Violence and Conversion in Europe
they were previously unaware. But when ethnic Europeans, Germans in ourcase, convert to Islam, the stakes are even higher, because Islam is a persis-tently and negatively Othered religion. Te discrimination to which convertsare subject oen comes as a surprise to them. One German Muslim womanwho converted to Islam in her early twenties and donned the Islamic headscar described how shocking this process has been or her: “I didn’t expect so many negative reactions. Beore people used to call me ‘sunshine’ because my hair isreally blond. Especially men used to always compliment me or my hair. Nowwhen people look at me they only see an oppressed woman. Maybe someonewith dark skin knows better how to deal with this eeling. But I really didn’texpect things to change so ast and so dramatically.”
Elsewhere I have argued that German converts to Islam are under extremepressure because they are accused o being traitors to German society and areeven perceived as potential terrorists (Özyürek 2008).
In their personal lives,German Muslims are constantly questioned, eared, and at times subjected toacts o violence. In this essay I discuss strategies some German Muslims havedeveloped to deend their choice in this highly Islamophobic context. Althoughmany German Muslims identiy with born Muslims and many others spenda good portion o their time ghting to improve conditions or Muslims o immigrant backgrounds in Germany, many other (and sometimes the very same) new German Muslims try to distance themselves and Islam itsel romborn Muslims in Germany and the Middle East. Tey are eager to underlinethe act that Muslims and Islam are two dierent things. Like non-converted,non-Muslim German intellectuals, many converts believe that immigrantMuslims need to be educated, integrated, and transormed. But or them, thistransormation should happen not through leaving Islamic practices behind,as atheist le-wing Germans would suggest, nor through reorming Islam, ascenter-right-wing Christian Democrats would support, but, on the contrary,by making immigrant Muslims leave their Middle Eastern or Arican culturesand traditions behind and persuading them to apply undamental Islamicteachings in their everyday lives. In other words, the German converts argue,it is Muslims who need to change, not Islam.
Muslim Tradition and Islamic Essence
Anne Soe Roald (2006), an ethnic Swedish convert to Islam and a proessor o religious studies at the University o Lund, argues that converts go through athree-stage developmental process o love, disappointment, and maturity. In therst stage converts become ascinated with everything born Muslims do, and