SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Islam in Britain

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course will examine the historical context of Islam in Britain, beginning with early Muslim migrations and settlement in the 19th century, through 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 course will proceed to look at the various issues that have arisen, uniquely, out of this context and in response to world events. Such issues include: a) the question of identity: what it means to be ‘Muslim’ given the heterogeneous nature of the Muslim population in Britain and the large number of variables such as the differences in practice, interpretation and religious devotional life as well as ethnicity, class, gender and regional location; what it means to be ‘British-Muslim’ within the majority secular liberal establishment b) perceptions of the umma amongst British-born Muslims d) the ways in which government at local and national level has engaged with and provided for Muslims with respect to religion and the role of the mosque, education, employment, Islamic law, and participation in political and public life e) the role of the media and popular culture in representing Islam.


The course "Islam: Foundations" is a prerequisite for this course. Exceptionally students may take "Islam in Britain" without having taken " Islam: Foundations " after a consultation with the course convenor.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course students should:

  • 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.
  • Be able to contribute to the debate about what it means to be British Muslim at the beginning of the 21st century.
  • Have developed an understanding of the different theoretical and disciplinary approaches to the subject: religious, historical, political, sociological.
  • Be able to draw upon and evaluate different types of source material: texts, newspapers and journals and television.
  • Understand the use of oral testimony as a research tool.
  • Have developed online research skills and an ability critically to evaluate material obtained online.

Method of assessment

  • TWO 2,500 word essays (20% each)
  • One exam (60%)

Suggested reading

  • Ansari, Humayun, The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800, London: C. Hurst & Co. Abbas 2004.
  • Abbas,Tahir, ed., Muslim Britain: communities under pressure, London & New York: Zed Books 2005.
  • Lewis, Philip, Islamic Britain, London: I.B. Tauris 1994.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules