Journal article Open Access

Islam in the post-Communist Balkans: alternative pathways to God

Elbasani, Arolda; Roy, Olivier

The Islamic 'revival' in the Balkans has raised many questions among mainstream politicians and academics, who tend to look at religion as a repository of ethno-national identities, and hence a risky 'depot', furthering divisions between and among national entities. How believers themselves discover, articulate and experience their faith, is often lost in the grand narratives of nations' assumed uniformity and the related criteria of inclusion and exclusion. This article shifts the analytical and empirical focus from nation-centric debates on the revival of Islam to believers' self-discovery and pursuit of faith after the fall of Communism. Specifically, it explores the emerging actors and mechanisms that trigger the bifurcation between Islam as a marker of national identity on the one hand, and a source of religious beliefs on the other. It all depends on who speaks for Islam –state authorities, religious hierarchies and/or informal faith communities. All the while, the Islamic phenomenon is no longer merely the bearer of ethno-national alternatives, but also the symptom of new spaces containing a variety of new actors as well as overlapping national, regional and global processes.

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