Religious Difference in a Secular Age: The Minority Report by Saba Mahmoud (2016) Book Review

Feminist Dissent, Summer 2017, at 148-161

13 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017 Last revised: 12 May 2018

See all articles by Lama Abu-Odeh

Lama Abu-Odeh

Georgetown University Law Center


The Minority Report is a text that tries to respond to the problem of essentializing Islam (the culturalism problem) by performing a flip so that all the bad attributes typically associated with “Islam” are now attributed to secularism instead. It is secularism that discriminates, that is sectarian, that encourages violence, that is repressive, sexist, etc. This Mahmood does by on the one hand hyper-politicizing secularism (depleting it of its universalist drive), and on the other under-politicizing it by ignoring its internal indeterminacy, complexity, open structure and varied distributive effects. The result is an account that moves between crude historicism-secularism is its history- and formalist generalizations reminiscent of the ways “Islam” is treated in mainstream discourse. Islam is nothing but the history of its conquests and its doctrines create the world in a specific way.

But a flip does not a critique make.

Keywords: Islam, Islamic Law, Islamic, Secularism, Religion

Suggested Citation

Abu-Odeh, Lama, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: The Minority Report by Saba Mahmoud (2016) Book Review. Feminist Dissent, Summer 2017, at 148-161, Available at SSRN: or

Lama Abu-Odeh (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
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