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Title: People, not only societies, are multicultural : an interdisciplinary study examining how Muslims in Britain are negotiating overlapping (legal) norms, identities and traditions
Author: Arun-Qayyum, Sham
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 1313
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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Despite their long presence in Britain, Muslims often continue to be portrayed as an 'alien wedge' or even the 'enemy within'; 'the other' that simply cannot be assimilated. These discourses need to be interrogated, not least since they create communitarian walls rather than multicultural bridges. Muslims, like members of other groups, refer to norms other than those made or accepted by the state: norms that have a personal or ethnic rather than territorial validity; a situation that I call internormativity. Methodologically, this requires us to consider not only how state agencies but also Muslims on the ground are coping with diverse norms. This study finds and records a variety of responses. Depending on the issue, domain, as well as other dimensions of difference, Muslims may cut out, bypass, stitch together, or create anew to deal with the accidents and diseases of multiculturalism. For this reason I call them cultural surgeons, and the art of decision-making or management of diversity as cultural surgery. In contrast, the state has struggled to cope and embrace diversity. Through primary and a lot of secondary research, including analysis of case law and legislation, mainly focusing on family law matters, and in particular the institution of marriage and use of shari'a councils which have become particularly contested sites in recent years, this study examines how Muslims and the state is coping with internormativity. The study has three main objectives. First, focusing on the content of English law, to examine how far it has adapted to accommodate the beliefs of Muslims and their way of life. The concern primarily is to see whether, and to what extent, English law either explicitly or tacitly recognises 'Muslim laws'. Second, where this is not the case what has been the response of Muslims to such nonrecognition? The study records strategies and tactics by which this community, and its individuals, have sought to deal with the challenges raised by the presence of conflict between differing, overlapping, normative orders. Thirdly, to obtain a fuller understanding of the decisions Muslims are making when it comes to marriage solemnisation, in-depth qualitative interviews with 59 Muslims were conducted, to draw out the sample's motivations. It is the 'voice' and experiences of individuals that the research also seeks to bring out. In particular, we interrogate the impact that personal, ethnic, and territorial norms are having on their decisions, as well as to draw out other explanatory factors. Having adopted the actor as the point where all normative orders 'converge', and having outlined how individuals have creatively responded, the study suggests that this be the vantage point from which to look at the possible reconfiguration of the state's legal system. The study concludes by making some recommendations on how the state in particular can manage diversity more effectively.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral