BECOMING A “PRACTISING” MUSLIM – REFLECTIONS ON GENDER, RACISM AND RELIGIOUS IDENTITY AMONG WOMEN IN A SWEDISH MUSLIM YOUTH ORGANISATION

Pia Karlsson Minganti In today’s Sweden there live an estimated 300 000 Muslims. Some perceive themselves as religious, some do not. As an ethnologist, since the mid-1 0s I have !een speciali"ing on Muslims’ lives in Sweden, with a speci#i c #ocus on those considering themselves as !eing devout !elievers. Initially, I e$amined the processes o# esta!lishing mos%ues& more speci#i cally, I pro!lemati"ed the relations !etween the minority and ma'ority, #reedom o# religion, politics o# heritage, and the contestation o# pu!lic space ()arlsson Minganti *00+& )arlsson , Svan!erg 1 -& 1 ./. In my doctoral thesis I highlighted the glo!al Islamic revival and the creation o# an 0Islamic1 identity in a Swedish conte$t. It was a!ove all the Sunni-dominated national organi"ation Sveriges 2nga Muslimer (S2M, i.e., Sweden’s 3oung Muslims/ that was #ocussed on. 4he aim was to analyse women mem!ers’ negotiations on gender, ta5ing into consideration !oth the hindering and the empowering e##ects on their agency ()arlsson Minganti *00./. In this article I will draw on the #i ndings #rom my thesis #or the analysis o# young devout women 6 or 0practising1 Muslims, as they pre#erred to de#i ne themselves. 4he aim is to illuminate the women’s construction o# an 0Islamic1 identity, and #urther, its possi!ly !ene#i cial implications #or their agency, primarily in association with racist and se$ist oppression. I will do so !y highlighting a 5ey scenario in the women’s narratives a!out their development as Muslims, containing the #ollowing three aspects7 1/ !eing !orn into a Muslim #amily with Islam as the tacit 0common sense1& */ going through a teenage crisis when meeting with the world outside the

home sphere, including racism and critical re#l ections on se$ism& 3/ !eing religiously awa5ened when enrolling in Muslim youth associations, and conse%uently, in the glo!al Islamic revival. I will claim that this 5ey scenario re#l ects points o# con#l ict #or
89:;MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM

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the women, in the intersection !etween gender, religion, 0race1Aethnicity and generation. I will also claim that such scenario indicates a distinction !etween 0religion1 and 0cultural traditions1, which is commonly used among adherents o# the contemporary Islamic revival all over the world 6 a distinction which allows #or some reinterpretation and change. 4hus a crucial am!ition with this article is to show how the position o# an awa5ened, 0practising1 Muslim carries with it promises o# empowerment #or the women, ma5ing it more understanda!le why they would choose to engage in a seemingly gender-conservative religious movement.

THEORETICAL, METHODOLOGICAL, CONSIDERATIONS

AND

ETHICAL

I carried out an e$tensive #i eldwor5 among 0practising1 Muslim women engaged in the S2M and its local youth associations !etween 1 B and *00*. 4he method used was %ualitative with repeated interviews and o!servations, resulting in printed transcriptions and #i eldnotes. 9ach woman was interviewed two to #i ve times, #rom one to two hours. 4hey were invited to stop the interview as well as their participation in the study at any time. 4hey were also as5ed i# they accepted the interviews to !e recorded, which, in #act, they all did. I as5ed them to choose a suita!le place to meet, and we usually ended up at ca#Cs, in rooms in their schools or local youth associations (at times when activities were not ongoing/, or in their homes (apart #rom the #amily mem!ers, e$cept when they wanted to spea5 to the women or o##ered us

others had !egun higher education or employment.< MI<=A<4I 3 4he theoretical point o# departure is that o# the su!'ect as a seat o# intersecting identi#i cations and power orders. #estivities and everyday li#e. A!ove all. 4wo more domains were touched upon in interviews and tal5s. de#i ned themselves as Muslims. !ut 0ethnicity1 as a relevant category #or the women themselves and as an analytical tool #or me as a researcher. Some were upper secondary students. still unmarried. cinemas. 4hese situations could !e encapsulated into three main domains7 1/ homes& */ mos%ues and associations (during prayers and preaching. and they had all come to Sweden during childhood (at #our to eleven years o# age/. one way or another. 4he young women invited me to #ollow them in di##erent situations #or o!servations and spontaneous conversations. and co##ee !rea5s/& 3/ pu!lic spaces where they spent their leisure time (ca#Cs. 4his means that my analysis does not ta5e into consideration particular ethnicities. .years old. at courses. nor among themselves. namely the women’s school and wor5place environments. camps.something to eat or drin5/. 4hey were all !orn in countries o# Dest Asia. sometimes coherent and sometimes in con#l ict. con#erences. I have chosen not to reveal any #urther details a!out their ethnic or social !ac5grounds or their local youth associations. Eerein I have made the women anonymous to an e$tent that is worth commenting on. shops. <orth and 9ast A#rica. and street/. 0race1Aethnicity and religion (Anthias . to parents who. they were !etween 1B and *. it is the women’s construction o# a common religious (Islamic/ identity that is #ocused upon. 4his theoretical perspective is called intersectionality and it includes di##erent categories that position and hierarchi"e people 6 in this article primarily !y gender. >IA )A?@SS. Dhen I #i rst met the women. In order to ma5e them recogni"a!le neither to their #amily mem!ers. resulting in di##erent e$periences and interests.

