“Law, the State, and Public Order: Regulating Religion in Contemporary Egypt”

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A substantial scholarship has studied the extent to which states across the political and geographic spectrums rely on legal, bureaucratic, and judicial institutions to govern religion. However, a deeper inquiry into the mechanisms through which regulation occurs has yet been achieved. This article foregrounds conversion, understood as mobility between social groups in which belief and sincerity may figure but is not reducible to either, to observe these dynamics. Through an analysis of Egyptian jurisprudence on the right to change religion as well as interviews with complainants and litigators, the article challenges widespread assumptions about who and what constitute the regulatory field. It also shows how religious difference is produced in the legal‐bureaucratic encounter. By accounting for institutions that are not typically considered part of the regulatory field nor thought to be bound by the strictures of legal positivism, this article further occasions a rethinking of the public–private distinction within critiques of secularism.


“Authorizing Religious Conversion in Administrative Courts: Law, Rights, and Secular Indeterminacy”

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The administration of religious difference in modern Egypt suggests more continuity in the state’s involvement in personal status affairs over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries than is generally thought to exist. At the same time, the role that the administrative courts have played, on the one hand, in regulating formal religious identity and, on the other hand, in adjudicating conversion and apostasy has gone largely unaddressed. This article argues that constituting religious identity as an administrative category subject to judicial oversight was part of a larger constellation of political arrangements that reorganized relations among legal and bureaucratic institutions, religious authority, and state capacity in the modern period. By accounting for the enduring inconsistency with which the rule of law is deployed in religious status jurisprudence and the French legal influences that undergird this practice, the article illuminates how the administrative judiciary, a purportedly secular institution meant to curb an unwieldy bureaucracy, sustains rather than restricts sovereign state decisionism. The paradoxes of judicial discretion construct mutable boundaries between minority and majority religious populations that are central to the exercise of secular power.