Summary of Saba Mahmood Main Points: Conformist Secularism Notion of Euro-Western

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  887 Words
Date:  2022-07-27


Saba Mahmood merges two topics of study masterfully in his book of difference in secular age. The Author study of identity in politics looking unto works of literature on minority rights and secularism is the fundamental objective of the research in producing a narrative about political secularism limit and promises. Minority rights supporters from the Middle East have stated repeatedly that Coptic question, the uses of various expressions in to indicate the political, social and religious rights of the opts can only be made possible if the nation turns out to be more secular. Therefore, in the book, Saba Mahmood challenges the conformist secularism notion of Euro-western by arguing that non-western incommensurability and western secularism fails to grasp practices of religious polities, for example, Egypt's secularity structures.

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In her line of reasoning, she posits that a secular state cannot be a neutral religious difference arbiter while supporting the disparities between minorities and majorities, which are produced systematically. Furthermore, in her study of Egypt as a post-colonial state, she demonstrates that the states weaken the minority, for example, the Coptic and the Bahai minorities rather than providing them with more rights. This, she contends that is a clear indicator of the failure of secularism and how western society is pervaded by secular discourse. Additionally, in her ethnographic research and historical analysis, she focuses on religious liberty, public order, civil rights, minorities' rights and lastly, public and private legal differences in tracing Egypt's evolution of political secularism. Evidently, in her study, she exemplifies religious differences proliferation and how it has been metastasized in modern Egypt over time (Mahmood, 2015).

Majorly the bulk of her book primarily focuses on the research on political secularism defined as "religion regulation and the relationships of the modern state." Chapter one and two of the book are historical. In her first chapter, Mahmood argues compellingly that minority rights and religious liberty which are a fundamental secular concept in the Middle East are not simply neutral and the law instruments cannot be applied universally in protecting individuals from social inequality. Religion is subjected to a new grid of perspicuity regulated by secular liberal governance strategies. The grid is described by renunciation of modern state political calculus (religious liberty) and its concurrent dependence on different religious categories to control social life, thus minority rights. Therefore, the 2 concepts are characterized by inconsistencies and paradoxes by connecting the public and private territories that the worldly nation intents to keep unconnected. She makes a comparison of minorities' political representation in 1920 and 2012 in demonstrating how the makeshift has occurred. Also, she is keenly aware how there is a constant legal subjection of the line between private and public, religion and politics (Mahmood, 2015).

The second chapter delineates the discussion of the theory into clear focus through the intriguing history of Egyptian Cots' use of 'minority' term. Majority of the lay Copts and the hierarchy of the church disregarded the term minority at first in the support of national secular citizenship as part of a wider notion according to Mahmood. In her argument, the author further points out that the language of religious liberty recurrence and the rights of the minority in more recent years depicts a betrayal, not of secularism failure, rather the inherent tensions in any secular state agenda which strives to be involved in religious management at the same time remaining neutral in matters of religion. Additionally, she points out clearly how the state has increased polarization, focusing on differences in religion in furthering its goals.

The second part of the book chapter three, four and five, illustrates religious differences management by using three case studies and demonstrating how the state has used and institutionalized the five ideas, political rights, public order, minority rights, religious rights, and public and private legal differences. In chapter three, Mahmood argues that conflict between different religions specifically over marriage underscores how the modern Egyptian secular state has led to the privatization of religion and family more especially in the subject of personal status. Therefore, in the process, the church position has been strengthened subsequently increasing the hierarchy of Coptic religious organization hold over issues on gender. For example, Mahmood uses kamiliya, shahhata, and wafa'Qustantin to highlight how family law practice has resulted in unwarranted weight in the preservation of identity in religion and reproduction.

In the fourth chapter, the long-debated and ambiguous Baha'i population status in Egypt is placed in a wider context by proportional debates about public order maintenance. Those defending the public order argues that Mahmood study focuses and bank on majoritarian social and religious norms. She examines court records in her research on the minorities, she shows that the Baha population are denied religious liberty by the state which uses institutionalized political secularism in public order concept. Evidently, the Egyptian state recognized only three religion, the Muslim, Jews, and the Christians up to until 2006, visibly demonstrated through the issuance of national identity cards.

Chapter five primarily focus on exploring secularity, hence the attitudes, disposition and background suppositions that infuse subjectivity and secular society. Here, Mahmood expounds on the erupted controversy because of the publication of Azazeel historical novel showing that secularism does not provide the right platform for solving such arguments. Somewhat, conflicts are enflamed by secularism hence described erroneously as an impasse between secular freedoms and religious taboos.

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Summary of Saba Mahmood Main Points: Conformist Secularism Notion of Euro-Western . (2022, Jul 27). Retrieved from

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