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What is Heterodox About Alevism?

The Development of Anti-Alevi Discrimination and Resentment

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This article examines how the widespread denomination of the Alevi tradition as “heterodox Islam” was introduced in the academic field in the late 19th century. This denomination reflects the differentiation between Alevis and Sunnis, which originally did not base on religious differences but on the socio-political power struggle between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavids/Kızılbaş. First, the historical development of this conflict and the spread of anti-Safavid/Kızılbaş propaganda in the 16th century will be highlighted. Second, it will be illustrated how the Kızılbaş were 'rediscovered' by Westerners in the late 19th century. Then, the development of anti-Alevi discrimination and resentment in the 20th century will be described. Finally, Turkey's official line in regard to the Alevis' religious status and the Alevis' aggressive response to this will be shown.


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Affiliations: 1: Heidelberg


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