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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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1 Ali Yaman, social anthropologist at Abant İzzet Baysal University, Bolu, cited in Thomas Grove, “Turkish Alevis Fight Back against Religion Lessons,” Reuters, May 5, 2008,

2 Hamid Dabashi, “To Protect the Revolution, Overcome the False Secular-Islamist Divide,” Al Jazeera English, December 9, 2012,

3 An example is the recommendation in the 2012 report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that the president demote Turkey to a “Country of Particular Concern” due to “the Turkish government's systematic and egregious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief that affect all religious communities in Turkey, and particularly threaten the country's non-Muslim religious minorities.” United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2012 Annual Report (2012),

4 The United States is also involved in this activity (see previous note), though to a lesser degree than European institutions due to the integrative impact of ongoing (though faltering) Turkish-EU accession negotiations, significant economic and trading ties between Europe and Turkey, and geographic proximity.

5 Türkmen, Buket, “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.

6 See Mahmood, Saba, “Religious Freedom, the Minority Question, and Geopolitics in the Middle East,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54, no. 2 (2012): 418–46. On the history of the Court in relation to the protection of religious freedom, see Danchin, Peter G. and Forman, Lisa, “The Evolving Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the Protection of Religious Minorities,” in Protecting the Human Rights of Religious Minorities in Eastern Europe, eds. Danchin, Peter and Cole, Elizabeth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 192221.

7 These initiatives are the subject of my forthcoming book Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).

8 Council of the European Union, EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief (Luxembourg, June 24, 2013), Elise Massicard has remarked on the pressure on Turkey from European institutions to “protect its ‘minorities’ and treat them equitably.” Massicard, The Alevis in Turkey and Europe: Identity and Managing Territorial Diversity (London: Routledge, 2013), 2.

9 Slotte, Pamela, “The Religious and the Secular in European Human Rights Discourse,” Finnish Yearbook of International Law 21 (2010): 54. Laurence Rosen makes a related point: “while analyses of law tend to focus on conflict and resolution, rule-making or rule-applying, one can—without in any way downplaying these aspects—also see law as contributing to the formation of an entire cosmology, a way of envisioning and creating an orderly sense of the universe, one that arranges humanity, society, and ultimate beliefs into a scheme perceived as palpably real.” Rosen, Law as Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 11.

10 Berger, Benjamin L., “The Aesthetics of Religious Freedom,” in Varieties of Religious Establishment, eds. Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers and Beaman, Lori G. (London: Ashgate, 2013), 3353; Kahn, Paul, The Cultural Study of Law: Reconstructing Legal Scholarship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

11 Mahmood, “Religious Freedom,” 419.

12 Massicard, Alevis in Turkey and Europe, 4.

13 Gareth Jenkins, “ECHR Ruling Highlights Discrimination Suffered by Turkey's Alevi Minority,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, October 12, 2007,

14 “Alevi Group Demands End to Turkish Mandatory Religious Classes,” Hurriyet Daily News, November 7, 2010,

15 Dressler, Markus, “The Modern Dede: Changing Parameters for Religious Authority in Contemporary Turkish Alevism,” in Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies, eds. Krämer, Gudrun and Schmidtke, Sabine (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 271n6. On the genealogies of the traditions now assembled under “Alevism” see Dressler, Markus, Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 119 and 275–87.

16 Markus Dressler, “New Texts Out Now: Markus Dressler, Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam,”, June 19, 2013,

17 Dressler, Writing Religion, 17.

18 This recalls Talal Asad's description of majority/minority relations in France: “the crucial difference between the ‘majority’ and the ‘minorities’ is, of course, that the majority effectively claims the French state as its national state.” Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 175.

19 Contrasting Sunni and Alevi ways of life, David Shankland theorizes that Alevis are more inclined to resist centralized rule because their myths, rituals, and authority structures undermine the legitimacy of the central government while those of the Sunni majority are incorporated and normalized by the state. Shankland, The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition (New York: Routledge, 2003), 24.

