Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Anchoring Identity in Faith: Narrative of an Anglo-Asian Muslimah in Britain

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Anchoring Identity in Faith: Narrative of an Anglo-Asian Muslimah in Britain

Article excerpt

Anchoring Identity in Faith: Narrative of an Anglo-Asian Muslimah in Britain

I, a lecturer, interviewed Iman, a pseudonym chosen by the interviewee, towards the end of the summer term of 2011. Prior to this, I had been gathering data for my research on primary school trainee teachers and the role of faith in their lives and its significance to them.

I found out about Iman's faith background incidentally through self-disclosure. Before contributing to a discussion point in the session, she revealed that her father had reverted to Islam. Subsequently, I approached her and expressed my research interest. She agreed instantly without hesitation. I was excited for her to be among my sample because she was the first dual heritage female Muslimah who I met at the university, training to be a teacher. I was intrigued to explore her experiences, her faith and about her belonging, aspirations and tension, if any, between Islam and her cultural roots. She afforded an excellent opportunity to gain insights into her experiences of adaptation and creation of her identity by allowing her to speak for herself. In addition, she provided me with a distinctive opportunity to talk to her about the identity construction of an Anglo-Asian Muslimah in England. It appeared to me that there is a growing need and realization for the construction of their social histories and, in so doing, allowing them to offer their perspectives of being Muslims in contemporary Britain.

The Researcher's Role

In qualitative research, the researcher is a primary data collector; therefore it is important to share my position and its relationship to this research. Like Iman, I am a Muslim, but with cultural and ethnic roots in India and East Africa. After completing my education, I, as did my interviewee, embarked on a career in primary education in state schools. Later, I became a teacher educator. In other words, this research was anchored in my own personal and professional journey as much as in the narrative of Iman. I, therefore, acknowledge that I bring this background and experiences to the research process and make the interpretation of the data subjective; nevertheless, I produce and present the voice of Iman. This research, conducted by a male tutor, I believe is beneficial in showing the potential of using narratives to study the life and work of teachers. It is also useful for understanding identity construction of people from a variety of backgrounds and is valuable in challenging the idea about Muslims being homogenous. In addition, it demonstrates some of the features of the socialization taking place in some universities which are multicultural and multi-faith. The narrative reveals the challenges and opportunities in the experiences of a young Muslimah as she foregrounds faith positively in her life. In others words, instead of shying away from it, she freely and willingly tells her story despite the onslaught on her religion in recent times.

Research rationale

There has been little in-depth exploration into the life, educational pathways and experiences of Anglo-Asian trainee teachers in England. Currently, as far as could be ascertained, in the absence of detailed studies of this kind, there appears to be a gap in knowing and understanding issues of identity formation of Anglo-Asian Muslimahs especially those training to be teachers (Butt, MacKenzie, & Manning, 2010; Wilkins & Lall, 2011). The narrative of Iman complements information for understanding British female Muslim educators in primary schools by exploring their developing identity and life story. It demonstrates that identity is complex and that the different subject positions and social identities that people take are related. In view of such intersectionality, it would be simplistic to view the life of Iman from an ethnic perspective alone as it would ignore her other categories such as gender, class and especially religion and their interplay. …

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