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Leaving Islam in contemporary Sweden. Taking lived religion, materiality and the use of nonfiction in autobiographical narratives into account in apostasy studies

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Daniel Enstedt
Publicerad i Disaffiliation, Dis-identification, Disavowal: (Ex-)Muslims and Public Apostasy from Islam in Francophone Culture and Politics, London 4-5 april 2019. School of Advanced Study, University of London
Publiceringsår 2019
Publicerad vid Institutionen för litteratur, idéhistoria och religion
Språk en
Ämnesord Apostasi, islam
Ämneskategorier Religionsvetenskap


This presentation is based on fieldwork conducted among ex-Muslims in Sweden, with focus on life-stories, religious practices, norms and values. The ex-Muslims belong to three different groups: 1) Ex-Muslims that are part of the Central Council for ex-Muslims in Scandinavia. This group primarily, but not only, consists of, immigrants from Iran and is part of a global network of ex-Muslims. 2) Neo-Pentecostal and Free Church Christian mission among immigrants from Muslims countries, such as Somalia, Iran and Afghanistan, has led to former Muslims converting to Christianity. 3) Non-organized former Muslims that are agnostics or atheists or religious disaffiliated that still, to some extent, believe and/or practice religion without belonging to a Muslim community. There are for instance gay Muslims in Sweden that express that they have to leave religion to keep their faith, i.e. “nondenominational Muslims”. Apostasy narratives usually contain self-referential and autobiographical components, and the truth-claims made in them are often based on the narrator’s own experiences as a former Muslim. From the autobiographical narratives it is clear that Islam is presented in a negative and biased way. This presentation examines the use of nonfiction in autobiographical apostasy narratives and how personal, experienced-based claims relate to widespread cultural themes found in islamophobic discourses. In addition, a too one-sided focus on narratives tends to miss out other important aspects concerning materiality (clothing, make-up, food, etc.) and theoretical and methodological perspectives that are aligned with the research field Lived religion, where aspects concerning habitus, emotions, rituals, power, non-institutional religion, the sacred in everyday life, to name but a few aspects, have the potential to challenge previous apostasy studies that are more limited to religious faith/beliefs, “church” attendance, and a more cognitive perspective on religion. The aim is to outline new theoretical perspectives that enable a better understanding of religious change that leaving religion is, or can be, a part of.

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