Becoming Muslim: The Development of a Religious Identity

Author(s): Lori Peek
Source: Sociology of Religion, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Autumn, 2005), pp. 215-242
Published by: Oxford University Press
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Sociology of Religion 2005,
66:3 215-242
Becoming
M u s lim: T h e
Development
of a
Religiou s I d entity
Lori Peek*
Colora d o Sta te
Univers ity
T h is
s tu d y explores
th e
proces s of religiou s id entity forma tion
a nd exa mines th e
emergence of
reli-
gion
a s th e mos t s a lient s ou rce
of pers ona l
a nd s ocia l
id entity for
a
grou p of s econd -genera tion
M u s lim
America ns .
Dra wing
on d a ta
ga th ered th rou gh pa rticipa nt obs erva tion, focu s grou ps ,
a nd ind ivid u a l
interviews with M u s lim
u nivers ity
s tu d ents in New York a nd
Colora d o,
th ree
s ta ges of religiou s
id en-
tity d evelopment
a re
pres ented : religion
a s a s cribed
id entity; religion
a s ch os en
id entity;
a nd
religion
a s d ecla red
id entity.
T h is res ea rch illu s tra tes h ow
religiou s id entity emerges
in s ocia l a nd h is torica l con-
text a nd d emons tra tes th a t its
d evelopment
is va ria ble ra th er th a n s ta tic.
Ad d itiona lly,
I
d is cu s s th e
impa cts of September 11
a nd s h ow h ow a cris is event ca n
impel
a
pa rticu la r id entity-in
th is
ca s e,
religiou s -to
become even more centra l to a n ind ivid u a l's
concept of s elf. T h rou gh a s s erting
th e
pri-
ma cy of
th eir
religiou s id entity
over oth er
forms of
s ocia l
id entity, religion
beca me a
powerfu l
ba s e
of
pers ona l id entifica tion
a nd collective a s s ocia tion
for
th es e
you ng
M u s lims .
T h e
religiou s la nd s ca pe
of th e United Sta tes h a s
ch a nged ma rked ly
over th e
pa s t
fou r
d eca d es , la rgely
d u e to th e
pa s s a ge
of th e 1965
I mmigra tion Act,
wh ich
repea led cou ntry-of-origin qu ota s
es ta blis h ed in th e 1920s th a t
pred omina ntly
fa vored Wes tern
Eu ropea n, mos tly Ju d eo-Ch ris tia n, immigra nts .
T h is
ch a nge
in
fed era l
immigra tion policy
led to a n
u npreced ented
d ivers ifica tion of th e
America n
popu la tion
over th e
s u bs equ ent yea rs ,
a s millions of
immigra nts
a rrived from
Africa , As ia ,
th e
Ca ribbea n,
Ea s tern
Eu rope,
La tin
America ,
a nd
th e M id d le Ea s t. T h e
pos t-1965
"new"
immigra nts
a re
ra cia lly, eth nica lly,
lin-
gu is tica lly,
a nd
religiou s ly
more
h eterogeneou s
th a n th e
immigra nts
of a
centu ry
a go (Wa rner 1993:1061).
Politica l
tu rmoil, wa rs , revolu tions , d is a s ters ,
a nd la bor
ma rket trend s a ls o
prompted refu gees
a nd
immigra nts
from a rou nd th e world to
s ettle in th e United Sta tes
(Eba u gh 2000;
Wa rner
1998).
T h es e a nd oth er
s ocia l,
*Direct
corres pond ence
to Lori
Peek, Depa rtment of Sociology,
Colora d o Sta te
Univers ity,
B327
Cla rk,
Fort
Collins ,
CO
80523-1784;
e-ma il:
lori-peek@colos ta te.ed u .
I wou ld like to th a nk Pa tti
Ad ler,
Peter
Ad ler,
Da vid
Bu tler, Ja net Ja cobs , M a ry
Fra n
M yers , Joyce Niels en,
a nd
Wend y
Steinh a cker
for commenting
on ea rlier
d ra fts of
th is a rticle. I wou ld a ls o like to th a nk
Na ncy
Na s on-
Cla rk a nd th ree
a nonymou s
reviewers
for
th eir
th ou gh tfu l s u gges tions for
revis ion. T h is work wa s
s u p-
ported by
th e America n As s ocia tion
of Univers ity Women,
th e Gra d u a te Sch ool a t th e
Univers ity of
Colora d o,
th e Na tu ra l
Ha za rd s
Res ea rch a nd
Applica tions I nforma tion Center,
a nd th e Na tiona l
Science
Fou nd a tion,
wh ich is
gra tefu lly a cknowled ged .
215
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216 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
politica l,
a nd economic forces h a ve ma d e th e United Sta tes th e mos t
religiou s ly
d ivers e na tion on ea rth
(Eck 2001;
M elton
2003).
M u s lims cons titu te a n
importa nt pa rt
of th is
increa s ingly
d ivers e
religiou s
la nd s ca pe.
Wh ile es tima tes
va ry rega rd ing
th e cu rrent
popu la tion,
a nd a t times
th ere is
d is a greement concerning
wh o s h ou ld be id entified a s
M u s lim,
it is
gen-
era lly a ccepted
th a t
a pproxima tely
s ix to s even million M u s lims live
perma nent-
ly
in America a nd th e
commu nity
is
growing s tea d ily1 (Ba gby, Perl,
a nd Froeh le
2001;
Smith
1999). Accord ing
to Leona rd
(2003),
I s la m is th e fa s tes t
growing
religion
in th e United
Sta tes ,
a nd is
pois ed
to
s u rpa s s Ju d a is m
a nd become s ec-
ond
only
to
Ch ris tia nity
in th e nu mber of a d h erents . T h e M u s lim
commu nity
is
s trikingly d ivers e,
a nd inclu d es
la rge percenta ges
of Africa n America ns a s well a s
ma ny firs t-, s econd -,
a nd
th ird -genera tion immigra nts
of Sou th As ia n a nd Ara b
d es cent.2
Ad d itiona lly,
a s ma ll bu t
gra d u a lly increa s ing
nu mber of
Ca u ca s ia ns ,
La tinos ,
a nd Na tive America ns h a s converted to I s la m over th e
pa s t
s evera l
d eca d es
(Smith 1999). T h u s ,
th e a d h erents to th e fa ith
repres ent
a broa d
ra nge
of
eth nicities , cu ltu res , na tiona lities ,
a nd I s la mic
id eologies .
Alth ou gh
th e
bod y
of
knowled ge rega rd ing
th e tra d itions a nd
experiences
of
M u s lim America ns continu es to
grow (s ee
Leona rd 2003 for a review of th e
res ea rch ),
few
empirica l inves tiga tions
h a ve
s pecifica lly explored
th e
proces s
of
d eveloping
a
religiou s id entity a mong
M u s lims in th e United Sta tes . Ba s ed on a
qu a lita tive s tu d y
of M u s lim America ns in New York a nd
Colora d o,
th is a rticle
exa mines th e role th a t
religion pla ys
in th e lives of a
grou p
of
you ng
M u s lims . I n
pa rticu la r,
th e
a na lys is
focu s es on th e
d evelopment
a nd ma intena nce of
religiou s
id entity.
I DENT I T Y
T h e
concept
of
id entity
is fu nd a menta l in mod ern s ocia l
ps ych ology.
T h e
na tu re a nd forma tion of
grou p id entity,
a s well a s th e cons tru ction of ind ivid u a l
id entity,
is th e
s u bject
of mu ch th eoretica l a nd
empirica l inqu iry (s ee
Ceru lo
1997;
Fra ble
1997;
Howa rd
2000;
Sa nd ers
2002;
a nd
Vrya n, Ad ler,
a nd Ad ler
2003 for
overviews ). I d entity
is
genera lly
u s ed to d efine a nd d es cribe a n ind ivid -
1Precis e
figu res
for th e nu mber of M u s lims
living
in th e United Sta tes d o not exis t
beca u s e th e Cens u s Bu rea u a nd th e
I mmigra tion
a nd Na tu ra liza tion Service a re not
lega lly
a llowed to collect d a ta on th e
religiou s
a ffilia tion of citizens or
immigra nts .
2T h e U.S.
Depa rtment
of Sta te
(2004)
es tima tes th a t th e eth nic
compos ition
of th e
M u s lim America n
commu nity
is 33% Sou th As ia n
(Pa kis ta n, I nd ia , Ba ngla d es h ,
Afgh a nis ta n),
30% Africa n
America n,
a nd 25% Ara b. T h e
popu la tion
a ls o inclu d es immi-
gra nts
from Su b-Sa h a ra n
Africa , Eu rope,
Sou th ea s t As ia
(M a la ys ia , I nd ones ia ,
th e
Ph ilippines ),
th e
Ca ribbea n, T u rkey,
a nd I ra n.
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 217
u a ls ' s ens e of
s elf, grou p a ffilia tions ,
s tru ctu ra l
pos itions ,
a nd a s cribed a nd
a ch ieved s ta tu s es .
I d entity
res u lts from interna l
s u bjective perceptions ,
s elf-
reflection,
a nd externa l ch a ra cteriza tions .
Contra ry
to ea rlier
u nd ers ta nd ings
of
id entity
a s fixed a nd
immu ta ble, tod a y id entity
is more often cons id ered a n
evolving proces s
of
"becoming"
ra th er th a n
s imply "being" (Dillon 1999:250).
I nd ivid u a l
id entity
ca n s h ift over
time,
d u e to
pers ona l experiences
a nd
la rger
s ocia l
ch a nges (Ha d d a d 1994;
M cM u llen
2000; Na gel 1995).
I d entity th eory a ttempts
to link th e ind ivid u a l
conception
of s elf a nd th e
la rger
s ocia l s tru ctu re with in wh ich th e ind ivid u a l th inks a nd a cts .
However,
th es e
a pproa ch es
to
id entity va ry
in th eir
emph a s es
on s ocia l
s tru ctu re,
on th e
one
h a nd ,
a nd th e
proces s es
a nd intera ctions
th rou gh
wh ich id entities a re con-
s tru cted ,
on th e oth er
(Bu rke
et a l.
2003;
Howa rd
2000).
T h e s tru ctu ra l
a pproa ch
relies on th e
concept
of role id entities in
a na lyzing
ind ivid u a ls '
s elf-conceptions ,
beh a viors ,
a nd s ocia l rela tions with oth ers
(Stryker 1980, 1968;
T u rner
1978).
T h e s econd
a pproa ch h igh ligh ts on-going proces s es
of
id entity cons tru ction,
s election,
a nd
negotia tion (Ca h ill 1986; Na gel 1995, 1994;
Wa ters
1990;
Wes t
a nd Zimmerma n
1987). I d entity
cons tru ction enta ils
s elf-pres enta tion
a nd th e
ma na gement
of verba l a nd vis u a l
impres s ions (Goffma n 1963, 1959).
Va riou s s it-
u a tiona l, pers ona l,
a nd s ocia l id entities a re invoked ba s ed on th e
s pecific
cos ts
a nd rewa rd s a s s ocia ted with th os e id entities
(Vrya n
et a l.
2003).
Pa rticu la rly
u s efu l in th is
s tu d y
is th e
concept
of
id entity s a lience,
wh ich rec-
ognizes contribu ting
fa ctors a nd
proces s es
th a t ma ke one
id entity-in
th is
ca s e,
being
M u s lim-of
grea ter,
even
pa ra mou nt, importa nce
in th e
h iera rch y
of mu l-
tiple
id entities th a t
compris e
a s ens e of s elf.
Accord ing
to
Stryker (1980),
d is crete
id entities
ma y
be
th ou gh t
of a s ord ered in a s a lience
h iera rch y.
As ind ivid u a ls
become more committed to a
given role,
th a t role will a s s u me
h igh er id entity
s a lience.
M oreover,
th e
h igh er
th e
id entity
in th e s a lience
h iera rch y,
th e more
likely
th a t
id entity
will be ena cted in a
given s itu a tion,
or in
ma ny
s itu a tions . I n
es s ence,
th is
proba bility
of
invoking
a
pa rticu la r id entity,
wh eth er
intentiona lly
or
not,
d efines
id entity
s a lience a nd th u s commitment to th a t
id entity. Alth ou gh
s ocia l id entities a nd s a lience h iera rch ies tend to be
s ta ble,
ind ivid u a ls s ometimes
a lter or ta ke on new s ocia l
id entities ,
s h ed old
ones ,
or
rea rra nge
th eir id entities '
rela tive s a lience
(Vrya n
et a l.
2003:381).
Religiou s I d entity
Wh ile th ere h a s been mu ch s ocia l s cientific
explora tion
of
id entity
over th e
pa s t d eca d e, ma jor
reviews of
id entity th eory
a nd res ea rch h a ve
la rgely
over-
looked th e role of
religion
in
forging
id entities for ind ivid u a ls a nd
grou ps .3
For
3Simila rly, very
few s tu d ies of recent
immigra tion
a nd
eth nicity s a y a nyth ing
a bou t reli-
gion,
wh ich
a ccord ing
to Wa rner
(1997:218) repres ents
a
"h u ge s ch ola rly
blind
s pot."
