Halal Scots: Muslims’ social identity negotiation and integration in Scotland
The past three decades have seen increasing interest in the integration of Muslims as the most visible ethno-religious minority group in Britain. Previous research reported that Muslims in northern parts of England, for instance, had developed separate rather than integrated lives (Cantle 2001: 9). Though more recent surveys have reported an emerging change in such trends (Simpson 2012), Muslims in the Scottish context established a more mixed and integrated way of living with the majority from the outset, (Hussain and Miller 2006: 19) which was associated partly with the smaller population of Muslims in Scotland (Penrose and Howard 2008: 95). This qualitative research looks at the different identity negotiation and integration strategies of Muslims, and introduces the idea of ‘Halal integration’ which entails fitting into society while maintaining religious identity. This refers to the life of many Scottish Muslims, Halal Scots, who integrated into many aspects of Scottish society whilst maintaining their religious identity and practices. One example of such integration was the construction of hybrid or multiple social identities that constitute both Scottish and Muslim identity (Saeed et. al. 1999: 836; Hussain and Miller 2006: 150; Hopkins 2008: 121). Other examples were adopting alternative ways of socialising such as meeting at cafés, running family and social events in non-alcoholic environments, and taking part in voluntary and charitable work. This study, thus, explains important barriers and pathways to Muslims’ integration in Scotland. The research involved 43 semi-structured interviews with Muslims who were differentiated by generation and gender. Most existing studies of Muslims in Scotland have focused on major urban areas such as Edinburgh and Glasgow (Hopkins 2004; Hussain and Miller 2006; Virdee et. al. 2006; Kyriakides et. al. 2009). My study will therefore extend such research by comparing the experiences of Muslims across Scottish major cities and small towns. It will thus deepen our understanding of Muslims in Scotland. This thesis suggests that even though religion played an important role in their integration and identity negotiation, other factors such as nationality, ethnicity, racism and Islamophobia also played a significant part. It also suggests an emerging shift in the second generation Muslims’ economic, educational and social integration into Scottish society.