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Major new studies of Islam in Britain

29 August 2007

The religious upbringing of young Muslims in Wales is one of two major new research studies to be undertaken by Cardiff University’s unique Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK and the School of Social Sciences.

The Centre working in partnership with Dr Jonathan Scourfield, School of Social Sciences, will investigate how children of primary school age and below are brought up to be Muslims. The Centre has also just won a research grant to investigate the training and role of Muslim chaplains.

The first study will involve research among families in Cardiff, a city with a diverse Muslim population representing many different traditions and ethnic groups. The research team will conduct interviews, ask children to keep audio diaries and also observe the religious practices of some families.

The researchers aim to answer a number of questions, including the practicalities of bringing children up amidst a non-Muslim society, children’s own understanding of their religion, and differences between families by religious tradition, ethnic background and social class. They will also look at whether there is evidence of increasing secular influences on beliefs and practices in Muslim families.

The second study will look at Muslim chaplains, who are emerging as a new kind of religious professional in many public institutions such as prisons and hospitals. The research team will look at who becomes a chaplain, their work and its impact, and the effect of existing institutions on them.

Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, said: "These are both important research studies which will increase our understanding of Muslim communities in the UK. While there has been a lot of study of Muslim adolescents and young people, less is known about very young children and their development.

"Muslim chaplains, with their need for counselling skills, an understanding of public institutions and their ability to work in multi-faith teams, are seen by some as the kind of professional religious leadership the Muslim community has been looking for."

The Centre won funding for both studies from the Religion and Society Large Grant Scheme run by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. The Scheme awarded more than £350,000 for the families study and more than £250,000 for the chaplains’ study.

The Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK is the first institution of its kind in the country. It was set up to generate high-quality research into Muslim communities in Britain and to counter the many myths and misunderstandings surrounding them.



Notes to Editors:

1. Dr Jonathan Scourfield (Tel: 029 20875402) and Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray (Tel: 029 20870121) are available for interview.

2.Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of Britain’s leading research universities.

Visit the University website at:

3. Cardiff School of Religious and Theological Studies

Religious studies has been taught at Cardiff for nearly a century, and the School of Religious and Theological Studies is among the top Schools in the UK. The Collegiate Faculty of Theology brings together teachers and students from the University and the two theological colleges in Cardiff, St Michael’s College Llandaff and the South Wales Baptist College.

The School has contacts with various religious and cultural centres of different traditions in Britain and overseas. It offers courses in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Indian Religions. Research is strong in the areas of Indian religions; religion in Late Antiquity (Patristics), practical theology, Biblical studies (including Hebrew and Greek texts), and the British church (history and thought since the Reformation).

Research in Indian religions explores the nineteenth century religions within the continent, the classical languages of Sanskrit, and Indian philosophical thoughts. The Patristics Research Group, one of the largest in the UK, contributes to a range of scholarship from the second century to the ninth, from Spain in the West to Syria and Mesopotamia in the East, and over topics as varied as prophecy, philosophy, spirituality, heresy liturgy, rhetoric and cultural history. Practical theology addresses ethics, missiology and the Church in society.

The Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK is part of the School of Religious & Theological Studies and aims to promote scholarly and public understanding of Islam and the life of Muslim communities in the UK. The Centre specialises in the inter-disciplinary study of Islam and Muslims, with a particular emphasis on sociological and anthropological methodology.

For further details visit:

4. School of Social Sciences

The School of Social Sciences encompasses teaching and research in social studies and education. Within social studies, the School has research interests in five main areas: criminology and criminal justice; health and medicine, knowledge and social change; modernity (time, risk, environment); and social welfare systems. Recent research includes investigation of drug use, white collar fraud, child welfare, domestic violence and European environmental policies. Many of the staff are international experts in their fields. In the independent government assessment of teaching quality, the School was awarded the highest, "Excellent" rating. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, the School was awarded a Grade 5 Star rating for Education and a Grade 5 for Sociology, indicating research of international excellence.

Further Information:

For more information, please contact:

Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray
Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK
School of Religious and Theological Studies
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 20870121
Mobile: 07702 345 342

Dr Jonathan Scourfield
School of Social Sciences
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 20875402

Emma Darling
Public Relations Officer
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 20874499