Lecture: Islam in Dobruja (Romania). Interactions between local tradition and transnational influences.
As a researcher in the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities in Romania I organized in collaboration with the Centre of Turkish Studies in Bucharest a follow up event which connects one of the main issues of the Ref:eu Workshop, namely the issue of Islam and Muslims in Europe and the current situation of the Muslim community in Romania.
The follow up event was organized on 18th of June 2019 under the form of a lecture held at the Centre of Turkish Studies at the University in Bucharest, the subject approached being focused on one of the most important problems of Islam in Romania, the post 1990 interactions between local tradition and transnational influences. The presentation is actually the result of a wider research project on this topic, which I am conducting within the framework of my institution.
The audience was formed mainly of students and PhD students of the Faculty of History of the University in Bucharest, collaborators of the Centre of Turkish Studies in Bucharest, by a number of academics from Romania, a few of them also members of the local Muslim community in the region of Dobruja.
After 1990, the Muslim Turks and Tatars in Dobruja (Romania), the region where the community is concentrated demographically, as other Muslim communities in the Balkans, became the environment of interaction and confrontation between ranges of transnational actors. A part of them had an important role in the religious rebirth of the Muslim community in post-communism. On the one hand I am speaking about the presence of Turkish formal and non-formal actors, representative for the Sunni Islam, which characterizes the former Ottoman Balkans. On the other hand, I am talking about a series of religious foundations, rooted in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia. These presences brought interactions between: the local “traditional” Islam belonging to the Hanafi religious jurisprudence school typical to the former Ottoman Balkans and supported by the Turkish state through its official actors, especially the Diyanet (the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Turkey) and the influences of the “orthodox” Islam, deemed to be the “pure” or “true” Islam, also known as Arab Islam, which in the Dobruja context consisted in the influences specific of Arab Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Based on empirical research, on the the informations collected through qualitative methods, like semistructured interviews (with Turkish officials, religious elite, members of the community), on participative observation and informal conversations, in the rural and urban Muslim communities in Dobruja, I presented the influence and effects of transnational Islam on the community from Dobruja. In the acceptation of John R. Bowen (2004), the transnational Islam can be defined as a public, global space for reference and normative debate where the norms and practices of Islam are negotiated and redefined beyond national borders and which in fact involves a multitude of speeches, ideologies, individuals and collective actors, networks and connections. Practically I identified the transnational actors involved in the religious rebirth after 1990 in Dobruja, analysing their mods and plans of action and interaction in the Muslim community, their effects in the Muslim community, starting from the religious elite and down to the members of the community, including daily life, on the daily religious practice of Muslims from Dobruja but also on the religious personnel and education.
Obviously the analysis of the transnational Islam included also the role of Turkey in the identity rebuilding of the Muslim Turks and Tatars from Dobruja, after 1990. The analysis of Turkey’s role was leaded in the wider frame of the new external policy conducted by Turkey in the Balkans after 1990, mostly based on Turkey’s historical duty towards the Muslim communities from the area that include in their ethnic, cultural and religious structure the Ottoman background.