Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Types of Religious Identities within Romanian Muslim Communities

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Types of Religious Identities within Romanian Muslim Communities

Article excerpt

Islam underwent a dual process of universalization and localization once it spread to other societies; the specific, contingent elements of the Arabian original cultural context were discarded and only the essential and non-negotiable elements were retained. This universalized message was further adapted to local customs and needs1. In Romania, this process of universalization and adaptation generated at least two models of integration and ethno-religious identity present in the public and institutional discourse: the territorialized, historical, ethnic Dobrogea model - based on intense cooperation between the local religious and political institutions regarding the preserving of a symbolic, ethnic identity concentrated on regional traditions, customs, language - and the "universal Islam" model that enforces not a symbolic religious role, but a completely different way of living. However, multicultural Romanian public policies are insensitive to the internal heterogeneity of ethno-cultural Muslim groups and to their different problems related to integration, facilitating only one way of expressing the Islamic identity2.

In Romania, according to the latest official census data (2011), there are 64,337 Muslims3 (34,685 men and 29,652 women) out of which 26,903 are Turks, 20,060 Tatars, 3,356 Rroma Muslims, 6,281 Romanian Muslims and 6,906 of another ethnicity. Muslims represent almost 0.3% of the Romanian population and most of them live in urban areas: 43,279 in Constanta and 9,037 in Bucharest.

There is an internal heterogeneity of the minority Muslim communities in Romania, many of different ethnicities, manifesting various degrees of integration in society, from complete assimilation and acculturation to even somewhat hostile ideological-based dissociation. In fact, we can speak of a multitude of Muslim communities that are quite isolated and closed, rarely interact with each other, are organized on to ethnic criteria, but that also intersect and are grouped according to sectarian, national, linguistic and, more recently, to political factors. Inter-group relations are complex and complicated, there is strife, tensions, criticism, but also isolated or "clandestine" collaboration; each group could be divided into other sub-groups. The conflicts and dynamics that occur outside the borders, especially in the Middle East, are imported and reflected to different degrees in the Romanian Muslim communities4; while Muslims in Romania-except the Tatar-Turkish and Rroma communities that subscribe to a completely different paradigm-are less preoccupied with their local situation, well-being and integration in the Romanian society it still cannot be said that they developed a sui generis identity specific to understanding Islam in a European context. The second generation of newcomers is still young and it is still early to predict their orientation; the converts are still in the process of learning and dominated by the submissive phase of the received knowers who rely on the knowledge disseminated by external authorities and rarely dare to challenge what they were taught to perceive as religious authorities.

The inner diversity of Islam as a religious tradition is reflected by the different ways in which Muslims living in Romania interpret the Islamic faith according to the local determinations. In this short research we will try to analyze the way in which various categories of Muslims living in Romania understand and manifest religiosity in the Romanian context. We define religiosity as the personal relation of an individual to his faith, the way believers experience and formulate their relationship to religion5. As a supplementary methodological tool, we analyzed major Romanian Islamic sites, Facebook official pages and blogs and conducted 7 in-depth interviews; persons who represent different sections of the Muslim communities-some with a certain religious authority-were selected. In order to identify the nuances that mark the Muslims' interaction and "orthopraxis" in the relations with the representatives of different religious groups, especially Christians, we tracked the way some major Romanian Islamic official organizations reacted during relevant non Islamic events as Christmas celebration. …

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