In the aftermath of the First World War, the conversion of European intellectuals to Islam raised controversial new questions about Muslim and European pasts and possible futures. Mirza M. Abdurrahman was one such convert who, after leaving Catholicism for Islam in 1922, left his native Yugoslavia to study in Spain, correspond with Muslim missionaries in Berlin, and publish a French translation of a classic Ottoman-Persian mystic text. His journey—connecting the Balkans, Spain, and Central Europe—might appear eccentric at first sight, but it is deeply intertwined with larger interwar debates about otherness, Orientalism, and European history. Using a microhistorical approach, this talk examines a fragment of one particular biography in order to explore the phenomenon of European conversion to Islam and to raise questions about the ongoing debates over the foreignness or indigeneity of Islam in Europe.
Edin Hajdarpasic is associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of Whose Bosnia? Nationalism and Political Imagination in the Balkans, 1840-1914 (winner of the ASN Rothschild Book Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies, 2016). He researches and writes about nationalism, communal relations, and politics of otherness.