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Zubair Ahmad (Year 2015)


The History of the Present: A Postcolonial Genealogy of Germany's Politics of Islam

The History of the Present: A Postcolonial Genealogy of Germany’s Politics of Islam


Perceived either as deviant, deficient or the enemy to secular modernity and its democratic-humanist futures, “Islam” has been the target of Western European governmental politics intending to integrate, reform, nationalize and regulate the same. In consequence, governmental and non-governmental actors in Germany, as elsewhere in Western Europe, have increased their political interest and activity directed towards its “Muslim problem”, fundamentally aiming at the “institutionalization of a moderate, Euro-friendly Islam” (Haddad and Golson 2008: 487). In doing so, Germany has “adopted what might be considered a process of coercive integration of its Muslim population”, using, among other things, “recognition and incorporation of Islamic groups” as well as utilizing “the construction of Islamic space as a tool for implementing a policy of religion-change” (2008: 499).

While analyzing the politics of Islam in Western Europe, a number of scholars have addressed external structures such as legal and administrative settings or constitutional and political arrangements involved in accommodating “Islam” in Europe and Germany. In doing so, they also have examined practices of application, implementation and interpretation involved in integrating and nationalizing “Islam” as well as creating opportunities for the accommodation of “Islam” and “Muslims” (not only) in Germany. Others, however, have approached the politics of Islam as a politics of “containment and molding” (Schiffauer 2011: 14), in which “religion” and “Islam” operate as agents of integration, governability and secular-liberal technologies of power (Tezcan 2007: 51, 55, 2011: 175ff.). By investigating the various political rationalities involved as well as the assemblage of different (and often contradictory) power techniques deployed, through which attempts of integration are made, these scholars have expanded the usual paradigm of integration as well as have included the question of secular (technologies of) powers and their effects (cf. Amir-Moazami 2014: 135; Peter 2010).


Project Overview

Taking these processes and the proliferation of discourses linked to “Islam” and “Muslims” into consideration, my thesis engages with and, at the same time, hopes to contribute to the current scholarship on religious governance. Situated in Political Theory, my work addresses the politics of Islam (politics concerned with “Islam”) within contemporary Germany. The focus of my study is to investigate the conditions of its possibility but also its complex operations – as a regime of knowledge and power part and parcel of the governing structures of the German nation-state.

My inquiry begins with the assumption that the appearance and significance of a politics of Islam has only little to do with “Islam” and “Muslims” and much more to do with the idea of Europe as well as the divisions and exclusions through which it has articulated and manifested itself. Pertinent, in this regard, has been the long-lasting history and presence of a “Muslim Question” in Europe and its relevance for not only the idea of secular-modern Europe, but likewise for reconfiguring liberal and democratic nation-states in Western Europe. In doing so, I intend to break with the usual assumption that a German politics of Islam is solely of recent occurrence – related to post-1945 migration only. Rather than addressing the issue at stake as a contingent phenomenon, I scrutinize Germany’s politics of Islam as bearing and being an effect of a historically evolved (as well as evolving) regime of knowledge and power.

The aim is to put Germany’s current politics of Islam into a larger framework of genealogical-philosophical inquiry. I hope to do so by bringing together Christendom’s and Europe’s long-lasting history of posing the “Muslim Question”, German versions of such pondering, and their entanglements with concrete politics of Islam as a regime of knowledge and power.


First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Schirin Amir-Moazami

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gil Anidjar

Ahmad, Zubair; El-Yousfi, Amin (2021): Muslim ethical self-making and secular governmentality in Europe: an introduction. In: Religion, State and Society 49 (4-5), S. 289–296. DOI: 10.1080/09637494.2021.2000261.

Ahmad, Zubair (2021): Die Kategorie der Religion: Ein macht- und herrschaftsanalytisch vernachlässigter Begriff in der Politischen Theorie. In: Johanna Leinius und Heike Mauer (Hg.): Intersektionalität und Postkolonialität. Kritische feministische Perspektiven auf Politik und Macht. Opladen: Verlag Barbara Budrich (Politik und Geschlecht, Band 33), S. 91–114. DOI: j.ctv1c5cs1c.7.

Aguilar, Luis Manuel Hernández; Ahmad, Zubair (2020): A Dangerous Text: Disciplining Deficient Readers and the Policing of the Qur'an in the German Islam Conference. In: ReOrient 6 (1). DOI: 10.13169/reorient.6.1.0086.