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Muslim identities in contemporary Britain: The case of Muslim religious education teachers

Vince, Matthew 2018. Muslim identities in contemporary Britain: The case of Muslim religious education teachers. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

In light of Preventing Violent Extremism policies and the promotion of Fundamental British Values, there has been a growth of academic and political interest surrounding Muslim identities in British education. Subsequent debate has revealed tensions surrounding Muslims and Islam within these educational contexts, leading to concern about the extent to which Muslims can incorporate their ‘Muslimness’. Surprisingly however, scant attention has been paid to Muslim teachers in these debates, who are tasked with embodying both. Given their unique positioning as interlocutors between the state and Muslims in schools, their experiences and perspectives can therefore shed new light on these debates. This thesis attends to this lacuna by exploring the experiences and identities of ‘Muslim RE teachers’. These are Muslims who work as non-confessional teachers of Religious Education in secondary state schools in England. Their explicit concerns with religion, both personally and professionally, entail that they are well-positioned to illuminate the processes of identity construction as Muslims within English school contexts. Accordingly, the study explores how ‘Muslim RE teachers’ understand and construct their personal and professional identities, the way others influence this construction, and how this is achieved in their everyday working practice, to highlight potential synergies and tensions between the two. It draws on interviews and shadowing with 21 participants across England working in a variety of secondary schools, making this study one of the largest qualitative studies of Muslim teachers to date. Through this exploration I argue that despite tensions, their attributes as ‘Muslims’ and as ‘RE teachers’ were not as incompatible as initially conceived, revealing the capacity of these participants to construct teacher identities that incorporated their faith. In doing so, my findings draw attention to the limitations of academic conceptualisations of Muslim identities, particularly within education. The study therefore provides a significant contribution to current academic debates surrounding Muslims in education. It also contributes to the fields of sociology of religion and British Muslim Studies more widely. This research should also inform current scholarship in education surrounding professional development, and teacher training for RE teachers. Consequently, the study makes original contributions to the discussions of both British Muslim identity and RE teaching in Britain.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Uncontrolled Keywords: Muslims, Education, Religious Education, Identity, Islam
Funders: Jameel Scholarship
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 March 2019
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2021 14:49
URI: http://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/121264

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