On February 22, 2012, the secular-dominated Israeli Supreme Court overturned a longstanding law permitting ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish religious students to avoid military service. This comes in the wake of mounting religious-secular conflict in Israel.
Are secular Israelis who depict their religious opponents as “leeches”, antisemitic? Or merely defending their interests and freely expressing themselves? Professor Kaufmann takes the latter view, arguing that recent events are a straw in the wind which portend a much wider clash of values – not between, but within, civilizations.
Religious fundamentalism, he proposes, is poised to extend its influence, especially in the West. The reason for this is demographic: shifts in birth rates and global migration patterns are altering the balance between seculars, moderates and fundamentalists within nation-states and ethnic groups. Israel, Kaufmann suggests, is a paradigm case. Taking the growth of the Haredim in Israel and the diaspora as his starting point, Kaufmann will go on to explore wider global trends.
Professor Kaufmann will argue that at a time when religion is supposed to be fading in the West, the rise of religious fundamentalist sects challenges many of our assumptions about the inevitability of secularization, the future of progress and the idea of secular liberalism as an ‘End of History’.
Eric Kaufmann is author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (Profile, 2010). Signed copies of the book will be on sale after the event at the author’s rate of £10.
Introduced by: Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, University of London
Vote of thanks: Professor David Feldman, Director, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London