and researchers li5e :handra Mohanty have emphasi"ed how generali"ing descriptions o# 0the third-world-woman1 contri!ute to 05eeping them in place1 (Mohanty *003/. I am doing so. 4hus.thers1 . to represent the voices o# the young women in my studyJ Dith regard to the comple$ity o# this dilemma (see )arlsson Minganti *00. as a 0white1 0non-Muslim1 academician. @uc5mann 1 1& Mahmood *00-/. My ethical considerations (in addition to the anonymi"ation o# the women discussed a!ove/ draw on the re#l e$ivity de!ate in anthropology and ethnology (:li##ord . Also religion is.rientalism1 has legitimi"ed colonial oppression and e$ploitation (Said 1 . *B6-0/. my o!'ective is to highlight the women’s agency and empowerment at the same time as I allow mysel# to scrutini"e the possi!le hindrances (stemming #rom !oth the ma'orities and minorities/.& )arlsson Minganti *00. that is.3uval-Favis 1 *& Fe los ?eyes . =rGndahl *00.ther.. 11/. >eople struggle to ma5e their actions (ver!al and non-ver!al/ appear meaning#ul 6 this is a struggle #or the precedence o# interpretation ()han *00*& 4hurCn 1 B/. !ut also !y a #eminist perspective that calls to attention the oppression o# women as the minorities’ 0internal . providing people with #rames o# re#erence and means to deal with everyday li#e (8erger . I have chosen to wor5 with the concept o# negotiation. 9specially important is the postcolonial criticism o# how researchers’ constructions o# the . 4o underscore this power perspective. understood as contested 5nowledge. a !asic %uestion is7 Dho am I with my speci#i c situated knowledge (Earaway 1 1./. in this conte$t. processes that lead to social or cultural reproduction or change. 9dward Said has shown how academic 0. Iohnson 8lac5 *000/. Marcus 1 BH& Mascia-@ees .B/. !eing in#l uenced !y the postcolonial criti%ue o# the raciali"ed oppression o# the .ther contri!ute to the maintenance o# une%ual structures. 4he !asic premise o# intersectionality is that identities and power orders are socially and culturally constructed.

I illuminate the women’s enrolment in Muslim youth associations. 1-. secular-li!eral #eminist perspective. 89:.(Anthias . such as o!edience. I would li5e to emphasi"e the dilemma o# the studying processes o# identi#i cation and su!ordination. 1*0/. As Kloya Anthias has pointed out. 0!eing !orn a Muslim1 and 0going through a teenage crisis1. with these pious su!'ects o# a 0new Muslim generation1. 3uval-Favis 1 *& . Eere I would also li5e to emphasi"e that my understanding o# agency goes !eyond the 0traditional1.5in 1 /. In the ne$t three chapters I delve into the third and last aspect o# the 5ey scenario. namely 0!ecoming a Lpractising’ Muslim1. BORN A MUSLIM . these are hardly issues that are e$pressed e$plicitly !y the studied su!'ects. with a clear distinction !etween the two. the creation o# their pious selves. !ut should also include an analysis #rom the researcher’s perspective. e$periences. I rather 'oin Sa!a Mahmood’s criticisms. patience and chastity (Mahmood *00-. I discuss the women’s apprehension o# Islam as a way out o# racist and se$ist oppression. Kinally. which point at the possi!ility #or women (and men/ to e$perience agency when su!mitting to pious sel#-#ormation in accordance with 0passive1 virtues.MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM + As #or the disposition o# the article. Kurther. !ut rather illuminated !y the researcher’s analyses o# their narratives on their lives. as well as the common Islamic identity. research should not !e limited to the thematic description o# the studied persons’ understandings. that is. and sel#-apprehensions (Anthias *00*/. reducing it to a matter o# individual autonomy. the two opening chapters coincide with the #i rst two aspects o# the 5ey scenario mentioned a!ove. @ast !ut not least. 4hey are #ollowed !y a chapter which aims at deepening the understanding o# the crisis in terms o# the women’s re#l ections on racist and se$ist oppression.

are considered luc5y. Some o# the women were put into the so-called )oran schools. Islamic storytelling. grew up without regular contact with religious institutions. @ater. this religious transmission occurred trough o!serving. and manners #or a couple o# hours every wee5. imitating and listening to people in their immediate environment. one could say that they attained an unspo5en common sense. doxa. i.. 8erger and 4homas @uc5mann’s sociology o# 5nowledge in mind. I could say that the women went through a primary socialisation with their signi#i cant others.e. Dith >eter @. the child’s piety depends on the parents’ character and nurture. 4his was the widest de#i nition o# 0Muslimness1 presented to me !y the young women. em!odied in their individual habitus (8ourdieu 1 . 8y mere up!ringing they are made aware o# =od’s all-encompassing presence and the !asic #i ve pillars o# Islam. In #act. others did not even pray at home. however. due to lac5 o# them in their Swedish neigh!ourhoods or their parents’ indi##erence. ?e#erring to >ierre 8ourdieu. which means that they were ac%uainted with the )oran. 4he children !orn into Muslim #amilies./. Also the degree o# religiosity varied in the women’s #amilies. and thus with a variety o# interpretations and ways o# practising Islam.. 4he women within my study were all !orn in countries o# Dest Asia and <orth and 9ast A#rica. 8y meeting with peers in their Muslim youth associations. 4hey grew up with di##erent ethnic and social !ac5grounds. as was the case with all o# the nine women within my study. regardless o# the women’s #amilies’ diverse social and ethnic !ac5grounds as well as the degree o# religiosity. and they had come to Sweden during childhood. According to the women. they strived to . Several o# them.All human !eings are !orn Muslims. @uc5mann 1 1. at #our to eleven years o# age. 1+ M1-1/. they all transmitted to their daughters a #i rm !elie# in =od. as models (8erger . classic Ara!ic. Dhile some parents would regularly attend the mos%ue. #amily mem!ers #or the most part.

like! "Oh. I would do this and that. As awa5ened Muslims they were grate#ul to their parents #or giving them the !asic ground #or Islamic #aith. CRISIS AND DISCONTINUITY Dhile religious transmission to daughters em!odied the elders’ hopes #or continuity. which turned out to !e urgently important to them during their teens.< MI<=A<4I o# 0true1 Islam. It is chaos up here Ntouches her headO. 8esides all the possi!le con#l icts that young people might endure. It s really unbelievable. I feel that they need so much help. my #od. Sometimes I m so happy. All the women’s narratives contain descriptions o# teenage crises that threatened their !onds to !oth the #amily and religion. these women’s narratives e$plicitly tell a!out pro!lematic relations in association with gender and 0race1Aethnicity.overcome such internal diversity and what they perceived as parental shortcomings in religious education. 4heir Islamic groups provided them with tools #or re#l e$ive and critical thin5ing a!out their up!ringing. One is so mixed up. at times the situation turned out to !e %uite the reverse. I would run away from home. >ia7 &hat was so diffi cult' <oor7 This thing with the family. To help the young ones here. )nd school. become a guerrilla fi ghter Nin her #ormer home country. One does not know who one is. (ut here I am today. or where one should . I %uote (in translation #rom Swedish into 9nglish/ a woman whom I call <oor7 I would like to work as a psychologist. At the same time they came to see childrearing as a process permeated !y culturally grounded human 0misconceptions1 >IA )A?@SS. Really. As the #i rst e$ample. and I have been young myself. author’s commentO. thank you for letting me survive$% &ho knows where I could have ended up' I planned so much. This thing with the identity. I know how it is.

It has always been important to my father that we maintain our roots. either%. This was the kind of anxiety that I would feel all the time during that period. . that s it.3./ I got the impression that <oor understood her 0crisis1 as sel#-evident to a degree that she did not need to speci#y any #urther.turn oneself. I guess one could call that a crisis. a headscar# commonly used !y contemporary Muslim women worldwide. <oor7 I was supposed to wear a headscarf. I already had a hard time getting into that* what should I say. Or rather. I mean. now she is becoming Swedish* then they put up even more severe demands and boundaries. That was a really hard time. . NPO . that is. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. I am not allowed to do it.ust when the family noticed that! "Okay. )nd then I didn t want my schoolmates to see me with the headscarf. it worried me that the family might see me in town or somewhere without the headscarf. )nd then I discovered that! "+ope. Furing our tal5s.y family forced me.rtner 1 . mainly in connection to descriptions o# her e$periences o# wearing a hi-ab. 133 /. however. Swedishness. mutual 5nowledge a!out contemporary discourses on 0this-thing-with1 cultural clashes. On the one hand. and a power#ul 5ey sym!ol loaded with messages a!out essential !elie#s and values (. I wore it when 89:.MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM H I left home and then I sneaked into some stairway and took it off before arriving at school. identity crises among the immigrant youth. I interpret this as an e$pression o# her e$pectations #or an interte$tual understanding !etween the two o# us. (ut I took it off. I cannot become Swedish. she speci#i ed the demands and !oundaries drawn !y her #amily mem!ers. and oppression o# immigrant girls in patriarchal conte$ts. that is. when I didn t know what to do.

