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Democratic Empowerment of Religious Players: C. Giousouf from BpB discusses political education

The interreligious project "Cohesion through Conflict" continued its public dialogue events on 14.02.2023 in the form of a virtual discussion with the VicePresident of the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, BpB), Ms. Cemile Giousouf. Under the title "Religion in Political Education," the discussion focused on the position that religious discourse and faith practices occupy in the public sphere and how educational work can contribute to utilizing their democratic potential. Instead of assigning narrow roles and themes to religions, the general idea was that they should be understood as independent actors who participate on an equal footing in the negotiation of divergent positions in the shared public sphere. One of the thematic focal points was Islam, to which Ms. Giousouf could relate not only as a BpB representative but also with her academic and political expertise. Before she became the first Muslim member of the CDU to enter Parliament, she studied among other things Islamic studies and worked as an advisor for integration and equality issues in various state ministries in NRW.

According to Ms. Giousouf, religions provide resources for democratic cohesion, but at the same time, they are both the subject and the object of exclusionary practices, as shown, for example, by debates about veiled Muslim women. The goal must be to empower the individuals and communities concerned and to ensure their representation in democratic institutions. For example, the voices of third- and fourth-generation immigrants need to be heard in political debates. Caution is needed, however, not to impose identities on them based on a "projected image of Islam" that has nothing to do with their - sometimes secular - realities of life. Political education offers the opportunity to „unravel“ such constellations. As a theoretical guide for dealing with (religious) plurality, Ms. Giousouf recommended John Rawls' concept of an "overlapping consensus," the agreement on shared moral grounds of reason. In this context, the moderator Dr. Gesine Palmer of the Catholic Academy in Berlin referred to spiritual or mystical foundations in all religions, namely the Golden Rule, which relates to Kant's categorical imperative and thus back to Rawls. According to Giousouf and Stefan Zinsmeister of the Eugen Biser Foundation, the "Beutelsbach Consensus" – prohibiting indoctrination, requiring controversyand subject orientation – is decisive for political education.

In the Q&A with the approximately 30 participants, commentators called for Islam to be taken seriously in political education, beyond questions of security and the prevention of extremism. The BpB offers accessible formats in this regard, as Ms. Giousouf explained, for example, by having Muslim influencers speak aboutsocially relevant topics on YouTube, or by cooperating with the Anne Frank Educational Center to provide information about anti-Semitism. Such offerings were aimed particularly at those who share democratic values but are subject to other influences as a result of their socialization. A central concern turned out to be the provision of educational spaces in which a society perpetually negotiates its self-image while taking into account religious perspectives. The German Islam Conference was mentioned as an example, as it allows the Muslim community to enter into a dialogue with the state on an equal footing.

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