SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Saleema F. Burney

BA, PGCE, MA (London)
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Saleema Burney
Saleema F. Burney
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Thesis title:
Belief and Benevolence: A Case Study of Muslim Women Activists in London
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Having spent over twenty years as a teacher, parent and community volunteer in the UK, Saleema has returned to higher education recently. She hopes to join the emerging discourse on Muslim women and their contributions to British society. Saleema brings to the field much experience of working in her local Muslim communities in West London and Buckinghamshire; she has served as a School Governor for over four years, as a Consultant Trainer for the Muslimah project and runs a local youth group focussing on issues of integration and identity for British Muslim girls.

PhD Research

While it may be argued, quite feasibly, that the topic of Muslim women continues to receive much attention in both contemporary media and academic studies, much of this coverage is either negative (focusing on ‘mistreatment’, ‘misogyny’ and identity crises), or deals largely with the apparent and visible aspects of Muslim practice such as ‘the wearing of hijab (Muslim religious dress)’.

It is the intention of this study to highlight a positive, empowering and different way of being ‘female’ in Western liberal society by focussing on the social activism of a sample of Muslim women here in the United Kingdom.

In particular, this study intends to focus on:

  • Counteracting the framing of the Muslimah as an oppressed ‘Other’ by showcasing those Muslim women who have risen above this stereotype to contribute to society as a positive force. In this way, it is hoped that the Muslim woman’s efforts can be seen as making valuable progress towards a pluralist society.
  • Addressing the perceived ‘failure’ of Western feminist thought to accommodate those women (be they Christian, Muslim or any other faith background) who desire to challenge patriarchy and misogyny from within faith-based frameworks.
  • Allowing the oft-misunderstood and misrepresented ‘voice’ of Muslim women to speak for itself, thus reclaiming the role of Western Muslim women in knowledge production and dissemination, both within and beyond Islamic discourses.