Digital British Islam: How do Cyber Islamic Environments impact everyday lives?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Department Name: Theology, Religious and Islamic Studies


The emergence of widespread and inexpensive printing technologies 200 to 300 years ago transformed social, religious, knowledge and political hierarchies within Muslim contexts. Access to inexpensive books eventually meant that religious (and other) knowledge was no longer out of reach for literate societies. This led to rapid change within many Muslim contexts: existing hierarchies dissipated, new ones arose, revolutions including feminist ones started, and regimes were overturned. Sociological imaginings within Muslim, and indeed, all contexts were changed forever.We are now in the midst of an era of even bigger transformation. Online digital technologies have been generally available since the 1990s and their impact on the social lives of religious communities (and indeed all communities) is as transformative as that of print media.

Set against this background, this multi-disciplinary team aims to undertake the first-ever exploration of the social impacts of digital activities that focusses on lived experiences of diverse Muslim communities in Britain. Digital British Muslims will map and interrogate the impact of the exponential growth of cyber Islamic environments (CIEs) on intergenerational transformations within diverse UK Muslim communities, and the extent of their influence on Muslim lives, societies, practices and beliefs. Focusing on changing narratives and experiences of religious authority, gender and political agency, this unique project will provide a platform for mapping, interpreting and understanding the diversity, interlinkages and influence of CIEs, examining reciprocal interactions between the 'digital' and the 'real'. The project themes provide scope to what is an ambitious project and are areas in which observable intergenerational transformations among Muslims in Britain have occurred - transformations that are catalysed by growing access to and reliance upon CIEs among Muslims in Britain.

Methodologically, this project draws upon the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team to use advanced digital archiving techniques combined with a more traditional mixed methods approach entailing focus group discussions, interviews, diary solicitation and a national survey. Rooted in lived experience, through consultative research approaches, it is envisaged that this research will directly respond to the concerns and needs of those who can use its findings in policy, organisational and community settings. Mapping CIEs within a set geographical context, which in this case is the UK, is complicated due to online spaces transcending national borders and identity categorisations. The inherent transnational nature of Islam and Muslim identities in Britain poses further challenges for this research. Yet this is also an opportunity for new theorisations around identity and geography in religious online spaces.

Finally, this research is predicated on being meaningful and relevant to those who can use its findings. It is envisaged that four audiences will benefit from this work: (i) Muslim organisations and communities, through findings that will inform their organisational digital strategies. (ii) Policy makers, through findings relevant to areas of policy-interest in relation to Muslims in Britain (iii) Public and third sector organisations that engage with Muslim communities in the UK, through findings that enable them to better reach/access/engage diverse Muslim communities and (iv) Academia. Impact will be achieved through a planned programme of public-facing and academic impact activities and resources including a sustainable, curated and open access archive of CIEs collated during the lifetime of the project, a policy brief, resources to aid community organisations in developing their digital strategies and teaching resources.


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