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Title: Salafism and Islamism in Britain, 1965-2015
Author: Amin, Hira
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 0703
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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The thesis examines two of the arguably most contentious strands within contemporary Islam – Salafism and Islamism – in the British context from 1965 to the contemporary period. Its central argument is that by using their (multi-directional) connections, modern Muslim sects in Britain fashioned a distinct ‘Western Muslim’ consciousness, which has gradually altered their relationship with the ‘Muslim world’ at large. Rather than generating remittances to send ‘back home’, to Muslim-majority countries – Britain, and the West more broadly, came to be seen as another important Muslim space in need of resources, institutions, and unique paradigms for understanding and practicing Islam. Put differently, scholars, activists and intellectuals began carving out a self-conscious Western form of Islam, and in this process have begun to subvert their peripheral status vis-à-vis the heartlands of the Muslim world. The thesis charts the emergence of this ‘Western Muslim’ consciousness beginning from the late 1960s to the present. It demonstrates that this was neither a linear process of severing ties with Muslim-majority countries, nor one of wholly adopting Western cultural codes or modes of faith. Rather Salafis and Islamists rooted Islam in Britain, but on their own terms. It opens with a re-examination of the religious lives of the first generation pioneer migrants that arrived in the post-War period from South Asia, who were involved with either the Ahl-e-Hadith or the Jamaat-e-Islami. It examines how each faction established their mosques and organisations in the British context, making complex and sophisticated adaptions in their thoughts and practice while negotiating their changed setting. It suggests that the sharp generational divide – where the first were primarily seen in ethnic terms and the second adopted a global religious identity – has hitherto dominated accounts of Muslims in Britain, and needs to be critiqued and revised. From their inception, the struggle to recreate an ‘authentic’ Islam was pivotal in both movements. Purging Islam from adulterations and perceiving themselves as part of the global ummah were sentiments that were present, to a certain degree, in the first-generation. This is not to say that there were no generational differences, but that these differences were more fluid than has been suggested. The thesis also explores the reasons underpinning the resurgence of ‘traditional’ religious figures at the expense of ‘intellectuals’. However, in the context of individualisation, new media and the democratisation of religion, this raises important questions as to how ‘traditional’ religious authority is being transformed and adapted. It analyses the seemingly contradictory elements of the desire to wholeheartedly follow ‘authentic’ religious figures on the one hand, and still actively rationalise and determine which interpretation of Islam they ultimately follow on the other. With the advent of cyberspace, it also examines the changing contours of the ‘community’ and the relationship between offline and online networks. It argues that the internet has accelerated the development of like-minded or ideological transnational networks that span online and offline spaces. These networks increasingly take precedence over geographically close ‘communities’ decentralising, but not devaluing, the masjid.
Supervisor: Chatterji, Joya Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Salafism ; Islamism ; Wahhabism ; Islamic Movement ; Muslims in Britain