British converts to Islam: continuity, change and religiosity in religious identity

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Consideration of the growing phenomenon of converts to Islam in Britain is emerging at the moment at which converts are entering the popular imagination through the dominant negativised tropes of threat and betrayal. In this context, the religious aspect of conversion is feared, diminished and contained, or is ignored. Based on an emphasis on either change or continuity, the result is that these identities are conceptualised within the hybrid or multiple, with little understanding of the critical properties of religiosity. Based on narrative interviews with British converts to Islam, this article argues that rather than emphasising continuity or change, it is in understandings of the dynamics between continuity and change that important facets of a religious identity emerge as the central problematic of conversion. The concept of congruity is offered to reflect this. It is further argued that religiosity as the basis of this continuity better captures converts’ religious identities. Simmel’s notion of religiosity is employed to make sense of these identities. Through this notion, Simmel’s thought enables a congruity to be read that transcends the apparent contradiction between continuity and change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-439
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Contemporary Religion
Issue number3
Early online date4 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research project on which this article is based was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). I am indebted to Kieran Flanagan whose input greatly aided the drafting of this article. I am also grateful to two anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Contemporary Religion for comments and to the editor.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • British converts to Islam
  • continuity and change
  • Simmel
  • religiosity
  • religious conversion
  • religious identity


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