Unmapping Islam in Eastern Europe: Periodization and Muslim Subjectivities in the Balkans
This article challenges the fixed spatial and temporal disconguities of the borders between East/West and Europe/Islam that contribute to the physical and discursive partition of Balkan Muslims from the larger Muslim world. It examines the works of twentieth century Islamic scholars and activists, particularly women and underprivileged minorities, such as Melika Salihbegović, Hidajeta Mirojević, Safija Šiljak, Sheikh Haxhi Qamili, Muhammad Nasir-ud-Din al-Albani, Vehbi Sulejman Gavoçi, and Abdul-Kader Aranauti, whose intellectual labor has traversed the East/West, Ottoman/post-Ottoman, and Communist/post-Communist discontiguities. Examining Muslim histories in Eastern Europe beyond the confines of these spatiotemporalites, opens up multiple perspectives on past and present political struggles of Muslims in Eastern Europe, allowing us to explore histories and subjectivities of Muslims who saw their lived experiences not in relation to Europe but as constitutive part of the Muslim world. Their perspectives and insistence on an Islamic way of life provide an alternative reading of the history of Muslims in the Balkans, not isolated by their immediate surroundings, but as members of a transnational struggle against colonialism throughout the twentieth century. Through an analysis of their work, this article contests research on Islam in Eastern Europe that, relying on post-ottoman and post-socialist forward-moving temporalities, suggest that following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and during the socialist period, Muslims in Eastern Europe were isolated from the rest of the Ummah and attached to European geotemporalities. The choice for personalities on the fringes of their own communities allows us to deconstruct anti-colonial and post-socialist nationalist narratives that have been dominated by privileged men.