Religious minorities have always been at the centre of the German nation-state’s self-understanding, as it came to define itself vis a vis, and often against, them. Historically, this can be seen specifically in the Jewish experience, and today reverberates in the experience of Muslims grappling with a position of alterity in German society. We will move beyond the scholarship on these two religious minority groups to that of these two religious minority groups—that is the intellectual milieu of German Jews and German Muslims. Both have confronted the insider-outsider status of religious minorities in Germany, while themselves occupying—and thinking from—this position of alterity. As Jewish intellectuals a century prior, Muslim intellectuals are confronting the (im)possibility of fully belonging to the society at hand. In so doing, they are, at times inadvertently, coming into conversation with Jewish intellectuals past on ideas surrounding the practice of religion, pluralism, minority-state relations, and social ethics.
Drawing on ethnographic research with Haredi women in Stamford Hill to explore the limits of the secular vocabularies which dominate sociological diversity discourse, I ask why an assumed Jewish-Muslim enmity became its focus. First my response explores how a political theology of European Christendom, and a particular conjuncture of its race-religion constellation (Topolski 2018) finds expression in a secular concept of conviviality that regulates possibilities for intimacy in Hackney. I develop the claim that rationalist ideals of liberal sociality are in part mobilized to repress and contain violent histories of assimilation and exclusion in the borough. Second, I turn to Haredi women’s expression of an alternative Jewish-Muslim picture through intimacies that diverge from a convivial grammar. This leads me to tentatively explore how a vernacular Hasidic concept of chesed might hold together antinomies of care and violence, and offer alternatives for being-with, and mourning-with the neighbour in violent times.
Drawing on original interviews conducted between 2016 and 2018, this article explores understandings of Muslim-Jewish relations among Jews who immigrated from Morocco to France after 1945. These interviews suggest that the weight of currently circulating meta-discourses can lead to dissonances between individuals’ personal memories and the collective memories that they invoke in regard to Jewish-Muslim relations. As these interviews were conducted as part of a larger study of graduates of the schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in the MENA who immigrated to France, Canada and the United States after 1945, the author places these French findings in a larger comparative context, considering how the memories and perspectives of Moroccan Jews who immigrated to France converge and diverge from those who emigrated to North America.
Based on religious belonging, either Jewish or Muslim, and trajectories of migration, the ascription of radical alterity transforms minority status but also distinguishes it from French national citizenship (Sayad, 1987). I argue that diverse forms of Muslim alterity in France borrow elements of the ways in which Jews were/are constructed as Others; both illegitimate and dangerous. To do this, I analyze and compare the specificity and the variations of legal exclusion, of the alterization and social illegitimacy to which Jewish then Muslim populations have been or are relegated. Such a comparative perspective allows us to identify regulation vis-à-vis French Jews under Vichy in order to underline an ideological continuum which fuels the construction of the figure of the internal (Jewish, and now Muslim) stranger. To the image of the stranger I apply the notion of paradoxical citizenship elaborated by Joan W. Scott in the case of women excluded from citizenship along with Jews (Scott, 1998).