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Book Review

Publication Date



The Minority Report is a text that tries to respond to the problem of essentializing Islam (the culturalism problem) by performing a flip so that all the bad attributes typically associated with “Islam” are now attributed to secularism instead. It is secularism that discriminates, that is sectarian, that encourages violence, that is repressive, sexist, etc. This Mahmood does by on the one hand hyper-politicizing secularism (depleting it of its universalist drive), and on the other under-politicizing it by ignoring its internal indeterminacy, complexity, open structure and varied distributive effects. The result is an account that moves between crude historicism-secularism is its history- and formalist generalizations reminiscent of the ways “Islam” is treated in mainstream discourse. Islam is nothing but the history of its conquests and its doctrines create the world in a specific way.

But a flip does not a critique make.

Publication Citation

Lama Abu-Odeh, Secularism's Fault, Feminist Dissent, Summer 2017, at 148-161 (reviewing Saba Mahmood, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (2016)).

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