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Expressing Post-Secular Citizenship

A Madrasa, an Ethic and a Comprehensive Doctrine

Zahraa McDonald

According to Habermas, the contemporary public sphere is post-secular. In other words, the continuing presence of religious communities within a secular society is indisputable. However, the significance of this is not entirely clear, despite intensive discussion by social scientists, journalists, policymakers and politicians regarding the role of religion in the public sphere. Understanding contemporary religious phenomena requires serious academic and public engagement.
Drawing on theoretical approaches from sociology (Max Weber), philosophy (John Rawls) and religious studies (Abdulkader Tayob), this book analyses empirical data from the study of a madrasa in South Africa in order to explore the important question of how individuals may engage in the public sphere as members of religious communities.
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Chapter One: Comprehending the public sphere



Comprehending the public sphere

1.1  Introduction

Religion has taken the world by storm in the twenty-first century (Chidester 2002: 8–10). Contrary to what scholars and politicians anticipated, modernity did not deliver an increasingly secularised society (Habermas 2008). After being criticised for ignoring religion in his analysis of the public sphere (Eickelman & Salvatore 2002: 96; Calhoun 1992: 35), Jürgen Habermas (2006: 15) now contends that the contemporary public sphere is post-secular, by which he means there is a continued presence of religious communities within secular society. The presence of religious communities in secular society cannot be questioned, but what does a post-secular public sphere mean for social life?

Habermas (2008) argues that the post-secular involves a change of consciousness brought about via three phenomena. Firstly, global religious conflicts undermined a secularist belief. There is no longer a certainty that modernisation can advance only at the cost of the public influence and personal relevance of religion. Secondly, religion is gaining influence in national and international public spheres. Lastly, immigration to Europe has at the same time increased religious pluralism and the visibility thereof on the continent. These represent, for Habermas, critical moments where religion is becoming post-secular. Basically, post-secular debates tease out the necessity and validity of secular-modern conjugations, or viewing religion as juxtaposed to the modern (Bracke 2008: 58).

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