After Identity Politics? Faith in Liberal Citizenship

Amyn Sajoo


The ambivalent role of religion in modern citizenship is hardly new, whether in terms of the “hardware” (legal-political institutions and processes) or “software” (public attitudes and habits). Faith narratives can vigorously contest liberal claims of civil belonging and freedom, such as on gender and secularism. Yet liberal citizenship also benefits from justice claims anchored in interpretations of religion, ranging from equality and solidarity to nonviolence and reconciliation. Identity politics is a formative part of liberal citizenship, with a dominant tribal discourse legitimated by the accommodation of minority ethno-religious claims to equity and equality. Nativist populism aggravates an already adversarial relationship between faith and liberal citizenship, notably for minority religions. This paper argues for symbiosis between liberal citizenship and diverse religious identities—a political theology that takes pluralism seriously. While liberalism purports to minimize expectations of individual virtue, civic pluralism calls for the inclusion of collective and individual ethical commitments, beyond ruptures of secular and sacred that shape a jurisprudence on the “burdens of accommodation.” Evidence from Canada, among other liberal settings, suggests that the alternative is civic fragmentation that favours majoritarian tribalism.    


citizenship; secularism; pluralism; nationalism; symbiosis; populism; thymos; philia; minorities; shari’a; political theology; civic totalism

Full Text:


@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125