Religion is Secularised Tradition: Jewish and Muslim Circumcisions in Germany

Lena Salaymeh*, Shai Lavi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This article demonstrates that the legal reasoning dominant in modern states secularises traditions by converting them into 'religions'. Using a case study on Germany's recent regulation of male circumcision, we illustrate that religions have (at least) three dimensions: religiosity (private belief, individual right and autonomous choice); religious law (a divinely ordained legal code); and religious groups (public threat). When states restrict traditions within these three dimensions, they construct 'religions' within a secularisation triangle. Our theoretical model of a secularisation triangle illuminates that, in many Western states, there is a three-way relationship between a post-Christian state and both its Jewish and Muslim minorities. Our two theoretical proposals - the secularisation triangle and the trilateral relationship - contribute to a re-examination of religious freedom from the perspective of minority traditions and minority communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-458
Number of pages28
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Germany
  • Jews
  • Muslims
  • circumcision
  • religion
  • secularism
  • tradition


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