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218 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
exa mple,
in a
s u mma ry
of th e s ta te of
knowled ge rega rd ing id entity
cons tru ction
a nd
proces s es ,
Ceru lo
(1997)
d oes not inclu d e
religion
a s a n
id entity ca tegory.
Simila rly,
th e overview
es s a ys
of Fra ble
(1997)
a nd Howa rd
(2000) ca refu lly
exa mine th e ind ivid u a l a nd s ocia l ba s es of va riou s d imens ions of
id entity-
inclu d ing gend er, ra ce, eth nicity, na tiona lity, s exu a lity, a ge, ph ys ica l
a nd menta l
a bility,
a nd cla s s -bu t neith er mentions
religion
a s a n
importa nt d efining a s pect
of ind ivid u a ls or
grou ps
in
s ociety. I nteres tingly, Appia h
a nd Ga tes
(1995:1)
invoke Ch ris tia n
s ymbolis m,
bu t
ignore religion
a s a s ou rce of
id entity,
in th eir
cla im th a t
gend er/s exu a lity, ra ce/eth nicity,
a nd cla s s form th e
"h oly trinity"
in
th e field of
id entity
s tu d ies .
At th e s a me
time, h owever,
nu merou s
inves tiga tions by s ociologis ts
of reli-
gion
h a ve
explored
th e role of
religion
in
ma inta ining grou p id entity
a nd s oli-
d a rity, pa rticu la rly
for
immigra nts (s ee
for
exa mple Eba u gh
a nd Ch a fetz
2000;
Gibs on
1988;
Ha d d a d a nd Lu mmis
1987;
Ha mmond
1988; Herberg 1955; M in
a nd Kim
2002;
Wa rner a nd
Wittner 1998;
Willia ms
1988). M a ny
of th es e s tu d -
ies ,
ra th er th a n
focu s ing
on
religion exclu s ively,
h a ve exa mined th e connection
between
religion
a nd eth nic
id entity.
T h is res ea rch h a s d ocu mented th e contin-
u ing importa nce
of
religion
in
pres erving
cu ltu ra l a nd eth nic
tra d itions , s u pport-
ing
th e
a d ju s tment
of
firs t-genera tion immigra nts
to a new h os t
s ociety,
a nd
pro-
vid ing
a s ou rce of
id entity
for th e s econd
genera tion (Ba nks ton
a nd Zh ou
1996;
Ch ong 1998;
Ku rien
1998; Ng 2002; Ra ya prol 1997; Ya ng 1999). Accord ing
to
Willia ms
(1988:12-13), a lth ou gh religion
is often a
s ignifica nt a s pect
of eth nic
cu ltu re,
it is d ifficu lt to es ta blis h th e exa ct rela tion between th e two-wh eth er
religiou s
a ffilia tion is es s entia l to th e eth nic
commu nity
or if
religiou s
orienta tion
is
a ncilla ry
to eth nic
id entity. I nd eed , immigra nt grou ps
d iffer in th e
wa ys th ey
focu s on a nd
integra te
th eir
religiou s
a nd eth nic id entities . Some
immigra nt
reli-
giou s
commu nities
emph a s ize
th eir members '
religiou s id entity
more th a n th eir
eth nic
fou nd a tion,
wh erea s oth ers s tres s eth nic
id entity
a nd
rely
on
religiou s
ins titu tions
prima rily
to
pres erve
cu ltu ra l tra d itions a nd eth nic bou nd a ries
(Ya ng
a nd
Eba u gh 2001:367).
Va riou s th eories h a ve been a d va nced
rega rd ing wh y
certa in ind ivid u a ls a nd
commu nities
h igh ligh t
a nd
d evelop religiou s id entities ,
a s
oppos ed
to oth er forms
of
pers ona l
a nd s ocia l
id entity
s u ch a s
ra ce, eth nicity,
or
na tiona lity. Accord ing
to Smith
(1978:1175), immigra tion
its elf is often a
th eologizing experience;
immigra nts frequ ently
rea ct to th e a liena tion a nd confu s ion th a t res u lt from th eir
a rriva l in a new
cou ntry by tu rning
to
religion.
I n
a ttempt
to res olve
a d ju s tment
is s u es , th ey
bu ild
religiou s
ins titu tions a nd re-es ta blis h fa milia r s ocia l a nd cu ltu r-
a l a ctivities in th e new h os t
s ociety (Ku rien 1998; Ra ya prol 1997). Cons equ ently,
religion
ca n a s s u me
grea ter importa nce
for
immigra nts '
d efinition of s elf a nd
grou p
a ffilia tions th a n wa s th e ca s e in th eir h omela nd s , wh ere
religion ma y
h a ve
been ta ken for
gra nted
or a t lea s t been of les s er
importa nce.
T h is is
pa rticu la rly
tru e if th e
immigra nts
come from a
s ociety
wh ere
th ey
were
pa rt
of th e
religiou s
ma jority
a nd th en move to a h os t
s ociety
wh ere
th ey
become a
religiou s
minori-
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 219
ty-for exa mple,
I nd ia n
Hind u s ,
I s ra eli
Jews ,
Pa kis ta ni
M u s lims ,
or Vietna mes e
Bu d d h is ts
coming
to th e United Sta tes .
Anoth er
clos ely
rela ted
expla na tion
of
wh y religion ma y
become a n
impor-
ta nt ba s is for
id entity recognizes
th e fu nctions th a t
religion pla ys
in
s ociety.
I n
a d d ition to
meeting s piritu a l need s , members h ip
in a
religiou s orga niza tion
offers
ma ny non-religiou s ma teria l, ps ych ologica l,
a nd s ocia l
benefits , inclu d ing
com-
mu nity networks ,
economic
opportu nities ,
ed u ca tiona l
res ou rces ,
a nd
peer
tru s t
a nd
s u pport (Ch en 2002;
Hu rh a nd Kim
1990).
As
pos itive
benefits
increa s e,
it
is more
likely
th a t ind ivid u a ls will a ffilia te
religiou s ly.
A th ird
expla na tion
ma inta ins th a t
religiou s id entity
a nd
expres s ion
s erve to
ea s e th e tens ions ca u s ed
by incongru ent immigra nt, eth nic,
a nd America n id en-
tities
(Feh er 1998; Ya ng 1999),
wh ile a ls o
h elping
th e ind ivid u a l to overcome
s ocia l is ola tion
(Kwon 2000).
Su lliva n
(2000)
a s s erts th a t wh en ch u rch members
d efine
th ems elves ,
firs t a nd
foremos t,
in
religiou s terms ,
th eir eth nic va ria tion
a nd na tiona l d ifferences become les s
problema tic,
a nd d ivers e commu nities a re
brou gh t togeth er th rou gh
s h a red
wors h ip.
A fou rth
expla na tion
contend s th a t
religion ma y
be u s ed to ma inta in
per-
s ona l a nd s ocia l d is tinctivenes s in th e mu lticu ltu ra l America n context
(Ra ya prol
1997).
As
religion
is les s a nd les s ta ken for
gra nted
in th e
plu ra lis tic
a nd s ecu la r
cond itions of th e
United Sta tes ,
a d h erents become more cons ciou s of th eir tra -
d itions a nd often more d etermined to tra ns mit th os e
beliefs , va lu es ,
a nd beh a v-
iors
(Wa rner 1998:17). Religiou s d res s , pra ctices ,
a nd
orga niza tiona l
a ffilia tions
s erve a s
importa nt id entity
ma rkers th a t
h elp promote
ind ivid u a l s elf-a wa renes s
a nd
pres erve grou p
coh es ion
(Willia ms 1988),
a s eth nic a nd na tiona l
h erita ge
is
d is pla yed
a nd th u s ma inta ined
(Ku rien 1998).
I n
s u m,
for a
va riety
of
rea s ons ,
for
ma ny
ind ivid u a ls
religion
rema ins a n
importa nt orga nizing
fa ctor in th e h iera r-
ch y
of id entities th a t
compos e
th e s elf.
M u s lim America n
I d entity
A nu mber of s tu d ies h a ve
inves tiga ted
va riou s
a s pects
of
pers ona l
a nd s ocia l
id entity a mong
M u s lim
America ns , inclu d ing gend er
role a ttitu d es a nd id entities
of M u s lim women
(Ba rtkows ki
a nd Rea d
2003;
Herma ns en
1991;
Rea d
2003;
Rea d a nd Ba rtkows ki
2000); id entity politics
of M u s lims
(Kh a n 2000;
M a rs h a ll
a nd Rea d
2003);
is s u es of
religiou s id entity
tra ns mis s ion a nd retention
(Abu -
La ba n
1989; Ba ra za ngi 1989);
a nd th e d is tinct id entities a nd
religiou s pra ctices
of Su nni a nd Sh i'a M u s lims in America
(Sa ch ed ina 1994; Wa lbrid ge 1999).
Ad d itiona lly,
s evera l res ea rch
projects
h a ve exa mined th e inters ections of reli-
giou s , ra cia l, a nd eth nic id entities for Ara b America n M u s lims (Abra h a m,
Abra h a m a nd As wa d 1983; Ha d d a d 1994; Na ber 2000), Africa n America n
M u s lims (Ailen 2000; Ka h era 2002; Nu ru d d in 2000), a nd I ra nia n M u s lims
(Bozorgmeh r 2000; Sa ba gh
a nd
Bozorgmeh r 1994). I n a n a mbitiou s
u nd erta king,
Ha d d a d (2000) inves tiga ted
th e broa d er s ocia l
d yna mics
th a t
s h a pe
I s la mic id en-
tity
in North America , exploring
th e fa ctors th a t a ffected va riou s id entities
prior
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220 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
to
emigra tion,
th e
immigra nt experience
in
America ,
a nd th e
options immigra nts
find a s
th ey s tru ggle
to ma ke th eir h ome in a
new,
s ometimes
h os tile,
environ-
ment.
Des pite
th e a forementioned s tu d ies a nd oth er res ea rch th a t
explores
th e
beliefs , va lu es , a ttitu d es ,
a nd beh a viors of M u s lims
(s ee
Ha d d a d
1991;
Ha d d a d
a nd
Es pos ito 2000;
Ha d d a d a nd Lu mmis
1987;
Ha d d a d a nd Smith
2002;
Leona rd
2003;
Smith
1999; Wa u gh ,
Abu -La ba n a nd
Qu res h i 1991),
little is known
rega rd ing
th e
id entity
forma tion
proces s es
of M u s lim
America ns , pa rticu la rly
for
th e s econd
genera tion (Herma ns en 2003;
Leona rd
2003). Ajrou ch (2004, 2000,
1999)
h a s
clos ely
exa mined th e
id entity d evelopment
of
you ng
M u s lim Ara bs in
Dea rborn, M ich iga n. Alth ou gh
s h e d oes not
s pecifica lly
focu s on
religiou s
id en-
tifica tion, Ajrou ch
d oes
explore
th e inters ection of eth nic a nd
religiou s id entity,
th e
s ignifica nce
of
gend er rela tions ,
a nd h ow
religiou s tea ch ings
a nd
pa renta l
influ ence
s h a pe
th e id entities of
s econd -genera tion
Ara b America n a d oles cents .
Herma ns en
(2003)
h a s a ls o written a bou t th e s econd
genera tion
a nd wh a t s h e
ca lls
"id entity
I s la m"
a mong
th a t
grou p,
a form of
id entity
a s s ertion th a t concerns
h er
grea tly
beca u s e s h e s ees M u s lim
you th
in America
becoming rigid ly
cons er-
va tive a nd
cond emna tory.
Herma ns en cons id ers th is
pa rticu la r id eologica l
ver-
s ion of I s la m a ntith etica l to
progres s ive interpreta tions
with in th e
religion.
Among
th e a va ila ble work on th e lives of M u s lim America n
you th ,
no s tu d ies
a ppea r
to h a ve
s pecifica lly
d ocu mented a nd
a na lyzed
th e
wa ys
th a t
religiou s
id en-
tity
is
cons tru cted , d eveloped ,
a nd ena cted
by
th e s econd
genera tion.
I n th is
pa per,
I u tilize d a ta from focu s
grou ps ,
ind ivid u a l
interviews ,
a nd
pa r-
ticipa nt
obs erva tion to exa mine th e
proces s
of
religiou s id entity
forma tion.
Specifica lly,
I
explore wh y
a nd h ow
religion
h a s become th e mos t s a lient s ou rce
of
pers ona l
a nd s ocia l
id entity
for a
grou p
of
you ng
M u s lims
living
in th e United
Sta tes .4
T h is
eth nogra ph ic inves tiga tion
is th u s intend ed to contribu te to th e
u nd ers ta nd ing
of th e
s ignifica nce
of
religion a mong s econd -genera tion
immi-
gra nts by exa mining
th e fa ctors a nd
proces s es contribu ting
to th e
d evelopment
of a
religiou s id entity.
