Pious Practice and Secular Constraints
Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe
Jeanette S. Jouili




One Saturday a month, women gathered for a potluck brunch at the Centre d’Études et de Recherche sur l’Islam (CERSI) in St. Denis, a banlieue (suburb) in the north of Paris. When I arrived, many women were already present in the classroom where the meeting took place. The tables were filled with food and beverages: tarts, quiches, baguettes, cheese, and Arabic pastry, along with a range of soft drinks and juices, tea and coffee. Everyone was busily reaching out for snacks and drinks while chatting and laughing with one another. Gradually the women sat down and the chatter slowly decreased. Olfa, teacher of the “Islamic morals” class at the center and main organizer of the brunch, stood up. A thirty-year-old woman with friendly eyes, she was dressed in a djellaba and a long headscarf. After greeting the other women with a warm “Salam ‘alaykum, sisters,” she sketched out the theme of the day: “How can we reconcile Islamic practice and worship with an active life in a secular [laïque] society?” While we were still eating, Olfa briefly outlined some of the central challenges that practicing Muslims can face in French society, provided some general advice, then invited the participants to share their personal experiences on the issue, both the difficulties they had encountered and their personal achievements.

Aliya, a woman in her early thirties, raised her hand and was the first to speak. She acknowledged that her turn to Islamic practice, in itself already a thorny and lingering process, had furthermore complicated her daily social life, especially on the professional level. An employee in a center for the socio-professional insertion of migrant women, Aliya also recognized that she had been exceptionally lucky to be allowed to introduce her hijab (headscarf)—discreetly tied in the back—into her workplace. And after having hesitated for a long time, she had recently started to pray in her office, because making up the missed prayers in the evening had turned this act of worship into a burden. Generally she would do everything to hide her prayer, even interrupt it in order not to risk being discovered by her colleagues. The preceding week, however, she had not hidden it, and it was the resulting incident that Aliya wanted to share with the group.

Usually, I stop when I hear someone approaching, but that day something pushed me not to do so. During my prayer, I heard steps and could see out of the corner of my eyes a silhouette appearing at my office door. Instinctively I wanted to stand up, but something forced me to resist this impulse and I continued praying. My colleague left immediately when he saw me. I was extremely scared of his reaction afterward. But when he came in a while later, he did not mention anything at all. Only after we had finished our professional conversation and as he was about to leave the room did he turn around and say, “Mecca is over there; you prayed in the wrong direction.” Can you imagine that? I was speechless. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. This guy was a Catholic though, the only religious person among my colleagues. You see, we face a lot of setbacks, but at times you encounter goodness and sympathy. We have to acknowledge that. And we need to be steadfast in our practice and pray to Allah subhanu wa ta‘ala to facilitate things for Muslims who live in a non-Muslim country.

As Aliya described her colleague’s reaction, the women paused eating, and exclamations such as such Masha’Allah and Subhan’Allah went through the room; those in attendance were visibly touched by that unexpected gesture of kindness. After Aliya’s concluding remarks, a vibrant discussion emerged. Some participants emphasized the duty to endure patiently the discriminations they encountered. One woman insisted on the importance of tactfully but persistently trying to make space for their religious practice, because that should be part of one’s religious freedom anyway. Another woman, again inspired by Aliya’s experience, raised the issue of building solidarities with religious people from other faiths. And all present agreed that no matter what approach they pursued, it was their essential duty to teach their non-Muslim peers about the misconceptions they held in regard to Islam and to try to represent Islam in the best way possible.

That Saturday morning discussion crystallizes in a lucid way the struggles that pious Muslim women face in their quest to live according to their religious principles within European secular societies. It is the task of this book to examine these everyday struggles closely. First, it explores how young European-born Muslim women cultivate (orthodox) Islamic subjectivities in a context that has increasingly stigmatized and politicized the practices that go along with these kinds of subjectivities. Like Aliya, many young European-born Muslim women did not rigorously practice their religion while growing up and frequently identified many internal resistances to their efforts to become more pious. Many of the challenges they faced in adopting (socially conservative) Islamic lifestyles can be explained by the fact that these women had been fashioned not only by European discourses and ideals, but also by various nonorthodox approaches to Islam, which, if not outright critical, are at least skeptical toward these very lifestyles. Second, the book investigates how these women cope on a practical level with the everyday difficulties of living a religious life in a society ever more hostile to visible forms of Islamic piety. The discussion that followed Aliya’s story revealed the various modes of reasoning that accompany individual responses to that challenge. And most significantly, the debate exposed that the individual’s response is rarely only about the practitioner’s effort to pursue her individual practice, but also about the overarching duty to represent the Muslim community properly within European society.

What intrigued me in listening to these kinds of debates was the constant, underlying concern to do the right thing. For these women, carefully adhering to one’s religious duty was certainly important, but it alone was never enough, because one always had to consider the social consequences of one’s individual acts. The women would point to an ethical-political commitment that does not disconnect the individual striving for pious self-cultivation from an understanding that the rituals and other practices that are part of that self-cultivation exist within a web of human relationships and therefore might impact these relationships too.

Ethics and its political consequentiality has become an increasingly important topic within the discipline of anthropology.1 A now burgeoning literature acknowledges the centrality of ethics in the shaping of human communities and the “moral making of the world” (Fassin 2012: 4). Depending on their authors’ respective philosophical inclinations or affiliations, different domains within the vast field of ethical practices are described and theorized—modes of ethical (self-)cultivation, moral dilemmas and choices, or forms of ethical judgment and reasoning that already point to care for and obligation to others. These modes of ethical action can be either tacit and commonsensical or rationalized and intellectualized.2

My work contributes to the discussions initiated in this body of work and offers a number of interventions. It especially aims to bring into conversation perspectives with distinct intellectual lineages that are not commonly discussed together, in order to account for the complexity of the ethical struggles that these Muslim women face. Not only have my interlocutors learned to accept, comprehend, and internalize a range of pious practices and modes of conduct, but they also have to enact them in specific social contexts, in various moments of their everyday life, which raises questions about how each practice can or should be implemented in each context. By examining the various deliberations around these practices, I argue that Islamic ethical life quests are not merely hampered or disrupted by a context that stigmatizes and increasingly restrictively regulates, in the name of secularism, Islamic practice. Nor are these quests weakened by inconsistencies that might result from being confronted with and shaped by competing sets of moral codes. Rather, as I show throughout this book, these complicated and restrictive settings produce experiences of ambiguity, suffering, and injustice, thereby simultaneously creating conditions for the intensification of ethical labor. Before returning to this issue, I want to briefly address the specific nature of French and German secularities that contextualize my fieldwork and pose a wide range of challenges to everyday female Islamic piety and, more broadly, to the thriving of the Islamic tradition in Europe.

