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German’. In Arianne’s case, it seems that her identity is constructed through acknowl-
edgement from others.
The construct of Germanness and Muslimness as two distinct identities is mostly
obvious in Aziza’s narration, as she takes on the role of an intermediary:
I see myself as a mediator, as a cultural mediator, as an enlightener, so that I tell people, this is
Islam. I see myself not only as a Muslim but I’m also German, I’m German Muslim and I still
belong, I’m still German. I can not give up my German identity. I still understand the same
humour, the same jokes, and I understand, I know, how to use the language. Of course, there are
certain limits that you have to adhere to because of religion, but it’s still the case that I do not
see that as an obstacle to getting involved in Germany.
Seeing oneself as ‘mediator’ already assumes a division, a distinction between the two
parties one aims to mediate. In this example, Aziza ‘already’ has her identity as a German,
and the identity she took on as a Muslima. As such, she operates in a specific way within
an encounter. When she is looked at in a weird way by ‘Germans’, she makes sure to
smile and be nice. In this way, she invites them to ask more questions about her religion.
She has something that ‘Muslims’ do not have; she understands the humour and the jokes
that an ‘outsider’ will not. This statement reaffirms Ahmed’s (1999) claim that ‘what one
sees as the other (or in oneself, as one passes for the other) is already structured by the
knowledges that keep the other in a certain place’.
Beyond the construction of ‘Islam’ in national terms (Germanness versus Muslimness),
some of the interviewees constructed Islam as a societal and personal problem-solving
tool. Aziza, for example, criticized Arab countries for not using the Islamic financial
system to improve Muslim people’s lives:
Islam offers a financial system, and why don’t we use it as Muslims? Why doesn’t an Islamic
state do that? So, in the Arab countries? Why do you still make this credit? This financial
system will crash some time, so why? Why can’t we return to what Islam actually offers? By
paying Zakat. So that’s just a social equality, so that the poor are not so poor that they have to
die like they do in Somalia. We don’t need a new interpretation [of Islam]; you can just take
what is already there and implement it.
For Hannah, Islam provided both psychological and physical solutions:
So, I have multiple sclerosis, alopecia areata, and probably endometriosis. Everything that isn’t
nice. Well, I’m just saying, that’s a compliment of fate or god whatsoever, because I think, I
imagine, there’s a pot and there are bad things in it and good stuff in there and they have to be
distributed. And who gets the bad ones? Those who can bear it. A friend of mine could not
endure such a thing, she would collapse. Of course, if she does not get something like that, then
I’ ll get it. . . . And then I thought, a disease like alopecia areata, this involves hair loss and then
I thought I looked bad, very bad, that I was like Gollum of Lord of the Rings. That was bad. So,
I do not have to, just because I have no hair, I do not have to look bad. So, then I started to wear
a headscarf. Yes, I already converted [to Islam] but that was more to hide the hairlessness.
Through their construction of ‘Muslims’, ‘Muslim woman’ and ‘Muslim families’,
the interviewees constructed their newly adopted religion of ‘Islam’. It was rare for