The Shaping of a Scandinavian “Islam”
Converts and Gender Equal Opportunity
Anne Sofie Roald
It is symptomatic that new converts often embrace a specific cultural understanding of Islam, where, for instance, Arabic, Pakistani, or African cultural traits become important in their new Islamic worldview. As most converts go through stages in the postconversion process, their worldview for their understanding of Islam will change. This study will discuss how many of the Scandinavian converts tend to integrate “Scandinavian values” into their understanding of Islam. During my fieldwork among Scandinavian converts in 1999 and 2000, where I handed out questionnaires and conducted interviews with 116 converts from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, I found that it is mainly those who converted several years ago and in addition are highly educated who are actors in this process of hybridization where “Scandinavian values” become “Islamic values.”1
In the Scandinavian convert community, I have found a three-stage conversion process relating mainly to the time after conversion. This conversion process deals largely with new Muslims' relations to the born-Muslim community. It also, however, has psychological aspects, its stages being “love,” “disappointment,” and “maturity.” It is important to note that I have observed a similar three-stage process among Muslim converts in other European countries. Although this study mainly deals with converts at the third stage, I will refer to the three stages in order for the reader to get a broader understanding of how the stages related to converts' understanding of Islam.
New Muslims are socialized into a certain cultural context, but, by converting to Islam, there is a total shift of “cultural truths.” This cultural shift might put the convert in a contrasting cultural position, where s/he becomes critical of his/her cultural group and tends to look in positive terms at the Muslim group. This is a problematic process, as it might alienate the convert from the previous in-group. At the same time, it might be difficult for the new Muslim to adopt Muslim cultural traits in toto, particularly as this culture, behaviorally and ideologically speaking, is to a great extent founded on patriarchal and traditional ideas alien to many societies in the Western world. In