Situating French and German Secularities

The Islamic revival movement in Europe emerged in the 1980s but gained visibility in the 1990s, not only through the proliferation of headscarves in the streets but also through requests for the construction of mosques, for dietary adjustments in cafeterias, and for prayer spaces in workplaces.3 If the revival movement appeared in the public sphere mainly through these types of claims to public authorities, its activities were first and foremost geared to Muslim immigrant communities, whose members had arrived from the 1950s onward, to a large extent as part of post-WWII labor migration. By providing these immigrant communities with religious education, the revival activists sought to enable Muslims to maintain their Islamic ways of life, which were perceived to be endangered by a gradual secularization of Muslims in Europe. Through their participation in these new educational facilities, first in and around the mosques, then in separate institutional structures, Muslim men and women who previously had not practiced started to pursue their prayers more regularly, to fast, and, for women, to don the veil.4

This new public visibility of the religious difference of an ethnic and racialized minority group posed new challenges to the self-definition of European nation-states (see, for instance, Göle 2002). This holds especially true for France and Germany. While comparative literature on the politics of race and immigration, and on secularism has, in the past, often presented both countries as two (almost) opposed ideal-typical models5, they were nonetheless considered to be less accommodating to immigrant-descendent minorities than other European countries. The French model of integration, defined as “universalist” and “egalitarian,” builds on a type of republican individualism, which seeks to assimilate individuals who become citizens through a “political choice” (Kastoryano 1996: 9). All other collective identities beyond the national one are here defined as “particularistic” and appear in this model as obstacles to social progress that need to be transcended.6 Opposed to France’s model of the nation stands Germany’s model of Volk. This notion of a “pre-political” (Brubaker 1997: 19) German nation was not linked, initially, to the abstract idea of citizenship but instead tried to capture the organic and highly particular nature of Germany as a community of culture, language, and race. In spite of the opprobrium under which the völkisch ideology has fallen since the end of National Socialism, the young Federal Republic’s definition of nationality maintained this understanding of the German people. Accordingly, nationality was based on the ius sanguinis (law of blood). The Federal Republic withheld citizenship from immigrants for a very long time, and populations present in Germany for three generations still held the status of Ausländer (foreigners; Kastoryano 1996; Chin 2007; Mandel 2008). After this idea was partially revised by the 2000 reform of the citizenship law (that dated back to 1913), successive debates about German Leitkultur (literally leading culture) tried to grapple (without much success) with the elusive nature of Germanness (see, for instance, Ewing 2008).

At least since the now-infamous headscarf affairs in France, the French concept of laïcité has in many ways become the paradigmatic example of a strict or radical secularism. Laïcité was established through the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, defining the relation between these entities as one of “neutrality” and “reciprocal incompetence” (Tietze 2002: 152). On an ideological level, laïcité expands on the republican norm, as its seeks to ban religion from the public sphere, thereby relegating it purely to the domain of the private. In the French collective imaginary, laïcité continues to be a social and moral ideal, founded on the “providential trinity reason–science–progress,” which emerged victorious out of a long struggle between clerical and anticlerical forces (Morin 1990: 38). The concrete and pivotal achievement—literally its sanctuary—of laïcité was the establishment of the French republican school, which was designed to teach students a “secular morality” that is universal, rational, and progressive (see Baubérot 1990: 136). The passionate character of the debates about the wearing of headscarves in schools from 1989 until the passing of the 2004 law banning conspicuous religious symbols in public schools can be grasped only if one takes into account the place of French public schools in the collective imaginary around laïcité. But in spite of the 1905 law and its powerful symbolic status, in practice, the state continues to carry out certain tasks on behalf of the officially recognized religions. Among other things, it maintains the religious buildings constructed before 1905, and pays the salaries of teachers in those private confessional schools that have received state accreditation.7

German society has not known comparable conflicts over the relation between church and state. Traces of institutional cooperation are generally dated back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which established confessional (protestant and catholic) states. From then on, the two churches were increasingly brought under the tutelage of the state. German secularism in the 20th century was built on this confessional dualism of the public space, resulting in an “interpenetration of ecclesiastical, social, and political structures.” The principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience materialized in the right of any religious community to constitute itself as a “religious society” (Religionsgesellschaft), which can receive the status of “corporation of public law” (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts). This status, which was initially conceived for the Catholic and Protestant churches, defined the churches’ relation to the state as a partnership and allowed for its internal autonomy.

The respective institutional arrangements constituting the relationship between state and religion have determined to a certain degree the ways in which both countries have set out to integrate Islam as a “newcomer” religion. However, at least as important as the institutional arrangements of secularism in each country are the representations of Islam that dwell in the respective national imaginaries. For France, which has an intensive colonial history with many parts of the Muslim world—a history that produced a traumatic memory through the decolonization of Algeria—Islam is considered the racial and religious Other par excellence. This perception is perpetuated in mainstream discourses that question Islam’s compatibility with the principle of laïcité. Here, it is the minority religion of post-colonial Muslim populations (rather than the once dominant Catholic church) that emerges at laïcité’s main antagonist.8 The nationwide headscarf debates between 1989 and 2004 repeatedly posed the question of Islam’s capacity to integrate into a French secular environment.9

As the Islamic revival movement grew in France and as anxiety increased about the possibility of Islamic extremism spilling over from Algeria into France in the 1990s, the state began to put more sustained effort into initiatives that aimed to better integrate the Muslim community and to produce a form of Islam that would be able to become “French.” State actors sought to establish a national representative authority capable of serving as an interlocutor vis-à-vis the French state and its institutions as well as of regulating the Muslim community (Ferrari 2006; Caeiro 2006). These initiatives aimed to domesticate Islam, especially by stripping foreign sources of any influence on French Islam and by encouraging a “moderate” version of Islam. They resulted in the establishment of the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (French Islamic Council) in 2003 (see Bowen 2007).

Mosque construction was one instance in which the state tried to regulate Islamic life. Muslims in France had commonly worshipped in makeshift prayer halls (often in the basements of housing projects in the banlieues, densely populated with immigrants and their descendants), which became the imagined spaces of the new wave of Islamism. From the 1990s onward, French authorities called for Muslims to be brought “out of the basements” and helped them to build proper houses of worship. Initially the idea was to build “Cathedral Mosques” that were highly visible in central locations and of prestigious architectural design. Nowadays, the initiatives have shifted to respond to the realities of “neighborhood Islam” (Maussen 2007). Although many municipalities continue to prevent Muslim associations from building mosques, others have shown willingness to facilitate the building of mosques or cultural centers in densely populated Muslim neighborhoods. That willingness was connected to the effort to have some control over these spaces (Bowen 2010; Césari 2005; Maussen 2007). If one sees among these local authorities a wide range of attitudes in terms of their readiness to cooperate with Muslims on this issue, the situation is much bleaker in regard to Muslim private schools. As of yet, none of the very few existing schools has been accredited by French authorities (Bowen 2010).

Germany’s political system, which generally is more accommodating toward religious institutions than the French system, has nonetheless not allowed for easier recognition of “immigrated” religions. The German state and society have long considered the religion of Turkish Ausländer to be ethnically and culturally alien and, especially, as a temporary element in German society (Adelson 2005; Chin 2007). Given many immigrants’ similar perception of their stay as temporary, as well as their lack of financial means, Islamic collective worship took place in cheap, makeshift places, mostly transformed commercial buildings at the edge of town (and thus the situation was quite similar to that of France). After citizenship laws were changed in 2000 to acknowledge that the immigrant Muslim community was in Germany to stay, and as a new generation emerged that was more self-confident about addressing their claims to the state, the demand for functional and publicly recognizable mosques was increasingly voiced. These initiatives, which took place mostly in situations where relations between Muslim communities and municipalities were not yet established, have regularly been met with a clear unwillingness to cooperate, whether on the part of the municipality, the local residents, the churches, or the media, and with an organized effort to block them (Jonker 2005; Leggewie, Joost, and Rech, 2002).

