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date: 28 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

With the widening rift between secular and religious groups in Muslim majority countries, “Islamism” continues to be reified as a separate entity from “secularism,” thus uprooting it from its historical and sociopolitical context. This chapter critically examines these binarizing discourses to propose an interdisciplinary approach that situates Islamic movements within broader discussions of social power structures that frame the discursive contentious divide between the secular and the religious. Taking ethnographic data from an Islamic women’s reform movement in Egypt as a starting point, this chapter argues that the reification of the so-called “religious subject” as the opposite of the “secular other” in literature in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is distortive. Unquestioned notions of individual subjectivity can be misleading in analysis of Islamic movements and impact how we understand political and social transformations in post revolutionary Arab Muslim-majority societies.

Keywords: Islamism, Islamic movements, secularism, MENA, ethnographic data, women’s reform movements

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