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Title: Performing the Islamic prayer (şalat) at work. Secular and pious Muslims negotiating the contours of the public in Belgium
Authors: Fadil, Nadia # ×
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.
Series Title: Ethnicities vol:13 issue:6 pages:729-750
Abstract: This paper analyses the way in which the question of performing şalat (Islamic prayer) at the workplace is addressed by second-generation Maghrebi-Muslims in Belgium. Over the recent years, Western Europe has witnessed a number of societal debates on the increasing visibility of Islam in the public sphere. A key argument often recurring in these discussions concerns the necessity to defend the ‘neutral’ or ‘secular’ character of the public sphere vis-à-vis Muslim claims. In so doing, the idea of religious pluralism becomes opposed to the idea of a secular public sphere. This paper challenges this perspective in at least two ways. Firstly by deconstructing the idea that praying in public (i.c. at the workplace) figures as a religious claim that is defended unequivocally by Muslims. The narratives explored here will show that Muslims – irrespective of their religious orientation – do not hold similar positions towards this question, but that these are informed by contrasting perspectives upon the idea of the public, their understanding of a ‘correct’ religious practice and the position of Islam in the Belgian public sphere. Secondly, this paper also seeks to debunk the idea that one’s position towards praying at work depends upon how one positions oneself towards the secular/religious divide. The analyses will show that the idea of the privatization of religion was defended through distinct modes of justification – including religious ones. By unravelling these repertoires, this paper argues what often passes as a single principle (that of privatization of religion) in fact consists of an assemblage of heterogeneous discursive repertoires that address the question of religion in the public in a diverse set of ways. Such a perspective of viewing secularism as an assemblage invites us to consider how this power structure, which builds upon the differentiation between the idea of the religious and the secular, becomes reproduced and maintained throughout the mobilization and regulation of heterogeneous normative orders, including religious ones, rather than its mere exclusion.
ISSN: 1468-7968
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Centre for Sociological Research
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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