, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 285-308

Islamic piety against the family: from ‘traditional’ to ‘pure’ Islam

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Abstract

One might suppose that a foundational element of proper Muslim behaviour is respect for one’s parents. However, it is not unusual in the contemporary Islamic world, both in Muslim-majority countries and in the diaspora, for young people to be much more ‘Islamic’ in behaviour, dress and lifestyle than their parents. As this may suggest, modernist Islamic piety is not infrequently directed by young people against their parents, as a mode of resistance to parental authority. However, wearing the hijab, becoming a follower of a Sufi shaykh, or marrying a ‘good’ Muslim spouse from another ethnic group to one’s own, are different kinds of resistance from, for example, joining an inner-city youth gang, or rejecting one’s parents’ Asian cultural background for a more globalised identity. I discuss some of the ways in which Islamic piety can be deployed in resistance to parental authority through case studies from my Economic and Social Research Council-funded field research in Bangladesh and the UK, and consider in what ways these forms of behaviour resemble, and differ from, more familiar forms of resistance.