This chapter introduces a new research program for understanding the politics of religion and secularism. It argues that a focus on the politics of secularism offers a productive port of entry into the study of religion and international politics. Following a brief introduction to religion and international relations, it offers a basic historical introduction to the concept of secularism (see Box 23.1), explains why the politics of secularism is significant to the study of global politics, and concludes with two short case studies of the politics of secularism in the Middle East and North Africa.
Religion and international relations
The study of the global dimensions and implications of religion and secularism is relatively new to the discipline of International Relations (IR) (E. S. Hurd 2008; Katzenstein and Byrnes 2006; S. M. Thomas 2005; Petito and Hatzopoulos 2003; Falk 2001). The power and authority of different forms of secularism and the force they command in many parts of the world, and in global politics, has received little attention. There are a number of reasons for this lack of attention.