T h is
s tu d y
a ls o
expa nd s knowled ge rega rd ing minority
grou ps d is tingu is h ed by religion,
ra th er th a n
by
ra ce or
eth nicity. Fina lly,
th is
inves tiga tion
broa d ens
s ociologica l u nd ers ta nd ing
of th e beliefs a nd
pra ctices
of
you ng
M u s lim America ns . T h is res ea rch is
pa rticu la rly importa nt
beca u s e of th e
growing
nu mber of M u s lims in th e United Sta tes a nd th e
increa s ing vis ibility
of
4I recognize
th e
neces s ity
of
conceiving id entity th rou gh mu ltiple
fra mes of
reference,
th a t
is ,
th e need to exa mine th e interconnections of
religion, ra ce, eth nicity, cla s s , a ge, gen-
d er,
a nd
s exu a lity,
a s well a s th e
myria d
oth er id entities th a t
compos e
th e
s elf,
in
a ttempt
to
a void a red u ctionis tic a ccou nt of
id entity (s ee
Vertovec a nd
Rogers 1998). M oreover,
I
a gree
with
Ha llid a y (1999)
th a t wh ile a ll th os e wh o a re M u s lim
certa inly
cons id er I s la m a s
pa rt
of
th eir
id entity,
I s la m is never th e s ole s ou rce of
id entity. However, my
intent is to exa mine
wh y
a nd h ow th e ind ivid u a ls interviewed for th is
s tu d y
ca me to
id entify
th ems elves a s M u s lims firs t
a nd
foremos t,
wh ile often
d is rega rd ing
oth er id entities .
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 221
s econd -genera tion
M u s lim America ns in th e
politica l
a nd s ocia l
s ph eres
of
America n life.
I
begin by d is cu s s ing
th e
s etting
in wh ich th is
s tu d y
wa s
cond u cted ,
th e
res ea rch
pa rticipa nts ,
a nd th e
qu a lita tive
meth od s th a t were u s ed .
Next,
I
pres -
ent th ree
s ta ges
of
id entity d evelopment, d es cribing
a nd
illu s tra ting
h ow a
M u s lim
religiou s id entity emerged
a nd
ga ined s a liency
for th e
pa rticipa nts .
I con-
clu d e
by a na lyzing
th e ind ivid u a l a nd s ocia l fa ctors th a t contribu ted to th e id en-
tity
of
being
M u s lim
becoming pa ra mou nt
a nd d is cu s s h ow th is
pa rticu la r grou p
of
you ng
M u s lims u nd ers ta nd a nd ena ct th eir
religiou s
id entities .
SET T I NGS AND M ET HODS
T h e initia l
ph a s e
of
my
res ea rch
project bega n immed ia tely following
th e
events of
September 11, 2001,
wh en I received a
gra nt
to
s tu d y
th e
res pons e
of
M u s lim
u nivers ity
s tu d ents to th e terroris t a tta cks . Over th e cou rs e of th e fol-
lowing
two
yea rs ,
from
September
2001
th rou gh
October
2003, I
tra veled to New
York
City
fou r
times , cond u cting
s ix weeks of
s tu d y
a nd obs erva tion.
Ad d itiona lly, d u ring
th is s a me time
period ,
I
regu la rly enga ged
in res ea rch in
Bou ld er, Denver,
a nd Fort
Collins ,
Colora d o. I
employed
th ree
d es criptive
field -
work meth od s
th rou gh ou t my project:
focu s
grou p interviews ,
ind ivid u a l in-
d epth interviews ,
a nd
pa rticipa nt
obs erva tion.
I conta cted mos t of
my
res ea rch
pa rticipa nts th rou gh
th e M u s lim Stu d ent
As s ocia tions
(M SAs )
on th eir
res pective college
a nd
u nivers ity ca mpu s es .
Since
th ere is no officia l record of M u s lims
living
in th e United
Sta tes ,
one of th e mos t
via ble
wa ys
to find
my pa rticipa nts
wa s
th rou gh
th e network of
M SAs ,
a na tion-
a lly recognized orga niza tion.
With in ea ch
M SA,
I relied on one or two
key
con-
ta cts to
h elp
recru it
pa rticipa nts
a nd
a rra nge interviews ,
wh ile a ls o
conta cting
interviewees
th rou gh
a referra l s nowba ll
s a mple tech niqu e (Bierna cki
a nd
Wa ld orf
1981).
Du ring
th e th ree month s
following
th e
September
11 a tta cks ,
I cond u cted 23
focu s
grou ps ,
wh ich
ra nged
in s ize from th ree to 15
pa rticipa nts
a nd la s ted
between one a nd fou r h ou rs . I n th e
following month s ,
I u s ed
one-on-one,
s emi-
s tru ctu red a nd u ns tru ctu red interviews a s th e
prima ry
form of d a ta collection. I n
tota l,
I cond u cted 83 ind ivid u a l
interviews ,
ea ch
la s ting
between one a nd th ree
h ou rs .
Combining
th e focu s
grou ps (n
=
23)
a nd ind ivid u a l interviews
(n
=
83)
cond u cted in New York a nd
Colora d o,
I ca rried ou t a tota l of 106
qu a lita tive
interviews ,
wh ich were a u d io
ta ped , tra ns cribed ,
a nd cod ed for
a na lys is .
I a ls o obs erved a nd
pa rticipa ted
in va riou s
a s pects
of th e M u s lim men a nd
women's lives . For
exa mple,
I a ttend ed
politica l
a nd
religiou s s peech es
a nd M SA
meetings ,
obs erved
Frid a y pra yers
a t
mos qu es ,
a ttend ed
wed d ings ,
a nd a te d inners
a t va riou s
religiou s
centers . I a ls o vis ited d orms a nd
a pa rtments
th a t were eva cu -
a ted
following
th e
colla ps e
of th e World T ra d e Center towers , tou red a nd
obs erved
ca mpu s es ,
tra veled on
s u bwa ys
a nd bu s es with th e s tu d ents , a nd often
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222 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
s h a red a
cu p
of
coffee, lu nch ,
or d inner. I
kept
d eta iled field notes a s I collected
th is d a ta .
Pa rticipa ting
in th es e
a ctivities ,
a s well a s
s imply s pend ing
time with
th e
s tu d ents , h elped
me to
verify
th e
experiences
a nd informa tion d is cu s s ed in
th e interviews
(Bogd a n
a nd
T a ylor 1998;
Lofla nd a nd Lofla nd
1995).
Sa mple Popu la tion
I n
tota l,
I interviewed 127 M u s lim
s tu d ents , ma ny
of wh om were interviewed
two or th ree times
d u ring
th e
two-yea r period
of th is res ea rch .
Eigh ty-two
of th e
pa rticipa nts
were women a nd 45 were
men.5
T h e s tu d ents
ra nged
in
a ge
from 18
to 33.
Eigh ty-s even
of th e interviewees were United Sta tes
citizens ,
a nd th e oth er
40 h a d s tu d ent vis a s or were
perma nent
res id ents . M os t of th e
pa rticipa nts
in th is
s tu d y
were 1.5 or
s econd -genera tion immigra nts 6
wh o were
prima rily
ra is ed in
th e United Sta tes a nd
pla nned
to
s ta y
in th is
cou ntry.
I a ls o interviewed 10 con-
verts to
I s la m,
a nd
s poke
with a nu mber of
foreign
s tu d ents wh o intend ed to
retu rn to th eir cou ntries of
origin u pon gra d u a tion
from America n u nivers ities .
All of th e
pa rticipa nts
were flu ent in
Englis h ,
a nd over 75
percent s poke
a t lea s t
one oth er
la ngu a ge.
T h e interviewees
reported
a wid e
ra nge
of eth nic ba ck-
grou nd s .
T h e
ma jority
of
pa rticipa nts ,
65
s tu d ents ,
were of Sou th or Sou th ea s t
As ia n d es cent.
Forty-one
s tu d ents id entified a s Ara b or Ara b
America n,
ten were
Ca u ca s ia n,
s ix were
La tino,
a nd five were Africa n America n.
However,
s ta nd a rd
eth nic
ca tegories
d o not
d epict
th e tru e cu ltu ra l
d ivers ity
of th e
s a mple popu la -
tion,
a s th e interviewees id entified with over 30 d ifferent na tiona l
a nd /or
cu ltu r-
a l
ba ckgrou nd s .
M os t of th e
pa rticipa nts
in th is
s tu d y
wou ld be cons id ered
h igh ly religiou s .
T h is
religiou s
id entifica tion is ba s ed on both th e
s elf-ch a ra cteriza tion
of th e
pa r-
ticipa nts ,
a nd
my
own obs erva tions . Almos t a ll of th e s tu d ents
reported pra ying
five times a
d a y (one
of th e five fu nd a menta l
pilla rs
of
I s la m), fa s ting d u ring
th e
Holy
M onth of Ra ma d a n
(a noth er
fu nd a menta l
pilla r
of
I s la m), being
a ctive
members of
religiou s orga niza tions , h a ving
M u s lim firs t a nd la s t
na mes ,
a nd
a bs ta ining
from
religiou s ly proh ibited
a ctivities
(s u ch
a s
d rinking
a lcoh ol or ea t-
ing pork). Rega rd les s
of
gend er,
mos t of th e interviewees ch os e to d res s mod es t-
5M ore women th a n men were interviewed for two rea s ons .
Firs t,
a s with
ma ny
on-ca m-
pu s
s tu d ent
orga niza tions ,
mos t of th e M SAs th a t I vis ited h a d a
ma jority
fema le
members h ip.
Second , my pos ition
a s a fema le res ea rch er a llowed me more a cces s to th e women th a n th e
men.
6Some res ea rch ers inclu d e in th e s econd
genera tion
th os e ch ild ren born a broa d wh o
ca me to th e United Sta tes before th e
a ge
of 12
(Portes
a nd Zh ou
1993). However,
mos t s ch ol-
a rs ma ke a d is tinction between th e s econd a nd 1.5
genera tion
to d ifferentia te America n-born
ch ild ren
(s econd genera tion)
from th os e wh o moved to th e United Sta tes before
rea ch ing
a d u lth ood
(1.5 genera tion) (Ga ns 1992; M in
a nd Kim
2000;
Ru mba u t
1991). I
fou nd no
s ig-
nifica nt d ifferences between th e two
grou ps
in terms of th eir s ens e of
religiou s id entity;
s o for
th e s a ke of
brevity,
in th e text I refer to
my s a mple
a s th e s econd
genera tion.
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 223
ly.
T h e
ma jority
of women
(over
90
percent)
wore th e
h ija b,7
a nd two of th e
women wore th e
niqa a b.8
T h e level of
religiou s
a ffilia tion a nd ma nner of d res s of
mos t of th e interviewees -th e fa ct th a t
th ey
were
vis ibly
id entifia ble a s
M u s lim-certa inly
a ffected th eir ind ivid u a l
experiences . Alth ou gh my s a mple
wa s not
ra nd omly
s elected a nd is not
repres enta tive,
th e na rra tives
provid ed by
th e interviewees
s u gges t importa nt ins igh ts
a bou t oth er
you ng M u s lims ,
wh o
th rou gh
a
proces s
of
intros pection
a nd s ocia l intera ction
cons ciou s ly
d ecid ed to
id entify
a s members of th e fa ith .
A M ODEL OF M USLI M RELI GI OUS I DENT I T Y DEVELOPM ENT
M y
res ea rch with th es e M u s lim
u nivers ity
s tu d ents revea led th ree
s ta ges
of
religiou s id entity d evelopment: religion
a s a s cribed
id entity; religion
a s ch os en
id entity;
a nd
religion
a s d ecla red
id entity.
As th e
pa rticipa nts
moved
th rou gh
ea ch of th e
s ta ges ,
th eir fa ith beca me more intens e a nd th eir
religiou s pra ctice
increa s ed ,
a s d id th eir id entifica tion with th e
religion
of I s la m a nd th e ind ivid u a l
ch a ra cteris tic of
being
M u s lim. T h e
id entity
forma tion mod el
pres ented
below is
ba s ed on th ree broa d
a s s u mptions :
th a t
id entity
is
a cqu ired th rou gh
a s ocia l a nd
d evelopmenta l proces s ;
th a t th e
length
of time ta ken to
proceed th rou gh
th e
s ta ges
d iffers from
pers on
to
pers on;
a nd th a t th is mod el
a pplies
to a
pa rticu la r
grou p
of ind ivid u a ls in a
s pecific
s ocia l a nd h is torica l context a nd is not mea nt
to s erve a s a u nivers a l mod el for a ll M u s lim America ns
d u ring
a ll time
period s .
Religion
a s As cribed
I d entity
Of th e 127 ind ivid u a ls interviewed for th is
s tu d y,
117 were born into M u s lim
fa milies
(th e
oth er 10
pa rticipa nts
converted to I s la m a s
you ng a d u lts ).9
Beca u s e
th e
ma jority
of th e interviewees were ra is ed in M u s lim
h omes ,10
mos t viewed
religion
a s a n a s cribed ch a ra cteris tic of th eir ind ivid u a l s elves a nd s ocia l world s .
