Religious Knowledge and Muslim Women in the Information Age: A Case Study in Britain

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Satoshi ADACHI, Kindai University, Japan
In sociology, ‘knowledge’ is defined as a social frame of interpretation, which gives people a specific reality and which has a strong influence on their attitudes towards society. Religion is a kind of knowledge, which has defined people’s world views and social relations, and which was produced exclusively by religious elites. The context of religious knowledge has changed dramatically because of the emergence of the ‘information age’, which makes information of any kind unregulated and accessible to everyone. Now people can personally retrieve and even produce religious knowledge through information technology, free from interference by religious authorities. Recent studies report that this ‘democratisation’ of religious knowledge following the development of information technology has changed Muslim women’s attitudes to their religion and to society. This presentation also investigates what impact the information age has had for Muslim women’s interpretation of Islam and their participation in the wider society. The analysis revealed that participants think that their generation has more ‘authentic’ Islamic knowledge than the older generation because Islam is decoupled from cultures. They argued that some of the oppressive conventions concerning women derive from Asian cultures rather than Islam itself, and they even presented Islam as a system of gender equality that supports women being educated and working. The Internet contributes to such an understanding of Islam because it provides opportunities for informants to enrich their religious knowledge and to get in touch with more diverse interpretations of Islam, some of which are more adaptable to their daily lives in Britain. These findings show that the information technologies weaken the hold of traditional Islamic understanding, which in some cases has prevented Muslim women from joining the wider society, and they provide more room for Muslim women to participate in the social systems of the Western world as Muslims.