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Looking at the trajectories of people of Muslim origin in Egypt who express religious doubts, I argue in this article that doubt and nonreligiosity are not necessarily a child of a Christian genealogy of the secular and definitely not alien to Muslims. Instead, we have to understand them as an intimate moral discontent with the contemporary age of Islamic revival, even if their shape and some of their positive claims are borrowed from notions of Western origin and global currency—most notably, human rights and feminism. There are reasons and ways to become a nonbeliever in a society profoundly affected by a religious revival, and these reasons and ways can be telling about the nature of doubt and certainty in general. They also offer a perspective on the problematic of secularism that focuses on issues of belief and existential trust rather than governmentality and discursive power.

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Samuli Schielke is a Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany; e-mail:
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Samuli Schielke , “Ambivalent Commitments: Troubles of Morality, Religiosity and Aspiration among Young Egyptians,” Journal of Religion in Africa 39 (2009): 158–85

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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