Dialoguing Across the Secular/Religious Divide

© Magda Seewald


Cooperation project with the Institute for Women’s Studies at Birzeit University, Palestine

Palestinian society has over the past few years experienced a phase of unprecedented political polarization that has opened up socio-cultural conflicts about the religious secular divide. These cultural and political polarizations have created destructive dynamics not only between the West Bank and Gaza, but also within each region. The narrowing space for free speech, increased human rights abuses at the hands of internal security forces, and diminished respect for political and cultural pluralism are growing features of this conflict within both regions.
Cultural and political polarization are always extremely negative but have special implications for women.

Our aims

The project seeks to initiate an ongoing forum for an educated and open discussion and dialogue of various aspects of the secular-religious divide. The ultimate aim of the forum is to seek ways to positively address conflicting visions and understandings about the role of religion and secularism in the wider society and across multiple spheres of Palestinian life.

What we do

On the basis of a series of seminars related to the topic of secularism and religion a core group of educated thinker/speakers and students from different faculties and universities was developed, which continues to work on the issue in workshops. In January 2012 Prof. Wael Hallaq from Columbia University was invited to talk about the encounter between liberalism and Shari’a in modern Arab states.
Following his lecture, the group is preparing to organize a public debate on the issue in collaboration with Birzeit Debate Forum, which will be broadcasted on the Jazeera Direct satellite television channel.