Sparre, Sara Lei, (In)Visibility and the Muslim Other: Narratives of Flight and Religious Identity among Iraqi Christians in Denmark. (2021)

Sparre, Sara Lei, (In)Visibility and the Muslim Other: Narratives of Flight and Religious Identity among Iraqi Christians in Denmark, Ethnicities, 21.3 (2021), 589–610

This article investigates identity and belonging among Christians of Iraqi origin in Denmark through an analysis of their narratives of flight and interreligious relations, with a particular focus on the underlying dynamics of a widespread anti-Muslim discourse. Based on qualitative interviews and informal conversations with Chaldean and Assyrian Christians from Iraq, I examine how they presented themselves to me through their stories of flight from Iraq and settlement in Denmark. The analysis draws on perspectives on positionality and belonging among migrants as well as the ambiguous concept of (in)visibility, understood both as something structurally enforced and as how individuals and groups experience their (in)visibility and strive towards mobility and recognition. In addition, the analysis incorporates insights and discussions from literature on racialization and minority?majority relations, while particularly focusing on religious identity and Muslim?Christian relations. Against experiences of racialization and misrecognition as Muslims, I explore how they make sense of, articulate and act on their complex social location as invisible Christians and visible Middle Easterners in a Danish context characterized by ambiguous expectations of religiosity and national belonging. I draw attention to three different, yet simultaneous, narratives put forward by the Iraqi Christians: flight from political oppression, flight from Muslim persecution in the Middle East, and Islam as a threat against Europe. I argue that Iraqi Christians interpret and navigate the experience of being bodily invisible as Christians but visible as immigrants and Middle Eastern Muslims by rewriting narratives of their flight from Iraq to Denmark. Consequently, they also rewrite their relations to both the ?Christian other? in Denmark and the ?Muslim other? in Denmark and Iraq. The article contributes with a perspective on ?invisible? and/or misrecognized non-Muslim minorities in Europe and thus offers insights into the diversity within assumedly homogenous ethnic groups.