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Religious Politics and Secular States

Egypt, India, and the United States

Scott W. Hibbard

Publication Year: 2010

This comparative analysis probes why conservative renderings of religious tradition in the United States, India, and Egypt remain so influential in the politics of these three ostensibly secular societies. The United States, Egypt, and India were quintessential models of secular modernity in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1980s and 1990s, conservative Islamists challenged the Egyptian government, India witnessed a surge in Hindu nationalism, and the Christian right in the United States rose to dominate the Republican Party and large swaths of the public discourse. Using a nuanced theoretical framework that emphasizes the interaction of religion and politics, Scott W. Hibbard argues that three interrelated issues led to this state of affairs. First, as an essential part of the construction of collective identities, religion serves as a basis for social solidarity and political mobilization. Second, in providing a moral framework, religion's traditional elements make it relevant to modern political life. Third, and most significant, in manipulating religion for political gain, political elites undermined the secular consensus of the modern state that had been in place since the end of World War II. Together, these factors sparked a new era of right-wing religious populism in the three nations. Although much has been written about the resurgence of religious politics, scholars have paid less attention to the role of state actors in promoting new visions of religion and society. Religious Politics and Secular States fills this gap by situating this trend within long-standing debates over the proper role of religion in public life.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Contents

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pp. 1-11

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Preface

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pp. xi-xvi

This book is the product of many years’ work. The origins of the research go back to the early 1990s, when I was following Islamist politics at the U.S. Institute of Peace. It was during this period (1992–97) that many of the events chronicled in chapter 3 were unfolding. At that time, there was a spike in Islamist violence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, as the former mujahedin...

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Introduction: Rethinking the Secular State

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pp. 1-17

On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat stood on a ceremonial platform and observed a military procession commemorate Egypt’s victory in the 1973 war with Israel. In what was known as the Great Crossing, the Egyptian army seized the Israeli military positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal and pushed into the Sinai Peninsula. Although the conflict ended inconclusively, the 1973 war was Sadat’s ...

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1 Reinterpreting Modern Religious Politics

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pp. 18-67

The resurgence of religious politics in recent years has been a challenge for social scientists and policymakers alike. Since the end of the Cold War, the effort to understand religious fundamentalisms and their role in contemporary politics has been a central feature of American academic and policy debates. This challenge became even more pronounced in the aftermath of the terror-...

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2 The Rise and Decline of Egyptian Secularism

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pp. 49-79

In the early 1990s, the Egyptian security services were engaged in a violent struggle with Islamist militant groups. Over the course of several years, thousands of Islamic activists—moderates as well as militants—were imprisoned, killed, or driven underground. Although some of these activists escaped into exile, the organizations that challenged the state were crushed, and by 1997 they ...

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3 The Islamization of Egyptian Politics

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pp. 80-114

The assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and a simultaneous uprising in the city of Assyut demonstrated how dramatically Egypt’s Islamic politics had spun out of control. The assassination was meant to spark a nationwide rebellion by other members of the militant group al-Jihad. A breakdown in communication, however, prevented the group’s network from being activated and allowed the ...

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4 The Rise and Decline of Indian Secularism

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pp. 115-148

The resurgence of Hindu nationalism was adefining feature of Indian politics in the 1990s. Although the ideas and organizations associated with the trend have roots in the early twentieth century, they were politically marginalized for much of the post-Independence period. Even in the 1980s, the political party that represented Hindu communalism, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was ...

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5 Embedding Communalism in Indian Politics

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pp. 149-176

The instrumental use of religion by Indian state officials continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Although ostensibly opposed to the chauvinism associated with religious communalism, Congress Party leaders consistently sought to coopt the ideas and rhetoric of Hindu nationalism for their own ends. This was evident in the electoral strategy of the 1984 national elections, called shortly ...

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6 The Rise and Decline of American Secularism

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pp. 177-207

Religion has always been a central feature of American politics. Despite an institutional separation of church and state, religion—particularly Protestant Christianity—remains firmly rooted in American nationalism and culture. So, too, is the belief that Americans are a chosen people with a unique destiny in the world. This messianic understanding of the American idea draws from the ...

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7 Religious Nationalism in the Reagan-Bush Era

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pp. 208-243

The efforts of the Republican Party to build a conservative majority through appeals to race, religion, and culture came to fruition during the Reagan and Bush presidencies. The strategy that propelled Nixon to the White House in 1968 and 1972 became a staple of Republican Party politics in later decades. The party’s emphasis on cultural politics defined the Reagan Revolution of the ...

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Conclusion: Religious Politics Reconsidered

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pp. 244-257

The global resurgence of religion and its influence on modern politics remain topics of keen interest. Much of the contemporary research, however, continues to view this trend in largely dichotomous terms: either as a religious phenomenon or as simply a matter of politics. The first of these two perspectives sees the revivalism of recent years as an organic expression of humanity ...

Notes

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pp. 259-295

Index

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pp. 297-306


E-ISBN-13: 9780801899201
E-ISBN-10: 0801899206
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801896699
Print-ISBN-10: 080189669X

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Religion and politics -- Egypt.
  • Religion and politics -- India.
  • Religion and politics -- United States.
  • Conservatism -- Egypt.
  • Conservatism -- India.
  • Conservatism -- United States.
  • Egypt -- Politics and government.
  • India -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
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