Religious Belonging and Public Discourse

How do religious minorities handle the state-driven formatting of their religious traditions?

Circumcision of Christ. Menologion of Basil II. f.287. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Religious minorities’ notions of religious belonging may conflict with those conditioned by the state’s administrative systems and prevalent public discourse: Cultural and traditional belonging may be felt to be as important as an active choice or personally held convictions. Self-designations such as ‘atheist Jew’ or ‘cultural Muslim’ challenge established perceptions. Discourses on human rights offer protection for minorities, but may also be construed as pitting ‘rational’ autonomous individuals against traditional value systems.

This inherent tension can sometimes make appeals to human rights ambiguous for members of religious minority communities. The project will explore the tensions that arise in relation to three cases where conflicting understandings of religious belonging and choice are brought to the fore, although in very different ways:

  1. Circumcision of Jewish baby boys,
  2. Conversion from Islam (apostasy) and
  3. Roman Catholic requests for state support for its ministry to non-registered Catholics. 

The main approach in the project will be a study of media representations of religious belonging by minority as well as majority voices: What type of language is available to the actors, and which argumentative strategies are employed? Special attention will be given to the question pertaining to the Jewish minority and a comparative analysis with similar discussions in Germany will be made.

Specific notions of religious belonging and loyalty were behind the exclusion of Jews and some Catholic groups in the 1814 constitution. While constitutional amendments have removed this legal exclusion, formal and informal formatting of “religion” may still impact on the full participation of these and other minority groups in Norwegian society. The project will provide a better understanding of current inclusion and exclusion mechanisms. 

Published Mar. 16, 2015 12:59 PM - Last modified Mar. 16, 2015 12:59 PM