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Keeping It HalalThe Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys$
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John O'Brien

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691197111

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691197111.001.0001

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“The American Prayer”

“The American Prayer”

Islamic Obligation and Discursive Individualism

(p.50) 3 “The American Prayer”
Keeping It Halal

John O'Brien

Princeton University Press

This chapter details the everyday practices used by the Legendz and their friends to manage a specific cultural dilemma faced by Muslim American youth: how to participate in a religious tradition that carries expectations of deference to external religious authority and obligation within a modern American cultural landscape in which personal agency, autonomy, and reflexivity are core social values and widely held behavioral expectations. The Legendz responded to this challenge by engaging in practices associated with one particular cultural rubric (religious Islam) while applying discourses and behavior associated with the other (American individualism). In this way, they attempted to present themselves as agentive, autonomous, and self-reflexive American youth despite their regular fulfillment of externally imposed Islamic obligations. In altering the specifics of prayer through visible temporal delays, the boys attempted to demonstrate an autonomous yet Islamic self to themselves and each other. By invoking the specter of the “extreme Muslim” in conversation, they presented themselves as self-reflexive Islamic individuals—ones not unthinkingly beholden to strict religious requirements—while protecting the autonomy of their peers by displacing religious authority in interaction. In applying the speech patterns of urban braggadocio when recounting their participation in Muslim moral behavior, they attempted to infuse communally rooted norms with a sense of individual agency.

Keywords:   Muslim American youth, religious tradition, religious authority, Islam, American individualism, American youth, Islamic obligations, reflexivity, autonomy, individual agency

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