Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2019 Volume 15 :: Article 5
2019 Volume 15, Article 5
He Goes by Mo: Drawing Boundaries Around Muslim Identities

Author: Jack “Trey” Allen (University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky)

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Given the socio-political environment of the United States, the identities of religious and racialized Muslims have been scrutinized. Using qualitative semi-structured interviews with religious Muslim American men, I explore discussions that indicate a preference for some strategies for managing stigma over others. I focus specifically on name-changing as a strategy that is polarizing in interview data. Based on my findings I conclude that religious names are a prominent identifier of Muslim identities and may be managed by changing names or choosing nicknames. Furthermore, statements made by Muslim men that center on the management of identities through name-changing come with ingroup value-judgements which appear to reveal a hierarchy in the desirability of certain stigma management strategies over others for these religious Muslim men. This preferential stigma management can be interpreted as boundary work whereby religious Muslims—who regularly attend mosques—construct meaning around unapologetically presenting one’s religious identity. This investigation is relevant to discussions that center on the racialization process, boundary work, and the experiences of Muslims in the post-terror United States.

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