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Religion and Identity in Germany Today

Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film


Edited By Julian Ernest Preece, Frank Finlay and Sinéad Crowe

In German-speaking Europe, as in other parts of the western world, questions of religious identity have been discussed with sudden urgency since the attacks of ‘9/11’. Nowhere was this clearer than in the heated controversy over the building of a mosque in the city of Cologne, which is the subject of Michael Hofmann’s contribution to this volume. Turkish Germans have also found themselves defined by the religious background of their parents. For different reasons German Jews have faced pressure to reconnect with a religion that their forbears cast off sometimes more than a century ago. At the same time religious belief among the nominally Christian majority has been in retreat. These changes have generated poetry, drama, and fiction as well as a number of films by both well-known and emerging authors and filmmakers. Their works sometimes reflect but more often challenge debates taking place in politics and the media. The essays in this volume explore a range of genres which engage with religion in contemporary Germany and Austria. They show that literature and film express nuances of feeling and attitude that are eclipsed in other, more immediately influential discourses. Discussion of these works is thus essential for an understanding of the role of religion in forming identity in contemporary multicultural German-speaking societies. This volume contains eight chapters in English and six in German.


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MONIKA SHAFI - Constructions of Islam: Select Voices from Germany and the Netherlands 163


MONIKA SHAFI Constructions of Islam: Select Voices from Germany and the Netherlands In performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), a popular spoof on Shakespeare’s dramatic works, the actors begin by testing the audience’s knowledge of the plays. Virtually all hands go up when asked about having read or seen a play by the famous author. Raising the difficulty of questions and inquiring about Titus Andronicus or Timon of Athens dramati- cally reduces this show of hands, and in the end only the English professors in attendance profess familiarity with a play like King John. Shakespeare, as the actors’ witty innuendo reveals, designates both an over-determined cul- tural icon and a void to which a plethora of associations and representations can be attached. Among audiences in the West, Islam, it seems to me, functions in a some- what similar manner. The very word conjures strong images – rows and rows of Muslims bent in prayer, head scarves, or in recent years, suicide bomb- ings committed in the name of Islam – and it also conjures over-determined discourses, such as the conflicts over Muslim integration in Europe or the (in)famous clash of civilisations theory proposed by Samuel Huntington.1 Factual knowledge about Islam, its beliefs, practices and history, however, is rather limited. Moreover, since 11 September 2001, and the ensuing events and developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the terrorist bombings in Madrid and London, Western popular and, to some extent, also academic discourses often present Islam as a unified, sinister,...

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