A Journey to a "Pure Islam"

Stadlbauer, Susanne
July 2012
Narrative Inquiry;2012, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p348
Academic Journal
This paper focuses on time, space, and identity relations in narratives of Muslim women in an Islamic student group in Colorado, who use autobiographies of how their faith developed for countering stereotypes of Islam and Muslims in post 9/11 America. In these faith development narratives, these women, who were born and raised in Islam, strive to dispel the often abstract media claims of Muslim women being oppressed by Muslim men and by Islamic doctrines, as well as being behind the times, stagnant in the past, or simply anti-modern, antisecular, or anti-American. In narrating how they have progressed from unknowing children socialized into Islam to knowledgeable adults, the women decontextualize, and thereby idealize, Islam to stress their agency and individuality. The women resignify Islamic rituals, such as the salat (praying five times a day), sawn (fasting during Ramadan), and hijab (wearing the head scarf), by delinking them from the often criticized materialistic and pure-repetitious nature characteristic of religious rituals of the pre-modern. Instead, they project these rituals as self-disciplining and self-realizing practices very much in line with modern precepts of individuality and female emancipation. In their narratives, they reinforce the media's binary opposition between America and Islam, reducing them to caricatures of a purely secular, somewhat ignorant, state and a perfect and pure religion, respectively.


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