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Title: Experiences of Muslim academics in UK Higher Education Institutions
Author: Ramadan, Ibtihal
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 8794
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2017
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The intertwining of political, economic, societal and global changes has resulted in accentuating even more so the 'Muslim question', both domestically and globally. Research has shown that the negative focus Muslims and Islam receive in the West is becoming increasingly mainstreamed, not only through the media, but principally through mainstream political discourse. This mainstreaming is within a global and local narrative of a 'war on terror'. The former followed 9/11 at the outset of this millennium and the latter is represented in the myriad of 'anti-terrorism' initiatives recently augmented in the UK by the Prevent duty. This intensely hostile backdrop has nurtured 'normative truths' about Muslims/Islam. Although Islamophobia did exist long before 9/11, it has now become commonplace and, even, legitimised within the context of tackling terrorism, affecting the experiences of the majority of Muslims in the West and elsewhere in diverse ways. British academia has opened its doors to non-traditional academics, including those from racial and/or ethnic minority backgrounds. Equality policies have been developed, particularly subsequent to the Race Relation Amendment (2000), which has sought to fulfil the recommendations of the Macpherson report (1999). Nevertheless, inequalities do permeate British academia and the experiences of non-traditional academics have been tainted by institutional racism, in both quantity and quality. Statistics attest the former, highlighting the underrepresentation of non-traditional academics in British academia, more particularly in senior leadership and professorial positions. Empirical research findings attest the latter through citing several factors, including career trajectory barriers and the double standards racial bias that operates in a subtle way within higher education institutions (HEIs). These broader and institutional dimensions set the scene for this thesis, the aim of which is to examine the experiences of Muslim academics. The particular experiences of this group of academics have been ignored in previous research, as faith/belief matters have largely been overlooked in studies that explored the experiences of minority academics. This thesis adopts a qualitative approach utilising theoretical bricolage that principally draws on Critical Race Theory (CRT). The notion of race in CRT is, however, expanded to include faith/belief. The thesis also draws on Post-colonial and De-colonial theories, Bourdieu's concept of 'habitus' and Fraser's model of 'status recognition'. It explores the perceptions of Muslim academic participants regarding their own personal/professional identities and how Muslim academics negotiate their Muslim-ness in academia and considers how wider narratives have influenced how they speak about their 'Muslim identity'. The views of the participants are particularly important to examine the extent to which, if any, the 'normative truths' have penetrated academia. This thesis also examines the perceptions of the participants regarding their career experiences and considers whether the experiences of this group of Muslim academics corresponds to, or differs from, the experiences of their fellow non-traditional academics. The Whiteness of the academy was an overarching theme, under which the participants' experiences of racism vis-a-vis job opportunities, career advancement and the multi-faced forms of epistemic racism were discussed. Exceptionalism seemed to be a pre-requisite of gaining a positive experience. Not only did exceptionalism temper perceptions of 'otherness', but being exceptional was an aspect that advanced the career trajectories of some of the participants. Silence was another major theme that recurred in various forms across the fieldwork. These silences appear to have been a consequence of the wider stigmatisation of the Muslim identity, which became evident in the ways some of the participants chose to go about interpreting, or declaring, their Muslim-ness in their workplace. While being Muslim created challenges and required some of the participants to exert substantive negotiations and efforts to fit in, it was advantageous for others, in terms of their career trajectories. Religious micro-aggressions were habitual to the participants with regards to their interactions with staff, and this was particularly acute for females wearing the hijab, where the religious micro-aggressions in HEIs took on a gendered aspect of the 'Muslim problem'. Silence also penetrated the narratives in relation to issues of institutional racism. Networking with other non-white academics was another main theme that featured in the accounts. Muslim academic participants, like other non-traditional academics seek support and mentorship from other minoritised academics to be able to survive in academia. The current study concludes by suggesting that there is a need for more consideration to be given to the aspects of faith/belief in HE policy and practice. This needs to be conducted within a framework that acknowledges the existence of religious microaggressions and the overwhelming normativism of Whiteness in academia.
Supervisor: Arshad, Rowena ; Loads, Daphne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: British academia ; non-traditional academics ; institutional racism ; Muslim academics ; Critical Race Theory ; exceptionalism