Religion and Diaspora: Islam as Ancestral Heritage in Mauritius

In: Journal of Muslims in Europe
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  • 1 Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

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Orientation towards a point of political and historical allegiance outside the boundaries of the nation-state is often taken to be a defining quality of diasporas, and this aligns with the ubiquitous tendency of Islamic practice to engage with sources of long-distance, or indeed global, religious authority. In this article, I shall investigate the dimensions of religious and political long-distance allegiances by analysing Mauritian Muslims as a diasporic formation. Looking at debates between proponents of Barelwi, Deobandi and Salafi traditions of Islam and disagreements between Urdu and Arabic as ‘ancestral languages’, I show the malleability of diasporic orientations manifest in such ‘ancestral culture’. This is not just a matter of theological contestation, but represents forms of belonging driven by local politics in a context where the state privileges the engagement with major, standardised forms of religious tradition as ancestral heritage.

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