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Department of the Study of Religions

Muslim Britain: Perspectives and Realities

Course Code:
15PSRC158
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Any
Taught in:
Full Year

The publication of The Satanic Verses in September 1988 marked the beginning of a dramatic increase in media coverage of Muslims and Islamic culture in Britain which continued through Britain’s involvement in the Gulf, anti-terrorist legislation, the London bombings of 7/7 and the trial of Abu Hamza leading to the perception of Islam as a threat to the majority culture. 

Serious work on Islam in Britain has tended to focus on specific Muslim communities rather than the place and function of Islam within those communities and the diversity of attitudes held by Muslims and others towards Islam and Islamic cultural expression.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of this course, a student will:
  • Have gained an understanding of the historical context of Islam in Britain.
  • Have acquired a knowledge of the different ethnic, sectarian and doctrinal approaches to Islam in Britain.
  • Have developed an understanding of the different disciplinary and theoretical approaches to the subject: religious, historical, political, sociological.
  • Have developed analytical skills with respect to a wide range of source material including academic studies, legal documents, newspapers and journals, documentaries and literary materials.
  • Have gained a knowledge of interview techniques and be able critically to evaluate oral testimony.
  • Understand and contextualise concepts such as: ‘multiculturalism’, ‘identity’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘race’.

Scope and syllabus

The course will begin by establishing the religion in a historical context starting with early Muslim migrations and settlement in Britain in the 19th century, through the various phases of subsequent migrations, to the institutionalising of Islam in Britain in the early twentieth century and the emergence of community leaders. Within this framework it will cover the different ethnic, sectarian and doctrinal approaches to Islam belonging to and/or adopted by migrants and second and third generation Muslims. 

The second part of the course will focus on particular issues that have arisen, uniquely, out of the above context and in response to world events. Students will be asked to differentiate between ‘perceptions of Islam’ as portrayed in historical accounts, media coverage, popular culture, and oral testimony, and ‘realities’ of Islam which include the ways in which government, at national and local level, have provided for the particular needs of the various Muslim communities with respect to the law, employment, education and health, gender issues, religion, and the role of Islamic institutions. 

Areas of debate will include such issues as the extent to which ‘Islam’ can be separated from Muslim society; the ways in which British Muslim identities are replacing ethnic ties amongst second and third generation Muslims; the role of Arabic in religious worship amongst the predominantly non-Arab British Muslim population.

Method of assessment

Coursework: two 3,000 word essays. Assessment: three hour exam paper 50%, essays 50%.