In a new article published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Kaja Borchgrevink and Ida Roland Birkvad examine how the Islamic prohibition of riba – charged interest (on loans) – shapes ideas about homeownership and housing choices among Muslim professional women in Oslo, Norway.

The article is Open Access (no paywall) and available at the journal website.

‘Homeownership for all’ has been an explicit policy goal of the post-war Norwegian welfare state, denoting for immigrants a salient measure of ‘successful integration’. For parts of the Muslim minority, who consider interest prohibited by their religion, a lack of interest-free housing finance in Norway makes homeownership unattainable.

Through interviews with Norwegian Muslim professional women of Somali and Pakistani origin, Borchgrevink and Birkvad examine how research participants negotiate the dominant majority norm to pursue homeownership and two different minority norms, related to the use of interest-bearing loans to finance homeownership, either obtaining a mortgage or not obtaining a mortgage, found in the two immigrant communities.

Drawing on these women’s own reflections on the prohibition of riba and homeownership the researchers analyse the interrelated nature of various identity markers and structural constraints which the research participants operate. They find that religious norms and moralities matter, but that these are entwined with broader economic and social considerations regarding housing and finance.

The focus on religious norms and moralities in immigrant housing nuances understandings of the opportunities and constraints that affect immigrant housing options and choices.