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Being German, Becoming Muslim

Being German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion, and Conversion in the New Europe

Esra Özyürek
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Being German, Becoming Muslim
    Book Description:

    Every year more and more Europeans, including Germans, are embracing Islam. It is estimated that there are now up to one hundred thousand German converts-a number similar to that in France and the United Kingdom. What stands out about recent conversions is that they take place at a time when Islam is increasingly seen as contrary to European values.Being German, Becoming Muslimexplores how Germans come to Islam within this antagonistic climate, how they manage to balance their love for Islam with their society's fear of it, how they relate to immigrant Muslims, and how they shape debates about race, religion, and belonging in today's Europe.

    Esra Özyürek looks at how mainstream society marginalizes converts and questions their national loyalties. In turn, converts try to disassociate themselves from migrants of Muslim-majority countries and promote a denationalized Islam untainted by Turkish or Arab traditions. Some German Muslims believe that once cleansed of these accretions, the Islam that surfaces fits in well with German values and lifestyle. Others even argue that being a German Muslim is wholly compatible with the older values of the German Enlightenment.

    Being German, Becoming Muslimprovides a fresh window into the connections and tensions stemming from a growing religious phenomenon in Germany and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5271-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction Germanizing Islam and Racializing Muslims
    (pp. 1-23)

    “I would never have become a Muslim if I had met Muslims before I met Islam.” During my three and a half years of research among German converts to Islam, I heard this repeatedly. Contradictorily, a fifty-year-old man who had converted to Islam in the 1980s after meeting Iranian revolutionaries, a German imam who had converted while trying to convert Arabs and Turks to Christianity, and a twenty-five-year-old former East German woman converted through her Muslim Bosnian boyfriend were all among those who said it. Murad Hofmann (1998, 135), also a German convert to Islam, writes that toward the end...

  5. Chapter 1 Giving Islam a German Face
    (pp. 24-50)

    Afeefa looked flustered at the weekly breakfast for women at the DMK that meets at the Bilal mosque in Wedding, a poor neighborhood with many immigrant residents.¹ About ten to fifteen women, all converts to Islam, attend these breakfasts every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., right after they drop their kids off at school and perhaps run a few errands. They say it is a great place to catch up with friends and have a few hours to oneself. It also offers a unique opportunity for converted German Muslim women to be among people like themselves and feel comfortable. Because regulars...

  6. Chapter 2 Establishing Distance from Immigrant Muslims
    (pp. 51-68)

    One evening, Aarika and her mother invited me to dinner at the house they share in Potsdam, a town just outside Berlin, in what used to be East Germany. Aarika is an independent, successful, attractive woman in her forties. No one who saw her would be surprised to hear that she was a fashion model in East Berlin in her twenties. Currently she is the manager of the Berlin branch of an expensive Italian fashion store. After having grown up in a typically atheist East German family, she learned about Islam a few years ago during a trip to Egypt....

  7. Chapter 3 East German Conversions to Islam after the Collapse of the Berlin Wall
    (pp. 69-86)

    Since Berlin has become a unified city, its converted Muslim community brings people with East and West German backgrounds together. These two groups differ from each other in that individuals from the former East Berlin who came of age before 1989 grew up practically without religion and also without contact with Muslims. What is most striking about East German converts to Islam is that a good number of them converted shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They found Islam at a time when their government had collapsed and their society was being taken over by the new Germany,...

  8. Chapter 4 Being Muslim as a Way of Becoming German
    (pp. 87-108)

    “This is the only Islamic youth organization established by Germans, for Germans,” says Sümeyye, a friend of Turkish descent born in Germany and an active member of Muslimische Jugend Deutschland (Muslim Youth of Germany, or MJD) from its beginning. Originally established in 1994 by a German convert to Islam, Muhammad Siddiq Borgfeldt, the MJD has been a relatively small but significant organization in promoting a Muslim youth culture based on a strong German identity and lifestyle as well as adherence to Islamic halal practices.

    This small organization of not more than twelve hundred registered members promotes Muslim youths of diverse...

  9. Chapter 5 Salafism as the Future of European Islam?
    (pp. 109-131)

    To get to the notorious Salafi al-Nur mosque in Neukölln, allegedly the most radical in Berlin, I need to change trains twice. The first time I got off at the Neukölln stop, I encountered a wall of police officers with German shepherds trained to find drugs glaring at dark-haired, olive-skinned youths. I walked past them and waited too long for the S46 train to come. This less frequent line takes me to Königs Wusterhausen, an old industrial area in the eastern part of the city. By the time the train approaches my stop on a Sunday afternoon, it has filled...

  10. Chapter 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 132-136)

    Every day a small but steady number of Germans engage in a seemingly simple act. In the presence of two people, they say one phrase out loud. Most often they say it first in Arabic, “la ʿilha ʿilla l-Lah Muhammadur rasulu l-Lah,” and then in German: “Es gibt keinen Gott auβer Gott und Muhammad ist sein Gesandter” (There is only one God, and Muhammad is His messenger). By engaging in this simple act of shahada (witnessing), converts first transform themselves into Muslims, then they transform Muslim communities in Germany into places where indigenous Germans are members, and finally they transform...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 137-148)
  12. References
    (pp. 149-162)
  13. Index
    (pp. 163-172)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 173-174)