This paper analyses public conflicts over school policies that seek to advance Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality. It focuses in particular on conflicts where Muslims, who protest LGBT-inclusive policies, become racialised as other to secular national/Western values. Growing attention has been paid to the secular arguments used by majority and minority religious groups to publicly counter LGBT-inclusive education. In this paper, I contend that neither contemporary arguments for, or against, LGBT-inclusive education are neatly secular, i.e., non-religious, in their public appearance. Introducing a Critical Secular approach, I contend multiple parties in such conflicts work with “strategic” secularisms. Strategic secularisms are prevailing discourses which privatise, and deprivatise (make public), aspects of minority religious and sexual identities on neo-colonial, secular Christian terms. I present a thematic analysis of 149 newspaper articles covering protests largely by Muslims against LGBT-inclusive education outside schools in Birmingham, England. The analysis shows that newspapers foregrounded discourses seeking to privatise (assert private authority over) or deprivatise (publicly surveil) Muslim religiosity. LGBT identities were also variously framed as “beliefs” to be kept private, or an essential part of the public self which must be confessed to be “free”. Based on this analysis, I argue public discourse should certainly challenge queer/Muslim and secular/religious dichotomies. But more
fundamentally, there is a need to cultivate education publics that refuse strategic secularisms based in neo-colonial, racialised discourses of secular Christian civilisation, and engage the losses created by the privatising and deprivatising of specific forms of minority religious and sexual identity.
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- LGBT Education
- Critical Secular Studies
- Queer communities
- Muslim communities