20 Both traditions honor Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Approximately one-third of the Turkish population of Hatay in southeastern Turkey is of Arab Alawite descent and directly related to Syria's Alawites. Hatay, which was until 1938 part of Syria, has received a large influx of refugees from the Syrian war and has served as a staging ground for anti-Assad forces. On the politics of religion in the Syrian conflict see Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, “The Dangerous Illusion of an Alawite Regime,” Boston Review, June 11, 2013,

21 Özyürek, Esra, “‘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.

22 Associations such as Pir Sultan Abdal Dernegi are open to understanding Alevism as a religion outside of Islam, while others, such as Cem Vakfi, counter that Alevism is at the very heart of Islam.

23 Talha Köse, “Alevi Opening and the Democratization Initiative in Turkey,” Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research (March 2010): 12–13,

24 See Tambar, Kabir, “The Aesthetics of Public Visibility: Alevi Semah and the Paradoxes of Pluralism in Turkey,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 52, no. 3 (2010): 652–59.

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

26 A 2005 interview in the Turkish newspaper Radikal asked Kazım Genç, former president of Pir Sultan Abdal Derneği, “What do Alevis expect from the EU?” He replied: “We are asking for our individual rights and freedoms without being labelled as a minority. 2004 European Union's Regular Report on Turkey defined Alevis as a minority. Alevis, however, do not consider themselves as a minority.” “Alevilik İslamiyet'in içinde değil,” [Kazım Genç, interviewed by Neşe Düzel], Radikal, October 10, 2005,

27 Özyürek, “‘The Light of the Alevi Fire,’” 247.

28 The term millet is derived from the Arabic word for “nation” or millah, and generally refers to the Ottoman system of social, legal, and religious organization in which different confessional communities under the Empire exercised varying degrees of legal autonomy with regard to certain matters. On Ottoman history in global context, see Barkey, Karen, Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

29 Soner, B. Ali, “Citizenship and the Minority Question in Turkey,” in Citizenship in a Global World: European Questions and Turkish Experiences, eds. Keyman, E. Fuat and İçduygu, Ahmet (New York: Routledge, 2005), 290–93.

30 Özyürek cites a librarian from Cem Vakfı (Foundation): “There is a difference between having been exposed to injustice and being a minority. [Unlike Kurds] Alevis do not want a separate land or a flag. All they want to do is to be able to practice their worship.” Özyürek, “‘The Light of the Alevi Fire,’” 247.

31 Ibid., 245.

32 See for example White, Benjamin Thomas, The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East: The Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012).

33 Seçil Aslan, “The Ambivalance of Alevi Politic(s): A Comparative Analysis of Cem Vakfı and Pir Sultan Abdal Derneği” (master's thesis, Bogazici University, 2008).

34 The largest Alevi organization in Germany, the Almanya Alevi Birlikleri Federasyonu (AABF) is legally recognized as a religious organization that represents Alevis in Germany, a designation that does not require the group to define its relation to (Sunni) Islam. Among other activities AABF prepares curricular materials for teaching about Alevism for the ministries of culture and education in several German federal states. Rosenow-Williams, Kerstin, Organizing Muslims and Integrating Islam in Germany: New Developments in the 21st Century (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 109.

35 On this question see Özyürek, Esra, “Beyond Integration and Recognition: Diasporic Constructions of Alevi Identity between Germany and Turkey,” in Transnational Transcendence: Essays on Religion and Globalization, ed. Csordas, Thomas J. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 121–44; Sökefeld, Martin, Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in Transnational Space (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008); and Massicard, The Alevis in Turkey and Europe.

36 Dressler, “The Modern Dede,” 285.

37 See Kaya, Ayhan, “Multicultural Clientelism and Alevi Resurgence in the Turkish Diaspora: Berlin Alevis,” New Perspectives on Turkey 18 (1998): 2349.

38 Özyürek, “Beyond Integration and Recognition,” 128–31. In 1989 the Hamburg Alevi Association's “Alevi Manifesto,” “defined Alevism as a branch of Islam and aimed to make the demands of Alevis publicly known. It asked for recognition of Alevism as a different faith and culture, for equal representation and opportunity in education and in the media, and proportional assistance in religious services.” Ibid., 128–29.

