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Believing and belonging: the everyday lives of Muslim youth in Canada

Munawar, Nabila Fatima (2017) Believing and belonging: the everyday lives of Muslim youth in Canada. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The ongoing debate around radicalisation, citizenship, refugees, and religious accommodation have posed serious questions about the nature of belonging and the loyalty of Muslim youth within Canada. Adding to that, foiled terrorist incidents by young men with Muslim backgrounds in Canada have shone the spotlight squarely on young Muslims. As such, the importance of examining the way that issues/debates around immigration, security, religion, race and belonging are impacting on the lives of Muslim youth has grown. Mainstream Canadian public opinion has grown increasingly suspicious, hostile and fearful of young Muslims. Perceptions of young Muslims operate in a highly racialised context as Islamophobia grows not only in mainstream Canadian society but also within the Muslim community itself. Inclusions and exclusions have begun to develop around questions of ethnicity and race, refugees, migrants and ‘homegrown’ Canadian Muslims, and the fear of the ‘other’. Within this climate, young Muslims continue to live their everyday lives. This thesis explores the lives of Muslim youth and the way they articulate and perform their ideas around belonging and ‘believing’, as Muslims, as they permeate the minutiae of everyday life in Canada. From the mall to the mosque, from the club to the football pitch – these everyday occurrences problematise common-sense understandings of Muslim youth in Canada. In 2011-2013, I conducted 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in youth clubs, malls, mosques, cafes and the spaces young Muslims frequent in Toronto, Hamilton, Haltom, and other areas in Southern Ontario. My participants were youth who identified as Muslim, who were both male and female, and who came from diverse backgrounds, histories, diasporic communities, ethnicities, class positioning, and levels of ‘religiosity’. Through this, I tell a story of the nature of everyday life for Muslim youth, and the ways in which they negotiate their identities and sense of belonging in Canada. I argue that this intersectional approach is necessary in order to understand how race, class, faith, gender and age intersect and overlap on an everyday level to illustrate what being young and Muslim looks and feels like in Canada. Religion is often seen as a defining feature of Muslim youths’ lives; however, in this thesis I illustrate that young Muslims’ lives can be complex, messy and fluid where different parts of their identities become important according to the context in which they find themselves at different moments. Therefore, central to this work are ideas of belonging, home and faithfulness. In addition, this thesis considers the role of spirituality in Muslim youths’ lives and how it can imbue the way they see themselves, the worlds in which they live, and their ideas of home.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Nabila Fatima Munawar
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Alexander, Claire and Ali, Suki

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