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Moderate Secularism vs. Moderate Islam: A Human Rights Comparison

November 6, 2019@6:00 pm8:00 pm

Prof. em. Dr. Dr. h.c. Helmut Goerlich

Universität Leipzig

Secular Law and Freedom of Religion

Doç. Dr. Emir Kaya

Ankara Sosyal Bilimler Üniversitesi

Moderate Secularism vs. Moderate Islam:
A Human Rights Comparison

Orient-Institut Istanbul: 6 November 2019 – 18:00

Susam Sokak No:16 Kat:3 Daire: 7 Cihangir – İstanbul


Helmut Goerlich studied philosophy, history and law in Frankfurt/Main and Hamburg. After several research sojourns (University College, Cambridge; JF Kennedy School of Government; Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass.), he habilitated with a monograph entitled Grundrechte als Verfahrensgarantien: Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis des Grundgesetzes für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland“ [Fundamental rights as procedural safeguards]. From 1981 to 1991, he was a judge at the administrative tribunal. In 1992 he was appointed as chair of constitutional and administrative law, constitutional history, and state church law at the Law Faculty of the University of Leipzig. In 2017 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Istanbul Kültür University, where he is teaching as a visiting professor.


Secular Law and Freedom of Religion

Secular law has existed since the Roman Republic and the fall of the kings of ancient Rome. After that transition, Roman law was enacted by the Senate and the people rather than on a religious basis. An ethical-religiously-based protection was only required for the stability of application of this law and its normative power.

Since that time the secularity of law has been used to hold all other justified law at a distance and to constitute a self-sustaining public order on the basis of secularity. Throughout the Middle Ages, this pattern was maintained in Europe through the creation of norm-controlled princely territories in defense against the canonical-religious, local or customary, and later also the feudal law. This pattern was leading all the way to democratic legislation.

Secular constitutions in written form stand at the end of this development, supplemented by an expansion of the legal status of subjects, citizens, and finally of the human as a development towards individual rights, which have secular character even where they guarantee freedom of religion.

Emir Kaya is Associate Professor of Public Law at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, and currently visiting researcher at the Chair of Law and Religions at the Catholic University of Louvain. Previously he worked as judge-rapporteur for the Constitutional Court of Turkey.  He is the author of “Secularism and State Religion in Modern Turkey: Law, Policy-Making and the Diyanet”, and “Hukuk Zihniyeti” [Legal Mentality]. Dr. Kaya holds a PhD in Law from SOAS, the University of London, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Indiana University-Bloomington.

Moderate Secularism vs. Moderate Islam: A Human Rights Comparison

Secularism is an outcome of emancipation movements and is associated with humans’ liberties and rights rather than duties. Religions, however, have traditionally adopted duty-oriented discourses. This disparity between secularism and religion makes human rights an innately secular concept, and consequently unneutral towards religions. This, I believe, is the heart of clashes between secularism and religions with respect to human rights. To overcome clashes, we need not only moderate religiosity but also moderate secularity. But what is moderate religiosity/secularity? I intend to answer this question by introducing a revised version of secularism that is truly neutral about religion and also agreeable from the perspective of religion, especially Islam in contemporary European context.


November 6, 2019
6:00 pm-8:00 pm