments of rupture on the one, solidarity on the other hand. While religious and political leaders and European citizens of all backgrounds stood together against jihadist terrorism and anti-semitism, extremist movements like Pegida in Germany and Front National in France mobilised followers with messages directed against all Muslims. According to Nilüfer Göle, the Charlie Hebdo attacks could prove to be a turning point in the relationship between European Islam and Western Modernity. A Turkish sociologist and public intellectual working in Paris, Nilüfer Göle studies Muslim identities and the role of Islam in the European public sphere. Instead of giving in to a clash of civilisations, she proposes to build on the “collective will to live together”. New secular principles can help in creating a shared common space of law and conversation – a process that could finally lead to a new community in which Muslims will play an important role. At Falling Walls, Nilüfer speaks about the intellectual’s duty to reconcile oppositions and explains how less walls can lead to more bridges.

Nilüfer Göle is a prominent Turkish scholar and a leading authority on the political movement of today’s educated, urbanized, religious Muslim women. She works on Islamic visibility in European public spaces and the debates it engenders on religious and cultural difference. Her sociological approach aims to open up a new reading of modernity from a non-western perspective and a broader critique of Eurocentrism in the definitions of secular modernity. She has explored the specific topic of covering, as well as the complexities of living in a multicultural world. Through personal interviews, Gole has developed detailed case studies of young Turkish women who are turning to the tenets of fundamental Islamic gender codes. She is the author of Islam in Europe: The Lure of Fundamentalism and the Allure of Cosmopolitanism (2010) and The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling (1997). She is member of the Executive Committee of the Istanbul Seminars, a Mercator-IPC senior fellow and the Director of the EuropeanPublicIslam project at the European Research Council. In May 2014 she was awarded France’s most important decoration, the Légion d’Honneur. Göle is professor at EHESS.

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