De-mystifying the Muslimah: Exploring Different Perceptions of Selected Young Muslim Women in Britain

Contractor, Sariya (2010) De-mystifying the Muslimah: Exploring Different Perceptions of Selected Young Muslim Women in Britain. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Abstract

In this research I argue that although Islam as a faith is inherently emancipatory, Muslim women are doubly marginalised: by patriarchal interpretations of their faith within Muslim communities and by pluralist society that often does not understand the faith-based values and practices of Muslim women. The empowerment of Muslim women is crucial not just for the women themselves but also for socio-political dynamics within the Muslim community and its relationships in pluralist society. It is from this context, and acknowledging the paucity of academic literature written by Muslim women, that I set out to give voice to them, so that their opinions may be heard in discourses that they think are relevant to their lives. By encouraging Muslim women to take voice and by facilitating mechanisms for these voices to be heard, this research presents alternate narratives of Muslim women that challenge dominant media imagery of the oppressed and subjugated Muslim woman. These narratives, which are by and for Muslim women, portray instead the inherent diversity in the category 'Muslim woman' and thus add more facets to the category 'woman'. I used an ethnographic methodology that involved participants as contributors in the creation of new knowledge. Semi-structured interviews with 45 young university-educated Muslim women and 7 group discussions were used as initial data-gathering tools. The penultimate ethnographic stage involved Muslim women creating 3-minute long self-representational digital stories (DSTs), which consist of an autobiographical narrative accompanied by still pictures. This was a process of self-reflection for the women and an opportunity to take voice and to be heard. The subsequent screening of these DSTs to audiences who were not Muslim resulted in discussion and active debate about the reasons for prevalent (mis)understandings of Muslim women and stereotypes were challenged. In its initiation of more balanced representations of Muslim women this research empowers Muslim women, and by contributing to dialogue and cohesion it also empowers pluralist society as a whole. This research clarifies the overlapping priorities and identities of young British Muslim women and initiates new discourses, as narrated by the women, on subjects including religious interpretation and practice, feminism, media representation and social cohesion. In the research findings I propose an evolving British-Muslim identity among Muslim youth (in this case young women) which is distinct from that of their parents; a theological articulation of a 'feminist' struggle for women's rights; and the need to engage with the media and others to create positive representations of Muslim women. Experiences with DSTs indicate the potential of personal narratives and interaction for the purposes of inter-community dialogue.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Scott-Baumann, AlisonUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Maclean, Malcolmmmaclean@glos.ac.ukhttp://www.glos.ac.uk/faculties-and-schools/sport-and-exercise/staff-profiles/pages/s2101101-malcolm-maclean.aspx
Additional Information: Submitted to the University of Gloucestershire through The Markfield Institute of Higher Education.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Muslim women, Great Britain
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies
Depositing User: Phil Davis
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2016 11:10
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2017 11:59
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3235

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