Choosing Islam in West European societies : an investigation of different concepts of religious re-affiliation
Title: Choosing Islam in West European societies : an investigation of different concepts of religious re-affiliation
Author: UHLMANN, Milena
Series/Number: EUI RSCAS; 2015/90; RELIGIOWEST
Although different concepts regarding the analysis of the phenomenon of religious re-affiliation do exist, they are most of the time lumped together under the buzzword “conversion”, thereby conflating the nuances and social realities of the phenomenon and limiting this concept‘s validity. Starting off from Richard V. Travisano‘s differentiation between conversion and alternation and taking into account Arthur D. Nock‘s concept of adhesion, this paper investigates different modes of change of religious affiliation. Drawing from Frauke Kurbacher‘s conceptualization of what constitutes conviction, it re-assesses what is commonly understood as religious conversion through an analysis of different manifestations of re-affiliation with Islam in West European societies. The author juxtaposes converts to ‘reflexive Islam’ (who internalize their faith as a new system of belief in an individualized, cognitive process which leads to a broadening of their perspective and the strengthening of their self-identity as well as of their self-esteem and their agency) to youths who join groups which advocate Salafi interpretations of Islam (where role-taking within a collective identity is of particular importance) and those who engage in jihadism (where an us-against-them perspective becomes absolute). This includes an analysis of the re-affiliate‘s motives and of the social implications of his or her choice. The aim of this paper is to refine an empirically based understanding of the concept of religious conversion through differentiating it from other forms of religious re-affiliation. Therefore, the paper will predominately focus on conversion, referring to alternation and adhesion as functionally different forms of religious re-affiliation to emphasize the differences between the different concepts and thus reduce the fuzziness of the term.
Subject: Religious re-affiliation; Conversion; Alternation; Adhesion; 'Reflexive Islam'
Grant number: FP7/269860
Type of Access: openAccess