you were not allowed to go to school parties$ )nd my brother. that they shouldn t do this and that. (ut demands were on girls. I would suggest that she and the other women e$pressed the dilemma o# living under pressures #rom di##erent power orders. /or instance. they get these images from the mass . I mean. that they weren t allowed to go out. in school.It s not easy to be young. and pu!lic de!ates accusing Islam #or !eing a religion that oppresses women. and 6 #rom a marginali"ed position 6 having to deal with the mismatches that sometimes occur. and in society in general. such as the dress code and movements outside the home. Dhile they were attracted !y re#l ections on se$ism. These are all -ust small matters. and as they came to live in a society dominated !y the a!sence o# what was perceived as Muslim moral. boys were allowed to do everything they wanted. they were con#used when trying to understand the accusations against Islam. I mean. SEXISM AND RACISM 4he women were clearly critical with certain gender issues in their #amilies. when meeting with the world outside the home they were alerted a!out criticism against se$ism. he never had to do the dishes at home. that they shouldn t go to school parties. 4he young women were certainly interested in guarding their modesty& yet. among #riends. especially the ones that they rated as un'ust division o# la!our. )nd especially not a young woman. :ontrol over their #emale chastity seemed to increase as they entered pu!erty. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. but they meant so much back then. 4he woman whom I call @ati#a phrased the dilemma li5e this7 In a way I can understand the Swedes.ust a thing like that. and as unwanted control over their !odily !ehaviours. ./ <oor #ormulates her crisis as consisting o# poorly #i tting gender practices at home.

was the an$iety a!out a possi!le repudiation #rom #amily and community. a disconnection #rom one’s #amily was generally understood as a challenge o# =od’s will. !rothers. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. I was so young when I came to Sweden and I got such a negative image of Islam when I watched T1. that is. Desterstrand *00+/. In fact. :ommon #or all o# them. they e$perienced their #amilies !eing driven !y a logic which maintained that certain acts could ultimately !e punished with physical violence and even death. however. Some o# the young women testi#i ed that they actually lived under threat o# honour 5illing. Quite importantly. Islam. I was thinking in the same way for a while! "&e . a #rame o# re#erence where an individual’s !ehaviour is not separated #rom the honour o# the community. 4hey lived in a cultural context of honour. Islam. Islam. thus a reason #or transcendental punishment. a!out the so-called honour-related violence. 4he woman whom I call Amal told me a!out e$plicit ver!al a!use #rom peers at school7 . In #act.thers ris5ed less severe physical punishment.media showing Islam as something horrible. that is. sisters. )buse them. uncles/ towards different women (mothers. aunts. !y different male relatives (#athers. 4he young women’s narratives o# their youth#ul crises were also im!ued with descriptions o# living in a raciali"ed order where Muslims were su!ordinated to non-Muslims. several o# the women in this study lived with threats >IA )A?@SS. thus wor5ing as a general warning against trespassing (9ldCn . . and others/.< MI<=A<4I . That men beat their wives./ 4estimonies #rom women in their close circles a!out a!use in the name o# Islam increased con#usion.uslims are truly insane$% 0ou know. while the rest could not recall any physical reprimands at all. It includes the possi!ility o# different #orms o# violence !eing perpetrated over time.

although not e$actly in accordance with their own wishes. )nd* I thought it was horrible. <ancy Kraser (*003/. 4hey #ound themselves !eing constantly pushed into the position o# the representatives o# 0the Muslims1 and Islam. so you are oppressed now'$% Or! "#od.&hen I used the headscarf I got to hear! "Okay. they are urged to propose theological e$planations a!out social and political events in the countries that they have never visited (Iaco!sen *00*./ >arado$ically.MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM . they all emphasi"e the importance o# deconstructing the perceptions o# essential identities and cultures in order to counteract racist and androcentric values that hinder individual agency. this position o#ten turned into a de#ensive stance as non-Muslims demanded ela!orated statements a!out 0what Islam says1 and 0what Muslims do1. and as mem!ers o# minority groups. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. Seyla 8enha!i! (*00*/. it smells like shit in here$% I got to hear such things when they passed by me. Fespite the di##erences !etween these theoreticians. the hostility towards them as Muslims o#ten drew on the discourses that were critical to the oppression o# Muslim women. 3et. and con#usingly enough #or the young women.tter!ec5 *000. they su##ered #rom di##erent 5inds o# oppression under !oth patriarchal and racist power orders. 4ensions !etween these positions have !een illuminated !y researchers such as Kloya Anthias and <ira 3uval-Favis (1 */. ?esearchers have pointed out how a!surd it is to e$pect children to give an account o# anything !ut the simplest elements in childhood #aith. 11-/. and Iris Marion 3oung (*000/. Amal told me a!out the heavy !urden o# !eing ascri!ed the role o# a representative 89:. Quite evidently. the young women were o##ered a certain space #or their voices. 10HM10 & . <onetheless. at least to me. Dith Islam under attac5. as women. and they had a hard time ma5ing their own voices heard 6 as individuals.

