Religious liberalism: issues of religious minorities in Georgia
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Since 2012, there have been several issues concerning the Georgian Muslim community. These issues include the dismantling of a minaret, the dispute over ruined mosque, and the nailing of a pig’s head to a madrassa door. Common causes attributed to these events are the failure of the Central Government to react properly to these issues, the attitudes and rhetoric of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and popular Turkophobia. This research seeks to find the cause of these issues and investigate what they reveal about the democratization process of Georgia. The hypotheses investigated include the roles of the Georgian Central Government, The Georgian Orthodox Church, and popular Turkophobia in instigating these cases. This qualitative research investigates each of the cases of discrimination involving the Georgian Muslim minority originating from Adjara. The cases are analysed in depth through the use of news media and secondary data. To verify the findings and to gain an experienced perspective on the issues, interviews were conducted with experts who have worked with this minority group and other minority issues in Georgia. The theoretical framework of this research involves the concepts of democratization, particularly the concepts of democratic consolidation, majoritarian democracies, liberal/illiberal democracies, state strength, and pluralism. The research findings conclude that all three of the hypotheses are interrelated causes of the cases in question. The findings of the research indicate that the ultimate cause of the cases is Georgia being a weak state that is unable to function without the approval of the Georgian Orthodox church. In addition to this, popular Turkophobia is used as a tool by opponents of the activities of the Georgian Muslim group. It is revealed from the research that Georgia is in the process of democratization, and that it can be labelled as a majoritarian or illiberal democracy, because it lacks the state strength to implement the values of a liberal democracy.
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