The Quest for Authenticity: Islamization Amongst Muslim Youth in Norway
In February 2002 two demonstrations, separated in time only by a couple of days, mobilized Muslims in Oslo. 1 The first was initiated by a small group of highly mediatized young women in the aftermath of several 'scandals' involving forced marriages, female circumcision, and so-called 'honour-killings' in Norway and abroad. The young women accused the Muslim community of not taking women's oppression seriously enough. To varying degrees, they saw Islam, and particularly its 'traditionalist' and 'fundamentalist' interpretations, as obstacles to gender equality and the universal human rights of women. A couple of days later, this critique was met by other Muslims, who claimed that 'culture' and not 'Islam' was at the root of such oppressive practices, and that the latter should be combated by closer attention to essential Islamic principles rather than by their demise. In this second demonstration, harassment of, and campaigning against, Muslims was denounced. Whereas non-Muslim ethnic Norwegians dominated the first event, the second attracted close to a thousand Muslims, representing all the major mosques and Islamic organizations in Oslo. Together the two demonstrations reflect some of the internal religious differences and lines of conflict between young Muslims in Oslo. They also draw attention to the ways in which Islamic religiosity, and particularly the religiosity of Muslim youth and women, has been inextricably entwined with debates about the future of Norway as a multicultural and multireligious society.