39 Kaya, “Multicultural Clientelism and Alevi Resurgence,” 25.

40 Özyürek, “Beyond Integration and Recognition,” 136.

41 “In Turkey's laicist relations, relations understood as separation exist within a set of relations understood as integration, supervision, and control, and the latter relations are understood as part of the larger practice of maintaining the separation of religion from state affairs.” Davison, Andrew, “Hermeneutics and the Politics of Secularism,” in Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age, eds. Cady, Linell E. and Hurd, Elizabeth Shakman (New York: Palgrave, 2010), 3536.

42 Nilüfer Göle, “Manifestations of the Religious-Secular Divide: Self, State, and the Public Sphere,” in Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age, 45.

43 Act no. 429 reads: “In the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the Cabinet which is formed by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey are responsible for the legislation and execution of provisions concerning the affairs of people; and the Presidency of Religious Affairs will be formed as a part of the Republic for the implementation of all provisions concerning faith and prayer of the religion of Islam, and the administration of religious organizations . . .” Quoted in Gözaydın, İştar B., “A Religious Administration to Secure Secularism: The Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey,” Marburg Journal of Religion 11, no. 1 (June 2006): 2,

44 Toynbee, Arnold J., Survey of International Affairs, vol. 1, The Islamic World Since the Peace Settlement (London: Oxford University Press, 1927), 573.

45 Murat Somer, “Turkey's New Constitution and Secular Democracy: A Case for Liberty,” E-International Relations (June 5, 2012),,%20e-IR%20June%205.%202012.pdf.

46 Toynbee, Survey of International Affairs, 573. Article 5 of The Law Concerning the Abolition of the Commissariats for the Sheriat and Evqaf and for the General Staff reads: “The President of Religious Affairs is charged with the administration of all mosques of both classes and of all dervish houses within the boundaries of the territories of the Republic of Turkey, as well as with the appointment and dismissal of all rectors of mosques, ‘orators,’ preachers, abbots of dervish houses, callers to prayer, sacristans, and all other employees [of a religious character].” Quoted in Ibid.

47 Çitak, Zana, “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. See also Bruce, Benjamin, “Gérer l'Islam à l'Etranger: Entre Service Public et Outil de la Politique Étrangère Turque,” Anatoli 3 (2012): 131–47.

48 Mine Yildirim, “Turkey: The Diyanet—The Elephant in Turkey's Religious Freedom Room?” Forum 18, May 4, 2011,

49 Davison, “Hermeneutics and the Politics of Secularism,” 35. The state also provides religious instruction under the education ministry and for cadets and officers in the military.

50 Quoted in Emre Demir-Ahmet Ozay, “For Minority Status, Alevis Bypass Turkey, Appeal to European Court,” Zaman, November 18, 2006,

51 Tambar's paradox of pluralism illustrates how public Alevi social and religious difference has been domesticated within a singular image of the Turkish nation: “The forms of public visibility attained by Alevi organizations are hinged, paradoxically, to the category of folklore that Alevi movements are seeking to challenge. If the emergence of Alevi religious practice into public view poses a pluralist challenge to the Turkish state's efforts at defining and controlling the religious expressions of its citizenry in singular terms, this very visibility has been justified, legitimated, and sanctioned by discourses that re-inscribe a unitary vision of the nation.” Tambar, “Aesthetics of Public Visibility,” 658.

52 Özyürek, “Beyond Integration and Recognition,” 124–25.

53 Although in 2007–2008 one chapter on Alevis was added to the textbooks in the “Turkish Sunnite Islam” section, opponents “strongly criticized” the Ministry of Education for representing Alevism as a “mystic interpretation of Sunnism.” Türkmen, “A Transformed Kemalist Islam,” 388, 391.

54 Dressler, “Religio-Secular Continuum,” 236.

55 Gözaydın, “A Religious Administration to Secure Secularism,” 6.

56 Subaşı, Necdet, “The Alevi Opening: Concept, Strategy and Process,” Insight Turkey 12, no. 2 (2010): 170. Dedes or “grandfathers” are socio-religious leaders and spiritual guides of the Alevi community that lead the cem ceremony (representing Muhammad and Ali), receive confessions at the beginning of the ceremony, and oversee marriages, funerals, and circumcisions. Dede is a hereditary position limited to descendants of the Prophet (ocakzade).

