Identities and agency in religious spheres: a study of British Muslim women's experience

Bhimji, Fazila orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7234-852X (2009) Identities and agency in religious spheres: a study of British Muslim women's experience. Gender, Place & Culture, 16 (4). pp. 365-380. ISSN 0966-369X

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This article examines the ways in which British born South AsianMuslimwomen engage with Islam through study circles, using data drawn from participant observation of, and
interviews with, 25 women in two major cities in northern England. I argue that the religious spaces within which the women participate allow them to assert various identities, as well as agency, as they collectively search to comprehend Islam. In particular, I demonstrate that in traversing these religious spheres, women transformthem
from male dominated sites to spaces wherein feminine, political and cosmopolitan identities are expressed. Scholarship on Islamic feminismin western contexts has focused on visible symbols such as the veil and little attention has been given to the social processes that Muslim women may engage in order to better understand and practise Islam. For the women who formed part of this study, the veil was only one aspect of their religious identity. In examining religious spheres such as the mosque, I argue these are not disembodied sites where only religious rituals are performed, but are created, discursive
spaces and social networks that allow women to feel empowered within British society.

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