British Muslim Women's Identities

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Arcade Courtyard (Main Building)
Hengameh ASHRAF EMAMI, Northumbria University, United Kingdom
This paper aims to explore the cultures and identities of diverse Muslim women living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, offering an analytical assessment of the histories and cultures of Muslims from various generations and ethnicities. The concept of culture is a vast area and it can include festivals, customs, values, beliefs and traditions, language, art and behavior. All of these factors and characteristics provide an insight into culture and ethnicity. Often, especially regarding Islam, culture is heavily influenced by religious belief and practice. However, in some instances, this is only believed to be the case. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the tragic events such as 9/11 in USA  and 7/7 bombing in London have transformed peoples’ perceptions of British Muslims and, in some instances, increased ‘Islamophobia’ more generally. Therefore, it is fair to say that as a result of these events, British Muslim women with visibility of their faith identity have been awarded blame for terrorist activities. In turn, this has altered the manner in which British Muslims have perceived themselves, their religion and culture, and their wider communities more generally. It is because of this intrinsic link between religion, ethnicity, culture and identity that it is essential to examine all those factors in conjunction with one another. At this pivotal time in British race relations, this paper will offer an original and deep insight into well-established Muslim communities in Newcastle. This will focus on women’s agency in constructing and reconstructing their identities and the ways they chose to challenge the damaging stereotyping of media about Muslim women in a secular society.  It will explore various aspects of the research participants’ identities. The paper hopes to inspire some suggestions regarding national and local policies and measures.