Fjordman has sent along a newspaper article, unfortunately in Swedish, whose subject is the thesis of Madeleine Sultán Sjöqvist, a doctoral candidate at Uppsala University. The whole thesis is available in Swedish, but the précis has been translated.
Fjordman snips and translates part of the news article before sending us on to look at the précis on the thesis page:
They convert to protest against the fixation with looks in our modern society. The tougher living conditions for women, who are supposed to both have a career and do the housekeeping, play a part, too. Many of the women feel that their lives lack a sense of purpose, but that Christianity does not seem like a relevant alternative to them.
Then they experience some special moment and meet an angel, or some equivalent religious vision, and they realize that they have actually been Muslims all their lives. After a while they do experience that somebody tries to lure them away from the true religion, and abandon Islam. This could be mom or Satan.
The attraction of the Islamic family life seems to be a common feature among women converts. Several of them state that in Islam, the man is more rational and logical, while the woman is more emotional and caring. This means that the woman should be the one to take care of the children and do the housekeeping, while the man should be the one to work and provide for the family.
Leaving any analysis of this newspaper clip, let’s look at the thesis page itself itself. The title, again only in Swedish, looks typically and universally doctoral-sounding and dense:
“Vi blev muslimer” Svenska kvinnor berättar: En religionssociologisk studie av konversionsberättelser. Your guess is as good as mine. It seems to begin with a quote about Muslim belief from one of her interviews and then continues with a sociological-religious studies theme of conversion. In this case, conversion of Swedish women to Islam.
Theses from Uppsala University
Department of Theology, Sociology of Religions
“Vi blev muslimer”
by , Madeleine Sultán Sjöqvist
Abstract [in English] :
The material of the thesis consists of interviews of Swedish women who have converted to Islam, with the aim of gaining knowledge as to how the informants create meaning around their religiosity. Questions have been asked about how the women understand their conversion and their religious involvement as well as what it means to live as a convert in a secularised western society.
In the interpretation and description of their religious engagement, the informants’ conceptions about Muslim family life are closely linked to their understanding of what the religious belonging means. The informants particularly stress that Islam represents equality between people in general and between men and women in particular, that Islam represents the good patriarchal family life and that women should obey their husbands. The informants’ narratives contain both more open and reflexive interpretations of what Muslim engagement involves and a fundamental striving towards the “right” answers, a determination of what sex, family, society and religion “are”. There is, in addition a tension between being a part of what is understood to be “correct” Muslim tradition and religious involvement understood as a gender equality project. In addition there is a tension between being a part of “correct” Muslim tradition and the establishment of a religiosity on “womanly” premises.
I would love to know what interview questions she formulated, and how she went about choosing the women for her interviews. When you look at her own name — Madeleine Sultán Sjöqvist — it would appear she has some Muslim background herself; Sultan does not seem a Swedish name. While this would not preclude the “objectivity” that sociologists long for in order to define their discipline as science, it would call into question her agenda. But then perhaps she does state her disclaimers in her introduction. However, finding a Swede willing to translate a doctoral thesis seems a bit far-fetched. Life is hard enough.
It would also be of interest, sociologically and religiously, to interview and compare the Swedish female victims of Muslim male rape and physical assault to these women who have found refuge in Islam. In fact, it would make for a far more interesting thesis, but somehow I doubt such a project, fraught as it is with the possibility for stepping unwittingly into politically incorrect potholes, would be a good idea. At least not for someone hoping to be on the tenure track in academia – in Sweden or anywhere else.
Let’s look at what the newspaper article says about the women. First, the dissatisfactions:
- They convert to protest against the fixation with looks in our modern society.
- The tougher living conditions for women, who are supposed to both have a career and do the housekeeping, play a part, too.
- Many of the women feel that their lives lack a sense of purpose, but that Christianity does not seem like a relevant alternative to them.
Does the first reason not strike you as strange, given what we know about the strictures re Muslim women’s dress and demeanor? There are indeed “fixations” with women’s looks in modern society…as there has been in every culture. Only in Islam is this part of man’s nature so repressed and his desire therefore so hypertrophied, that he feels impelled to cover up his women.
Women have “tougher living conditions” than men? Who makes these career/homemaking decisions for women anyway? Is converting to Islam a comfortable excuse to stay home because your religion forbids you to go out alone? Depending on the age of these women – if they are in their twenties, let’s say – this is nothing more than a fearful foreclosure on having to make adult decisions.
As for Christianity not seeming relevant to them, C.S. Lewis said of the western world that we are inoculated with such a mild version of Christianity that we are immune to the real thing. I wonder how much Muslim theology, or Christian theology, these women really know. And how much history, for that matter.
Read the rest of the article. See it as a swing of the pendulum for a post-modern culture that demands freedom and refuses the obligations that go with it. One which is imbued with irony, detachment, and ultimately a grotesquerie of dress, mode, and manners. These women are looking for transcendent meaning, for family life, and for rules by which to live. Looking around, they don’t see any of this in everyday life in Sweden, but they do see it – on the surface at least – in Islam.
But you could twist this a bit and come up with the description of Jewish family life, only there would be equality between the partners and women would expect (okay, “demand”) that men contribute to family life. But Judaism doesn’t proselytize and we know what Swedes think of Jews.
Theodore Dalrymple noted that in his work with British male prisoners, Islam was an attractive alternative for them because a Muslim man dominates women. He saw the degraded position of repeat offenders who used the mantle of Islam to cover a deep sense of inadequacy and rage.
Now we have this thesis on the phenomenon of Swedish women converting to Islam. God pity them when they start having children and discover that under Islam, children belong to the father. Only then will they know the devil’s bargain they have made for themselves and their babies.