The author argues that the current interest in Jews and secularism appears to be driven by the feeling that secular arrangements in many countries are under pressure. Against the liberal model that treats religion as a private issue, certain religious movements within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are seeking to influence politics in a new way. Rather than demonstrate an increasing separation of religious and political spheres, national religious groups in Israel and certain evangelical communities in the United States, among others, seem rather to be collapsing these spheres.
No phenomenon has influenced the recent interest in secularism as much as the idea of political Islam. The very notion of a common tradition of European secularism seems to be reinvented against the foil of an Islamic, non-European tradition said to lack an adequate understanding of secularity. Jewish intellectuals who research and comment upon secularism are by necessity affected by these debates. If we want to understand the competing concepts of secularism that circulate today among Jews and non-Jews alike, we would be well served to look at the way Jews speak about Islam as well as the various other foils that figure in current debates on secularism. A focus on these constellations will also help us understand Jewish secularism in its historical context.