From Secular Reductionism to Religious Essentialism

Published on 1 March 2015

This chapter examines the changing dynamics of engaging with the intersections of religion and gender through feminist praxis.

There has been a paradigm shift from sidelining religion in development policy and practice to making it a central entry point for eliciting social change. While recognising religion as an identifier represents a welcome shift in policy analysis, its instrumentalisation to advance Western security and strategic agendas can highly detrimentally impact human rights.

The West’s engagement with “the Muslim world” after 9/11 represents a shift from being blind to religious forces (secular reductionism) to working through a narrow “religious prism” in engaging with highly diverse social, political, and economic phenomena (religious essentialism), that has greatly negatively influenced women’s rights. This is particularly so against the backdrop of the rising power of ultra-conservative religious forces to influence national and international policymaking processes and outcomes on gender equality.


Image of Mariz Tadros

Mariz Tadros

Director (CREID)

Publication details

Tadros, M


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