Recent academic literature on Islam and Muslim identities in Central Asian contexts has shown that understandings of Muslim selves are informed by different social and material settings. These in turn contribute to the formation of varying notions of "religious knowledge". The presentations in this panel address specific religious knowledge(s) produced and promoted within particular institutional settings, and beyond. We investigate what is constituted to be "religious knowledge" and who is involved in this process. How is this knowledge shaped by elites and non-elites, by experts and non-experts alike? How is it appropriated, negotiated and contested at individual as well as societal level? How are specific notions of religious knowledge legitimized and by whose authority? Furthermore, we show that the processes involved are not confined to national borders. On the contrary: religious knowledge production and circulation in present-day Central Asia and beyond are inherently characterized by flows, exchanges and movements of people, ideas, money, commodities etc. in and out of the region.
While all of the papers assembled in this panel are concerned with the overall topic of "shaping Islam", each concentrates on different issues: Yanti Hoelzchen sheds light on the significant role of local Islamic funds in promoting religious knowledge in Kyrgyzstan. She shows, how their activities are part of a larger, evolving "religious infrastructure" constituted through the interplay of both bureaucratic, institutionalized processes and non-institutional networks alike. Andreas Duerr investigates how knowledge acquisition in educational institutions in Pakistan in turn influences local discourses in Afghanistan on the formation of ethically "correct" Muslim personalities, and how these personalities are to apply their knowledge for the sake of society. Similarly, Rano Turaeva deals with knowledge circulation in a migrant setting: looking into semi-religious schools in Moscow, she highlights discourses and purposes behind these schools and questions whether these schools aim only to educate youth or whether these aim at defining aspects of being Muslim in general. Mukaram Toktogulova introduces the overlooked yet growing role of women shaping and disseminating Islamic knowledge in Kyrgyzstan by introducing various venues of their engagement.