A quiet social revolution with far-reaching implications is underway in Qatar: many Qatari men marry women who are not Qatari by birth.

I have focused on what I have termed “the New Qataris:” western women who are neither Muslim nor Qatari by birth. Who are these women and how do they go about the business of becoming and being Qatari Muslims? How do their conversion and their new nationality affect and influence their identity formation?

The research involved an extended period of participant observation, as well as focused discussions. Much useful information was gleaned from ‘living the life’ with women - at coffee mornings and at religious lectures followed by food, etc.

Many of the New Qatari women I observed choose to be ultra-Qatari in their lifestyles as part of their assimilation strategy, forging a new Muslim-Qatari identity in the process. They adopt and adapt the honor-modesty-piety code of the country, sometimes conflating it with the requirements of the Muslim way of life, but often in full knowledge that some of their particular life-style choices are cultural rather than religious.

It is possible that on an unconscious level, in order to diffuse their otherness, these New Qataris try to live the identity of a remembered but vanishing way of life. They live in a self-consciously and publicly “Muslim” way and/or to uphold old-fashioned Qatari values and life-styles, very often to a greater degree than their born-Qatari contemporaries. Thus, surprisingly, they are often the traditionalists, the upholders of the old ways of dressing, being and living, while the “born-Qatari” women at a similar stage of life often seek to be more “modern” and more western. This holds true even for those women who have chosen a more secular life-style.

These New Qataris create a fusion of a universalist Islam, Qatari culture and that of their home countries. Their alternative chosen identity is not only the result of their belief system: it is created by the way they enact ritual, by ways of using language (blending Arabic and English, for example), and ways of dressing, working, eating, living, and making friends.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error