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  • Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (a1)

Proponents of minority rights are calling for urgent measures to protect the Copts in Egypt, the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, and the Baha'i in Iran to secure religious diversity, shield minority populations from discriminatory practices, and prevent the outbreak of religious violence. State governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and international tribunals promote religious liberalization as the antidote to the violence and discord that is often attributed to these divisions. Enshrined in international agreements and promoted by a small army of experts and authorities, legal protections for religious minorities are heralded as the solution to the challenges of living with social and religious diversity. This article examines how the complexities and ambivalences of ordinary religious belonging are translated and transformed through the process of becoming legalized and governmentalized. It documents the risks of adopting religion as a category to draw together individuals and communities as corporate bodies that are depicted as in need of legal protection to achieve their freedom. The argument is developed through an extended case study of the legal status of the Alevis in Turkey, a community and a category formally constituted as a single whole as part of the Turkish nation-building project. It evaluates two legal constructions of Alevism by the Turkish state and the European Court of Human Rights. While premised on differing assumptions about Alevism, both erase the indeterminacy and open-endedness surrounding Alevism as a lived tradition embedded in a broader field of social and cultural practices, while bolstering the role of the state in defining and overseeing Turkish religiosities.

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Buket Türkmen , “A Transformed Kemalist Islam or a New Islamic Civic Morality? A Study of ‘Religious Culture and Morality’ Textbooks in the Turkish High School Curricula,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29, no. 3 (2009): 388.

Markus Dressler , “The Modern Dede: Changing Parameters for Religious Authority in Contemporary Turkish Alevism,” in Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies, eds. Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke (Leiden: Brill, 2006)

Markus Dressler , Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 119

Esra Özyürek , “‘The Light of the Alevi Fire Was Lit in Germany and Then Spread to Turkey’: A Transnational Debate on the Boundaries of Islam,” Turkish Studies 10 (2009): 238.

Markus Dressler , “The Religio-Secular Continuum: Reflections on the Religious Dimensions of Turkish Secularism,” in After Secular Law, eds. Winnifred Sullivan , Robert Yelle , and Mateo Taussig-Rubbo (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 221–41

Karen Barkey , Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Kerstin Rosenow-Williams , Organizing Muslims and Integrating Islam in Germany: New Developments in the 21st Century (Leiden: Brill, 2012)

Zana Çitak , “Between ‘Turkish Islam’ and ‘French Islam’: The Role of the Diyanet in the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36, no. 4 (2010): 8

Nukhet A. Sandal , “Public Theologies of Human Rights and Citizenship: The Case of Turkey's Christians,” Human Rights Quarterly 35, no. 33 (2013): 641.

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan , “Varieties of Legal Secularism,” in Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age, eds. Linell E. Cady and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

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Journal of Law and Religion
  • ISSN: 0748-0814
  • EISSN: 2163-3088
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-law-and-religion
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