Du ring
th is firs t
s ta ge
of
id entity d evelopment, s tu d y pa rticipa nts reported
th a t
7T h e word
h ija b
comes from th e Ara bic word for
h id ing
or
concea ling,
a nd for
women,
a ls o d enotes
covering
th e
bod y completely
with loos e
cloth ing.
T h e h ea d s ca rf
typica lly d ra pes
a rou nd th e neck a nd a ls o covers th e bos om.
8T h e
niqa a b
is a veil th a t covers th e
h a ir, neck,
a nd
fa ce, lea ving only
th e
eyes
vis ible.
9T h is s ection relies on interview d a ta from
s econd -genera tion immigra nts ,
wh o
s pent
mos t or a ll of th eir forma tive
yea rs
in th e United Sta tes . T h e
converts , firs t-genera tion
immi-
gra nts ,
a nd th os e wh o were
only
in th e
cou ntry
to obta in a
college
ed u ca tion
obviou s ly
cou ld
not d is cu s s wh a t it wa s like to
grow u p
a s a M u s lim in America .
10Alth ou gh
mos t of th e interviewees were born into M u s lim
h omes , th ey reported
a wid e
ra nge
of fa milia l
religiou s
involvement
d u ring
th eir forma tive
yea rs .
For
exa mple,
s ome of th e
interviewees s a id th a t th eir
fa mily
members were not
religiou s
a t
a ll,
wh ile oth ers
reported
th a t th eir
pa rents
a nd
s iblings
were
h igh ly
d evou t.
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224 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
th ey enga ged
in
very
little critica l reflection wh en
th ey
were ch ild ren
rega rd ing
th e
mea ning
of
"being
M u s lim" beca u s e th eir
religiou s id entity
wa s ta ken for
gra nted
a s
pa rt
of th eir
everyd a y
lives . Wh erea s mos t a d u lts h a ve th e
ca pa city
to
s elect a nd th erefore a s s ert a
va riety
of s ocia l a nd ind ivid u a l
id entities ,
ch ild ren
a re more
likely
to a d h ere to
a s s igned
id entities
(Ad a ms
a nd M a rs h a ll
1996).
I nd eed ,
mos t of th e
pa rticipa nts
d id not cons id er is s u es of
id entity
wh en
th ey
were
you ng,
a s
th ey
were
"ju s t
kid s like
everyone
els e" wh o
s imply
"d id wh a t th eir
pa rents
told th em to."
Alis h a ,11
wh os e
fa mily emigra ted
to th e United Sta tes
from
Syria
wh en s h e wa s a n
infa nt,
d is cu s s ed h er
experiences growing u p
in a
M u s lim
fa mily:
I h a ve never
rea lly s tra yed
from th e
religion.
I h a ve never
rea lly
h a d a
boyfriend
or
a ny-
th ing
like
th a t,
or
gone
ou t with friend s mu ch . I h a ve
pretty
mu ch
s ta yed
with in th e fa m-
ily.
I t is
ju s t th ings like,
I believed in God a nd s tu ff. I wou ld
pra y,
bu t not well. I wou ld
d o th e
th ings ,
bu t not d o th em well.
Alth ou gh qu es tions rega rd ing religiou s id entity
were not
neces s a rily impor-
ta nt wh en th e
pa rticipa nts
were
you nger, th ey
s ometimes h a d d ifficu lties wh en
th eir
religion prevented
th em from
pa rticipa ting
in a ctivities or
enga ging
in cer-
ta in beh a viors a nd
th ey
cou ld not u nd ers ta nd
wh y. M a ny
of th e s tu d ents
point-
ed ou t th a t
ju s t
beca u s e
th ey
were born into a certa in
religion
d id not mea n th a t
th ey compreh end ed
or
a pprecia ted
th e belief
s ys tem
a nd
pra ctices , pa rticu la rly
wh en
th ey
were ch ild ren.
Selina ,
a
s econd -genera tion immigra nt
from
Pa kis ta n,
ta lked a bou t
being
ra is ed in a M u s lim h ome:
Ju s t
beca u s e I wa s born in a M u s lim
fa mily,
I
rea lly
d id n't h a ve
a ny knowled ge
of wh a t it
wa s . I wa s
like, oka y,
I 'm in America . I live h ere.
Ju s t
like a ll th es e oth er
people.
Celebra te
a nyth ing. M y grou p
of friend s were
d oing Ch ris tma s , T h a nks giving,
I wou ld
ju s t go
over.
T h ings
like th a t.
Simila rly, Ali,
wh os e
fa mily
moved to th e United Sta tes from I nd ones ia
wh en h e wa s s even
yea rs old ,
s a id :
Ju nior h igh
s ch ool I th ink th ere were s ome
M u s lims ,
bu t I wa s n't
rea lly pra cticing,
s o I
d id n't know
a nyth ing.
I h a d
ma ny
friend s . You d id n't th ink a bou t
religion
th a t mu ch . I t
wa s
s ports
or ca rtoon ch a ra cters or wh a tever. I n
h igh s ch ool,
I th ink th ere were a t lea s t
two more M u s lims in
my gra d u a ting
cla s s . I d id n't know th em th a t well. I wa s n't
rea lly
pra cticing
a s a M u s lim. I t wa s n't
my
ma in concern. I t wa s
my
own
pers ona l th ing.
M os t of th e
pa rticipa nts
s ta ted th a t
religion
wa s
ju s t
one of th e
ma ny a s pects
th a t d efined wh o
th ey
were
d u ring
th eir forma tive
yea rs .
Beca u s e th e
ma jority
of
11T o ens u re
a nonymity,
th e na mes of a ll
pa rticipa nts
h a ve been
ch a nged . Ps eu d onyms
a re u s ed
th rou gh ou t
th e a rticle.
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 225
th e s tu d ents were th e ch ild ren of
immigra nts , th ey
often id entified
a ccord ing
to
th eir
pa rents '
na tiona l or eth nic
ba ckgrou nd s ,
a t lea s t wh en
th ey
were
you nger.
After s ome
reflection,
s ome of th e interviewees conclu d ed th a t
th ey
were more
likely
to
id entify
th ems elves th is
wa y
beca u s e of s ocia l norms a nd externa l
pres -
s u re in th e United Sta tes to d efine ones elf
by ra ce, na tiona lity,
or
eth nicity
ra th er
th a n
religion.
Almos t a ll of th e s tu d ents wh o were
vis ibly
id entifia ble a s M u s lim
or a s a n eth nic
minority reported being
a s ked a bou t th eir
cou ntry
of
origin qu ite
frequ ently. Sa lma ,
a na tive of New York
City,
rela ted h er
th ou gh ts
on th is s u b-
ject:
People
wou ld
s a y
to
me,
"Wh ere a re
you
from?" T h en I 'd
s a y,
"I wa s born a nd ra is ed h ere.
I wa s born h ere. I 'm a n America n." And
th ey
wou ld
s a y, "No,
wh ere a re
you rea lly
from?"
Once I told
my
moth er th a t a nd I
s a id ,
"I
ju s t s a y
I 'm I nd ia n." Sh e
s a id , "Wh y
d o
you s a y
th a t? You 're not I nd ia n." I 'm
like,
"You
gu ys
a re I nd ia n a nd s o I 'm I nd ia n." Sh e's
like,
"We're I nd ia n beca u s e we were born a nd ra is ed in I nd ia . We're I nd ia n citizens . You were
born a nd ra is ed h ere. You 're America n. You h a ve I nd ia n
ba ckgrou nd .
You r cu ltu re is
I nd ia n. You r
religion
is I s la m. You 're a n America n citizen."
Nowa d a ys ,
I
ju s t s a y,
"I wa s
born h ere.
M y pa rents
a re from I nd ia ." I t clea rs
u p every qu es tion.
Alth ou gh
th e s tu d ents mos t often
reported
not
being
s elf-reflective
rega rd ing
th eir
religiou s ba ckgrou nd d u ring
th is firs t
s ta ge
of
id entity d evelopment,
th eir
beh a vior-for
exa mple, pra ctices requ ired by
th eir
pa rents
s u ch a s
d res s ing
mod -
es tly
or
a ttend ing religion
cla s s es a t a
mos qu e-noneth eles s
reflected a M u s lim
religiou s id entity, rega rd les s
of wh eth er a s ch ild ren
th ey
u nd ers tood
wh y th ey
were
d oing
s u ch
th ings .
I nd ivid u a ls a bs orb a nd interna lize
ma ny norms , va lu es ,
a nd beh a viors wh en
th ey
s ee th em
exemplified by
th eir
pa rents , peers ,
a nd oth -
ers
long
before
th ey
u nd ers ta nd th em
intellectu a lly.
T h is form of s ocia liza tion is
s imila r to Swid ler's
(1986:284)
notion of cu ltu re a s a
repertoire
of
ca pa cities
from
wh ich
va rying s tra tegies
of a ction
ma y
be cons tru cted .
Accord ing
to
Swid ler,
even if
people
d o not
ca refu lly
cons id er th e
impa ct
or d icta tes of
cu ltu re,
it s till
provid es
th e ritu a ls a nd tra d itions th a t
regu la te ord ina ry pa tterns
of
a u th ority,
coopera tion,
a nd intera ction.
Wh ile
th ey ma y
not h a ve
cons ciou s ly contempla ted
th eir
religiou s
id entities
d u ring
th is
s ta ge,
th e interviewees were well a wa re of th e
pres s u re
to a s s imila te
to "America n" va lu es a nd norms . T h is
pres s u re
va ried
s omewh a t, d epend ing
on
th e environment in wh ich th e
pa rticipa nt
wa s ra is ed . T h e s tu d ents wh o
grew u p
in
pred omina ntly Ca u ca s ia n, Ju d eo-Ch ris tia n
towns more
frequ ently
d es cribed
perceived
d ema nd s to "fit in" th a n d id th os e wh o were ra is ed in u rba n a rea s . T h e
s tu d ents wh o a ttend ed s ch ools with more d ivers e
popu la tions
in
New York
City
a nd th e Denver
metropolita n
a rea a ls o
experienced
s u ch
problems , a lth ou gh th ey
felt les s
pres s u re
to a s s imila te. Henna , a
s econd -genera tion immigra nt
of
Pa kis ta ni a nd I nd ia n d es cent, wa s ra is ed in a s ma ll town in
u ps ta te
New York.
Sh e wa s th e
only
M u s lim
girl
in h er entire s ch ool, a nd s h e wa s
keenly
a wa re of
th e
impa ct
of
being
a
minority:
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226 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
I d on't know wh a t it is a bou t America n
h igh
s ch ool a nd
ju nior h igh
th a t ma kes
people
wa nt to be in th e in crowd a nd d o
th ings
th a t a re cons id ered cool. T h a t
pres s u re
wa s
th ere. Wh en I wa s in
h igh
s ch ool I id entified mu ch les s with
being
M u s lim th a n I d id
a fter
h igh
s ch ool. You d on't wa nt to s tick ou t too mu ch . You d on't wa nt
people
to th ink
you 're
a weird o.
Overa ll,
America n cu ltu re is s u ch th a t th ere is room for
people
to
expres s
th eir own
id entities , es pecia lly
in a
pla ce
like New York
City.
I know for
people
th a t a re
living
in th e ru ra l
a rea s ,
in s ma ller
towns , it's mu ch more d ifficu lt for th em to
keep u p
th eir
id entity
beca u s e
th ey're proba bly
th e
only
M u s lim
fa mily
in th a t town.
Some of th e interviewees felt
s tigma tized
for va riou s
rea s ons , mos tly
d u e to
th eir
minority religiou s , eth nic,
a nd
immigra nt
id entities . T h is
s tigma tiza tion,
in
combina tion with
peer pres s u re, pres s u re
to
a s s imila te,
a nd a
pers ona l
la ck of reli-
giou s u nd ers ta nd ing,
res u lted in a s ma ll nu mber of th e
pa rticipa nts a ttempting
to
ignore
or concea l th eir M u s lim
id entity.
I n th e United
Sta tes , religiou s
beliefs a re
typica lly
cons id ered
priva te,
a nd th erefore
ma y
be
ea s y
to
d is rega rd
or h id e. I t is
not
s u rpris ing
th a t s ome of th e interviewees s a id th a t
d u ring
th eir
you nger yea rs
th ey
ca s t off th eir
religiou s id entity
in a n
a ttempt
to
"pa s s "
a s
pa rt
of ma ins trea m
s ociety.
T h is is not
s ometh ing th ey
were
prou d of,
bu t
th ey expla ined
th eir
beh a vior a s a res u lt of th eir need to fit in or th eir la ck of
u nd ers ta nd ing
of th e
tru e
mea ning
of I s la m.
M a rya m,
a
s econd -genera tion immigra nt
from T rinid a d
wh o wa s
wea ring
a
h ea d s ca rf
wh en I interviewed
h er,
d is cu s s ed h er
prior
fea rs of
being
mocked for
wea ring religiou s
a ttire:
I n th e
beginning,
wh en I wa s
you nger.