Most conflicts over the integration of Islam and Muslim practices into German society are addressed at the Länder (state) level of Germany’s federal system. Some state-operated schools provide instruction on Islam. And in response to Germany’s own headscarf debates (far less passionate than those in France) over a Muslim teacher’s claim that she had the right to wear her headscarf in school, a number of Länder, among them North Rhine-Westphalia (the site of my fieldwork), forbid civil servants (including teachers) to wear the headscarf (Amir-Moazami 2007; Beverly Weber 2004).

Islam has been propelled onto Germany’s national political scene, if not since the reform of the citizenship law in 2000, then definitely since the events of 9/11, when Germany discovered that hidden Al-Qa’ida “cells” had participated in the World Trade Center attack. And despite the lack of involvement of Muslims of Turkish background in 9/11, much of the antiterrorism legislation and many antiterrorism policies have nonetheless been geared toward that community (Ewing 2008; Schiffauer 2006). Another consequence of Islam’s enhanced political presence was an increase in the number of political voices arguing in favor of the institutionalization of Islam in Germany, with the desired result being the recognition of Islam as a corporation of public law (Galembert 2005; Jonker 2002; Tietze 2002), and the transformation of Muslims in Germany into “German Muslims” (Amir-Moazami 2011: 12). Toward this goal, in 2006, then Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble inaugurated the Deutsche Islamkonferenz, a forum for dialogue between the German state and select members of the Muslim community, with the immediate aim to “ameliorate the religious and social integration of the Muslim population” (Peter 2010a: 120), and the longtime goal to grant Muslim associations the corporation of public law status.10

In spite of the legal settlement of the headscarf “affairs” and the initiation in both countries of a process of institutionalizing Islam, relations between the French and German publics and their Muslim communities have not shown a marked improvement in the ensuing years. Rather, public controversies over a range of Muslim (supposed or real) practices, reactions, and beliefs have proliferated rather than declined (Göle 2013a, 2013b). One of the striking aspects in these controversies is that—in continuation with the headscarf affairs—Muslim woman emerged as key figures in the definition of Islamic cultural differences. Debates over what were quickly labeled “honor killings” brought to the fore in both countries a number of secular feminists of Muslim background who had gained enormous media attention and subsequently became the essential interlocutors in the public sphere on all issues linked to Muslim women’s perceived oppression (Amir-Moazami 2011; Chin 2010; Ewing 2008; Fernando 2009; Rostock and Berghahn 2008; El-Tayeb 2011).11 They thereby effectively stirred rather than soothed these debates. The “Burka ban”12 that became law in France in 2010 and, in the previous year in Germany, the scandal provoked by a polemical anti-Muslim book written by politician Thilo Sarrazin13 as well as the public outcry against then President, Christian Wulff, for declaring that Islam now belonged to German history were further instances in the series of now seemingly nonstop public agitations.14 Although the controversies in both countries were framed in idiosyncratic national idioms, they nonetheless reveal many similarities. These debates were all meant to defend liberal values and human rights, but they exposed a striking incapacity to take questions of race and racism into account.15 In statements made by French president Nicolas Sarkozy in late 2010 and German chancellor Angela Merkel in early 2011 about the failure of multiculturalism (an agenda that pays at least lip service to policies of antiracism), both countries confirmed and reiterated the political goal of assimilation rather than arguing for the accommodation and protection of their (Muslim) minorities.16

The German and French political cultures are strongly marked by their specific institutional arrangements—the French by laïcité and universalism, the paradigm of the French model of integration; the German by the long-lasting refusal to be an immigrant society and by specific ideas about Germanness. These national specificities map out “horizons of meaning in which the actors find benchmarks for understanding and action,” and they function as “publicly available grammars” (Galembert 2005: 190). Although these particular grammars produce differences in how Islam is debated, contested, and institutionalized in each country, there are nonetheless some overarching convergences: both countries express an anxiety over (and are reluctant to accommodate) visible Islamic religiosity in the secular public sphere. Concern about the Otherness of Islam, exacerbated by the post-9/11 climate, also fostered in both countries a sense of urgency to domesticate Islam, with the goal of better regulating and controlling it. In both countries, the aspiration emerged to turn this “foreign” religion into a national religion that, in the process, would adopt the characteristics of French or German ways of believing: develop into an interiorized and privatized faith and thereby, presumably, better equipped to acquire a tolerant and moderate mind-set.17

In the early 2000s—when I began my fieldwork—these two countries were often contrasted in the literature as quite distinct from countries such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, or Sweden, which were then considered to follow “multicultural” policies and therefore to be more hospitable to Muslim difference.18 More recent developments in these various Western European countries, of course, have brought them much closer to France and Germany in regard to their treatment of the so-called Muslim problem. This now shared concern about Muslim Otherness has given rise to similar rearticulations of the notion of citizenship, increasingly viewed through a more clearly delineated cultural lens. In this process citizenship appears not merely as a legal status that enables political and economic participation, but rather as a requirement to accept certain proclaimed national norms and values.19

In their effort to institutionalize and reshape Islam, France and Germany very much do what every so-called secular nation-state does: they intervene in and regulate religious life by juridicial and legislative means in order to circumscribe the religious domain in ways considered appropriate for a secular state, even if the concrete institutional intervention takes place according to historically specific national rationalities. Critical scholars of secularity have pointed out that this interference is more far-reaching: the secular state relentlessly seeks to delineate and contain religion itself (understood here as an abstract and universal category), to define “the spaces it should inhabit” and “to discipline actual religious traditions so as to . . . fit into those spaces” (Agrama 2010: 503), thereby also reshaping its underlying “subjectivities” and “epistemological claims” (Mahmood 2005). Thus, beneath local (national) secularisms, lies a conceptually prior “secular” (Asad 2003: 16). Such an approach is important in that it does not measure the degree of secularity or, to use Hussein Agrama’s (2010: 500) words, define a “scale of secularity” on which France, in our case, would appear as the “paradigm secular state” and Germany, with its complicated church-state relations, would appear as the less completed secular entity. By producing an ethnography that seeks to understand how religious Muslims live out their religion within more than one specific national secular regime, I also seek to pay attention to the conceptually prior secular.

Nevertheless, the particular national political cultures, the specific memories, and the (evolving) imaginaries that underpin them mattered. They determined how Islam is discursively articulated in both countries, and they explained the tangibly changing institutional landscapes of Islam in the two contexts, which constituted an important background for my fieldwork. These national specificities had an impact on the particular ways in which my interlocutors perceived and critiqued their own Otherization. The specific publicly available grammars shaped how my interlocutors articulated and practiced (in “very German” or “very French” ways) their piety in their respective environments, which had concrete consequences for their ability to dwell, or not dwell, in certain places. Although the book is not defined by a comparative approach, the specific national backgrounds it presents help to situate and contextualize further the day-to-day struggles of my interlocutors, who were set off by their quest to lead a pious life as promoted in the Islamic circles they attended.

