Miah, Shamim (2012) Muslim discourses on integration and schooling. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Since 2001 Muslim communities in Britain have largely been governed through the educational policy framing of integration and segregation. This Manichean bio-construct sees mono-cultural ethnic schools as problematic spaces, whilst integrated schools as the liberal ideal. By drawing upon the subaltern studies approach, this study provides a space for Muslim pupils and parents to articulate their own discourses on integrated and segregated schools in Britain. In doing so, it allows Muslim communities a position of power, by giving them agency to construct their own narratives on the policy debate on integration and schooling.

This thesis attempts to make sense of Muslim discourses through a theoretic interpretation drawn from Muslim intellectual history. By using Ibn Khaldun’s (d. 1406) sociological theory of ‘asabiyya this study provides a broader theoretical context to the Muslim voice. The empirical and the theoretical perspectives contained in this study attempts to make significant contributions to the study of race, religion and Muslim studies in Britain.

Public policy discourses has often seen the concept of integration as a linear cultural process, with minority groups gradually adopting the social mores of the host society. Evidence presented in this study sees integration as an analytical process and not as a fixed cultural template. It shows how the concept of integration can often be used, by political actors, as a tool for anti-Muslim racism.

The discourses of Muslim parents and pupils have much in common with each other, especially when rejecting the idea of self-segregation, or highlighting the importance of ‘asabiyya based on religion, but they have little in common with the public policy framing of Muslim communities.

Sociological studies have often demonstrated the disjuncture between public policy and lived experience. This study confirms this observation by elucidating the disconnect between political discourse of integration and lived cultural experience of Muslim communities. The discourses of Muslim communities in this study suggest a complex, paradoxical, intersectional reading of integration, which is fundamentally rooted within social constructionism. Most importantly it dismisses the integration and segregation binary, as seen within the educational framing of Muslims, whilst recognising the importance of Muslim group solidarity, or ‘asabiyya in Muslim discourse.

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