An "integrating enclave": The case of Al-Hayat, Germany's first Islamic fitness center for women in cologne

Uriya Shavit, Frederic Wiesenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Muslim minorities in Europe are often portrayed in Western discourses as either secularized and "integrated" or religiously devout and "segregated". The article challenges this common dichotomization. It argues that some Muslim minorities manifest their Islamic identity by concurrently promoting certain aspects of European integration agendas while rejecting others. These individuals endorse active and constructive Muslim participation in majority non-Muslim societies, yet justify any such interactions using ideological or physical constructs that both reaffirm Islam as a binding religious-legal system regulating all aspects of life and fortify identities that are distinct from Western ones. The article examines various models for this duality in the field of sports and focuses on the case of Germany's first Islamic fitness center for women, Al-Hayat in Cologne, which opened in April 2007. Through a field study, the article explores how the gym, which the German media depicts as an example of Muslim segregation but which its owner and members believe to be a force for integration, simultaneously advances aspects of both integration and segregation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-61
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Muslim Minority Affairs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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