Muslim Women in America
Between Individual Choice
(Liminality) and Community
Marcia K. Hermansen
The main premise of this chapter is that shared worlds of experience and communication for Muslim women exist in America, whether these women have emigrated from abroad or come from Caucasian or black American backgrounds, and exchanges within this world facilitate the process of adaptation in which all groups participate.
While acculturation is a term that has various connotations in the social science literature, initially referring to the process by which colonized or dominated native populations adapted to the ways and values of their oppressors, in less power-laden terms it has also come to indicate the adaptation process followed by immigrant populations in a new setting. 1 Using the term for both American and immigrant Muslim women may be slightly dissonant, given the difference in their overall experience. On the other hand, it does focus the discussion on the role of "culture" and its relation to the process of developing religious ideology and expression in a new context. Therefore let me define acculturation here as the process of confronting a new cultural context and worldview and having to choose where to adapt to aspects of that context or worldview in one's own life.
In the case of Muslims in North America, issues of acculturation in this sense are always present, ranging from the implicit to more and more explicit and conscious domains. The situation of the emergent Muslim communities in North America is unusual since, as one of my informants pointed out, we have Muslims by choice living in a "Christian-based" culture. 2 For Muslim immigrants this involves the need to rationalize one's choice and motives for being in such a situation where, by definition, many norms and laws of Islam cannot be applied, in addition to adjusting to the obvious impact of dislocation from