Liberal Formations of Islam in Germany

Investigation of 'Liberal-Islamic' Communalization Processes and Authority Structures Using the Example of the Liberal-Islamischer Bund e.V. [Liberal-Islamic Federation]

Responsible for the project: Dr. Mehmet T. Kalender
Runtime: started 07/2022
Financing: own funds
Affiliation: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Brief description of the project:
The most recent changes in the Islamic organizational landscape in Germany have been accompanied by the founding of new associations that, unlike the majority of established association structures, are not ethnically oriented and position themselves explicitly with a "progressive" or "liberal" orientation in the Islamic field. The Liberal-Islamic Federation (LIB), founded in 2010, stands out among these new associations, as it is one of the few to form its own "liberal-Islamic" communities.
As a newly forming Islamic branch under a 'liberal' sign, the LIB is an exciting example of a religious community 'in the making', whose constitutional processes throw light on the question of how Islamic communalization is shaped under a specific understanding of religious liberalism and which authority structures are formed in the process.
The two guiding questions of the project are accordingly:
1) How does religious communization of the LIB take shape in the context of religious liberalism? And 2) which religious-liberal authority structures are established with which legitimation strategy? Both questions aim to contour the Islamic variant of religious liberalism produced within the LIB.
The study focuses on three aspects in order to pursue the aforementioned questions at different levels. These are in detail the material, discursive and virtual practices of the LIB:

  • Material practices: As with every newly established religious group, the members of the LIB are also looking for their own spaces in order to shape their religious practice. This raises questions of location in the local fabric, but also of their own material expression. The view on material practices focuses on the establishment and shaping of own spaces (What does a 'liberal' mosque look like?) and religious forms (Which 'new' ways of religious practice are established, e.g. with regard to questions of gender justice?). Furthermore, the aesthetic forms of self-representation are of interest here, for example, pictorial positioning.

  • Discursive practices: According to its statutes, the LIB wants to position itself discursively in two respects. On the one hand, in the public (also political) discourse with and about Islam, the 'liberal' perspective, which has been neglected so far, is to be strengthened. This is accompanied by questions of representativeness (who speaks for whom?) and the determination of the relationship to other players in the religious field (how does the LIB position itself in relation to the major Islamic associations as well as actors in the 'liberal' spectrum?). In addition to the public-political discourse, the LIB is also developing its own "liberal" understanding of Islam, which emerges from the association's own theological work and is reflected, for example, in position papers. Of particular interest here are the constructions of tradition (who are the guarantors or religious reference points of 'Islamic liberalism'?) and the emerging theological bridges and demarcations (who are the discursive opponents and who the partners?).

  • Virtual practices: Not only due to the Covid19 pandemic, a strong virtual activity of the LIB has developed. This serves the organizational networking of the geographically quite far apart communities (Berlin, Hamburg, Hanover, Frankfurt a. M., Cologne, Stuttgart) and also with international partner organizations (including Kalam Institute in Marseille, Unity Mosque in Toronto). In addition, virtual religious practices (joint festive prayer, Quranic conversations, dhikr) have developed, contributing as a level of virtual communion to the shaping of the LIB as a religious community. Last but not least, social media activities (e.g., on Instagram and Twitter) play a major role in the presentation and networking of the LIB and shed light on communalization processes and concepts of authority.