Report: Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” Session 14

14 December, 2008 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

On December 8th, the fourteenth session of the Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” was held.

The aim of the session was to discuss the problem of Judaism which we have not treated in spite of its importance.

First, Reia Kato (master student in Area Studies) summarized The Swing State of Jews: Post-Zionism (in Japanese) written by Ryoji Tateyama, because she thought that the book was useful to survey the problem. Through the presentation in which the present situation of Israel and the meaning of terms, “Jews” and “Israel” were explained, some hypotheses to discuss the problem of Judaism were provided.

After that, Yuria Suzuki (master student in Area Studies) gave a report about Kenji Sugano’s article, “French Jews’ Embarrassment: The Attempt at ‘laïcité’” in Hiroshi Ichikawa (ed.) Jews and The Nation State: Reconsideration of Secularization (in Japanese), the recent work on this topic (published in September of this year). This choice was prompted by the fact that in the last month, Prof. Jean Baubérot who is the leading scholar in laïcité came to Tokyo to deliver a series of lectures on the subjects of “International Declaration on Laïcité”, laïcité in France, and the difference between secularization and “laïcization”. By discussing the article based on his lectures, we tried to obtain a more profound understanding not only of Judaism, but also of laïcité.

At the beginning of this article, its purpose was stated. According to it, the article focused on the discussion of “laïcité” in France which was, generally speaking, started from the “Scarf affair” in 1989 and finished by the establishment of the so-called Laïcité Law in 2004. The author intended to reconsider the discussion, bringing in a Jewish viewpoint, and by doing so, the aspects of the discussion could be more clearly understood. The article explained that “French Jews” was not monolithic at all. In the 1980s, cracks appeared among Jewish organizations, each of which clearly manifested its standpoint and had a strong presence as a “community” or was regarded as such by outsiders. In many cases, this movement was seen as “communalism” which violated the contract of laïcité. Jews have kept the contract, having a personal relationship to the French Republic. Laïcité Law enacted under this situation treated equally Jewish kippah and Islamic hijab. For French Jews, the law is to put their “community” which has obeyed the principle of laïcité under French Republic over 200 years in the same category with a Muslim, a newcomer’s, “community”. French Jews were “unsatisfied” with that.

Significant for us was the article which elucidated the inner situation of Jews in France and the difference of viewpoints between Jews and other French people, and then searched for what Islam ought to be in France from a Jewish standpoint. Furthermore, the article fitted with our intention of considering secularization over the world.

After two presentations, a discussion was opened up. Confirming facts and the definition of “ostentatoire” in Laïcité Law, the discussion went to the whole concept of the book, Jews and The Nation State. It was stimulative for me that the positive and multiple approaches in the book clarified how Jews formed and established self-consciousness which was as extraordinary as others in my thinking, and then how others saw it and accepted or rejected it.

(Reported by Yoichi ISAHAYA)

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