I am currently working on a project about the role of Sari Saltik (Bektashi) shrines in Turkey and the Balkans in the overlapping of shared pilgrimage practices, shrine appropriation and relationships between narrative and spatial practice/ritual. If anyone has any thoughts on these sujects, please let me know.
I am still refining many of my thoughts, to be honest. But my intention is bring all of this to a focus on how we perceive the binary oppositions of pluralism and intolerance, particularly considering that the Bektashis have been seen as missionaries of a heterodox Islam, an oddly paradoxical positioning, at least for thinkers from the Christian/Post-Christian world. I am interested in the fact that this esoteric movement was not onlly demonised by Sunni Muslims but that much of the literature on the subject (Hasluck: Christianity and Islam under the Sultans) seems to see the missionary intent of the Bektashis as somewhat sinister. At the same time, there is clear evidence of a highly friendly (to an almost blasphemous syncretic degree, from the point of view of many orthodoxies) relationship between Bektashism and Christianity in the Balkans.
In a classic tale, the traditional founder of the main Bektashi centre in Anatolia, Hajji Bektash Veli himself, built his tekke (dervish lodge) on land of a monastery associated with a Christian saint, now often identified with the central Anatolian Orthodox Christian St.Charalambos (although Hasluck suggests this is a later identification). Of course this is not particularly remarkable in one way, but there is a key here: When one of the disciple takes down the bricks of teh monastery and church and explains that he will replace them with a newer better material, Hajji Bektash commands him to bring back all of the old bricks and use them for the Bektashi Tekke.
This is of course allegorical for a self-perception of Bektashi discourse that the teachings of Hajji Bektash do not contradict Christianity and can incorporate what is compatible from that tradition (as, one could say, was done with Central Asian shamanism in the generations before, in the same lineages, as was done with Shiism etc..).
The difficulty comes in when there are different readings for the same narratives, which inevitably, there are. What seems like a friendly syncretism can be perceived as, quite naturally (if we look at the Sari Saltik case and the one previously mentioend) a sorely remembered appropriation, no matter how respectfully undertaken.
I won't go into this now, but by way of a final illustration, it is common in Anatolian folk religiousity, to merge Hajji Bektash with the Christian St Charlambos, but this merging does not go in only one direction. In fact, Christians are known to come to the tekke to pray to St. Charlambos and to cross themselves, ritually appropriating the space for themeselves as well. In Albania, where Bektashis have the strongest contemporay influence, Christian priests come to kiss the hand of the Bektashi's main guide, as related to me by members of the order I have informally interviewed.
Where does one go with this in an intellectual world addicted to ridiculously simplistic binary oppositions dressed in elaborate language and complex hermeneutics, but all of which implicity demand that we fit our answers into their assumption that only intolerance or pluralism (or even degrees of the two) can characterise a given time period, community or ritual practice?
The answers are so much more subtle than can fit within that paradigm...