Europe, Islamophobia, and the Reconfiguration of Tradition

Today, not only is Islamophobia reflected in violent acts or populist discourses, but also its underlying assumptions are echoed, as already discussed, in national governmental policies and in law proposals and regulations, justified as defenses of the supposedly threatened secular state.20 In the process, the qualifier Muslim has increasingly been naturalized and thereby racialized (Rana 2011). A range of scholars have exposed that in the current reconstruction of European national identities, Muslims appear not only as those who do not belong but also as those who represent a threat to Europe’s particular identity, that is, Muslims’ mode of life is seen as detrimental to Europeans’ sense of self (Bracke 2013; Ewing 2008; El-Tayeb 2011; Guénif-Souilamas 2006; Moors 2009; Joan W. Scott 2010; see also Göle 2013b). Consequently, Muslims become the “abjected” Other, because they occupy a zone that is considered “uninhabitable” (Butler 1993).

In this discursive context, where Islam and Muslims are continuously presented as key challenges to national cohesion and identity, one could argue that Islam itself has come to function as a particular “problem-space” (David Scott 1999, 2004); that is, Islam in Europe delineates an ensemble of questions and answers with assigned ideological-political stakes that require intervention. The participants in the Islamic revival in Europe cannot avoid positioning themselves in relation to that problem-space, but their own arguments are responses partly fashioned by this discursive field. And because any argument about producing the correct answers (and thus truths) alludes to the nexus of knowledge and power, the Muslim community feels compelled to produce a “counterknowledge” (Foucault 2003) that challenges the mostly stereotypical knowledge on Muslims articulated in public discourses, from media accounts to political debates. This is why, for instance, activists in the revival movement persistently try to define an Islamic modernity, in order to challenge the dominant European representation of Muslims as premodern. The critique of these stigmatizing discourses and the elaboration of a counter-discourse have thus become part of the important occupations of Islamic revival institutions.

Because public discourses so often focus on specific Muslim practices, part of the effort to produce counterknowledge passes, for religious Muslims, through a contestation of the negative meanings attached to these (religious) practices. That is, because these practices are being read in delegitimizing ways, religious Muslims are propelled into struggles over the correct meanings attached to them. Thus, whenever practicing Muslims find themselves outside the safe sphere of the private home or Islamic environments, they are aware of the performative and readable character of their bodies, rituals, and modes of conduct. In the struggle over (symbolic) meanings, they might consciously deploy the performative and readable character of their practices to convey oppositional messages that contest their exclusion and demonstrate, in a language accessible to the outsider, that they belong to the space from which they are excluded. Inevitably, practices might thus acquire meanings they did not priorly have.

Comparable kinds of embodied and discursive performances by certain stigmatized or marginalized minority groups in their effort to obtain recognition within a redefined pluralist political community have often been described in terms of identity politics. Though celebrated by many, the idea of identity politics has also raised important critiques that pinpoint its various analytical shortcomings.21 These discussions have especially highlighted that identities constructed through exclusion have also been naturalized by that process—whether on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation—which identity politics did not deconstruct. But how do we approach embodied struggles over recognition if the identities as well as the practices employed in that struggle have a history that precedes the processes of exclusion and politicization? The now stigmatized mode of living of my Muslim interlocutors is embedded within long-standing religious traditions and is therefore at least partially anterior to any process of politicization. To employ Wendy Brown’s (1993: 407) terms, these traditions are not constituted by “injury” but rather exist “prior to its wounding and thus prior to the formation of identity at the site of the wound.”22 Scholars who have employed the trope of Muslim “identity politics” to explain the public visibility of the revival movement’s practices (Haenni 2002; Ismael 2004; Nökel 2002) have neglected to investigate that significant difference further. They have therefore failed to examine the complicated connections between these practices as communicable identity markers and their embeddedness in long-standing traditions of self-cultivation (Mahmood 2005).

In this context, it is helpful to approach the notion of an Islamic discursive tradition (Asad 1986) as one that has been significantly reconfigured by the diasporic context in which Islam is defined as a problem-space.23 Noteworthy in this regard is David Scott’s (1999) rearticulation of that concept for a diasporic framework (he discusses the African diaspora) that allows thinking about “tradition” in the context of (discursive, ideological, and political) domination. Following Scott, one can define the diasporic Muslim subject in Europe as a subject whose “historical fate” (1999: 125) as to be “Muslim,” whatever his personal religious orientation, has been produced through (post)colonial racialized social relations, ideological apparatuses, and political regimes that have been exacerbated by the post-9/11 global war on terror. As a consequence, it is necessary to investigate the impact that these institutions and technologies have on the rearticulation of the Islamic tradition, even if it can never be reduced to these technologies. Importantly, one of the effects of this rearticulation is the redeployment of this tradition in new ways that correspond to the stakes by which it is now defined—stakes also centered on questions of identity and difference (see Scott 1999: 118).

Thus, in this book I trace the various ways in which this novel context acts on the tradition’s possibilities to reflect upon and articulate itself. One most obvious aspect here is how European Muslims’ arguments about virtues and excellence, duties, obligations and rights within the Islamic tradition are, whether willed or not, embedded in moral struggles over representation. “Apt performance” (Asad 1993: 62) of the rituals and embodied practices that constitute the tradition might therefore, in certain contexts, also involve considering to what extent the performance will deconstruct the negative representations that are prevalent in mainstream society. Certain embodied practices, languages, and modes of self-presentation that other minority groups have articulated in response to their oppression might resonate with Muslim diasporic subjects and impact how they redeploy their various practices in critical relation to dominant representations and institutional exclusions.24 However, in relation to the pious Muslims I study here, this “representational politics” does not exist on its own but, crucially, is part and parcel of the struggle to lead an ethical life as defined by the Islamic tradition. It is thereby embedded in the dispute over what constitutes the goods of the tradition, which always requires some form of authorization from the tradition itself.

The Anthropology of Ethics

The pursuit of an ethical life is an inherently multifaceted and thorny endeavor. Living an ethical life defined by a tradition that is regarded by the mainstream society with a hostile eye—which is the topic of this book—makes it even more challenging. And it becomes even more so if living that kind of ethical life involves unmaking earlier habits and modes of perception. In my effort to grasp the numerous ethical struggles in which the pious practitioners I studied engage, I was inspired by Aristotelian ethics and by those scholars who have made Aristotelian ethics fruitful for a contemporary, more anthropologically grounded inquiry.

