The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France

The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France

The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France

The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France

Excerpt

Throughout the early twenty-first century, debates over the relationship between Islam and the West have fundamentally influenced the way Europeans and Americans think about religion. The notion of a clash of civilizations figures in the writing of popular pundits as a category of analysis, while their detractors condemn the use of the phrase for creating the very conflict its proponents purport to describe. Whether affirmed or rejected, claims of religious and civilizational confrontation continue to shape the politics of secularism on a global scale. In Europe, a growing number of politicians and public intellectuals argue that secularism has become the very essence of what it means to be European. According to many of the same individuals, Islam is the antithesis of everything Europe represents because it never experienced its own process of secularization.

As a small minority, European Jews are marginal actors in this imagined clash of civilizations. Yet, in practice, they remain central to European debates over the place of religion in civil society: They both serve as constant points of reference and are among the most vocal commentators on the subject of secularism and Islam in Europe today. Often regarded as Europe’s constitutive (if now domesticated) outsiders, European Jews are frequently asked to speak about how to “assimilate” Europe’s more recent immigrant populations. Despite the invitations they receive to serve as expert voices in such situations, as a demographically small minority with a checkered past in Europe, Jews continue to face particular challenges as they participate in public debates over religion, secularism, and universalism in European society. Their responses reflect their peculiar position as partial outsiders in contemporary Europe. On the simplest level, European Jewish commentators oscillate . . .

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