uslims look down on each other. NPO )ctually it s a lot of* well. in the end these nine women did not ma5e such a !rea5. It s a matter between different nationalities. As Samira put it7 They make such a big deal of who s going to be in charge. differences. the women’s narratives a!out their teenage crises indicate two intimately lin5ed categories7 gender and 0race1Aethnicity. however. as a vital part o# her religious conviction. 9ventually. motivated to per#orm such an in#ormative role. they came in contact with Islamic activities targeted at adolescence.1 As I will point out later on in this article./ 4o sum up. Amal was. YOUNG MUSLIMS UNITED 4he women descri!e the way out o# their youth crises in terms o# religious awa5ening. As their testimonies tell a!out those crises as a signi#i cant ris5 o# splitting #rom their #amilies and their #aith. a lot of things that I feel ashamed of.( 1/ 4hrough )oran schools. that is. 0religion1 was added as the third and crucial one. 4here were power struggles in the congregations e$pressed in !iased opinions a!out the . si!lings. Turks are better than )rabs. including participation in my research pro'ect. !y enrolling in the Islamic movement. !ut chose to challenge the prevailing norms #rom within. 4here were e$pressions o# pre'udices against other 0races1Aethnicities and restrictions #or the youth’s #riendships and marriages.ther. or peers.B #or Islam and all Muslims in the world7 0Sometimes I thin5 that spea5ing a!out Islam occupies all my time. 3et another pro!lem that the women associated with their teenage crises was the raciali"ed hierarchies among Muslims. and )rabs are better than Turks. In #act. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. . all the women within my study too5 part . )nd according to the Swedes they are all fools NlaughO. instead o# 'ust !eing a!le to manage my studies or having a good time with my #riends.

As the largest Muslim youth organisation. not least strong #riendship.< MI<=A<4I In their associations the young Muslims were a!le to share their e$periences o# e$ternal and internal racism. 4hey all !elonged to the #i rst national youth organisation #ounded in 1 1. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. it has reached a noteworthy position with repeated invitations to its mem!ers to participate in the mass media and other pu!lic events. attending the courses and seminars organi"ed !y them. and con#essional or ideological commitments..e. Also. i. with an estimated 10 000 mem!ers and the head%uarters in Stoc5holm. I interpreted her gesture as an illustration o# the unity among the youth./ She made a gathering movement with her hand and pulled a clenched #i st to her chest. I had friends also before. I ve got friends. Amal7 I think that our course has given me so much. >IA )A?@SS. Sweden’s 3oung Muslims. !ut claims to welcome young Muslims regardless o# their ethnicity.in a pioneer generation. Sweden’s Muslim 3outh Association. !ecoming mem!ers o# the very #i rst youth associations in Sweden.e. 4he associations also accounted #or e$traordinary spaces #or e$changing thoughts a!out gender and women’s rights. which at the time was called Sveriges Muslims5a 2ngdoms#Gr!und (SM2K/. as well as the con#used #eelings o# !eing !oth ashamed and in de#ence o# their religion.uslims and so on. . <ow it is 5nown as Sveriges 2nga Muslimer (S2M/.. i. they are totally wonderful$ They are the kind of friends that I would never have dreamt about having. (ut the friends I have here. It is dominated !y Sunni-Islam. Swedes and non2practising . 4ime and again the young women told me a!out the di##erent positive aspects o# their youth groups. language. It also lin5s several local youth associations in di##erent towns 6 the main arenas #or the activism o# the young women in my study.

!ut also !y #i nding a su##i cient plat#orm #or identity construction.. Krom this perspective. and how the young ones call themselves 0sisters and brothers in Islam1.H/.. say that they were not only motivated !y the Islamic doctrine.@ati#a’s !ody was moving enthusiastically when she descri!ed amity in her local association. the sight o# a young woman in hi-ab riding a motor!i5e was upli#ting. namely the desire #or identi#i cation and alliance. in a situation which #or the teenage women mostly appeared as 0chaotic1 (see <oor’s %uotation a!ove/. 4he women’s Islamic engagement coincided with their emerging sel#de#i nitions in wider societal conte$ts. . 9ven i# the women sometimes associated li#e in Sweden with vulgarity. Dhat ma5es me ali5eJ Dhat ma5es me di##erentJ Dho am I and who will I !ecomeJ 4hus. Kor @ati#a.ther(s/. I would. I deem her per#ormance as e$pressing an important motive #or the youth’s engagement in the Islamic movement. 13M1+/. #rom a researcher’s perspective. Iust li5e #or any other teenager this process was impregnated !y distinctions !etween IA2s and the . According to the cultural theorist @awrence =ross!erg. it is not necessarily a rational and initiated consideration that guides the youth. the young Muslims’ achievement o# religious ideology and community could !e understood in terms o# emotional investments and alliances that =ross!erg la!els affective empowerment (=ross!erg 1 . and the %uestioning o# their parents’ norms. callousness and alienation. 31M3*. 03ou must come and see #or yoursel#R1 4he invitation was #ollowed !y a per#ormance showing me how the girls run to greet and hug each other. li5es and disli5es (=ross!erg 1 . !ut #eelings o# attraction or repulsion. the Islamic community evo5ed other 5inds o# emotions. @ati#a also e$pressed a #eeling o# !eing personally addressed !y a charismatic religious leader . as was the woman’s positive response with a %uic5 smile and a waving hand.

