The term ‘secular’ and its conceptual affiliates are doing a lot of work in misrepresenting the uprising in Egypt. ‘Secular’ politics has been taken to mean ‘good’ politics (limited democratization, stability, and support for the peace treaty with Israel), and ‘Islamic’ politics is being translated as ‘bad’ politics (the myriad dangers allegedly posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies). Accounts of the current situation in Egypt are handicapped by an inability to read politics in Egypt and Muslim-majority societies outside of this overly simplistic and politically distorting lens. The indiscriminate association of the secular with good governance stabilizes an understanding of Islam as that which is not secular. It also, and perhaps even more dangerously, perpetuates the idea of the secular as the natural domain of rational self-interest and universalist ethics. Secular politics comes to stand as the opposite of Muslim politics and as the natural counterpart to all other dimensions of politics that don’t fit comfortably within the categories of rational self-interest or universalist ethics. This is a powerful and capacious category. Beyond securing itself in distinction to Islam, the secular thereby comes to ground and secure a place for the good, rational, and universal, which is opposed to any number of irrational particularisms, aberrations, and variations.
more from Elizabeth Shakman Hurd at Immanent Frame here.