As Clifford Geertz remarked in his Islam Observed (1968), the idea of a 'changing' religion is a contradiction in terms, as religion is fundamentally concerned with what is permanent and eternal. Still, one way to come to terms with religious change is to consider the many ways that religion is interpreted, by laymen and scholars alike. Social anthropologists like myself have naturally found a niche for themselves in local studies of religion, especially in what is often referred to as 'local Islam'. This article, based on my book Violence and Belonging. Land, Love and Lethal Conflict in the North-West Province of Pakistan, discusses the role of 'local ...

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