Normalization through Religious Representation
A Lebanese Druze Response to the “Muslim Question”
Keywords:Muslim Question; Lebanon; Druze; minorities; religious representation; religious leadership; religion-making
This article examines a secular liberal state’s demand for religious representation of minorities, exploring how one heterodox Muslim community has responded to this demand in a context of intense public scrutiny. In order to gain recognition and rights as a legitimate religious community in modern Lebanon, Druze leaders created a new figurehead to look something like the head of a Christian church. Their project offers a striking case of how a secular democracy can end up generating the “religion” it expects to find; how the politics of religious representation can transform Muslim communities that lack a church-like structure; how ambiguous the notion of “religious representation” turns out to be when these Muslims try to do it from scratch; and how much harder heterodox Muslims often have to work to gain recognition within a world religions paradigm.
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