People, places and texts: re/presenting Islam in Edinburgh, Scotland
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date13/12/2020
Alibhai, Fayaz Shiraz Dawood
Of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims, nearly two-thirds originate from South Asia, primarily Pakistan and Bangladesh, with the remainder from North Africa, East Europe and South East Asia. Much of the scholarship on Muslims in Britain tends, however, to be limited to Muslims in England, typically about Pakistanis, and focusing on cities such as London, Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham and Manchester. Within the field, the literature encompasses all manner of disciplines, tackling the obvious — gender, media representations, political participation, and Islamophobia — and the less common — architecture, conversion, and healthcare. A small number of studies have also examined the experiences of particular groups and communities such as Arabs, Iranians, Somalis, Turks, and Yemenis. Despite these developments, there remains a dearth of scholarship on three intersecting fronts: denominational, geographic, and thematic. Indeed, research on the Shiʿa, Scotland, and Muslim spaces of worship and gathering in the West other than the mosque, continues to be under-represented in the field of Muslims in Britain. Additionally, the role that Muslims play in creating and contributing to the wider social, cultural and intellectual capital of the communities and societies within which they live, particularly in Western contexts, is often ignored. With just under 77,000 Muslims in Scotland, this thesis examines the people, places and texts beyond the mosque which re/present Islam in the festival and capital city of Edinburgh, home to about 12,400 Muslims. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 2011-2013 and encompassing participant-observation, and visual and textual analysis from a variety of primary sources, the thesis additionally melds elements from human geography and Islamic studies. Through four case studies, it analyses, in turn, how Islam and Muslims generally are re/presented in Scotland as well as how Muslims in Scotland specifically re/present Islam and themselves. Across the people, places, and texts encapsulated by the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, two large-scale Sunni conferences and a smaller Shiʿi ritual procession, the thesis explores several inter-related themes — the concept of space, notions of praxis, leadership and authority, the role of women, and the production of knowledge as a function of cultural endeavour. In so doing, the thesis provides an auditorium for fresh and ‘thickly descriptive’ new voices from an ethnography ‘at home’ for Islam in Scotland, and which underscores the importance of culture and cultural production. The public performance of Islam in this context includes and re/presents insiders as well as outsiders — to other insiders and outsiders, and from platforms and perspectives which have not previously been considered in the literature, and/or whose reach does not rely on long-standing traditional, institutional, or organisational foundations to be heard or considered seriously. As such, this research aims to contribute to and expand existing research on Muslims in Britain, and specifically Scotland, highlighting crosscutting themes insofar as notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ re/presentations of Islam bear upon other studies in the field vis-à-vis identity, praxis, gender, education, and authority.