Accepted Paper:

A Moslem institution in a Hindu world and in a modern and secular state  


Delphine Ortis (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Paper short abstract:

Through the example of the administration of the shrine of a Moslem saint in North India, this paper deals with the adaptation of contemporary Islam to the mode of governance of Hindu civilization on the one hand and its relation to the secular and modern Indian State on the other.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution deals with the adaptation of the administration of a Muslim shrine to the Indian context in which Muslims represents only 13% of the population. For centuries the shrine was managed in agreement with the mode of governance of its locality, inherited from Hindu society. But with the beginning of the 20th century, the institution had to bend to the requirements fixed by the Indian Union. The latter, in a modern and secular attitude, intervened by setting up a legal framework for the management of the various places of worship. Now, each religion had its own law, which was supposed to be more respectful of the particular value systems. Since about sixty years, the 'ministry for Pious Foundations' tries to manage the shrine in terms of this law but the effect is minimal, because all the shrine's agents resist this "integration", imposed by the state. Thus, the shrine's administration tries to preserve its customary mode of functioning that successfully adapts Muslim practices to a Hindu context. In this paper I will show how and why this institution resists the law of the State, all the while the imposed mode of operation claims to be more respectful of the Islamic law than the traditional mode of management. Indeed the latter, being based on Hindu values, seems to be more successful when it comes to "interculturality" than the organisation imposed by modern law.

Panel W081
Modern institutions in a 'cross-cultural' perspective - ethnographies of adaptation and code-switching