It has swept over the world since at least the 1 . Dhen Amal went down on her 5nees to pray. <oor testi#i ed a!out similar emotions o# solidarity when con#ronted with images o# Muslim children in despair. hospitals. Similarly.1 PIOUS PRACTICES 4he women e$plained the way out o# their youth crises in terms o# a religious awa5ening or 0return to Islam1. Samira could watch white-dressed pilgrims on 4S em!odying a glo!al Muslim community (umma/. !ut certainly also a dimension o# religious conviction. ?ania %uite simply #ell in love with a 0practising1 Muslim !oy and em!raced his religious conviction7 0Ee is so wonder#ul.on a videotape. they 'oined Muslims worldwide. and has le#t its imprints on individuals and socio-cultural landscapes with an increased num!er o# mos%ues and attendance !y !oth men and women. De have such a wonder#ul religion. 3/.0s. the increased production and consumption o# religious media and literature. according to my interpretation. everyday codes . regardless o# national or social !ac5ground. the construction o# 0Islamic1 schools. Dhen 0returning to Islam1.MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM 10 her #ormer home country. she e$perienced hersel# !eing connected with su##ering relatives in 89:. involves not only the dimensions o# a##ective empowerment and cultural contestation descri!ed a!ove. at the same time !eing aware o# sharing this #eeling with a large num!er o# consumers o# this very videotape all over the world. #ollowing the call o# the Islamic revival movement 08ac5 to IslamR1 Dith the Islamic revival I re#er 0not only to the activities o# stateoriented political groups !ut more !roadly to a religious ethos or sensi!ility that has developed within contemporary Muslim societies1 (Mahmood *00-. intellectuals who comment on the world #rom a religious perspective. and social services. and this.

< MI<=A<4I 11 arenas 6 spaces that are not always assured #or women. and their ensuring that these practices were per#ormed in accordance with the 0true1 Islam.o# dressing and !ehaviour (Mahmood *00-. Muslims are urged to turn to Islam as the main guide #or the individual and society. 4his means that also women were ascri!ed the right and duty to loo5 #or religious 5nowledge and support #or strengthening their piety. In #act. In turn. neither in Sweden. #ree #rom human ha!its and delusions. 4hey applied the distinction !etween 0religion1 and 0cultural traditions1 and perceived themselves to !e detecting the 0authentic1 message o# Islam and discarding 0cultural misunderstandings1. As one possi!le strategy. Secondly. In the young women’s everyday li#e. within the #ramewor5 o# Islamic revival they received recognition as pious su!'ects. which re#rains #rom other interests and ideologies. along with the highlighting o# such hadiths that !ring to the #ore women’s interests. Muslims ought to turn !ac5 to the 0authentic1 sources 6 the )oran and Sunna 6 to #i nd the 0true1 message o# Islam. their dismissal o# 0#alse1 hadiths (narrations a!out the e$emplary sayings and conducts o# >rophet Muhammed/. and economic elites supposedly corrupted !y 0traditions1 and worldly interests. ISLAMIC IDENTITY . especially the misinterpretations made !y religious. 3M+/. political. could !e mentioned. 4he revival movement’s call #or a 0return to Islam1 entails two aspects. personally responsi!le !e#ore =od. nor in Muslim societies. Kirstly. including the unrestrained 0Desterni"ation1. this means that the young women #ound some space #or themselves in the mos%ue and in other 5nowledgeproducing >IA )A?@SS. 4he young women’s piety included their am!ition to understand the motives o# their religious practices. this call was e$pressed in their comprehensive practising o# Islam.

4he latter would !e associated with the 0cultural1 or 0ethnic1 aspect. led astray #rom the 0straight path o# Islam1. the culturalAethnic aspect o# 0Muslimness1 would aim at what the Krench researcher on Islam . 8y this he means the construction o# a universal Muslim identity.uslim neo2ethnicity (?oy *00+. !ut only the common re#erence to Islam. and motives o# these practices. #orms.1 Secondly. is not primarily understood in terms o# #aith. As phrased !y Amal7 0In my home-country women wear their headscarves with the hair stic5ing out. It’s their tradition and not in accordance with Islam. instead. Another intimately lin5ed dichotomy was the one o# an 0Islamic1 versus a 0Muslim1 dimension.livier ?oy re#ers to as a . Kollowing this. .Indeed. aiming at particular ethnic customs in the women’s #ormer homecountries. the women’s sel#-identity was constructed in contrast to the category o# the 0non-practising Muslim1 who. 0practising1 Muslim. 8ut they do not pray and do not !ehave according to Islam. intimately lin5ed to the common position o# 0the Muslim1 ascri!ed to them !y non-Muslims. em!odies the tacit. with a re#l e$ive understanding o# the pious meanings. 1*+/. !ut as an inherited set o# cultural patterns (?oy *00+. 1*+M13. So. and !y 0ethnicity1 6 that religion. 8y the pre#i $ 0neo1 ?oy suggests that earlier particular ethnic or national categories are no longer relevant. 0practising Muslim1 was the emic de#i nition that the young women provided #or their new devout position 6 a Muslim that continually practises Islam. however. unre#l ected 5nowledge o# Islam as characteri"ed !y the #i rst dimension o# the women’s 5ey scenario 6 a Muslim with a naive relation to the religion into which he or she was 0!orn1 6 or !y the second dimension7 a Muslim in crisis./. 4he women’s usage o# a Muslim neo-ethnicity could !e traced in the #ollowing %uotation #rom Amal7 04here are women today who wear hi-ab to show that they are Muslims. 4he #ormer would !e characteri"ed !y the seriousness o# the awa5ened.

.uslims with an Islamic point o# re#erence. I would li5e to discuss some empowering aspects that the women perceived !y !ecoming 0practising Muslims1 o# the 0true1 Islam. Dhen enrolling in Muslim youth associations.1 And @eila7 0Kor instance. the young women were o##ered consolation !y the notion o# Islam as a religion that counteracts racism.1 Indeed. In her study among pious women activists in 9gypt. +B. this has led to the decline o# an alternative understanding o# worship. in#l uenced !y the Islamic revival. you are coolR’. then it does not count. According to them. at restoring this understanding o# worship 6 as practising . <o. !oth such racism that is ascri!ed !y 0outsiders1 and the one operating 0inside1 Muslim communities. e$hi!itions o# hi-ab as a mere ethnic mar5er./ 4he religious venture o# the young women within my study aimed. PIOUS SUBJECTS OF THE NEW GENERATION MUSLIMS 4o conclude this article. (Mahmood *00-. so to spea5. I !egin !y commenting on their dilemmas in connection to raciali"ed power orders. i# I wear a headscar# in order to have everyone thin5ing LDow. a 5ind o# 0Muslim #ol5lore1 underta5en as a #orm o# entertainment or as a means to display a religio-cultural identity.MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM 1* the ritual acts o# worship in the popular imagination have increasingly ac%uired the status o# customs or conventions. were perceived !y the awa5ened 0practising1 women as 0unIslamic1 and in line with what the American anthropologist Sa!a Mahmood captures as a 0#ol5lori"ation o# worship1 (Mahmood *00-.their wearing the hi-ab is not worth anything !e#ore =od. one in which rituals are per#ormed as a means to the training and reali"ation o# piety in the entirety o# one’s li#e. you really need the intention to wear it !ecause it is prescri!ed in the )oran and !ecause =od wants you to. Mahmood highlights the women’s criti%ue o# the #act that7 89:. or visits to the mos%ue only during #estivities such as ?amadan. among other things. +BM-3/.

@ati#a7 Islam gets rid of all that racism. I# only people could get in#ormation a!out the 0true1 Islam and disregard 0cultural misconceptions1. o##ered them a positive understanding o# this representational !urden. a religious duty to in#orm a!out Islam. the coming generation. 4his perception is illustrated in the (emphasi"ed/ lines added to @ati#a’s a!ove %uotation7 In a way. they get these images from the mass . As to e$ternal racism. It s us. and perceived themselves #i tted to em!ody this progress as 0the new generation1 Muslims.ther. I can understand the Swedes.uslim youth in Sweden. we. the women #ostered a notion a!out dawa as a possi!le means #or preventing non-Muslims’ raciali"ing practices. the women e$pressed #eelings o# alienation #rom non-Muslim Swedes. Kurthermore. I mean. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. As such they were supposedly less !iased and more enlightened than the parental generation. raised in Sweden. Muslims would gain respect and recognition. skin colour. while demanding answers a!out 0what Islam says1 and 0what Muslims do1. 4he women’s Islamic community. which would reward them with dignity and >IA )A?@SS./ @ati#a and the other young women adopted the idea a!out Islam as an antiracist religion. 4hey were enlightened a!out the concept o# dawa. >ia7 )ha. who constantly and #orcedly positioned them as the . because we do not care about where people come from. or that cultural stuff. )nd that feels good' @ati#a7 Indeed it does$ 4very time I look at my friends I feel so happy. sort of* De are the ones who are going to eliminate racist thinking.< MI<=A<4I 13 religious merits. that is. &e do not think like that. the . )ll are e3ual before #od. nonetheless. than5s to their increased 5nowledge a!out the 0true1 Islam and its message a!out uni#i cation in piety.