One of the major insights that renders Aristotelian virtue ethics so relevant for anthropological research is its insistence on ethics as practice (rather than on reason) within a specific mode of life (ethos). His approach has been recently used to criticize post-Enlightenment moral thought (influenced by Descartes and Kant), which defined morality as separate from action, from disciplines, and from the body.25 One reworking of his ethics focuses on ethical self-cultivation. Building on the work of Talal Asad (1993, 2003), Saba Mahmood (2005) and Charles Hirschkind (2006) elaborate on this tradition of ethics from a poststructuralist vantage point, especially by reading it through a Foucaultian lens, in order to highlight that the ethical self-disciplines enacted by Muslim practitioners in the Egyptian Islamic revival movement are thoroughly embedded in power relations. In this theory, ethics is a “modality of power” (Mahmood 2005: 28) that “permits individuals . . . a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thought, conduct, and way of being” (Foucault 1997c: 225, quoted in Mahmood 2005: 28), and that is defined by a historically specific moral discourse and set of moral codes. My work has been deeply stimulated by this scholarship, and the present study is likewise interested in analyzing the observed practices of self-cultivation, with attention to how various forms of power do not disable but instead cooperate in the constitution of ethical subjects.

At the same time, however, I am led to make a slightly different argument, because the practices of self-cultivation I have studied generally appear considerably less linear, less completed, and the set of moral codes that nourish them seem less unequivocal and self-evident. First, the moral codes are often not so clear; many revival circles in Europe, with their various intellectual lineages, are still involved in defining and outlining a set of principles that corresponds to the diasporic European condition while being not impervious to a range of principles and values hailed in liberal democracies. Second, having often started their religious practices only during late adolescence or early adulthood, the women I discuss in this book problematized, in quite explicit ways, the numerous obstacles implied in the work of ethical self-cultivation according to an orthodox Islamic framework. The pious practitioners grasped this work in terms of a constant, never-ending jihad al-nafs (struggle against the lower self), in which the formation of a stable disposition could never be taken for granted. My fieldwork provided me with many stories and examples of practitioners being drawn back into old habits and doubts. Frequently they were frustrated by their own incapacity to implement this pious self-reform and by the influence that secular modes of life that were endorsed and promoted by the mainstream society continued to have over them. Thus the individual’s work on herself was significantly and long-lastingly complicated by prior habits and by the availability of other sets of moral codes.

Although Foucault did not pay too much attention to this dimension, Aristotle was clearly aware of the difficulties involved in reshaping character after a youthful age.26 Aristotle certainly claims that “none of the moral virtues is engendered in us by nature” (2001: 1103a14–b1), but he also asserts that “even habit is hard to change just because it is like nature, as Evenus says: I say that habit’s but a long practice, friend, And this becomes men’s nature in the end” (Aristotle [1941] 2001: 1052). This apparent inconsistency becomes clearer when one recognizes that much of Aristotle’s pedagogy is actually concerned with the education of youth rather than with adults. Aristotle, who was himself an educator, alludes throughout his Nicomachean Ethics to the fundamental necessity of a good education at a young age. It is probably this skepticism about the possibility of altering a fully shaped character that Bourdieu (1977) elaborates on when he demonstrates the difficulty of altering the internalized experiences of one’s outward social relations—the socialized norms that guide one’s thought and conduct—which he has captured with the term habitus. If we do not reproduce Bourdieu’s socioeconomic determinism, of which he has often been (rightly) accused, his rich account of the deep embeddedness of habitus as physiological and psychological dispositions can help us expose how onerous, though not impossible, any willed transformation is—which is the case precisely because such a transformation has to go against deeply embedded bodily structures and affective sense perceptions, which first have to be made reflexive and then have to be worked against.27

Thus, although I acknowledge and take seriously the ethical work that my interlocutors have undertaken in their efforts to cultivate Islamic dispositions within themselves, I do not want to play down the many impediments they encounter in that process, which I will elaborate in the first half of the book. At one point in their life, most often during adolescence or early adulthood, the women I worked with renewed their encounter with their inherited religious tradition, aiming to get a better grasp of it. An important moment in this process was their participation in Islamic institutions of learning and their attendance at Islamic conferences. Learning, as Chapter 2 discusses, is the most basic technique for cultivating an Islamic habitus. As both a cognitive and an emotional activity, it provides the believer with important information that allows her to lead her life in an Islamic way, but it also creates an affective environment that fosters and sustains the underlying dispositions that let faith grow. At the same time, “studying Islam” requires a continuous discipline, which these women active in the French and German societies do not always bring with them. The institutional structures that seek to respond to the needs and expectations of young Muslims who were born and raised in Europe provide learning communities and pedagogies designed precisely to counter the possible weakening of the participants’ motivation.

As they learned how the normative subject of Islamic piety is defined and understood, these women were confronted with the discrepancy or mismatch between that norm and their own dispositions and modes of conduct (which were also impacted by various secular ideals). Consequently, they came to question their pre-reflexive habits—their embodied orientations toward thought and action—which then became objects for corrective self-practices, though without a guarantee of success. Interestingly, the pedagogies enacted in the centers I researched sought to account for these manifold difficulties by developing a methodology that focused more on the effort implied in working on the self rather than on the result. Chapter 3 documents the meticulous efforts of my interlocutors to improve, especially with the help of Islamic classes, their mastery of the ritual prayers (salat) and their implementation of feminine modesty through dress and conduct. The women addressed freely the various obstacles they faced, which often exposed a general difficulty in finding a balance between competing normative claims coming from, on the one hand, dominant secular liberal discourses and, on the other hand, from the religious tradition transmitted in the Islamic circles. Chapter 3 also argues that Aristotle’s contempt for these less linear and incomplete ethical struggles exposes an important weakness in his model of ethics.

Chapter 4 continues the conversation by examining the women’s attempts to produce an Islamic language for women’s dignity and self-realization that could provide an alternative to the dominant secular languages of equality, individual rights, and autonomy. Although they considered female empowerment to be intrinsically related to the endeavor to live Islam authentically, learning to submit to orthodox Islamic principles (including gendered and nonegalitarian ones) became equally decisive in the struggle for virtuousness and piety. Feelings of ambiguity and even doubt could also result and had to be tackled and worked against. Interestingly, this work upon the self was enabled by a specific social ethics the women progressively came to adopt, which emphasized notions of duty and obligation rather than individual rights and autonomy.

Becoming a virtuous Islamic subject was a major issue for my interlocutors. Another, at times more intricate, concern was how to become and be that kind of subject in a non-Muslim society and in a secular state that seeks to regulate and circumscribe the practices that sustain this very subject. When they stepped out of their (protected) Islamic or private spaces into a (hostile) secular public sphere in which they had to negotiate their various (often publicly discernable) pious norms and practices, these practitioners faced a range of dilemmas. The second part of the book investigates these dilemmas, which quite often required from the women to make hard, at times very painful compromises regarding these norms and practices. And, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, the possible implications of each decision for the women’s broader ambition to represent Muslims to the mainstream society as active members always weighed heavily in their deliberations. By connecting their individual practices to the question of how they represented their community, the women exposed their deep concern for the social and moral ramifications of their individual actions. The reasoning employed to solve these dilemmas amounts, therefore, to a different kind of ethical work that is neither reducible to self-cultivation nor subject-centered but instead is inherently relational and gestures toward an ethics of intersubjectivity.28 It is an ethical work made out of feelings of responsibility, obligation, and care for others that are (as discussed in Chapter 4) so decisive for the revival participants’ piety.