57 Although the hotel was purchased by the state in 2010 there is disagreement about next steps:

[S]ome Alevi groups have demanded the hotel become a museum to commemorate the massacre, while others such as the Cem Foundation say the building can be put to another use as long as there is a plaque at the door honoring the victims. Some local nongovernmental organizations in Sivas would like to see the building demolished and a library built on the site, NTV reported. Arif Sağ, an Alevi and prominent folk musician, has meanwhile proposed that the building be torn down and the area used for a flower garden.

“Turkish Government Buys Hotel Site of Alevi Massacre,” Hurriyet Daily News, June 17, 2010,

58 Köse, “Alevi Opening,”15. Concerns extend to foreign policy: the head of the Alevi-Bektashi Federation, Selahattin Ozel, has criticized the AKP for creating a “Sunni block” in the region. Ezgi Basaran, “Erdogan's Negative Comments Unite Turkish Alevis,” Al-Monitor, May 6, 2013,

59 Hasan and Eylem Zengin v. Turkey, App. No. 1448/04 (European Court of Human Rights 2007),

60 See López, José Luis Martinez, De Groof, Jan, and Lauwers, Gracienne, eds, Yearbook of the European Association for Education Law and Policy, vol. 6, Religious Education in Public Schools: Study of Comparative Law (Dordrecht: Springer, 2005); Pépin, Luce, Teaching about Religions in European School Systems: Policy Issues and Trends—NEF Initiative on Religion and Democracy in Europe (London: Alliance Publishing Trust, 2009); Robbers, Gerhard, ed., Religion in Public Education (Germany: European Consortium for Church and State Research, 2011).

61 Religious culture and morality courses were first instituted as electives after the transition to a multiparty system—1956 in secondary schools and 1967 in high schools—and became a mandatory part of the curriculum after the 1980 coup. Türkmen, “A Transformed Kemalist Islam,” 386.

62 Quoted in Türkmen, “A Transformed Kemalist Islam,” 393.

63 This reflects the authority and precedent of the Treaty of Lausanne in which the term “minorities” referred exclusively to non-Muslim religious communities (Jews, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox Christians), as discussed above.

64 “Jewish and Christian students with Turkish nationality, who are not students of minority schools, will not be taught the word of testimony (kelime-, sahadet), the meaning of bismillahirrahmanirrahim, Koranic verses, suras, prayers, Islamic worship, fasting, hajj.” Decision of the Council for Instruction and Education, No. 47, 28 February 1992, quoted in Türkmen, “A Transformed Kemalist Islam,” 388. The author explains that “the issuing of these two memorandums has resulted in some inconsistencies: some schools oblige non-Muslim students to take the course, and others do not. The existence of the 1992 decision shows that non-Muslim students are not exempt from the course; the only exemption they can benefit from relates to the content of the course. This decision proves that, contrary to what the Ministry of Education says, this is a course not of general religious culture but of Islamic knowledge, where Muslim students learn Islamic Sunnite rituals and practices.” Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Zengin v. Turkey, see footnote 59.

67 Ibid., 16.

68 Ibid., 18.

69 Ibid., 19.

70 Article 2 of the First Additional Protocol reads: “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.” Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms art. 2, March 20, 1952, 213 U.N.T.S. 222.

71 Zengin v. Turkey, 22.

72 Türkmen, “A Transformed Kemalist Islam,” 388.

73 Ibid., 396.

74 “Alevi Group Demands End to Turkish Mandatory Religious Classes,” Hurriyet Daily News, November 7, 2010. Other protestors demanded the abolishment of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the granting of legal status to cemevis (Alevi houses of worship), and a halt to mosque construction and the call to prayer in Alevi villages—all perceived as impositions of state-favored Sunni Islam.

75 Zengin v. Turkey, 18.

76 On the history of this assumption, and particularly French attempts to formalize and “officialize” religious identity and community in French Mandate Syria, see White, Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East, 43–66.

