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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

it seemed satis#actory enough to tal5 a!out themselves as having !ecome 0practising1 Muslims. they would !e cele!rated with a party or some sort o# ceremonial welcoming. :onvertsAreverts were. in #act. who would de#i ne themselves as reverts ()arlsson 1 & see also Iaco!sen *00*7 *-H/. 4he young women denied using the term. 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. that is. the returning to the #aith that they were already in. . Kor the women in my study. In doing so. I was associating with the Islamic revival movement’s call #or 0returning to Islam1 (see !elow/ and to some young 0practising1 Muslims in 9ngland.Actually. 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. and whenever someone chose to 0em!race Islam1. c#. only now in a more ela!orated way. they would adopt a wide de#i nition o# !eing a Muslim. 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. !ut stated that those people normally re#erred to as converts to Islam sometimes would. this article’s section 08orn a Muslim1/& 3/ some ones are #i nally returning on trac5 6 as reverts.

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