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Reworking the common sense of British Muslims: Salafism, culture, and politics within London’s Muslim community

Dawood, Iman (2021) Reworking the common sense of British Muslims: Salafism, culture, and politics within London’s Muslim community. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004347


The rise of Salafism in various localities around the world has captured the attention of many researchers. Existing approaches to Salafism do not, however, give enough attention to the cultural dimensions of the movement. This thesis thus proposes the adoption of a Gramscian lens in the study of contemporary Salafism—one that takes seriously power and politics as well as culture and religion. Taking London’s Muslim community as a case study, it examines the attempts of Saudi Arabia (and other members of the transnational Salafi historical bloc) to introduce Salafism as an alternative hegemonic conception within London’s Muslim community. It explores the Salafi movement through all its “molecular phases” between 1980-2020, focusing on how the movement has impacted the common sense (or taken for granted heterogenous ideas) of British Muslims through the years. Based on more than 150 interviews and 20 months of participant observation in Salafi and non-Salafi spaces in London, it argues that Salafism is no longer confined to Salafi shaykhs (scholars), leaders, or members of the movement, but that elements of it have become ingrained in the common sense of a much wider segment of London’s Muslim community. At the same time, however, it finds that this has been a far from straightforward, complete, or irreversible process. In fact, it finds that even British Muslims who adopted Salafism during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, have experienced several contradictions as they attempted to live their lives according to a Salafi conception of the world, and many have gone on to rethink Salafism. This thesis also pays particular attention to the lives of Salafi women, challenging accounts that present them as fully compliant with Salafism, and shedding light on their conscious and unconscious departures from Salafi gender norms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Iman Dawood
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Chalcraft, John

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