Here Aristotle ([1941] 2001) again provides a useful conceptual framework, one in which an important domain of ethical action is “moral reasoning,” or phronesis. Phronesis is the virtuous capacity of “do[ing] the right thing in the right place at the right time in the right way” (MacIntyre [1981] 2007: 150), and the right way is not what is right for the individual alone but what is right for human flourishing, for the polis.29 Akin to other Aristotelian ethical concepts, this type of moral reasoning or practical knowledge is praxeological. As such, it is distinct from the type of reasoning that makes up the Cartesian legacy, which functions as an instrument for determining the most effective means to a determinate end. Neither contemplative nor theoretical, moral reasoning or phronesis alludes to an ethical know-how that transcends the subjective-objective distinction by positing a knowledge linked to being and becoming (see Lambek 2002a: 16). Michael Lambek’s (2000; 2002a, 2011) hermeneutic anthropology, for instance, which introduced Aristotle’s notion of phronetic reasoning as a dimension of ethical practice into the anthropological debate on ethics, employs phronesis to expose how people make ethical sense of a complex and complicated world not merely by strategically pursing their own interests but instead by striving for human flourishing more broadly.

Phronesis in the sense of caring for the common good thus obliges us never to reduce ethics to merely caring for the self for the sake of the self.30 At the same time, however, it should not be opposed to caring for the self. Aristotle ([1941] 2001: 1035) speaks of phronesis as requiring, like any other ethical disposition, instruction and habituation (ethismos) in order to form character (ethos) and refine emotions (pathos). In the case of phronesis, the capacity to feel connected with and obliged to others has to be learned. Interestingly, certain Islamic legal and ethical traditions have developed their own version of phronesis called istislah—a highly flexible mode of reasoning that seeks to realize the public good (maslaha), as Armando Salvatore (2007) has shown. Even more important is that this tradition of reasoning was not only promulgated as a central method for use by Islamic legal scholars in thinking about the law, but has also been expanded to enable the commoner to deal with the intricacies of everyday life while pursuing a higher good.

As an intersubjective and relational form of reasoning, phronesis allows us to extend this inquiry into Muslim ethical striving from religious intracommunal life to more complex and difficult social contexts—contexts characterized by the coexistence of heterogeneous modes of being often perceived to be incommensurable and which do not accommodate all religious traditions equally. The term moral reasoning intrinsically refers to situations of dilemma, uncertainty, and conflict. The use of moral reasoning can therefore help to address the difficulties, struggles, ambiguities, and doubts that are involved in the implementation of (Islamic) ethical practices in a context defined not only by a constraining secularity and growing Islamophobia but also by competing norms that impact the practitioners in complicated ways.

Such a mode of reasoning was at play in the decisions that women like Aliya constantly had to make about if and how to participate in the public spaces of the mainstream society and about whether to appear there as a visibly practicing Muslim. Chapter 5 discusses these questions as manifested in my interlocutors’ continual reflection on whether to opt for a professional life while also being dedicated to motherhood, the latter of which is promoted by the revival movement. They thereby have to deliberate over the revival circles’ ideals of a gendered division of labor and the fulfillment of other social obligations of the believer that make them useful to the Muslim diasporic community as well as to the broader society. These deliberations are complicated—but not obliterated—by personal ambition, aspiration, and desire.

Chapter 6 investigates how Islamic practices such as prayer, modest dress, and embodied modesty are enacted in the everyday living spaces of the pious practitioners who, as students, professionals, activists, and so on, participate in the public sphere. In the process of negotiating these contested practices, their very meanings quite often transform in not always predictable ways. But beyond a mere politics of visibility, and never limited to the notion of “my religious freedom” or “my religious duty,” these negotiations are the outcome of a moral reasoning that crucially considers the larger social consequences of these particular acts. Approaching these deliberations in terms of a phronetic type of reasoning furthermore permits a better understanding of the internal moral conflicts that are triggered by the transformation of the Islamic discursive tradition, which must reposition itself in regard to modern ideals such as self-realization, authenticity, and individual choice.

Finally, Chapter 7 argues that the intricate commitment of my interlocutors’ moral reasoning to questions of mutual responsibility and the common good have important implications for the women’s understandings of citizenship and civic virtues.31 This ethical mode of reasoning becomes directly political as it makes clear statements about how to live with Others. In this sense, my ethnographic material also resonates/echoes with those thinkers who attempt to bring politics and ethics together in ways that foreground the responsibility to the Other—as a commitment to “men, not Man” (Arendt [1958] 1998), to “being-with” (Nancy 2000) rather than to “being.”

Two points of caution regarding the theoretical framing need to be elaborated here. First, by deploying phronesis in a way that seeks to go beyond subject-centeredness and subject-centered agency, my approach departs clearly from some of those philosophical strands, which have granted that concept a recent revival. Phronesis had been lauded for its capacity to mediate not only between the universal and the particular, but, furthermore between the agent and society, as well as for its capacity to grasp modes of deliberation and choice that go beyond the strict application of rules. In this sense, it is taken to account in a stronger fashion for individual creativity and singularity, something which a focus on ethics in terms of technologies of the self provided by authoritative moral norms supposedly can not do (see, for instance, Mattingly 2012). The recovery of phronesis, especially in humanist circles (see Gadamer [1975] 2004 and Nussbaum 1986), has therefore to be situated within a larger epistemological project that aims at recuperating “some locus of human self-creation not reducible to external determinations” (Keane 2003: 241–242). While not denying the effects of structure and power, such a rendering nonetheless appears to understand power (as, for instance, embodied in religious institutions or moral codes) as imposing itself externally on the actor, which is why phronesis is welcomed as a way to mediate between power on the one side and agency on the other. However, if one wants to consider power as an “internal relationship,” as a “potentiality” to act, and therefore as internal to agency (Asad 2006a: 271), it does not make sense to conceptualize phronesis as a type of mediation between these two givens. Such an understanding reflects a very specific conception of freedom and agency, as if the application of rules would generally imply mechanical, nonreflexive, and therefore inhibited and passive conduct.32

Thus, as I see it, phronesis must also be understood as a capacity for action enabled by historically specific power relations. The situations that require phronetic reasoning, as well as the capacity for it, cannot be disconnected from the question of how various discursive regimes and “semiotic ideologies” (to use Webb Keane’s [(2007)] locution; see Chapter 2) determine perception, or from cultivated and produced capacities to judge and to weigh different goods. But an understanding of the relation between phronetic reasoning and structural factors cannot be reduced to Bourdieu’s (2000) insight on how perception of the “existing probabilities” is shaped by power relations. A discussion of phronetic reasoning—which is similar to ethical cultivation, and here I follow a basic Aristotelian insight—requires asking how perception and sensing are informed by prior cultivation of body and mind. Thus, if phronesis can tell us something about how subjects construct their lives, their choices, and their struggles as meaningful, it also obliges us to ask what the conditions are that enable the production of these specific meanings.