I wa s
like,
I 'm not
going
to be s een with th e
h ija b.
T h e kid s a re
going
to ma ke fu n of me. I wa s
completely a ga ins t
a ll of th is . I h a d to d res s
in th e newes t
jea ns
th a t ca me
ou t,
h a ve th e nices t s nea kers . I n th e
beginning,
wh en I wa s
you nger,
it wa s
rea lly
a
big
d ea l.
T h e d a ta
reported
a bove
proba bly repres ent
th e
ea rly s ta ges
of
id entity
d evel-
opment
for mos t ch ild ren a nd
a d oles cents , rega rd les s
of th eir
religiou s
a ffilia tion.
Very you ng
ch ild ren a re
typica lly
not s elf-reflective a bou t th eir id entities a nd
a s cribed s ta tu s es
(Ad a ms
a nd M a rs h a ll
1996;
Elkind
1964). M oreover,
a s ch il-
d ren
a ge,
th ere is
s ignifica nt pres s u re
to fit in or "be cool"
(Ad ler
a nd Ad ler
1998),
wh ich res u lts in va riou s
id entity ma na gement s tra tegies .
Religion
a s Ch os en
I d entity
Prior res ea rch h a s d ocu mented th a t a s ch ild ren
a ge, th ey begin
to
d evelop
a
more
concrete, cognitive conception
of th eir
religiou s id entity (Elkind 1964;
Joh ns tone 2001). Likewis e,
th e
pa rticipa nts
in th is
s tu d y reported
th a t a s
th ey
ma tu red , th ey bega n
to view
religion
not a s a n
u nqu es tiona ble,
a s cribed ch a ra c-
teris tic, bu t a s a ch os en
id entity.
Wh en th e s tu d ents told s tories
rega rd ing
th eir
id entity d evelopment, th ey frequ ently
mentioned va riou s fa ctors th a t led to th eir
ch oos ing
firs t a nd foremos t to be id entified a s M u s lim.
Becoming
more
intros pective
a nd a wa re of va lu es , goa ls ,
a nd beliefs is a nor-
ma l
pa rt
of h u ma n
d evelopment (Eriks on 1963; Pa rks 1986). Some of th e inter-
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 227
viewees believed it wa s
"only
na tu ra l" th a t a s
th ey ma tu red , th ey
wou ld
begin
to
contempla te
more
importa nt
life
qu es tions
a nd th eir
religiou s ba ckgrou nd s ,
a nd
h ence re-exa mine th a t
a s pect
of th eir id entities .
As ma ,
wh o wa s
origina lly
from
Gu ya na , expla ined :
Even
th ou gh
on th e exterior I wa s
pra cticing
s ince I wa s
you ng,
it d oes n't mea n neces -
s a rily
th a t I wa s
s piritu a lly,
I d on't
know, th inking
a bou t
God ,
into th e fa ith . I t d oes n't
rea lly h a ppen
u ntil
you 've
become a n
a d u lt,
u ntil
you
lea rn a bou t th e world . You never
rea lly get
to live on
you r own,
to
get
a ch a nce to th ink a bou t wh a t
you
wa nt for
you rs elf
a nd wh a t kind of
pers on you
a re u ntil
you get
to
college.
I n
h igh s ch ool, you a lwa ys
h a ve
people telling you
wh a t to th ink.
As ma tou ch es on a n
importa nt
fa ctor in th is
s ta ge
of
religiou s id entity
d evel-
opment: entering college. Every s ociety
a nd cu ltu re inclu d es
points
in life a nd
d evelopment
wh en
rites , ritu a ls ,
ins titu tiona l
expecta tions ,
or
regu la tions
ca u s e
ind ivid u a ls to reflect on th eir beh a vior a nd
id entity (Ad a ms
a nd M a rs h a ll
1996).
Lea ving
h ome for
college
is one s u ch tra ns ition for
you ng
a d u lts in th e United
Sta tes
(Ka rp, Holms trom,
a nd
Gra y 1998). Du ring college, you ng
men a nd
women become
increa s ingly ind epend ent
a nd
res pons ible
a nd receive cu ltu ra l
permis s ion
to
pa rticipa te
in a d u lt beh a viors .
Alth ou gh
s ome of th e interviewees
noted th a t
h igh
s ch ool wa s th e time wh en
th ey
s ta rted
becoming
more
religiou s ,
th e
ma jority
of
pa rticipa nts a greed
th a t
beginning college
ma rked th e mos t crit-
ica l
period
of reflection a nd
id entity
tra ns ition. For th e
s u bjects
in th is
s tu d y,
th e
ca mpu s s etting provid ed s pa ce
a nd time to
explore
th eir id entities a nd ma ke
ch oices a bou t wh o
th ey
wa nted to be a nd h ow
th ey
wa nted to live th eir lives .
Ultima tely,
it ena bled th em to fu rth er cons tru ct a M u s lim
religiou s id entity.
Zoya ,
wh o wa s ra is ed in th e New York
City region,
d is cu s s ed th e
religiou s
tra ns i-
tion s h e
experienced
a fter
entering college:
M y
I s la mic
a s pect
h a s been a lot more
importa nt
to me s ince
college.
Wh en
you go
into
college, everyth ing's
on
you . I t's
not like
you r pa rents
a re
telling you
wh a t to d o a nd wh a t
not to d o. I t's
u p
to
you
to ma ke
you r
d ecis ions . T h a t ma kes it a lot h a rd er. Once
you pu t
you r
foot d own on certa in
th ings
in th e
beginning,
it
gets
a lot ea s ier. You s ta rt to know
you rs elf
better a nd rea lize wh a t
you rea lly
ca re a bou t a nd wh a t
you
d on't.
Wh en I la s t interviewed
Zoya
in th e
s pring
of
2002,
s h e h a d d ecid ed to
qu it
h er
bu s ines s s ch ool h onors
progra m
s o th a t s h e cou ld focu s on
s erving
th e on-ca m-
pu s
I s la mic Center wh ere s h e h a d
recently
been elected
pres id ent.
Her
pa rents
were not
plea s ed
with th is
d ecis ion,
a s
th ey
h a d
cons is tently
s tres s ed th e
impor-
ta nce of
receiving
a
good
ed u ca tion a nd
getting
a
h igh -pa ying job
in bu s ines s .
However, Zoya
felt th a t it wa s mu ch more
importa nt
th a t s h e d evote h er time to
th e
religiou s commu nity,
even
th ou gh
it wa s d ifficu lt for h er to
d efy
th e wis h es of
h er
pa rents .
Anoth er fa ctor th a t both contribu ted to a nd res u lted from th e increa s ed reli-
gios ity
a nd
religiou s
id entifica tion
a mong
th e
pa rticipa nts
wa s th e new friend s
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228 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
a nd
peer grou ps
th e interviewees fou nd a fter
entering college. Du ring elementa ry
s ch ool, ju nior h igh ,
a nd s ometimes even
h igh s ch ool,
th e
pa rticipa nts
were often
one of
only
a h a nd fu l of M u s lim s tu d ents .
T h u s , th ey
h a d
very
few M u s lim
friend s
wh ile
growing u p. However,
a ll of th e interviewees
s poke
a bou t
connecting
with
oth er M u s lims in
college,
mos t
frequ ently th rou gh
th e M SAs on th eir
ca mpu s es .
T h e
pa rticipa nts
often rema rked th a t it beca me ea s ier to
id entify
a s a M u s lim
s imply
beca u s e
th ey
h a d d is covered a
la rger
M u s lim
peer grou p
to a s s ocia te with
a nd new
friend s
with wh om
th ey
cou ld rela te. M u ch of th e
pres s u re
to conform
to non-M u s lim
s ociety
s eemed to s u bs id e a s
th ey
fou nd
peers
with s imila r inter-
es ts wh o a d h ered to th e s a me
religiou s
tenets a nd s ocia l norms . Ali d is cu s s ed th e
impa ct
of
find ing
M u s lim
friend s
a t h is
u nivers ity:
I n
h igh
s ch ool I wa s not
very religiou s . I t
wa s in
college
th a t I
d eveloped
a renewed inter-
es t in I s la m.
Being
with oth er M u s lims wa s a fa ctor.
People
a re
open
a s M u s lims . I n
h igh
s ch ool
th ey
weren't. I n
college you
h a ve more freed om. You 're
expos ed
to d ifferent id ea s
a nd cu ltu res . You 're
encou ra ged
to
experiment.
I
experimented
with I s la m. T h e
impor-
ta nce of
I s la m, being
a
M u s lim,
is
my
ma in
id entity
a nd
prioritizing
th a t in
my
life ca me
a fter I ca me to
college,
wh en I wa s more
integra ted
in th e
commu nity
h ere. I knew more
M u s lims a nd beca me more
a ctive,
lea rned more a bou t I s la m a nd
mys elf.
Peers a nd clos e friend s
pla yed
a
s ignifica nt
role in
cons tru cting, reinforcing,
a nd
a ffirming
th e
s trong emerging religiou s id entity
of a lmos t a ll
pa rticipa nts .
T h e
interviewees often told me th a t
th ey bega n
to lea rn a bou t I s la m with th eir friend s
s ince
th ey
were
going th rou gh
a s imila r
proces s
of
religiou s explora tion.
I n a d d ition to
provid ing
introd u ctions a nd links to new M u s lim
friend s ,
th e
M SAs a ls o offered a n
orga niza tiona l
a nd s ocia l
s etting
in wh ich th e interviewees
cou ld
collectively
exa mine
s pecific a s pects
of th e
religion
of I s la m a nd th e mea n-
ing
of
being
M u s lim.
Religiou s orga niza tions provid e
a s a fe environment for d is -
cu s s ing
a nd
pra cticing
beliefs
a nd , u ltima tely, cons tru cting religiou s
id entities
(Ammerma n 2003;
Sh erka t a nd Ellis on
1999).
As Somers
(1994:619) notes ,
reli-
giou s orga niza tions
a re one
s u pplier
of
"pu blic na rra tives ,"
wh ich a re collective
a ccou nts th a t a re cons tru cted a nd s h a red a nd exis t
beyond
th e cons ciou s nes s of
a ny s ingle
ind ivid u a l.
Ju s t
a s res ea rch on
religiou s
converts h a s s h own h ow th eir
s tories often tend to be formed in a ccord a nce with
grou p-s pecific gu id elines
(Snow
a nd M a ch a lek
1984; Stromberg 1993)
a nd
"a ppropria te"
verba l a ccou nts
of
religiou s d evelopment (Beckford 1978:251),
th e interviewees in th is
s tu d y
u nd ou bted ly
lea rned common na rra tives
rega rd ing
th eir beliefs a nd id entities in
th eir M SAs .
I nd eed ,
th eir involvement with th e M SAs
clea rly
a ffected th e
cou rs e of th eir
religiou s d evelopment
a nd commitment beca u s e th e a s s ocia tions
provid ed ju s t
s u ch a s ocia l context a nd na rra tive
s pa ce
in wh ich to
d evelop
a reli-
giou s id entity.
I n h er review of res ea rch on M u s lims in America , Leona rd
(2003:135) ca lls for a broa d er
u nd ers ta nd ing
of M u s lim s tu d ent
grou ps
a nd wh a t
is
being ta u gh t
a bou t I s la m a nd M u s lims in America 's
h igh er
ed u ca tiona l ins ti-
tu tions in ord er to u nd ers ta nd not
only
th e
pres ent,
bu t a ls o th e fu tu re of th e next
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 229
genera tion
of America n M u s lims .
Clea rly,
s u ch res ea rch s h ou ld fu rth er exa mine
th e role of M SAs in
s trength ening
th e
religiou s
id entities a nd s ocia l networks of
M u s lim s tu d ents .
I n th is
ca s e,
s ome of th e interviewees tu rned to th eir
on-ca mpu s religiou s
orga niza tions
a nd friend s beca u s e
th ey
felt
th ey
were not
receiving enou gh
reli-
giou s
ed u ca tion a t h ome. Wh ile th eir
pa rents ta u gh t
th em th e fu nd a menta ls of
I s la m,
s u ch a s th e
importa nce
of
pra ying
five times a
d a y,
th e interviewees s ome-
times
compla ined
th a t th eir
pa rents
were
"too
cu ltu ra l" beca u s e
th ey
mixed cu l-
tu ra l norms a nd va lu es with
religiou s pra ctices . Aria na ,
a
s econd -genera tion
immigra nt
of Pa kis ta ni
d es cent,
d is cu s s ed th is :
At
firs t,
even
th ou gh my pa rents
lived in Sa u d i
Ara bia , th ey
weren't
very religiou s . T h ey
took it for
gra nted .
