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Moving In and Out of Islam

Moving In and Out of Islam

With empirical case studies from Western and Central Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Middle East, this anthology opens a new field of study by exploring people’s rationales for leaving, as well as converting to, Islam.

December 2018
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432 pages | 6 x 9 | 5 b&w photos, 7 b&w charts/graphs | Hardcover has a printed case, no dust jacket |

Embracing a new religion, or leaving one’s faith, usually constitutes a significant milestone in a person’s life. While a number of scholars have examined the reasons why people convert to Islam, few have investigated why people leave the faith and what the consequences are for doing so. Taking a holistic approach to conversion and deconversion, Moving In and Out of Islam explores the experiences of people who have come into the faith along with those who have chosen to leave it—including some individuals who have both moved into and out of Islam over the course of their lives.

Sixteen empirical case studies trace the processes of moving in or out of Islam in Western and Central Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Middle East. Going beyond fixed notions of conversion or apostasy, the contributors focus on the ambiguity, doubts, and nonlinear trajectories of both moving in and out of Islam. They show how people shifting in either direction have to learn or unlearn habits and change their styles of clothing, dietary restrictions, and ways of interacting with their communities. They also look at how communities react to both converts to the religion and converts out of it, including controversies over the death penalty for apostates. The contributors cover the political aspects of conversion as well, including debates on radicalization in the era of the “war on terror” and the role of moderate Islam in conversions.

  • Introduction: Moving In and Out of Islam (Karin van Nieuwkerk)
  • Section I. Conceptualizing Religious Change
    • 1. People Do Not Convert but Change: Critical Analysis of Concepts of Spiritual Transitions (William Barylo)
    • 2. Moving In or Moving Toward? Reconceptualizing Conversion to Islam as a Liminal Process (Juliette Galonnier)
    • 3. Understanding Religious Apostasy, Disaffiliation, and Islam in Contemporary Sweden (Daniel Enstedt)
  • Section II. (De)conversion, Race, Culture, and Ethnicity)
    • 4. Giving Islam a German Face (Esra Özyürek)
    • 5. Merging Culture with Religion: Trajectories of Slovak and Czech Muslim Converts since 1989 (Gabriel Pirický)
    • 6. Moving into Shiʿa Islam: The “Process of Subjectification” among Shiʿa Women Converts in London (Yafa Shanneik)
    • 7. Can a Tatar Move Out of Islam? (Katarzyna Górak-Sosnowska and Michał Łyszczarz)
  • Section III. Transnational Movement and Moving between Traditions
    • 8. Religious Authority and Conversions in Berlin’s Sufi Communities (Oleg Yarosh)
    • 9. Deradicalization through Conversion to Traditional Islam: Hamza Yusuf’s Attempt to Revive Sacred Knowledge within a North Atlantic Context (Haifaa Jawad)
    • 10. Escaping the Limelight: The Politics of Opacity and the Life of a Dutch Preacher in the UK (Martijn de Koning)
  • Section IV. Narratives and Experiences of Moving Out of Islam
    • 11. British Muslim Converts: Comparing Conversion and Deconversion Processes To and From Islam (Mona Alyedreessy)
    • 12. In the Closet: The Concealment of Apostasy among Ex-Muslims in Britain and Canada (Simon Cottee)
    • 13. Religious Skepticism and Nonbelieving in Egypt (Karin van Nieuwkerk)
    • 14. “God never existed, and I was looking for him like crazy!” Muslim Stories of Deconversion (Teemu Pauha and Atefeh Aghaee)
  • Section V. Debating Apostasy and Deconversion
    • 15. Faith No More: The Views of Lithuanian Converts to Islam on Deconversion (Egdūnas Račius)
    • 16. Let’s Talk about Apostasy! Swedish Imams, Apostasy Debates, and Police Reports on Hate Crimes and (De)conversion (Göran Larsson)
  • Contributors
  • Index

Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Van Nieuwkerk is an anthropologist and professor of contemporary Islam in Europe and the Middle East at the Radboud University Nijmegen. Her many books include Women Embracing Islam: Gender and Conversion in the West, Performing Piety: Singers and Actors in Egypt’s Islamic Revival, and Islam and Popular Culture.


“Highlighting the 'powerful intertwinement of religion, politics, and morality' (to quote the editor) in Islam, this collection will help readers understand and appreciate the complex dimensions of the processes of moving in and out of Islam.”

“[A] fascinating collection…Moving In and Out of Islam represents a valuable contribution to the scholarly discourse on contemporary conversion to, and deconversion from, Islam…this volume as a whole invites imitation: what it does for the study of Muslim conversions and deconversion in Europe and the Middle East underscores the need for similar work focusing on moving in and out of Islam in the North American context.”
Journal of Contemporary Religion

“The contributors [to Moving In and Out of Islam] provide detailed examples and narratives of people converting from different backgrounds including from and within the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Through the evidence they assemble, the contributors seek to identify the struggles and consequences the converts face in a time of increasing politicization and radicalization of Islam. ”
Middle East Journal

“[A] timely volume…uniquely powerful in its field...This volume is a useful resource for students, lecturers and researchers interested in religious transformation, Islam and Muslims in Europe, non-religion, and Islamic studies in general. The breadth and depth of the assembled contributions make this a benchmark for studies of (de)conversion and Islam in Europe and beyond.”
Journal of Muslims in Europe

“This excellent book is desperately needed to enhance and enrich the studies of how and why some people move into Islam and others move out. It will also be valuable for scholars of Islam and for those laypeople who are interested in or perplexed (or even disconcerted) by the growth of Islam around the world. I hope that journalists, State Department professionals, and others seeking a deeper understanding of the predicaments of various religious and political movements will read it. A fascinating and important contribution.”
Lewis R. Rambo, San Francisco Theological Seminary, author of Understanding Religious Conversion and coeditor of Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion


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