Isa Blumi and Gezim Krasniqi
Albanians in the Balkans present a unique socio-political case of how an ‘ethnic’ group’s collective identity is not formed by religion alone. Constituting the majority population in the independent and sovereign states of Albania and Kosovo, and large minorities in Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia, scholars choose to identify Albanians firstly as Muslims. However, this association with faith often obscures other factors that contributed to Albanians’ long history of state persecution and the periodic inter-communal conflicts that animate much of the scholarship on Islam in the Balkans today. Albanian Muslims constitute a diffuse and complex set of stories that make any understanding of the larger issues under study dependent on differentiating distinctive Muslim (and ethno-national) communities using various tools. This chapter will help scholars and policy-makers to differentiate between Albanian Muslims and situate their political, socio-economic, and spiritual diversity in the larger context of state and regional life over the last century of European and Balkan life.
This chapter provides a broad historical overview of processes of conversion to Islam in diverse regions including the Middle East, Africa, South and South East Asia, and the contemporary United States. In addition, religious and theological elements of conversion to Islam including rituals, doctrines, and key concepts such as dawa (inviting to Islam) are explained and illustrated. Specific dimensions of conversion to Islam such as mass conversions, internal and personal embrace of enhanced commitment and piety, positions on apostasy, and how modernity impacts conversion patterns and processes are also addressed.
Karin van Nieuwkerk
This chapter develops a theoretical approach in which conversion is understood as a complex contextual experience and long-term process that involves the construction of identities, discourses, and a pious self. It is based on the growing number of studies on conversion to Islam, Internet narratives, and fieldwork among Dutch female converts. Theories developed within different disciplines—history, sociology, psychology, religious studies, Islamic studies, gender studies, and anthropology—are drawn upon to make sense of the converts’ choice to embrace Islam. Discussing the stages of context, quest, crisis, advocates, interaction, commitments, and consequences, it is argued that in order to comprehend conversion as a meaningful process, it is necessary to combine three sources of theoretical inspiration: the well-established research within conversion theories on identity and the equally important work on conversion discourse, in addition to the more recent anthropological work on piety and embodied agency.
The public visibility of headscarves has become emblematic of broader polemical debates about Islam in Europe. This chapter focuses on veiling in ten Western European countries to consider (1) the range and lack of uniformity across the European Union when it comes to how the public presence of hijabs is articulated and legislated, and (2) greater convergence related to public opinion and governmental prohibition of full-face hijabs (or niqabs). This overview is paired with a review of scholarly literature on hijabs and the prevalent nation state and cultural diversity frameworks often used to explain their differing acceptances and refusals.
This chapter analyses the Qur’an’s position on theology, sexuality, and gender, with the intent of challenging readings of Islam as a patriarchy. It illustrates that missing from Islam’s scripture is the imaginary of God as father/male and endorsements of father-rule (the traditional form of patriarchy), as well as any concept of sexual differentiation that privileges males (more modern forms of patriarchy). Indeed, many Qur’anic teachings can be read on behalf of the principle of sexual equality since they establish the ontological equality of women and men and emphasize the need for mutual care and guardianship between them. Both by re-reading some of the ‘anti-women’ verses and by applying a hermeneutical method to interpret the Qur’an—which is implicit in the text itself—the chapter also demonstrates that different interpretive strategies can change our understanding of textual meaning.
This article examines the impact of political Islam on women and gender issues. It considers the common features of political Islam in Muslim societies across the Middle East and Africa. These include (1) calls for women to exit the public sphere and remain in the home, (2) a rearticulation of separate roles for men and women grounded in biological difference that religion is said to consecrate, and (3) the resumption of the hijab as a religious dictate vociferously promoted by Islamist movements and imposed by Islamist states. The article discusses the rise of Islamic feminism in the older Muslim societies in Africa and Asia. It also considers the dilemma facing Islamists: to continue to uphold a patriarchal version of Islam and therefore obstruct democracy or to go in the opposite direction and embrace an egalitarian Islam.
Nancy E. Bedford
Given the fact that religion and globalization are significantly intertwined, what should we make of the contemporary religious faith and practices of Latin American women? Do religious conversion and active participation in a community of faith amount to “adaptive solutions” to the crisis unleashed by capitalist globalization, analogous to those made by women as economic agents? From the perspective of the sociology of religion, it has become a byword that the faith and religious community-building of women—be it the Pentecostalism of Maya women in Guatemala or the activism of Brazilian women in Roman Catholic base communities—can and do serve as coping or indeed as survival strategies in times of globalization. A theological perspective does not necessarily contradict the sociological insight that discovers ways in which religious faith and practices serve in coping and surviving. Because theology speaks in an engaged voice from within the realm of faith, however, it can allow itself—indeed it must—to delve differently than the social sciences. This chapter explores the observation that religious faith and practices of Latin American women, in these economically globalized times, often serve in rather unexpected ways to make space for life, in all of its messiness and materiality.