Muslim identity and Islamic faith in Sarajevo.
University of Cambridge
Department of Social Anthropology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Sorabji, C. (1989). Muslim identity and Islamic faith in Sarajevo. (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16263
Among the dominant themes in contemporary world affairs are the political role of Islam and the problem of national minorities in socialist states. The present thesis seeks to examine these issues through the anthropological investigation of a Muslim minority within a multi-national, federated socialist state - the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state is a constitutional federation of several diverse nationalities, all of which seek to preserve, assert and develop their distinct political identities within the fragile power balance system of Yugoslavia. The republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina is dominated by three such nationalities - the Serb, the Croat and the Muslim. These three correspond to three religious faiths; the Serbs are Orthodox, the Croats are Catholic and the Muslims are of the Islamic faith. Whilst the state does not officially recognise this correspondence, for ordinary Bosnians it is fundamental; national and religious identity are seen as inextricably linked. It is the nature of this link which forms the focus of my study, the fieldwork for which was carried out in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. For Sarajevo's Muslims Islam provides a "double identity", two ways of conceptualising collective identity. On the one hand Islam distinguishes Muslims from their Serb/Orthodox and Croat/Catholic neighbours, whilst on the other it gives them membership in a worldwide religious community transcending the bounds of Yuqoslavia. Both aspects of identity find expression in Muslim religious life. Thus male death rituals assert Bosnian Muslims' identity as members of the Islamic Umma, whilst mortuary rites performed by women are seen as distinguishing Muslims from their non-Muslim neighbours. In this and other ways religion becomes a medium for identity assertion. At the same time the discourse of identity is one through which rivalling religious orientations may compete. For example, the state authorised Muslim establishment promotes a rapprochement of Islamic and socialist ideologies and of Muslim and Yugoslav identity, whilst a new, semi-clandestine Islamic tendency looks constantly to the outside Muslim world, seeking to ally Bosnian Muslims with it. As an ethnographic study the thesis examines a number of issues including the perception of town and neighbourhood as separate conceptual spaces, the role of ritual, gender relations and the nature of religious rivalry. Through this approach to Sarajevan Muslim society it attempts to illuminate some broader questions concerning the political role of Islam in the modern world, the development of nationalisms and the nature of relations between minorities and the socialist state.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16263