77 Austrian Foreign Ministry, “Vice Chancellor Pressing for Early Adoption of EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion,” news release, December 10, 2012,

78 Noah Salomon identifies a similar commitment among international rule of law advocates and activists in Sudan in The Ruse of Law: Legal Equality and the Problem of Citizenship in a Multi-religious Sudan,” in After Secular Law, eds. Sullivan, Winnifred, Yelle, Robert, and Taussig-Rubbo, Mateo (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 200–20.

79 Council of the European Union, EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief, para. 19, (emphasis added).

80 “Even though Alevis in Turkey were reluctant to get help from the EU, efforts of the Alevi lobby resulted in the European Union's Regular Report on Turkey, dated October 6, 2004, which pointed to difficulties Alevis face in Turkey and defined them as a ‘non-Sunni Muslim minority.’” Özyürek, “‘The Light of the Alevi Fire,’” 244. For reasons described above, there was strong opposition to this designation among Turkish Alevis, and the Commission dropped it in subsequent reports.

81 On the recommendations of the Venice Commission (an advisory body of the Council of Europe that drafts advisory opinions on freedom of religion and the protection of minorities, among other issues), see Özbudun, Ergun, “‘Democratic Opening,’ the Legal Status of Non-Muslim Religious Communities and the Venice Commission,” Insight Turkey 12, no. 2 (2010): 213–22.

82 Soner, “Citizenship and the Minority Question,” 303.

83 “Overall, there has been limited progress on freedom of thought, conscience and religion. . . . A legal framework in line with the ECHR has yet to be established, so that all non-Muslim religious communities and the Alevi community can function without undue constraints.” European Commission, Commission Staff Working Paper, Turkey 2011 Progress Report (Brussels, October 12, 2011), 31,

84 See footnotes 8 and 79.

85 Joe Vella Gauci, “Protection of Religious Freedom: A New Operational Set of Tools,” Europeinfos: Newsletter of the Commission of the Bishops' Conference of the EU and the Jesuit European Office 157 (February 2013), This builds on recommendations issued in 2011 by the European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination calling for the European External Access Service to (1) establish a “Religion Unit” in the Thematic and Multilateral Directorate General to “mainstream the issue of freedom of religion or belief across the geographical directorates and units as well as linking the issue into general human rights promotion within the same DG and advancing the issue in international and multilateral organisations and fora”; (2) appoint a EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom; (3) order the aforementioned “Religion Unit” to prepare an Annual Report on Progress on Freedom of Religion or Belief in the World (“FoRB”), including a list of countries of particular concern to be revised annually; and (4) incorporate basic understanding of religious dynamics into diplomatic training and consider appointing a “religious freedom officer” in key EU embassies. The European Parliament is urged to get involved in “FoRB” initiatives, be informed about infringements of FoRB, become more active in monitoring other EU institutions with regard to FoRB concerns, and generally “help feature freedom of religion or belief for all higher up the agenda of the European Union.” European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination, Recommendations of the European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination to the Institutions of the European Union Concerning the Implementation of Freedom of Religion or Belief (May 26, 2011),

86 Köse, “Alevi Opening,” 8.

87 On the reception of the workshops conducted in 2009–2010, see Subaşı, Necdet, “The Alevi Opening: Concept, Strategy and Process,” Insight Turkey 12, no. 2 (2010): 165–78.

88 Dressler, Writing Religion, xiii.

89 Ibid., xiv. Dressler concludes that, as of December 2012, the Alevi opening has barely gone beyond the publication of a report. Ibid., xv.