We h a ve
pictu res
of
my
mom with
tigh t
d res s es in Sa u d i Ara bia . I wa s
like, "M om, you
wore th a t in
pu blic?!" [la u gh ter]
Sh e wa s
like,
"T h ere wa s no
religiou s
belief wh ere I wa s ." Sh e wore s h orts . Sh e wa s s o fa s h iona ble. Sh e wa s
like,
"T h ere wa s no
I s la m ba ck th en." T h en wh en
th ey
ca me
h ere, th ey
rea lized th a t we h a ve to h old on to
th e
religion,
bu t
th ey
wa nted u s to ta lk
Englis h . T h ey
wa nted u s to
a s s imila te,
kind of.
T h ey
th ink
th ey
s h ou ld h a ve
ta u gh t
u s more from th e
beginning.
We
a ctu a lly ta u gh t
ou r-
s elves . We s ta rted
looking
into I s la m. For
th em,
I s la m a nd th e cu ltu re a re s o infu s ed
togeth er,
s ome
th ings , my
mom h a d th is
th ing
wh ere if
you
ea t
fis h ,
th en
you
ca n't d rink
milk. All th is weird s tu ff. Sh e's
like,
"I t's tru e. T h e
proph ets s a y
s o."
[la u gh ter]
M a ny
of th e interviewees h a d
pa rents
wh o were born a nd ra is ed in M u s lim-
ma jority
cou ntries a nd th en
immigra ted
to th e United Sta tes
d u ring
th e
1960s ,
70s ,
a nd 80s . T h eir
ch ild ren,
th es e
s econd -genera tion immigra nts ,
ca me to rec-
ognize
th a t
th ey
were
pa rt
of a
s ma ll, h igh ly
vis ible
religiou s minority
in th e
United Sta tes . T h is a wa renes s wa s a noth er fa ctor th a t led to th e a s s ertion of th eir
M u s lim
id entity.
As
th ey ma tu red ,
it beca me
increa s ingly importa nt
not
only
to
ma inta in th eir
religiou s id entity,
bu t a ls o to
d evelop
th a t
a s pect
of th ems elves .
Henna ,
a
s econd -yea r
la w s tu d ent wh o wa s ra is ed in th e United
Sta tes ,
s ta ted th e
following:
Definitely
in
my genera tion,
I 've noticed th a t th ere's th a t retu rn to I s la m
a mong
M u s lim
America ns .
M a ybe
it's beca u s e wh ere ou r
pa rents grew u p, th ey
d id n't h a ve to th ink twice
a bou t th eir
id entity. T h ey
were M u s lims .
T h ey
took it for
gra nted . T h ey
never h a d to
qu es tion
it or
explore
it. I t wa s a
given.
Wh erea s
h ere,
for
u s , it's
s ometh ing
we h a ve to
work a t beca u s e th ere's no one in ou r
h igh
s ch ool or
elementa ry
s ch ool wh o tea ch es u s
a bou t I s la m. We h a ve to
go
a nd find ou t a bou t it on ou r own.
M a ybe
th a t's th e motiva -
tion th a t's
ma king
ou r
genera tion
more
religiou s .
M os t of th e
pa rticipa nts
a ls o s a id th a t not
only
wa s it
importa nt
to ma inta in th eir
M u s lim
id entity
for
th ems elves , it wa s a ls o of u tmos t
importa nce
to tea ch th e
religion
to th eir ch ild ren in th e fu tu re. For th os e wh o were s till
bilingu a l, pa s s ing
on th eir
pa rents '
na tive
la ngu a ge
wa s a ls o vita l.
T h e s tu d ents s ometimes ch os e to a s s ert th eir
religiou s id entity
in ord er to
reject eth nic, na tiona l, or cu ltu ra l id entities th a t
th ey
viewed a s u n-I s la mic. M os t
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230 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
interpreted
I s la mic tenets to
s a y
th a t
people
s h ou ld not
s egrega te
th ems elves
ba s ed on na tiona l bord ers or ra cia l
ca tegories .12
As th e interviewees lea rned
more a bou t I s la m a nd d rew clos er to th e
religion, th ey
beca me more
likely
to
reject
or
d ownpla y
oth er
a s pects
of th eir
id entity.
T wo
you ng
women d is cu s s ed
th is is s u e
d u ring
a focu s
grou p:
Fa mina : T h e wh ole is s u e of
id entity.
I n
I s la m, you
d on't
s u pport
na tiona lis m in th e firs t
pla ce.
T h a t's wh a t
brings commu nity. Righ t
now
you
s ee s o
ma ny
d ifferent colors h ere
a mong
th e
[M u s lim]
s is ters . I f
you r
broth er or s is ter is not
M u s lim,
bu t a
s tra nger is , you 're
clos er to th a t
s tra nger
th a n
you r
own broth er or s is ter.
M ina :
Righ t.
Wh a t
you
believe is h ow
you
beh a ve. You r belief a ffects
you r
beh a vior. I t's
you r wa y
of life.
Being
M u s lim is a
wa y
of life. T h a t's wh a t it is . I s la m d oes n't
only
not
s u pport na tiona lis m,
it's
a ga ins t
na tiona lis m.
For
Sa ba ,
wh o wa s born in th e United
Sta tes ,
bu t
s pent
h er
ju nior h igh
a nd
h igh
s ch ool
yea rs living
a nd
s tu d ying
in
Pa kis ta n,
th e
rela tions h ip
between eth -
nicity, na tiona lis m,
a nd
religion
wa s
ch a llenged
a s s h e
bega n
to a s s ert h er M u s lim
id entity d u ring college:
I f
you
h a d a s ked me
before, my id entity
wou ld be Pa kis ta ni. I id entified
mys elf
more with
my
eth nic
ba ckgrou nd
th a n with
my religiou s ba ckgrou nd .
With
time,
I th ink th a t in
America
you
ca n't be a tta ch ed with
you r
eth nic
ba ckgrou nd , es pecia lly
s ince ou r eth nic
ba ckgrou nd , being
a
Pa kis ta ni, th ey
d on't
rea lly
a s s ocia te th a t mu ch with th eir
religion.
T h ey pu t
th eir
religion
on
h old , you
cou ld
s a y,
u ntil old
a ge
comes th eir
wa y,
wh ich I a s
a
pers on rea lly
ca nnot d o. With time I d is a s s ocia ted
mys elf
with
my
eth nic
ba ckgrou nd
a nd I h a ve become more a nd more M u s lim.
Religion
a s Decla red
I d entity
For th e
pa rticipa nts
in th is
s tu d y,
th e th ird
s ta ge
of
religiou s id entity
d evel-
opment
occu rred in
res pons e
to a cris is -th e events a nd a fterma th of
September
11,
2001. With in h ou rs of th e
a tta cks ,
a n
u npreced ented
ra s h of
xenoph obic
inci-
d ents
bega n (Eck 2001).
I n th e month s
following September 11,
th ou s a nd s of
M u s lims a nd Ara bs
(a s
well a s
Sikh s ,
Sou th
As ia ns ,
a nd oth er ind ivid u a ls wh o
s imply a ppea red
to be of M id d le Ea s tern
d es cent)
end u red
d is crimina tion,
h a ra s s -
ment,
ra cia l a nd
religiou s profiling,
a nd verba l a nd
ph ys ica l
a s s a u lt
(America n-
Ara b Anti-Dis crimina tion Committee
2003;
Ara b America n I ns titu te
2002;
Cou ncil on America n-I s la mic Rela tions
2002;
U.S.
Depa rtment
of
Ju s tice 2002).
Des pite
th is
rea ction,
mos t of th e M u s lim s tu d ents continu ed to
pu blicly
a ffirm
12T h is pa rticu la r interpreta tion
of I s la m th a t es ch ews na tiona lis m led to th e forma tion
of th e M SA in th e United Sta tes in 1963. T h e fou nd ers of th e M SA were a liena ted
by
th e
"America niza tion" of Ara b
mos qu es ,
s o
th ey
es ta blis h ed th e M SA a s a n a lterna tive u mbrella
orga niza tion
with a ma nd a te to
promu lga te
"tru e I s la m" a nd to
d is cou ra ge a llegia nce
to s ome-
th ing
oth er th a n th e
religion (Ha d d a d 1994:75).
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 231
th eir
religiou s
id entities .
I nd eed , ma ny pa rticipa nts reported
th a t th eir
religiou s
id entity
beca me even
s tronger d u ring
th is time.
T h e
overwh elming ma gnitu d e
of th e events of
September
11 led
ma ny
s tu -
d ents to
pra y
more often a nd increa s ed th eir need for a
s piritu a l a nch or, ju s t
a s
th e events d id for nu merou s oth er America ns of va riou s fa ith s .
M a ny
of th os e
interviewed
reported becoming
more relia nt on God a s
th ey
beca me more
cog-
niza nt of th eir own
morta lity. Ka ori,
a M u s lim convert
origina lly
from
Ja pa n,
rema rked :
I th ink
pra yers
a re mu ch more s eriou s th a n before. We a re
s u ppos ed
to
pra y s eriou s ly
every
time.
Us u a lly
we
pra y
five
times ,
bu t we wa nt to d o more a nd more. Wh en
you
h a ve
free
time, ma ybe you
d o one more. I t's like more s incere.
Ka ori's friend
Sa d iya a greed .
"We're
d efinitely
more focu s ed now."
T h e
increa s ingly nega tive portra ya l
of I s la m
following
th e a tta cks
(Ha d d a d
2004)
a nd
pa rticipa nts ' perceptions
of h ow non-M u s lims now viewed th em a nd
th eir
religion
ca u s ed s ome of th e s tu d ents to
id entify
more
clos ely
with I s la m.
Wh en I a s ked
Noreen,
wh o wa s born a nd ra is ed in th e United Sta tes a nd wh os e
pa rents
were from
I nd ia ,
h ow
September
11 h a d a ffected h er
d a ily life,
s h e
res pond ed :
Ju s t
th e need to a s s ert
my religiou s id entity.
For
me, religion
wa s
a lwa ys
a t th e front
pa rt
of
my
life. Bu t now th a t I s la m is on th e forefront of
everyth ing,
it s eems th ere's th e need
to u s e th a t a s
my d efining ch a ra cteris tic,
a
grea ter
need to d o
th a t,
now more th a n ever.
Jeena ,
a na tive of
Afgh a nis ta n
wh o ca me to th e United Sta tes a s a
refu gee
from Pa kis ta n wh en s h e wa s 13
yea rs old ,
d is cu s s ed
h ow,
a fter
September 11,
s h e
felt more s ecu re in h er M u s lim
id entity
a nd more
likely
to d efend th a t
a s pect
of
h ers elf:
I n th a t
s pectru m,
I th ink
my religiou s id entity
beca me
s tronger.
I beca me more
like,
"Don't
s a y a nyth ing a ga ins t
I s la m."
Giving
a n
a na logy, es pecia lly being fema le,
in
college
or
h igh s ch ool,
if I s a w s omeone
being picked on,
I wou ld become h er friend .
Seeing
I s la m
go th rou gh th a t, being
s o d ifferent from wh a t it wa s
portra yed
to be
by
th e med ia or
ju s t
by a s s u mption,
I beca me more
s trong
in
need ing
to
s pea k
ou t
a ga ins t
th a t a nd
ch a nge
th a t. T h is is not wh a t it is . T h is is I s la m. T h is is
rea lity.
Following September 11,
th e s tu d ents were
frequ ently qu es tioned
a bou t th eir
fa ith a nd
religiou s
beliefs . T o
h elp
th em
res pond
to th es e
inqu iries
from both
friend s a nd
s tra ngers , th ey
s tu d ied th e
Qu r'a n
a nd oth er
religiou s
d ocu ments . As
th ey
s ea rch ed for a ns wers , th ey
felt
th ey
were
becoming
"better M u s lims " a nd
d ra wing
even clos er to th e fa ith . T h u s , th e
tra ged y
of
September
11 h a d th e ina d -
vertent effect of
ca u s ing ma ny
M u s lims to lea rn more a bou t I s la m, wh ich over
time
s trength ened
th eir
religiou s
id entities . Ha s s a n, wh o wa s born in th e United
Sta tes a nd lived in s evera l d ifferent Ara b na tions wh ile
growing u p,
d es cribed
h ow h e h a d come clos er to I s la m:
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232 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
For
me,
s ince
September 11, I
d o feel more
obliga ted
to know
my religion more,
for th e
rea s ons th a t I
ga ve
before: to commu nica te wh o M u s lims a re
better,
to u nd ers ta nd for
mys elf
wh a t a re th e
problems
with in th e
commu nity,
to be a ble to eva lu a te th e M u s lim
id entity
a nd be a ble to
s a y,
"T h es e a re fla ws a nd th es e a re
s trength s ,
a nd we s h ou ld fix
th e fla ws a nd bu ild th e
s trength s
fu rth er." I h a ve become more
religiou s .
And it's a
d a ily
s tru ggle.
I wa nted to become more
religiou s .
I feel comforta ble with wh o I a m wh en I 'm
more
religiou s .
Sa na e,
wh o h a d
recently
moved to th e United Sta tes from
I nd ia ,
ech oed a s imi-
la r s entiment:
After
9/11,
M u s lims were s o criticized for
it,
we a ll tu rned in. We were
like,
"Wh a t's
h a p-
pening?
