Brown Bag Seminar


Secularism, Islamism, and the Politics of Defining Religious Freedom in Modern Egypt

February 25, 2013

In this talk, Dr. Aria Nakissa examined the political nature of attempts to define “freedom of religion” in the context of current developments in Egypt. It argued that while on the one hand Islamist conceptions of freedom of religion have specifically been designed to ensure that non-Islamic forms of religiosity are suppressed, on the other, secular liberal conceptions have a similar purpose, operating to outlaw conventional forms of Islam. As such, this talk illustrated how, contrary to appearances, discourses on the need to protect “freedom of religion” often function as a strategic means to restrict unwelcome forms of religiosity.

Aria Nakissa
 is a Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 2012. He also holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.A. in Shari’a Law from the International Islamic University in Malaysia. Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork among religious scholars at Cairo’s al-Azhar University, Nakissa’s research examines how Islamic legal discourses have been transformed by changes in modern educational practice.

This panel is co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology.