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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

they would !e cele!rated with a party or some sort o# ceremonial welcoming.Actually. !ut stated that those people normally re#erred to as converts to Islam sometimes would. Kor the women in my study. c#. 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. it seemed satis#actory enough to tal5 a!out themselves as having !ecome 0practising1 Muslims. highly appreciated mem!ers o# the young women’s Muslim youth associations. I as5ed the women i# they would use the term reversion to descri!e their religious trans#ormation. in #act. the returning to the #aith that they were already in. who would de#i ne themselves as reverts ()arlsson 1 & see also Iaco!sen *00*7 *-H/. I was associating with the Islamic revival movement’s call #or 0returning to Islam1 (see !elow/ and to some young 0practising1 Muslims in 9ngland. 4he young women denied using the term. . they would adopt a wide de#i nition o# !eing a Muslim. :onvertsAreverts were. In doing so. that is. 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. 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. and whenever someone chose to 0em!race Islam1.

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