Let's rea d
u p."
After
9/11
wh en we were
s u bjected
to th e
qu es tions , like,
"T ell
u s ,
wh a t th e h ell is
jih a d ?"
T h en we s ta rted
rea d ing
more. We tu rned in a nd ca me
togeth er
a nd s ta rted
a ttend ing
more
meetings .
We rea d
u p
more a nd more a nd beca me
s tronger
M u s lims .
Along
with
lea rning
more a bou t th e
religion,
th e interviewees noted th e
increa s ing importa nce
of
pos itively repres enting
M u s lims a nd I s la m to oth ers .
Beca u s e th e s tu d ents believed th a t th eir
religion
wa s now viewed
nega tively by
ma ny
of th eir fellow
citizens , th ey
felt a need to both
expla in
a nd d emons tra te
th eir fa ith more
s trongly
th a n before.
M a ny
of th e
pa rticipa nts
rema rked th a t if
th ey
cou ld
ju s t
s h ow
people
wh a t a
"good
M u s lim" a nd th e "tru e I s la m"
were,
s ome of th e
s tereotyping
a nd
a ntipa th y
wou ld end .
Ka mila ,
wh o wa s of
Syria n
d es cent a nd wa s ra is ed in
Colora d o,
s a id :
I h a ve a ls o
ju s t
become more
religiou s , es pecia lly
now a fter
everyth ing.
I wa nt to tea ch
oth ers a bou t
my religion,
more th a n before
September 11,
beca u s e now
people
a re h ea r-
ing
a lot of lies a nd
s tereotypes
a nd s tu ff like th a t. So I ta ke it more
u pon mys elf
th a t it
is
my d u ty es pecia lly
s ince I
grew u p
in America a nd I h a ve th e
la ngu a ge,
a nd I h a ve s ome
of th e
knowled ge
of I s la m
too,
beca u s e s ome
people grew u p
h ere bu t
th ey
d on't
rea lly
know th a t mu ch a bou t
I s la m,
s o it is h a rd er for th em to
s pea k
a bou t it. So s ince I h a ve
s ome
knowled ge too,
I th ink it is
my res pons ibility
to be
ta lking
a bou t it a nd
letting peo-
ple
know h ow
my religion is ,
a nd I a m more ca refu l a bou t th e
wa y
I cond u ct
mys elf
to
not d o
a nyth ing
in front of oth ers beca u s e
th ey migh t
la bel it with
my religion,
a nd I
d on't
rea lly
wa nt th a t to
h a ppen.
So it is kind of h a rd er for me to cond u ct
mys elf,
I h a ve
to
a lwa ys
be on
my
bes t
beh a vior,
a nd not
rea lly mes s ing
a rou nd .
Rega rd ing pers ona l
intera ctions a nd
confronta tions ,
s ome of th e
pa rticipa nts
d es cribed h ow
th ey a ttempted
to rea ct to oth ers if
th ey
fou nd th ems elves in a n
u ncomforta ble s itu a tion.
M a ny
of th e
you ng
women a nd men s a id th a t even if
s omeone ma d e th em
a ngry
or
u ps et,
d u e to of a
nega tive comment, a
d irty look,
or
a ny
oth er s u ch a ction, th ey
tried not to
res pond
beca u s e
th ey
d id not wa nt to
reinforce
nega tive s tereotypes
a bou t M u s lims . Sa ra , wh o ca me with h er
fa mily
to
th e United Sta tes from Pa kis ta n, d is cu s s ed h ow s h e
ma na ged
a n incid ent with a
police
officer:
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 233
T h is is a time wh en th e
pa tience
of M u s lims is
being
tes ted . We're not
s u ppos ed
to rea ct
h ow we wa nt to. I
got
s ta red d own
by
a
cop,
I 've never been s ta red d own. I d on't mea n
to
s a y
ra cis m or
a nyth ing, ma ybe
h e's from a
pla ce
wh ere h e d id n't
grow u p
with
a ny
minority people
or with a n eth nic
ba ckgrou nd .
I took th a t into a ccou nt. He looked a t me
a
cou ple
of times .
People
h a d to look ba ck to s ee wh o h e's
looking
a t. I wa s
very s ca red ,
emba rra s s ed ,
a s h a med . I
th ou gh t, "Wh y
a re th es e
people looking
a t me?" I looked a t h im
a nd
s a id , "Hi, everyth ing's oka y?"
He
got ca u gh t by
th e moment th a t I a s ked
h im,
h e
th ou gh t
I wou ld n't a s k h im. He
s a id , "Hi,
h ow a re
you d oing?"
I
s a id ,
"Fine." I f I wou ld
h a ve h a d
time,
I wou ld h a ve s h own h im
my
I D a nd
s a id ,
"Plea s e d on't look a t u s like th is .
I d on't wa nt to be in a s itu a tion wh ere I 'm
going
to be s ta red d own a nd a n entire block
is
looking
a t me. Look a t
my
I D. I 'm a n
America n, ju s t
like
you ."
T a ma ra ,
wh o ca me to th e United Sta tes from
Afgh a nis ta n,
obs erved th a t
s ome
M u s lims ,
in a d d ition to
trying
to
repres ent
I s la m
pos itively
a nd d efend th eir
religion,
were
a ltering
th eir a ttitu d es a nd beh a viors to let
people
know th a t
th ey
were a ls o
very prou d
of th eir fa ith :
Everybod y
is
trying
to
ch a nge
for th e
better,
a nd
everybod y
is
trying
to let
people
know
more a bou t th eir
religion,
a nd
th ey
a re more
ou tgoing
wh en it comes to th eir
religion,
a nd
th ey
wa nt
people
to know
th a t,
"I a m
M u s lim,
a nd I a m
prou d
of it."
A nu mber of th e interviewees
reported
th a t
th ey
h a d become more
likely
to
a pproa ch
oth ers a nd offer informa tion a bou t th eir
religion.
Some of th e s tu d ents
s a id th a t if
th ey
s a w s omeone
s ta ring
a t th em or
giving
th em "looks "
th ey
wou ld
wa lk
d irectly u p
to th a t
pers on,
introd u ce
th ems elves ,
a nd a s k if h e or s h e h a d
a ny qu es tions .
T h is
ga ve
th em th e
opportu nity
to
expla in
wh a t it mea ns to
pra c-
tice
I s la m, inclu d ing
th e
importa nce
of
proper
d res s a nd oth er
a s pects
of th e reli-
gion. Convers ely,
oth ers were not
willing
to confront
people,
even if
th ey
felt
h a ra s s ed ,
beca u s e
th ey
fea red for th eir
s a fety.
Anoth er,
more d ifficu lt
cons equ ence
for th e M u s lim s tu d ents wa s th eir
being
ca s t a s a n
enemy
"Oth er"
following
th e a tta cks . M os t of th e interviewees were
th e victims of
va rying
levels of mis trea tment
following September 11, ra nging
from s ta res to verba l a nd
ph ys ica l
confronta tions . T h es e incid ents confirmed
th eir
feelings
of
being
exclu d ed from th e America n
commu nity
a nd
provoked
va riou s
emotions ,
inclu d ing a nger, s a d nes s ,
a nd fea r.
Ya s min,
a na tive of Grea t
Brita in of Pa kis ta ni
d es cent,
d is cu s s ed wh a t
h a ppened
to h er
d u ring
a
pea ce ra lly:
T h is
gu y
wa s
yelling
a t
me, telling
me to
go
to
I ra q
a nd s tu ff. La ter I wa s
la u gh ing
a bou t
it. I wa s
like, "Hey,
I 've never been to
I ra q.
I 'd love to
go
th ere." Wh en h e s a id it to
me,
I d id n't
get a ngry
or wa nt to
figh t
h im. I
ju s t got rea lly
s a d th a t h e feels th a t
wa y.
Sa d for
h is
ignora nce.
Severa l s ch ola rs h a ve noted th a t one
res pons e
to rea l or
perceived grou p
th rea ts is increa s ed
grou p s olid a rity (Cos er 1964; Du rkh eim
[1893] 1984; Simmel
1955; Smith 1998; T a jfel 1981). M os t of th e interviewees
a greed th a t, a lth ou gh
th ey
were terrible, th e events of
September
11
brou gh t
M u s lims clos er
togeth er
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234 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
a nd reinforced th eir fa ith in I s la m.
Ja na n,
th e
d a u gh ter
of a Wes t Africa n immi-
gra nt
a nd a n Africa n America n M u s lim
convert,
d is cu s s ed h ow
September
11
h a d
impa cted
h er
work,
h er
religios ity,
a nd M u s lims a s a
grou p:
I wou ld
s a y 9/11
h a d a
ma jor impa ct pers ona lly.
I 'm
writing
a bou t th e I s la mic ca u s e. I
th ink I 'm
getting
more
pa s s iona te
a bou t it. I 've
gotten
more into
going
ou t a nd
s ta nd ing
u p
for th e
righ ts
of M u s lims a nd
rea lly wa nting
to
expres s th a t,
wh erea s I kind of
s topped
a nd froze for a wh ile a nd th en
got
ba ck to it. I th ink I beca me more
religiou s .
I 'm more
s eriou s a bou t
religion.
T h e
wa y
th a t a lot of M u s lims ca me
togeth er
to
h elp
ea ch oth er
beca u s e of th e fa ct th a t
th ey
were
getting
h a ra s s ed . I t ma d e me th ink a bou t
it,
th e fa ct
th a t
people
were h a ra s s ed
ju s t
for
being
a
M u s lim,
it ma d e me feel like... T h is is wh o I
a m. I h a ve to ta ke th a t more
s eriou s ly.
I ca n't
pla y
a rou nd . I ca n't
pretend .
I h a ve to look
to God beca u s e th a t's wh o s a ved me. Wh en a ll of th is wa s
h a ppening,
I
kept going
to
God . I th ink a lot of
people
beca me more
religiou s .
T h a t's h ow I a m
righ t
now... M ore
religiou s ,
more reflective.
M u ch of th e d is cou rs e
s u rrou nd ing September
11 involved d u a lities s u ch a s
"good
a nd evil" a nd "u s a nd th em."
Ju s t
a s th e s tu d ents were a wa re th a t
th ey
h a d
been ca s t a s "th e Oth er"
immed ia tely following September 11, th ey
a ls o believed
th a t th ere wa s s ome
expecta tion
for th em to ch oos e between th eir America n a nd
M u s lim id entities .
Na ta s h a ,
a
s econd -genera tion immigra nt
of
Egyptia n d es cent,
ta lked a bou t th is
d u a lity:
I th ink
September
11 ma d e me feel forced to ch oos e between id entities . I t wa s
big.
You 've
got
to ch oos e one or th e
oth er,
a nd
th ey're
not
going
to
a ccept you
a t a ll. At firs t
people
weren't
going
to
a ccept
u s . I wa s
like,
if
th ey're
not
going
to
a ccept
me a s a n
America n,
mea ning
th a t I 'm
going
to h a ve to ch oos e one or th e
oth er,
th en I 'm
going
to h a ve to
ch oos e I s la m. I f
th ey're
not
going
to
a ccept
me a s a n
America n,
if
th ey're going
to tell me
I d on't d es erve to be
h ere,
wh en I a m a n
America n,
if
th ey're going
to
try
to ma ke me
feel th a t
wa y, th en, h ey,
I 'm
going
to be a M u s lim. No one's
going
to ever tell
me,
"You
ca n't be a M u s lim. You 're not a M u s lim. Go ba ck to s ome oth er
pla net
wh ere th ere is n't
I s la m." I felt like I h a d to ch oos e th en. I d on't th ink I felt like I h a d to ch oos e before th en.
Bu t a fter th a t it wa s
like, well,
fine. I f I h a ve to
ch oos e,
I ch oos e to be M u s lim.
I nd eed ,
a noth er fa ctor th a t res u lted in a
s tronger
d ecla ra tion of M u s lim id en-
tity
were d ema nd s to
ch a nge
th a t followed
September
11. Some of th e
pa rtici-
pa nts reported
th a t
th ey
felt
s ignifica nt pres s u re
to
mod ify
a t lea s t th e vis ible
a s pects
of th eir
religiou s id entity.
T h e
pa rents
of th e interviewees were often th e
s ou rce of th es e
d ema nd s ,
a s
th ey
were worried a bou t th e
s a fety
of th eir ch ild ren.
I record ed th e
following exch a nge
between s evera l M u s lim
women,
a fter I a s ked
th em if
th ey
h a d cons id ered
a ltering
th eir ma nner of d res s
following
th e events
of
September
11. All of th e women I interviewed
d u ring
th is s es s ion wore h ea d -
s ca rves .
Sa ra h :
M y fa mily
wa s like, "I knew
you
s h ou ld n't h a ve covered ."
M y
mom u s ed to cover
a nd now s h e d oes n't. Sh e a nd
my
fa th er a re like, "Wh y
a re
you pu nis h ing you rs elf?
