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Title: Identities and sense of belonging of Muslims in Britain : using survey data, cognitive survey methodology, and in-depth interviews
Author: Ali, Sundas
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The scope and principal arguments of the research in this thesis are as follows. This thesis is centered on exploring the identities and sense of belonging of Muslims in Britain. There is a strand of academic research which claims that Muslims in Britain are withdrawn from mainstream Britain because they live in segregated ethnic enclaves, participate in non-mainstream religions, and politically organize themselves via ethnically and religiously homogenous networks. This thesis attempts to go beyond such existing research and advance our understanding of the identities and sense of belonging of Muslims in Britain. Accordingly, the research questions that guide the thesis are: 1. What is the strength and relative importance of British identity for Muslims in Britain and what are its drivers? 2. What does ‘belonging to Britain’ mean to Muslims in Britain? 3. What do the identities, British, Pakistani, and Muslim mean to Muslims in Britain, and how easy do they find it to integrate these identities? These questions are dealt with in three main empirical chapters, with the use of a multi-methods approach, combining survey data, cognitive survey methodology interviews, and in-depth qualitative interviews. The first empirical chapter presents regression results, from the Citizenship Survey and Ethnic Minority British Election Study, which confirm the strength of British identity for Muslims and present the various drivers that motivate it. These quantitative findings however do not tell us much about what ‘belonging to Britain’ really means for Muslims. The second empirical chapter delves further into this the concept. I ‘question’ the survey question ‘How strongly do you belong to Britain?’ through 30 cognitive interviews that are used to evaluate survey methodology. This exercise displays two key meanings of the question on belonging to Britain: a ‘cultural’ feeling (at ease) and an ‘affective’ feeling (feel attached). Most respondents interpreted the question as ‘cultural’, reflecting upon the practices, ethical values, and lifestyle that characterises a country. The third empirical chapter takes a look at the identities of Muslims, their national, ethnic, and religious identities through 61 qualitative in-depth interviews. The findings from the structured and unstructured identity questions help to understand the way Muslims in Britain relate to their British, Pakistani, and Muslim identities. The results from the structured identity question took a categorical view of identity as opposed to the themes that emerged from the unstructured identity questions and took a dimensional view of identity. These themes generated a six-group typology of identity with the groups: cultural, unambiguous, emotional, emergent, ambivalent, and none of the above. It was found that identities were not simply additive but were emergent and creative with processes of fusion and mesh. There were some tensions and contradictions in Muslims trying to integrate their different aspects of identity.
Supervisor: Heath, Anthony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology; Identity; Belonging; Britishness; Britain; Muslims.