Reflections on Secularism, Democracy, and Politics in Egypt

by Hussein Ali Agrama

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By Hussein Ali Agrama I reassess dominant understandings of the relations between secularism, democracy, and politics by comparing the Egyptian protests that began on January 25, 2011, and lasted until the fall of Mubarak with some of the events that occurred in their aftermath. The events that occurred after these protests demonstrated the obliging power of what I call the “problem-space of secularism,” anchored by the question of where to draw a line between religion and politics and the stakes of tolerance and religious freedom typically attached to it. By contrast, the protests themselves displayed a marked indifference to this question. Thus, they stood outside the problem-space of secularism, representing what I call an “asecular” moment. I suggest that such moments of asecularity merit greater attention. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2011.01342.x/abstract

Tahrir Square, 2011. Photo by Ian Straughn.
Tahrir Square, 2011. Photo by Ian Straughn.