South Asian Muslims : adjustments to British citizenship
Over the last twenty years there has been growing evidence of a distinct Islamic identity emerging from within the Western world, an identity that has been portrayed as incompatible with Western ideals. This thesis is based on a small-scale qualitative study of the reality of this identity, as experienced by twenty-three South Asian Muslims living in the south of England, and the impact on notions of citizenship and the rights and obligations this infers. The thesis contrasts Western notions of citizenship with Islamic thinking. It recognises that although there are points of convergence between the two, a fundamental difference remains. It is argued, where Western notions of citizenship give priority to individual sovereignty, Islamic notions place sovereignty in God and as such define citizenship as the relationship of the individual not to the state, but to God via the state. The thesis explores how this Islamic ideal is made relevant by South Asian Muslims living in Britain. Theoretically the thesis explores the way in which Muslim identity is universal, group centred and individual. It is argued that, despite differences, as humans we do share some universally shared values that give us a 'cornman human identity'. However these shared values are culturally embedded and experienced through distinct (albeit complex) 'cultural communities'. It is argued that just because people have, in certain circumstances, a group identity, it should not necessarily lead to the conclusion that everyone in that group will experience that identity in the same way. As such identity is simultaneously individual. Results of the research suggest that for South Asian Muslims of Britain assimilation is impossible and largely undesirable. However, they suggest that this does not mean that most Muslims do not want to be an 'integrated' aspect of British life. However integration does not mean 'being the same as'. There is a strong recognition that Muslims are different and there is to a large extent a desire for this difference to be maintained. Final analysis, of the data generated, indicates that there are four ideal typical strategies employed by British Muslims in making sense of their faith in the British context. These are identified as: That of 'Lapsed'/ambivalent Muslims where Islam is deemed important in that is provides a 'moral code' by which to live life but is, in the main, relegated to the private sphere. That of Selective Muslims where being a Muslim is of importance but for whom Islam does not impact on their lives in any substantive way. That of 'Traditional' Muslims where being a Muslim is very important but of equal importance is the ethno-cultural similarities they have with other Muslims. That of Engaged Muslims where there is an active engagement with Islam and a conscientious effort to implement Islam in all aspects of life Three levels of engagement with British society are also identified (although it must be recognised engagement with Islam does not necessarily lead to (dis)engagement with citizenship/the public sphere): engagement, partial engagement and disengagement. The thesis recognises that a multiculturalist paradigm has encouraged difference to be seen as static and unchanging, rather then fluid and dynamic as it is in reality. In this context Muslims' desire to keep to their faith (even if it is variously expressed), and retain (certain) social differences can be misunderstood as an unwillingness to 'integrate'. An ethnic notion of citizenship has made it hard for Muslims to be equal citizens contributing to their sense of being an 'outsider'. This thesis argues for a more inclusive definition of citizenship that understands that citizens will have multiple loyalties and responsibilities. Essentialist notions of Islam have perpetuated the misconception of Muslims as different with no commonalties with majority society. This is at the expense of historically rooted social and economic deprivation, and continuing (albeit not as obvious) prejudice and discrimination that many Muslim communities experience.