What is it like to be a Muslim possessed by a jinn spirit? How do you find refuge
from madness and evil spirits in a place like Denmark? As elsewhere in
Europe and North America, Danish Muslims have become hypervisible through
intensive state monitoring, surveillance, and media coverage. Yet their religion
remains poorly understood and is frequently identified by politicians,
commentators, and even healthcare specialists as the underlying invisible cause
of ‘integration problems’. Over several years Christian Suhr followed
Muslim patients being treated in a Danish mosque and in a psychiatric hospital.
With this book and award-winning film he provides a unique account of the
invisible dynamics of possession and psychosis, and an analysis of how the
bodies and souls of Muslim patients are shaped by the conflicting demands of
Islam and the psychiatric institutions of European nation-states. The book
reveals how both psychiatric and Islamic healing work not only to produce relief
from pain, but also entail an ethical transformation of the patient and the
cultivation of religious and secular values through the experience of pain.
Creatively exploring the analytic possibilities provided by the use of a camera,
both text and film show how disruptive ritual techniques are used in healing to
destabilise individual perceptions and experiences of agency, so as to allow
patients to submit to the invisible powers of psychotropic medicine or God.
built up a conglomerate of analytical arguments and perspectives not entirely dissimilar to the vision described by Borges. While weaving in and out of Islamicexorcisms and psychiatry I have considered these treatments from multiple sides and angles. It seems as if these perspectives and the multiple and often disconnected fragments that constitute the experience of fieldwork have come to fit as nuts and bolts within an overall theoretical framework – an argument about exorcism and psychiatry as being essentially about the same thing, namely the dissolution
). Let us consider the possible sustained meanings or functions that the concept of the ‘patient’ and the modes of thinking it entails could have for both the psychiatric and the Islamic practices of healing I studied in Denmark.
What is it that happens when Feisal finally, in the jinn exorcism cited above, looks at me and says: ‘I can't control my body, subḥān Allāh , this is the will of God.’ We could, in line with Whyte and Callan, read this as the utterance of a patient who aimed at and succeeded in finding a healer who could provoke the
suffering are often invisible.
Psychiatric healthcare and Islamicexorcism offer different ways of giving the invisible a recognisable shape. Yet both psychiatric healthcare and Islamicexorcism also operate through a disruption of the immediately visible, thereby intensifying the experience of uncertainty and invisibility, of being powerless and in need of help. Both psychiatric healthcare and Islamicexorcism rely on a dissolution of human perceptual agency in favour of submission to external and essentially invisible healing agents – namely
freely as they want. I hope nothing has followed me on the way home from the mosque. I know I shouldn't be afraid of the jinn. As I start to write this fieldnote my left index finger begins to vibrate. I know this feeling from before, but I don't like that it starts now.
It stops. Thank you, God.
I have suggested the term self-sacrifice as somehow useful in understanding healing in psychiatric healthcare and Islamicexorcism, but I have not specifically discussed how such
Muslims’ lives are played out (see also Pandolfo 1997 ).
On this particular evening in Gellerup, the screening of the YouTube exorcism appears to ignite an unintended discussion. The video was meant to provide visual evidence of the existence of both invisible jinn and angels. As such, it was intended not so much as an example for proper Islamic conduct, but rather – as in the correspondence model in much Western social science – as a model and illustration of reality as it actually is (Schäuble 2016b : 2, 15). Instead, however, it has
with respect to medical motives, but also the construction of sacred reality with respect to religious motives’.
This book and film examine the similarities and differences between how healing is pursued and understood in psychiatric healthcare and by Muslim shaykhs in Denmark. A key insight of my research has been to discover the ways in which the ‘sacred’ and what, with Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and Kierkegaard, I have referred to as the ‘invisible’ play a role in both Islamicexorcisms as well as in psychiatric healthcare
the walls were draped
in sheets of luminous cloth’.10
These Urdu influences continue to be dominant in Maps.
Aslam says ‘The book in many ways is about the classic theme
of Islamic literature: the quest for the beloved. The book
wouldn’t be what it is without 1001 Nights, the Koran, Bihzad.’ 11
Equally, the novel can be connected to the early Urdu novel
form in verse called the masnavi, which often tells ‘tragic stories of lovers’.12 The language is even more poetic and ornate
than in Rainbirds, even in the
attack us. This is the greatest risk in exorcisms. In Egypt several cases have been reported where a jinn was exorcised by a shaykh but then took the shaykh into possession and made him beat the patient to death (Drieskens 2008 : 195).
Amir shuffles the verses of the Quran and insistently claims that prophet Solomon was in fact an unbeliever. On previous occasions Amir told us that he himself is an Arab Christian.
‘Take the shahāda [the Islamic creed]’ cries Abu Bilal, trying again to force the jinn to convert to
integral role of Catholicism in healing the bewitched and averting
misfortune, either through the use of consecrated items such as herbs, holy
water, rosaries and candles or through the action of prayer, mass, ritual
and exorcism. Yet in nineteenth-century France there was considerable
disquiet within the Church regarding clerical involvement in or tacit
sanction of unofficial popular religious rites and rituals. There are