And this. parental/ and the participation o# 0laymen1. undenia!ly. Indeed. And out o# the same rationale they too5 part in deciding a!out the ways in which Islam should !e applied in their everyday li#e 6 here and now. )buse them. 4he tas5 o# providing in#ormation is understood in terms o# dawa. again. That men beat their wives. a matter o# the so-called Muslims doing stupid things. I claim that the young women were recogni"ed as religious su!'ects. 8ut I thin5 that the only thing one has to do is to change this negative image. study at university. in #act. I was thinking in the same way for a while! "&e .and audio-tapes/ and then to ta5ing independent decisions on whose teachings to rely on. 4hey . this distinction has e$traordinary implications also #or gender relations and women’s rights. women and the youth in the reading o# the sacred scriptures. I was so young when I came to Sweden and I got such a negative image of Islam when I watched T1. Islam. 4he young women all admit to adhering to several religious leaders simultaneously (including those #ound on the Internet and on video. In line with @ati#a’s re'ection o# physical a!use.media showing Islam as something horrible. is a sign o# religious revival7 the sidestepping o# traditional authorities (religious. and !ased on the distinction !etween 0true religion1 and 0cultural misconceptions1. and then the Swedes cannot understand that this is actually not Islam. As indicated in the %uotation. 4his is. and drive a car. all women in my study #i rmly stated that 0honour 5illings1 and 0genital mutilation1 are inconsistent with Islam. allowed to enter mos%ues and to participate in pious activism and learning. Islam. (Interview A )arlsson Minganti. 8ut this is. a !rea5 with the tradition to hold on to one single Islamic law school given to any individual Muslim !y !irth into a certain #amily and nationality./ @ati#a hopes to 0in#orm away1 racism. 0real1 and the 0so-called1 Muslims.uslims are truly insane$% 0ou know. Eence. Islam. it would !e appropriate #or them to wor5 outside the home. In fact.

4hus. 4he comple$ity o# the Islamic revival could #i nd its way here only partially. li5e to alert the reader o# a parallel story o# the women’s enrolment in the Islamic movement as a way into the reproduction o# male dominance. owing to the delimited scope o# this article. however. I would.MI<= A 0>?A:4ISI<=1 M2S@IM 1+ o# their own. 4his reading coincides with the young women’s narratives. honour ethics. . their religious trans#ormation could also !e read as a way o# ma5ing independent selves. #unded !y the Swedish :ouncil #or Dor5ing @i#e and Social ?esearch and the 8an5 o# Sweden 4ercentenary Koundation. !ut did not !rea5 with these crucial points o# re#erence. Dhile their parents could still !e proud over their daughters growing up and maturing as Muslims.were re#l ecting on their religion and %uestioning their parents. I understand the women’s religious awakening in terms o# a revival or conversion. And this in turn allows #or an understanding o# the Islamic revival and Muslim youth associations as a way out o# se$ist and racist oppression. NOTES 1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 4his article draws on the research #or the author’s >hF in 9thnology at Stoc5holm 2niversity./. and ma5es up a !asic argument in their counteracting the stereotypical description o# 0the Muslim woman1 as a passive victim to multiple oppressions. and hindrance #or women’s agency. !ut is a crucial point in my overall analysis o# the young women’s everyday negotiations on gender and agency ()arlsson Minganti *00. with an alternative 0Islamic1 community outside #amilies and ethnic networ5s. I would suggest that the recognition o# the women as religious su!'ects could lead to a general recognition o# them as capa!le persons with voices 89:. 4his 5ind o# 0success story1 is an important one to !e told. e$clusion.

Any distinction #rom 0non-Muslim1 convertsAreverts to Islam would !e !ased on the will to mar5 out di##erences in e$perience rather than detach #rom the category o# people as such. only now in a more ela!orated way. this article’s section 08orn a Muslim1/& 3/ some ones are #i nally returning on trac5 6 as reverts. In doing so. and whenever someone chose to 0em!race Islam1. Kor the women in my study. highly appreciated mem!ers o# the young women’s Muslim youth associations. they would adopt a wide de#i nition o# !eing a Muslim. :onvertsAreverts were. in #act. c#. namely7 1/ all human !eings are !orn Muslims& */ they are later led astray #rom 0the straight path o# Islam1 (something which children to non-Muslim parents would !e speci#i cally vulnera!le to. !ut stated that those people normally re#erred to as converts to Islam sometimes would. the returning to the #aith that they were already in. they would !e cele!rated with a party or some sort o# ceremonial welcoming. 4he young women denied using the term. it seemed satis#actory enough to tal5 a!out themselves as having !ecome 0practising1 Muslims. I was associating with the Islamic revival movement’s call #or 0returning to Islam1 (see !elow/ and to some young 0practising1 Muslims in 9ngland. who would de#i ne themselves as reverts ()arlsson 1 & see also Iaco!sen *00*7 *-H/. I as5ed the women i# they would use the term reversion to descri!e their religious trans#ormation.Actually. . that is.

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