• Sophie Roche
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


In 2010, I visited a friend in Moscow—let us call her Mehrangis—who is Tajik by nationality and Muslim by conviction. The latter identity is very important to her, and she regularly studies religious texts in order to live up to an imagined ideal of “Muslimness.” In 2008, Mehrangis travelled from the Central Asian post-Soviet republic of Tajikistan to join her husband (he holds a Russian passport but hails from the same village in Tajikistan), who works as a trader in a bazaar on the outskirts of Moscow. While we were sitting and talking in Mehrangis’s Moscow apartment about the events in her village, she shared a recent experience with me: her husband had found an article about the military events in their native village and gave it to her to read. The article, she explained, began by describing the actors in the conflict as “terrorists,” and she felt disgusted by the malice of these fighters, who to her were anything but Muslims. In the last paragraph, the names of the terrorists who had been killed were listed, and she found her cousin’s name amongst them. How could the person portrayed as a terrorist by both the press and the Tajik state also be seen as a mujahid fighter in certain Islamist circles and be her respected cousin all at the same time? Was this just a matter of perspective? Did each really refer to the same thing or person? What does it mean for an individual to experience his or her relation to a person simultaneously as cousin, as terrorist, and as mujahid? The relationship between linguistic terms and the things they purport to describe can be misleading, not just because it is only experiences that have a name that are then taken to exist, but also because concepts and percepts often do not operate on the same ontological and epistemological principles.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the phenomena of jihad, mujahid, shahid, terrorist and terrorism. This introduction is not exhaustive as its primary purpose is, first, to identify and discuss in a general manner the origin of these terms and, second, to outline how these terms link to Central Asia. The next chapters will not continue this discussion, but will turn instead to the experiences of these phenomena and their use as concepts to interpret events.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie Roche
    • 1
  1. 1.Social AnthropologyKarl Jaspers Center for Advanced Transcultural StudiesHeidelbergGermany

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