Research Seminar: ‘Muslim Schools in Britain: Socialization, Identity & Integration’

Dr Sadaf Rizvi, Institute of Education

Thursday 1 March 2012, 3.00 pm, Committee Room 1, Institute of Education

 Integration of Muslim children and young people in the UK has been a contested issue. Debates around the construction of young Muslims’ identities and their educational experiences have been disputed even more. Some scholars and policymakers argue that the failure of mainstream state schools in meeting the needs of Muslim pupils has posed problems for integration; while others see such schools as an instrument for improving race relations.  On the other hand, some researchers envisage a strong role for Muslim faith-based schools in ‘socializing’ young Muslims and constructing their ‘British Muslim’ identity. Others, more sceptically, regard Muslim schools as being divisive, reproducing gender inequalities and threatening the harmony of multi-ethnic British society.

Interestingly, amidst all these controversies, only limited attention has been paid to the voices of young Muslims themselves. Similarly, little effort has been made to understand how, and to what extent, the curriculum in Muslim schools address the educational, religious or cultural needs of Muslim pupils; and how it leads to the construction of their multiple or contested identities. 

Based on an ethnographic research conducted in a secondary Muslim girls’ school in England, this seminar will highlight the complexity of multiple factors that have led to the establishment of Muslim faith schools in the UK. It will analyze three different forms of curricula (Islamic, National and Islamicized) being used in the school, and the diversity of young Muslims’ experiences as a result of a complex interplay of individual, familial, educational, ethnic and religious factors. The seminar will recognize the agency of young girls in the process of their own socialization, and will suggest that, despite variations in their experiences, the girls are involved actively in creating and recreating their identities and in negotiating, choosing or abandoning what they perceive as ‘cultural’ rather than ‘religious’.  This finding challenges the dominant discourses that regard Muslim girls as ‘oppressed’ in the perceived patriarchal systems and that consider them as a homogenous category. The seminar aims to inform the contested debates around the socialization, identity and integration of young Muslims, which have largely ignored their voices and aspirations. 

Dr Sadaf Rizvi is a Research Officer at the Institute of Education. Her specific areas of interest are anthropology of education, childhood ethnography and education and social cohesion. Prior to working at the IoE, Sadaf worked at Brunel University, London and the Aga Khan University – Institute for Educational Development in Pakistan. She also taught at the Open University, UK on ‘Islam in the West’ and ‘Childhood’ courses. Her recently edited book, Multidisciplinary approaches to educational research: Case studies from Europe and the developing world’ compares the use diverse educational approaches in undertaking research with children and young people in diverse settings.

 Attendance at the seminar is free, but places should be reserved in advance via llakesevents@ioe.ac.uk

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