Second, though this book draws on the work of philosophical thinkers, it is obviously not a philosophical study. My ethnographic analysis is informed by philosophical reflections built with the previously mentioned Aristotelian ethical terminology (terminology that is discussed and elaborated on in various anthropological studies with very distinct intellectual lineages) because of the capacity of that terminology to illuminate and make intelligible the more complex and complicated aspects of the type of Islamic piety with which I am concerned here. The suitability of Aristotelian ethical concepts for the study of Islamic ethical practice is strengthened by the fact that many aspects of Aristotle’s work on ethics and practice were adopted by the classical Muslim theologians of the seventh to thirteenth centuries (Moosa 2005; Fakhry 1994). Nonetheless, this book does not aspire to give a complete account of Aristotelian ethics, and obviously it does not subscribe to his metaphysical assumptions. I frankly acknowledge a nonconformist, pragmatic, selective, and at times critical use of Aristotle’s ethical concepts. And rather than follow Aristotle’s elitist account of ethics and ethical praxis (which Gadamer, MacIntyre, and even Foucault could be accused of doing), I take these concepts into the domain of everyday practices among pious Muslim practitioners.33 In my admittedly eclectic and partial use of different theoretical strands and approaches, I follow the plea of Yael Navaro-Yashin (2002: 17) for an “anti-, trans-, or multi-paradigmatic” way of applying theory that has to be led and determined overall by one’s own ethnographic material. As such, it is necessarily unorthodox.


1. Anthropologists’ preoccupation with ethics has been significantly instigated by the so-called ethical turn in the field of philosophy, to which a divergent group of thinkers stemming from a variety of intellectual currents have contributed. The contemporary ethical inquiry can be roughly split into two larger streams: a more narrative, neo-Aristotelian current and a more “deconstructive” one. In spite of their significant differences and distinct intellectual projects, Alastair MacIntyre ([1981] 2007), Hans-Georg Gadamer ([1975] 2004), and Martha Nussbaum (1986) articulate the first current. The second is associated mostly with Emmanuel Levinas (1998) and the more recent work of Jacques Derrida (1995, 1997). Without abandoning the insights of antifoundationalism and poststructuralism, these thinkers want to find, nonetheless, an ethical framework for an increasingly pluralist world. On this second strand of postcritique ethics, see, for instance, Hoy (2004).

2. See, for instance, Barker (2007), Evens (2008), Faubion (2001, 2011), Hirschkind (2006), Howell (1997), Laidlaw (1995, 2002), Lambek (1993, 2000, 2002a), Mahmood (2005), Mittermaier (2010), Robbins (2004, 2007), and Zigon (2008). The emergence of this field as a subdiscipline is furthermore signaled by two recent volumes edited by Michael Lambek (2010) and Didier Fassin (2012).

3. In the French literature, the Islamic revival movement is frequently referred to as renouveau islamique, and in the German literature as Neo-Islam.

4. This development is discussed in a large body of European scholarship. See, for instance, Amiraux (2001), Césari (1994), Dassetto (1996), Doomernik (1995), and Kepel (1987, 1994).

5. See, for instance, Heckmann and Schnapper (2003), Kastoryano (1996), Todd (1994), and Fetzer and Soper (2005).

6. For a critique of the problematic underlying assumptions that govern the universalism—particularism binary, see, for instance, Silverstein 2004 or Joan W. Scott 2007.

7. See especially John Bowen’s (2010) work on the struggles by Muslims and state actors to institutionalize Islam in France.

8. The question about the impact of the French model of laïcité and the affective modes of identification it produces not only on the integration of Islam but also on how the French political establishment and media respond to religious Muslims (especially those engaged in Islamic revival movements) has given rise to a plethora of English-language literature. See, for instance, Bowen (2007, 2010), Killian (2006), Keaton (2006), Joan W. Scott (2010), Selby (2012), and Winter (2008).

9. Given the historical embeddedness of these representations of Islam, it is hardly surprising to observe the perpetuation of such binaries within academic literature. Dassetto (1996: 128–129), for example, formulates his hesitations regarding a probable secularization of the Muslim population in France in the following terms: “[An] incertitude could arise as to the privatization of the religious and a secularization similar to the one observable in Europe. . . . The whole question is to know to what extent a type of reformulation of Islam can be maintained that defines itself only as din and dissociates itself from other components (umma, dawla, jama‘a).”

10. On the state’s problematic manner of selecting the members to the Islamkonferenz and its ambitions to shape a certain kind of Muslim subject, see especially Amir-Moazami (2011), Peter (2010a), and Tezcan (2012).

11. The term public sphere has been widely and controversially discussed in the literature ever since Habermas’s (1991) influential work. In the present work, public sphere is understood as the particular space in which discourse circulates, always connected to a project of “world-making,” that is, to the production of norms. This circulation of discourse happens not only in a rational, abstract, and disembodied way, but also through direct encounters, confrontations, and so on that are impacted by the affective dispositions, anxieties, fears, and passions of the various participants (Warner 2002). Because the public sphere is not a neutral, power-free space, it tends to exclude those who are seen as a threat to the world-making project of the majority. The contemporary public controversies over Islam in Europe have to be understood in this context (see Göle 2013b).

12. After a yearlong series of public debates, in September 2010 France enacted a law that banned women from wearing the face veil in public beginning in Spring 2011. See, for instance, Davis (2011) and Ismail (2010). For a thoughtful study on women in France who wear the face veil, see Parvez (2011).

13. Thilo Sarrazin, a Social Democratic politician and former member of the executive board of Germany’s Central Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank), published a book in 2010 entitled Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Abolishes Itself), which became a bestseller. It claimed that Muslim immigrants of Turkish and Arab origin and their descendents were “destroying” Germany because of their inability and unwillingness to integrate. Although it broke sale records, it has also been widely criticized. See, for instance, Dornhof (2012).

14. Other debates have turned on certain Muslim students’ refusal to participate in co-ed physical education lessons, on claims for gender-segregated swimming pools, on female genital cutting and male circumcision, or on arranged or forced marriages. Still others were concerned with halal (permissible) meat, mosque constructions, and blasphemy. These issues have been documented extensively in the literature. See Amir-Moazami (2007), Bowen (2007), Caeiro and Peter (2007), Ewing (2008), Göle (2013a), Guiné and Fuentes (2007), Mahmood (2013), and Joan W. Scott (2010).

15. The colorblindness of European self-descriptions that imagine Europe (in opposition to North America) as unaffected by issues of race and, by implication, of racism, of course, has been exposed by several scholars. See, for instance, El-Tayeb (2011), Goldberg (2006), Lentin (2008), and Silverstein (2005). For how this incapacity to think about issues of race and racism has played out, particularly in the German debates about headscarves, see Rottmann and Marx Ferree (2008).

16. Although Merkel and Sarkozy echo UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement made in 2011, their claims are contextually different in that France and Germany, unlike the United Kingdom, never explicitly committed to a politics of multiculturalism.

17. Observers who have noted the convergences in these distinct national strategies are, for instance, Galembert (2005) and Koenig (2005, 2007).

18. Since that time, voices throughout Europe have increasingly criticized “multiculturalism” (see, for instance, Amir-Moazami 2005; Gilroy 2005; Lentin and Titley 2011; Werbner 2009). In that sense, the declarations of Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in 2010 and 2011, respectively, merely constitute official confirmation of mounting public skepticism.

