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Contested Secularities: Religious Minorities and Secular Progressivism in the Netherlands

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In this paper, we propose to analyze ideas, practices, institutionalizations, and public controversies related to the religious-secular divide in the Netherlands in terms of contested formations of secularity. We introduce the concept of ‘multiple secularities’ and use it as an interpretive device for an analysis of the historical emergence and transformation of Dutch secularity. After that we show how historically shaped notions of secularity operated within the parliamentary debates on blasphemy, freedom of speech, and religion that unfolded between 2004 and 2009. We argue that long-standing notions of secularity as a means for balancing religious and ideological diversity are challenged by and give way to a new preponderance of secular progressivism. By secular progressivism we mean the idea that within an ‘immanent frame’ in which the secular ontologically embodies the ‘real’ and constitutes the ground for normative universalism, religion turns into a historical vestige whose protection must be subordinated to universalistic notions of civic liberties. However, this development is still contested in the Netherlands.

Affiliations: 1: Universität Osnabrück, Fachgebiet Pflegewissenschaft, ; 2: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, ; 3: University of Leipzig,


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