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Television is Not Radio: Theologies of Mediation in the Egyptian Islamic Revival

By Yasmin Moll

Cite As:
Moll, Yasmin. 2018. “Television is Not Radio: Theologies of Mediation in the Egyptian Islamic Revival.” Cultural Anthropology 33, no. 2: 233–265.


What makes media “Islamic”? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Islamic television producers in Cairo, this article looks at the passionate contention within Egypt’s piety movement over the development of new forms of religious media. I suggest that at stake in these mass-mediated debates over da‘wa (Islamic outreach) are conflicting theologies of mediation that configure the boundaries of the religious and the secular differently. This God-talk matters greatly to Islamic revivalists, who spend more time debunking each other than they do secularists. Attention to these internal critiques foregrounds the competing moral conceptions of human flourishing and divine obligation that animate Egypt’s Islamic Revival. Indeed, focusing on the piety movement’s internal fractures as God-talk allows for an ethnographic engagement with how Muslim adepts critique religious difference—and the difference that religious critique makes—beyond the imperatives of secular power. This focus, in turn, complicates the stakes of anthropological judgment.


media; theology; piety; critique; Islam; Egypt