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The Narrative Construction of Muslim Identity: A Single Case Study

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This article presents an analysis of how a male convert to Islam incorporates events from his life history into a narrative structure in order to construct and maintain a Muslim identity. The study focuses on how the individual and in particular a person's life history becomes social and universal, and how the social and universal becomes particularized and individualized, in the narration of life. The results of the analysis showed that the valued endpoint determines the selection and ordering of different episodes, and the causal connections that are made between them. Many episodes in this convert's life story is similar to other converts' narratives, for example, descriptions of absent significant others during childhood, an inclusion of a Christian phase in life, and the importance attributed to the Qur'an in the process of conversion. The incorporation of these episodes in one's life story and the way the narratives are structured are interpreted as influences from collective narratives. Moreover, the analysis revealed that the selected episodes have important social, individualizing and sedative functions in the flux of discourses in postmodern society. Thus, the individual's Muslim identity is an amalgamation of the particular and the universal and the importance of the narratives lies in the fact that they can integrate particular experiences into a universal structure that gives them a meaning.


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