19. The expression “culturalization of citizenship,” made especially in reference to the Netherlands (see, for example, Geschiere 2009; Moors 2009; Verkaaik 2010), has also been used in regard to other European contexts (Bracke 2013; Fortier 2006; Lithman 2010). This specific redefinition of citizenship is not disconnected from the culturalization of racism, “a kind of moral racism in which the terms of racism have shifted into a new arrangement—emphasis on values and its impact on different degrees of differences attributed to different groups—while the focus remains the same—ethnic differences and the maintenance of white hegemony” (Fortier 2006: 322).

20. See, for instance, Allen (2010), Bunzl (2005), Geisser (2003), Morey and Yaqin (2011), and Werbner (2005). Scholars such as Silverstein (2004, 2005), El-Tayeb (2011), and Masuzawa (2005) furthermore emphasize the need to think of contemporary forms of anti-Muslim racism, or Islamophobia, in connection with earlier forms of racialization whose origins lie in European colonial rule, if not even earlier.

21. Philosphers commonly associated with theories that articulate a politics of recognition are Charles Taylor (1989, 1994) and Axel Honneth (1995). Critiques (Connolly 2002; Brown 1993; McNay 2008; Fraser 1997) especially voice concern over the political consequences of these struggles—that they lead to the essentialization of these identities and that they end up affirming an inclusive and humanist liberalism and abandoning more radical materialist critiques of issues around structural inequality. A broader philosophical critique made by Lois McNay (2008) pertains to how these theories tie social action too tightly to identity, by proclaiming the individual’s primordial desire for recognition. She argues, correctly in my opinion, that in spite of positing a definition of the subject that is dialogical, situated, and generated, these thinkers come close to the individualist and voluntarist accounts of subjectivity that they originally sought to dislodge.

22. One might argue here, however, that the emergence of the Islamic revival movement is already a response to an initial injury sustained through the experience of colonization and its concomitant discourses. This response has itself transformed older Islamic traditions.

>23. Although diaspora models were traditionally and conservatively applied to communities with nonindigenous ancestry that maintained practical or imaginary ties to a center of origin (see, for example, Safran 1990; Sheffer 2003), most recent interpretations focus on the shared experience of diaspora, on notions of discontinuity, precarity, and marginalization, on the sense of resistance to continuing a certain marginalized and despised social existence, and on cultural means of maintaining a multinational institutional network (Helly 2006; El-Tayeb 2011). Fatima El-Tayeb (2011: xxxv) spells out—correctly, in my estimation—the analytical benefit of employing such an enlarged understanding of the term diaspora, rather than such notions as migration and minority, when writing about European racialized minorities: “While ‘migration’ does not grasp the experience of a population that is born into one nation, but never is fully part of it, and ‘minority’ does not quite encompass the transnational ties of that same population, ‘diaspora’ can bring both aspects together.” El-Tayeb further highlights not only the transnational but also the “transethnic” (60) potential of that term, allowing for new kinds of solidarities. It is this potential that I find useful when thinking about the “Muslim diaspora” in Western Europe, because it allows the integration not only of Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds but also of white converts to that transnational and transethnic space.

24. We now see such redeployment surfacing in the diaspora in the form of slogans like “hijab is beautiful” and “Muslim pride.”

25. According to Kant (1998), morality proper is the product of an abstract and universally valid human reason that operates independently from embodied conduct, that is, from the subject’s habits and dispositions. Moral philosophers such as MacIntyre ([1981] 2007) and Taylor (1989) criticized this account of ethics and morality.

26. Foucault’s lack of attention to these kinds of complications is also connected to his understanding of ethics as potentially expanding a subject’s capacity for freedom beyond modern disciplinary power, a view inspired by an almost Kantian ideal of freedom. This approach is especially palpable in his most recent writings, where he reconceptualizes late Hellenic and Roman (especially Stoic) ethics in order to articulate a contemporary model for ethics, which he defines as an aesthetic mode of existence. He specifically contrasts his understanding of ethics to religious morality, that is, to transcendental and metaphysical certainties. Ethics appears here as a “practice of freedom” that excludes any appeals from foundational perspectives (Foucault 1997a). Foucault likens ethical self-fashioning to “a work of art” and develops a personalized maxim of aestheticism that reflects Nietzsche’s idea of “giving style” to one’s character (Foucault 1997b: 262). Without the very Foucauldian vigilance of power (which Mahmood, for instance, enacts more carefully than Foucault himself did in his last writings on ethics), such an approach can also lead to a very postmodern conception of ethics, one reduced to a Baudelairean aesthetic reflexivity. See, for instance, Scott Lash (1990) and Mike Featherstone (1990). For a convincing critique of such postmodern identity constructions, see, for instance, Lois McNay (1999, 2003).

27. In his later work, Bourdieu (2000; see also Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992) became more attentive to the possibility of altering habitus by rendering it conscious and mastering it.

28. A number of anthropologists have, for various reasons, formulated a critique of the limits of an approach to ethics in terms of self-cultivation. See, for instance, Mattingly (2012), Mittermaier (2012), Schielke (2010), and Bangstad (2011). My concern here is slightly different in that I do consider practices of self-cultivation to be one important domain, among others, for ethical interventions. Furthermore, I do not understand discipline and the moral codes in which these practices are embedded to pose a limit to other fields of ethical work.

29. It is not a coincidence that Aristotle defined phronesis in his Politics as the paradigm virtue of the ruler ([1941] 2001: 1182).

30. Here Foucault articulates a Stoic version of the care of the self (as opposed to the earlier Hellenic version): not only is it a lifelong practice (rather than a practice related only to the education of character within young men) but it is also disconnected from concern for the care of the polis. Taking care of oneself “for its own sake“(Foucault 1997b: 260) is a central maxim in Stoic thought, and it is the recuperation of this emphasis that Foucault finds promising for contemporary ethics. Foucault’s seeming preference for the Stoics in this instance is rather surprising given that so many aspects of their thought seem to be precisely opposed to many of his other central ideas (see, for instance, Euben 2001).

31. A similar argument has been made by Salvatore (2007). I engage further with his work in Chapters 6 and 7.

32. This anxiety about true agency and originality is also reflected in the distinction often established between ethics and morality as, for instance, articulated by Foucault. See note 26.

33. This approach is in line with Islamic ethical reasoning that can be considered to have contributed significantly to the “vulgarization” or democratization of Greek ethics (Peter Brown 1984). By claiming everydayness for my pious interlocutors, I oppose a critique recently formulated by scholars who have taken issue with the growing body of anthropological work that is preoccupied with Islamic piety or revival movements, claiming that this literature has marginalized the experiences of “ordinary” or “everyday” Muslims. Using this argument, they have clearly distinguished between these two supposedly stable groups and excluded revival Muslims from experiences of everydayness. Such a binary approach, which has been powerfully criticized by Nadia Fadil (2011b), is based on normative assumptions about what constitutes the “authentic” realm of “real” life that is grounded in particular liberal and secular imaginaries.