The Politics of Secularism in International Relations

By Elizabeth Shakman Hurd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Political Islam

Il s'agit bien d'aborder la question de fond: l'islam est-il compati-
ble avec la laïcité? Mais alors, de quelle laïcité parlons-nous?1

The attempt to understand Muslim traditions by insisting that in
them religion and politics (two essences modern society tries to
keep conceptually and practically apart) are coupled must, in my
view, lead to failure.2

IN RULE OF EXPERTS, Timothy Mitchell writes that “the possibility of social science is based upon taking certain historical experiences of the West as the template for a universal knowledge.”3 This observation applies to the knowledge about “political Islam” generated by secularist epistemology in the field of international relations. The conceptions of secularism underlying social inquiry in this discipline determine the kinds of questions that can be asked and are worth asking about secularism, religion, and politicized religion.4 As Hirschkind argues, “greater recognition must be given to the way Western concepts (religion, political, secular, temporal) reflect specific historical developments, and cannot be applied as a set of universal categories or natural domains.”5

Most attempts to theorize religion in international relations add a concern for religious beliefs, actors, and institutions into the literature on sovereignty, security, global governance, conflict resolution, human rights, intercivilizational dialogue, and the role of transnational actors.6 This approach fails to address a fundamental question that lies at the center of this book, which is the extent to which assumptions about what religion is and how it relates to politics determine both the kinds of questions worth asking about religion and the kinds of answers one expects to find. These assumptions are generally secularist.7 Secularist habits, dispositions, and interpretive traditions are part of the cultural and normative foundation of the field of contemporary international relations. They are an implicit part of the ontology of this research tradition.8 As a result, traditional forms of international relations require and assume a particular kind of religious subject that is produced through a series of practices that are at the core of modern secularist authority.9 Recognizing the epistemological contingencies of secularist authority and coming to terms with its political consequences in international relations are the objectives of

-116-

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The Politics of Secularism in International Relations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Varieties of Secularism 23
  • Chapter Three - Secularism and Islam 46
  • Chapter Four - Contested Secularisms in Turkey and Iran 65
  • Chapter Five - The European Union and Turkey 84
  • Chapter Six - The United States and Iran 102
  • Chapter Seven - Political Islam 116
  • Chapter Eight - Religious Resurgence 134
  • Chapter Nine - Conclusion 147
  • Notes 155
  • Select Bibliography 213
  • Index 237
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