You 're
not
going
ou t like th a t. You 're
going
to wea r a h a t."
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 235
M ina :
M y
fa th er
litera lly
s tood in front of me...
Ra ina :
M y fa mily
d oes n't cover.
[everyone
ta lks a t
once]
M ina :
M y
d a d s a id to
s ta y
h ome for a
cou ple
of
d a ys
u ntil
everyth ing
ca lms d own. He
s a id ,
"You 're
going
to
get rea lly
ba d rea ctions if
you go
ou t th a t
wa y."
Bu t a fter th e firs t
week h e let
go.
He tru s ted th a t we know wh a t we're
going
to d o. No
wa y
a m I
going
to
ta ke it off.
[everyone
ta lks a t
once]
Da ria :
M y
d a d wa s
yelling
a t
me,
"You ta ke th a t off
you r
h ea d ." He
a ctu a lly
s a id to
me,
"I t's for
s a fety pu rpos es ."
I n ou r
religion, you
a re a llowed to ta ke off th e h ea d s ca rf if
you
a re in
d a nger.
He wa s s o
a ngry
a t me beca u s e I wa s n't
obeying
h im. I
s a id , "No,
I 'm not
ta king
it off."
Righ t now,
th a nk
God ,
I d on't wa nt to
jinx mys elf,
ever s ince th is h a s
h a p-
pened , nobod y
h a s
rea lly
come
u p
to me or s a id
a nyth ing
or
ph ys ica lly
tried to d o
a ny-
th ing
to me. I t's a ll a bou t h ow
you
feel ins id e. I f
you
know wh a t kind of
pers on you a re,
a nd if
you ca rry you rs elf...
Wh en
people s ta re
a t me on
th e tra in,
I s ta re
righ t
ba ck a t
th em. I 'm not
going
to
pu t my
h ea d d own.
T a nis h a : I f
you ch a nge,
it's like
you 're proving
th em
righ t.
I f
s omebod y
d id
try
to
s a y
s ometh ing
to
me,
I wou ld
try
to
s pea k
with
th em,
ed u ca te th em.
M os t of th e
you ng
women a nd men
ignored
th eir
pa rents
a nd oth er
fa mily
members wh o a s ked th em to
s top wea ring
I s la mic a ttire.
T h ey
u nd ers tood th a t
th eir
pa rents
a nd rela tives were
s imply
concerned for th eir
ph ys ica l
a nd menta l
well
being, a lth ou gh
s ome of th e interviewees were h u rt th a t th eir moth ers a nd
fa th ers wou ld ma ke
requ es ts
th a t
th ey
felt viola ted th eir
religiou s
beliefs .
Anna ,
a na tive of
I nd ia ,
wa s
qu ite
d is tres s ed a s s h e d is cu s s ed wh a t
h a ppened
with h er
fa mily:
M y
mom wa nts me to ta ke
my
h ea d s ca rf off beca u s e s h e's terrified th a t
s omebod y
is
going
to h u rt me. T h is is
my religion.
I ca n overrid e wh a tever
my pa rents
wa nt. I h a ve to d o
wh a t th e
religion s a ys .
I told
th em,
"Lea ve me a lone. I wa nt to wea r it. You ca n't tell me
to ta ke it off." Bu t it's
very h u rtfu l, growing u p
in a n I s la mic h ome a nd th en
h a ving you r
pa rents s a y
th is to
you
beca u s e
th ey're
s ca red . I t ma kes me feel
very
s a d . I lock
my
d oor
a nd th ink a bou t h ow
th ey're
s o
religiou s
a nd
th ey pra y
a ll th e time. Wh a t is
going
th rou gh
th eir mind s ? How d o
th ey
feel wh en I lea ve th e h ou s e in th e
morning? T h ey
know th a t
th ey
ca n't
s top
me. I f I wa nt to d o
s ometh ing,
I 'm
ju s t going
to d o it. I t's h a rd
th a t th is
h a ppened
a nd th e s itu a tion th a t it
pu ts
u s a ll in a s M u s lim women.
A s ma ll nu mber of th e interviewees
reported ch a nging
th eir
a ppea ra nce
fol-
lowing September 11, mos tly a ga ins t
th eir
will,
a s
th ey
tried to
a ppea s e
th eir
pa r-
ents . A few of th e men s h a ved th eir
bea rd s ,
a nd five of th e women
s topped
wea r-
ing
h ea d s ca rves for a s h ort time.
Still,
mos t
pa rticipa nts
were
u nwilling
to a lter
th eir
a ppea ra nce, d es pite pos s ible d a nger.
T h e s tu d ents contend ed th a t it wa s
more
importa nt d u ring
th is time
th a n
ever
before to d ecla re th eir M u s lim id en-
tities a nd fa ith in I s la m.
Ha la , wh o wa s born a nd ra is ed in
Brooklyn,
wa s
pa rtic-
u la rly
res olu te a bou t th e
importa nce
of
ma inta ining
h er
religiou s id entity
a s well
a s
s u pporting
h er friend s :
Wh en we ca me ba ck [to cla s s es ], I tried to ca ll mos t of th e s is ters a nd conta ct th em. I a ls o
u rged th em to
go ba ck to s ch ool, d on't be a fra id . Some of th e
girls were a fra id to
keep
on
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236 SOCI OLOGY OF RELI GI ON
th eir
h ija b.
I wa s
like, "No,
we h a ve to
keep
ou r
id entity." T h ey s a id ,
"How d o we a ct?" I
s a y,
"T h is h a s
noth ing
to d o with u s ."
T h ey're like,
"Wh a t a bou t th e cold looks ?" I 'm like,
"Don't look a t th em.
Ju s t
wa lk
a wa y."
I
pu t u p
s ome
s igns
to remind th em to fea r God a nd
h a ve
s trength ,
remember
noth ing
ca n
h a ppen
to u s . I
s a id ,
"Recite s ome vers es from th e
Qu r'a n
to
get
s ome inner
s trength ."
CONCLUSI ON
T h is res ea rch d ocu ments th ree
s ta ges
of
religiou s id entity d evelopment.
Du ring
th e firs t
s ta ge-religion
a s a s cribed
id entity-religion
wa s not a s a lient
id entity
for th e
pa rticipa nts .
I t wa s eith er ta ken for
gra nted
a s a n
a s pect
of th eir
ind ivid u a l a nd s ocia l
s elves ,
or viewed a s
s ometh ing
to be d enied . I n th e s econd
s ta ge-religion
a s ch os en
id entity-pa rticipa nts cons ciou s ly
d ecid ed to embra ce
th eir M u s lim
id entity,
often a fter mu ch
s elf-reflection,
with th e
s u pport
of th eir
peers ,
a nd s ometimes a t th e exclu s ion of oth er core id entities s u ch a s
eth nicity
a nd
na tiona lity.
T h e th ird
s ta ge-religion
a s d ecla red
id entity-occu rred
follow-
ing
a cris is
event, September 11,
2001. M os t of th e interviewees d ecid ed it wa s
vita lly importa nt
to both
s trength en
a nd a s s ert th eir id entities a t th is time in
ord er to reta in a
pos itive s elf-perception
a nd correct
pu blic mis conceptions .
T h is
s tu d y
illu s tra tes th e continu ed
importa nce
of
religion
a s a ba s is of
per-
s ona l a nd s ocia l
id entity. M oreover,
th is res ea rch d emons tra tes th a t th e forma -
tion of a
religiou s id entity
is a
d yna mic
a nd
ongoing proces s
a nd th a t
religiou s
id entity
its elf is not a s ta tic
ph enomenon.
As th e d a ta
clea rly s h ow, religiou s
id entities a re
a ctively
cons tru cted
by
ind ivid u a ls a nd
grou ps
in ou r s ocia l
world ,
in a d d ition to
being d efined , ch a llenged , a ccepted ,
or
rejected by
oth er
people,
commu nities ,
a nd ins titu tions . T h e
d evelopment
of a
s trong religiou s id entity
involves
h eigh tened
reflection a nd
s elf-a wa renes s ,
ind ivid u a l
ch oices ,
a nd th e
a cknowled gment
of oth ers .
Religiou s
bou nd a ries a nd
mea ning
a re cons tru cted
both from with in a nd
with ou t,
in
res pons e
to interna l conflicts a nd ch oices a nd
externa l
pres s u res
a nd rewa rd s th a t d rive
id entity
forma tion.
Religiou s
id entities
a re
u ltima tely
"a ch ieved id entities "
(Ha mmond 1988;
Wa rner
1993),
wh ich ca n
be a ffirmed or d enied .
Ammerma n
(2003) a rgu es
th a t
ta king u p
a core
religiou s id entity
is a ma tter
of
ch oice,
not d eterminis m. T h e
pres ent s tu d y provid es qu a lita tive
d a ta th a t illu s -
tra tes th e
proces s es , d ecis ions ,
a nd s ocia l fa ctors involved in
d eveloping
a
h igh ly
s a lient
religiou s id entity.
I n
fa ct,
for th is
pa rticu la r grou p, being
M u s lim h a s
become a ma s ter
s ta tu s -d etermining
tra it
(Hu gh es 1984:147),
a s
religiou s
id enti-
ty
h a s
overpowered ,
in mos t
s itu a tions , a ny
oth er a s cribed or a ch ieved s ta tu s es
th a t
ma y
ru n cou nter to th a t
id entity. Ad d itiona lly,
th is res ea rch confirms th a t
id entity
s a lience h iera rch ies
ma y ch a nge
over time, a s ind ivid u a ls , wh en
th ey a ge
a nd ma tu re, become more or les s committed to
pa rticu la r
id entities .
Stronger
ind ivid u a l
religiou s
id entifica tion
ma y
res u lt in enh a nced
grou p
s ol-
id a rity, coh es ion, a nd collective id entifica tion. At th e s a me time, vis ible d emon-
s tra tion of a
minority religiou s id entity ma y provoke h os tility
a nd d is crimina tion
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BECOM I NG M USLI M 237
from th e d omina nt
popu la tion,
a s occu rred
following
th e
September
11
terroris t
a tta cks . Ha d d a d
(1994:79)
contend s th a t th e 1967 Ara b-I s ra eli
wa r,
a nd th e
res u lta nt America n
s u pport
for th e
effort,
s h ocked th e Ara b
commu nity
in th e
United Sta tes a nd led to th e crea tion of th e Ara b-America n
h yph ena ted
id enti-
ty. Simila rly,
I
a rgu e
th a t th e events a nd a fterma th of
September
11 s olid ified
M u s lim America n
id entity
a nd ma d e it a
s tronger
s ocia l a nd
politica l
force.
Certa inly
M u s lim America ns
recognized
th eir role in th e
pu blic s ph ere prior
to
th e
tra gic
events of
September 11; h owever,
th a t
ca ta s troph e
led to a n
id entity
formed in
res pons e
to cris is -a n
id entity of
cris is -a s I s la m ca me u nd er intens e
s cru tiny by
non-M u s lim America ns .
Following September 11,
for th e s tu d ents
interviewed for th is
s tu d y, being
M u s lim America n h a s new
mea ning,
a s
religiou s
id entity
h a s become even more centra l to th eir s ocia l a nd
pers ona l
s elves . Portes
a nd Ru mba u t
(2001, 1996)
introd u ced th e
concept
of "rea ctive
eth nicity"
to
d es cribe th e ris e of d efens ive id entities a nd s olid a rities to cou nter confronta tions
with a n a d vers e na tive ma ins trea m.
Simila rly,
th e interviewees '
religiou s
id enti-
ties were
s h a ped
a nd fu rth er
s trength ened by
th e
pos t-September
11
h os tility
a s
well a s th e
perceived
th rea t to both I s la m a nd th eir ind ivid u a l id entities .
Accord ing
to Smith 's
(1998) th eory
of s u bcu ltu ra l
id entity forma tion,
a s
long
a s
th e
perception
of a th rea t
rema ins , pers ona l
id entities a nd
grou p s olid a rity
will
likely
continu e to be
s trong. Only
time will tell if th is is th e ca s e for th e
you ng
M u s lims interviewed for th is
s tu d y.
As s ta ted
ea rlier,
th e mod el of
religiou s id entity d evelopment pres ented
in
th is
pa per
is not a u nivers a l mod el. I t d oes not
repres ent
th e
id entity
forma tion
proces s
of a ll M u s lim
America ns ,
nor is
religion
a s d ecla red
id entity likely
to be
th e fina l
ph a s e
of wh a t will continu e to be a
complex proces s
of
id entity negoti-
a tion a nd evolu tion for th es e
you ng
M u s lims . Wh ile
ma ny
oth er M u s lims h a ve
not
emph a s ized
th eir
religiou s id entity
to th e s a me extent th a t th es e interviewees
h a ve,
th is res ea rch noneth eles s revea ls h ow
religiou s
id entities ca n be cons tru ct-
ed , ma inta ined ,
a nd
ena cted , pa rticu la rly by s econd -genera tion immigra nts
a ttempting
to reconcile
mu ltiple,
s ometimes
conflicting,
forms of
id entity.
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