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Unformatted text preview: Sociology of Religion 2005, 66:3 215-242 Becoming Muslim: The Development of Religious Identity Lori Peek* Colorado State University This study explores the process of religious identity formation and examines the emergence of reli- gion as the most salient source of personal and social identity for a group of second-generation Muslim Americans. Drawing on data gathered through participant observation, focus groups, and individual interviews with Muslim university students in New York and Colorado, three stages of religious iden- tity development are presented: religion as ascribed identity; religion as chosen identity; and religion as declared identity. This research illustrates how religious identity emerges in social and historical con- text and demonstrates that its development is variable rather than static. Additionally, I discuss the impacts of September 11 and show how a crisis event can impel a particular identity-in this case, religious-to become even more central to an individual's concept of self. Through asserting the pri- macy of their religious identity over other forms of social identity, religion became a powerful base of personal identification and collective association for these young Muslims. The religious landscape of the United States has changed markedly over the past four decades, largely due to the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which repealed country-of-origin quotas established in the 1920s that predominantly favored Western European, mostly Judeo-Christian, immigrants. This change in federal immigration policy led to an unprecedented diversification of the American population over the subsequent years, as millions of immigrants arrived from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The post-1965 "new" immigrants are racially, ethnically, lin- guistically, and religiously more heterogeneous than the immigrants of a century ago (Warner 1993:1061). Political turmoil, wars, revolutions, disasters, and labor market trends also prompted refugees and immigrants from around the world to settle in the United States (Ebaugh 2000; Warner 1998). These and other social, *Direct correspondence to Lori Peek, Department of Sociology, Colorado State University, B327 Clark, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1784; e-mail: email@example.com. I would like to thank Patti Adler, Peter Adler, David Butler, Janet Jacobs, Mary Fran Myers, Joyce Nielsen, and Wendy Steinhacker for commenting on earlier drafts of this article. I would also like to thank Nancy Nason- Clark and three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful suggestions for revision. This work was sup- ported by the American Association of University Women, the Graduate School at the University of Colorado, the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, and the National Science Foundation, which is gratefully acknowledged....
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