Press release: Research on the relationship between religion and law

Nr. 153/2016 - 27.07.2016

Göttingen University participates in two collaborative EU-level humanities projects

(pug) Göttingen University is participating in two new joint pan-European projects in the humanities. The projects’ researchers are examining the relationship between religion and law: the European Union is promoting the projects via the network "Humanities in the European Research Area" (HERA). The Göttingen Islamic Studies scholar Professor Irene Schneider is exploring how the Sharia of former times is used in current legal discourses in Islamic countries; the Göttingen canonist Professor Hans Michael Heinig is pursuing research that deals with the secular nature of Nordic law, investigating the question as to how the heritage of the Reformation influenced the understanding of law and legislation in the Nordic countries.

The project “Understanding Shari'a: Perfect Past/Imperfect Present" (US PPIP) focuses on how today's Muslim states deal with the "perfect past” of Sharia. This refers to the period between 622 and 632, when the prophet Muhammad acted as a statesman and legislator in Medina and applied Sharia – the divine right revealed in the Koran. The project is investigating, amongst other things, how this "perfect past” is used in current legal discussions to justify not only legislation, but case law and legal practice as well. Scientists from four countries are addressing this issue based on four focal areas. Professor Schneider is focusing on gender position: In many modern Muslim states, feminist Koran exegetes stand against the entrenched power of the mostly male-dominated establishment of scholars, whilst parliamentarians wrestle with reinterpretations, e.g. of marriage and divorce laws. The US PPIP project has two years’ funding of around € 1.2 million in total; the Göttingen share amounts to € 250,000.

In the project "Protestant Legacies in Nordic Law: Uses of the Past in the Construction of the Secularity of Law" (ProNoLa), the pivotal question is whether the confessional homogeneity in the Nordic countries and the resulting influence of Lutheran theology has led to a unique understanding of the secularity of state law. The scholars are investigating four periods since the 16th century from theological, religious sociological, historical and legal perspectives to figure out which concepts relating to the relationship between religion, law and the state were developed at this time. They draw on the confessional heterogeneity in Germany for critical comparison. The project is relevant to the present day because Northern Europe must also adapt to significant religious upheavals – both in terms of multireligiousness as well as areligiousness. This puts pressure on denominationally influenced ideas about the secularity of the law. The funding for ProNoLa totals about € 1.1 million over three years, of which around € 120,000 will go to Göttingen.

Professor Irene Schneider
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Faculty of Humanities
Chair of Arabic Studies/Islamic Studies
Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
Phone +49 551 39-29493

Professor Hans Michael Heinig
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Faculty of Law
Chair of Public Law, especially canon law and ecclesiastical law
Goßlerstraße 11, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
Phone +49 551 39-10602