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Title: Muslim women in the UK and Bosnia : religious identities in contrasting contexts
Author: Bilic, Sanja
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores Muslim women’s religious identities and the processes through which they construct and narrate these identities by comparing Bosnian and UK Muslim women. Disproportionate political and media attention on Muslim women in Europe has in turn prompted an increase in academic interest. However, most academic research neglects the experiences of the indigenous European Muslim women thereby maintaining the image of the foreign ‘other’. This research forges a more inclusive approach by considering the views of indigenous European Muslim women. The study is based on interviews with 20 Muslim women, four focus groups and observation of the activities of three Muslim women’s organisations. I subscribe to a feminist perspective where participants’ voices are privileged and, since I belong to both communities, the complexities of my positionality were constantly reflected upon during the course of the research. My analysis is organised around three main themes that emerged from my participants’ accounts of religious identity: family life, hijab and women’s organisations. Family was identified as an important factor in these women’s early perceptions of Islam. However, violent events – the war in Bosnia and the effects of 9/11 and 7/7 in the UK – affected women’s reflections on what it means to be a Muslim woman in Europe, initiating independent re-evaluation of religious identity. This process was transformative, often resulting in a decision to wear the hijab and/or to seek out spaces that encourage a positive sense of Muslim identity such as women’s organisations. During the process of constructing their religious identities, women, in both countries, faced challenges from the societies they live in and also from their families. Their agency is constantly questioned. I argue that two contrasting socio-cultural and historical contexts affect the diversity of lived experiences of the Muslim women and the way they organise, while the similarities, inspired by their faith, lie in skilful negotiation of their religious identities in face of many challenges.
Supervisor: Jackson, Stevi ; Afshar, Haleh Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available