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Islamic Activism in Azerbaijan : Repression and Mobilization in a Post-Soviet Context

by Bedford, Sofie

Abstract (Summary)
Post-Soviet Azerbaijan is often portrayed as a very secular country. Thus the mobilization of mosque communities in the late 1990s and their conflictual relationship with the authorities came as a surprise. The main aim of the dissertation is to shed light on this mobilization, focusing on the Sunni Abu Bakr and the Shi’ite Juma mosque communities in Baku. On the premise that Islamic mobilization may be interpreted as a “social movement”, internal, contextual and interactional aspects of mobilization have been studied. The analysis is chiefly based on interviews conducted in Baku in 2004/2005 with Imams, worshippers, religious and secular authorities. The study finds that young people looking for new approaches to religion have been drawn to these communities, where they encounter an independent, educated, conscientious clergy and, indeed, a “new” religion. This “sovereign” Islam does not go down well with authorities who fear politicization of religion. The Soviet heritage has provided them with a view of religion as something that should not be publicly displayed and with the institutions to control religion. Another key feature whose impact on state policy towards religious organizations cannot be underestimated is the fear of imported radicalism. A look at Islamic mobilization in North Caucasus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan reveals many similarities, yet one momentous difference is the harsher repression in these contexts, which decreases the chances of a non-radical mobilization. The thesis concludes that the role of the state in mobilization processes in non-democratic contexts is crucial but counterintuitive, as the regimes’ efforts to stop the mobilization of movements actually leads to its intensification. In Azerbaijan, official pressure brings community members closer together and strengthens their resolve, rather than putting an end to mobilization. It also puts a spotlight on these communities which lights up the way for others in search of something new.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Stockholms universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; Social sciences; Political science; Islamic activism; social movements; mobilization; non-democratic contexts; soft repression; post-Soviet religion; official Islam; Azerbaijan; Political Science; statsvetenskap

ISBN:978-91-7155-800-8

Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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