The Bureaucratization of Islam in Azerbaijan: State as the Principal Regulator and Interpreter of Religion

In: Central Asian Affairs
Kamal Gasimov Middle East Studies Department, University of Michigan,

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This article examines the politics of bureaucratization of Islam that the Azerbaijani government initially implemented in the mid-2000s and which has intensified after 2011. First, the state superimposed its bureaucratic categories on the Muslim communities of the country. Then, it proceeded to transform local religious figures into state employees. Yet, at the same time, the government insists that it does not interfere into theological issues and that all of its bureaucratic initiatives are aimed at ensuring freedom of belief and protecting the public order. However, with time, the process of bureaucratization has shifted from regulation to a direct administrative and ideological intervention into the religious space aimed at creating a state-imagined “orthodoxy” designated as traditional Islam. This article draws on previously untapped primary sources to discuss the different ideological and political aspects of this bureaucratically initiated tradition and its pervasive and transformative influence on the local religious landscape.

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