90 Gözaydın, “A Religious Administration to Secure Secularism,” 7.

91 See Cihan Tugal, “Occupy Gezi: The Limits of Turkey's Neoliberal Success,”, June 4, 2013,'s-neoliberal-suc.

92 Connolly, William E., The Ethos of Pluralization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 149.

93 Michael Wahid Hanna, “With Friends Like These: Coptic Activism in the Diaspora,” Middle East Report 267 (Summer 2013),

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

95 Martin Sökefeld observes that the polarization of northern Pakistani society along sectarian lines occurred as a “Shia-Sunni dichotomy became effectively a premise that structured the perception of the social space.” Sökefeld, “Selves and Others: Representing Multiplicities of Difference in Gilgit and the Northern Areas of Pakistan,” in Islam and Society in Pakistan: Anthropological Perspectives, eds. Marsden, Magnus and Khan, Ali (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2010), cited in Aziz Ali Dad, “The Sectarian Ghoul in Gilgit,” The News, December 20, 2012,

96 Castelli, Elizabeth, “Theologizing Human Rights: Christian Activism and the Limits of Religious Freedom,” in Non-Governmental Politics, eds. Feher, Michel, Krikorian, Gaëlle, and McKee, Yates (New York: Zone Books, 2007), 684.

97 Mahmood describes the refusal of the Coptic community at the time of the Revolution of 1919 to accept the designation of “national minority” on the “ground that they were no different than their fellow Egyptians.” In drafting a new constitution in 1922, Coptic members of the Wafd party opposed proportional minority representation while supporting political and civil equality for all Egyptian citizens on the grounds that the former “would create divisions based on religion in the body politic similar to those that divided the Muslims from Hindus in India.” Today the Coptic community in Egypt is split, with some (Magdi Khalil) supporting explicit protections for minority rights and others (Samir Murqus) opposing them. Mahmood, “Religious Freedom,” 435, 438.

98 Dressler refers to a “trend to religionize Alevism” in the context of a discussion of the changing role of the dede, or Alevi spiritual leader, under modern secular regimes of state and transnational authority in which most temporal power has been transferred to secular leaders of Alevi associations and foundations. Dressler, “The Modern Dede,” 290.

99 Subaşı, “The Alevi Opening: Concept, Strategy and Process,” 173 (emphasis added).

100 “Turkish nationalists tend to be rather intolerant toward interpretations that locate the Kızılbaş-Alevis outside of Islam or rooted in non-Turkish (for example Kurdish or Persian) ethnicity and culture.” Dressler, Writing Religion, 273.

101 Paul Sedra, “Copts and the Millet Partnership: The Intra-Communal Dynamics Behind Egyptian Sectarianism,” also appearing in this issue.

102 Sedra, “Copts and the Millet Partnership.”

103 C. S. Adcock illustrates this persuasively in regard to the capacity of the Tolerance critique of religious proselytizing to subvert and sideline Untouchables' ability to negotiate their own identities and pursue various forms of anti-caste struggle. Adcock, The Limits of Tolerance: Indian Secularism and the Politics of Religious Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 173.

104 Kaya describes a similar dynamic in Germany (and Europe more broadly) in which Alevism has been represented as a secularist “shield” against radical Islam. As he concludes, this “inevitably contributes to the resurgence of Alevism in a political sense and to the reification of Alevism in a cultural sense vis-à-vis Sunnis.” Kaya, “Multicultural Clientelism and Alevi Resurgence,” 43.

105 For a discussion of a similar dynamic in Sri Lanka, see Benjamin Schonthal, “Constitutionalizing Religion: The Pyrrhic Success of Religious Rights in Post-Colonial Sri Lanka,” also appearing in this issue.

106 For an example see Winnifred Fallers Sullivan's socio-legal analysis of the Warner trial, a 2005 case involving the enforcement of regulations at a municipal nondenominational cemetery in Boca Raton, Florida. The Warner decision is a powerful illustration of the marginalization of lived or “folk” religion and the establishment of a legal hierarchy of religious orthodoxy in a specific context. Sullivan, The Impossibility of Religious Freedom (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).

107 Dressler, Writing Religion, 287. As he concludes, “it is undeniable that this pressure of Sunni Islamic majority discourse . . . encouraged Alevi individuals as well as Alevi groups and organizations to move in rhetoric and practice closer to mainstream understandings of Islam.” Ibid., 278.

108 Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers, “Varieties of Legal Secularism,” in Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age, eds. Cady, Linell E. and Hurd, Elizabeth Shakman (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 117.


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