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What does it mean to be a Muslim in Britain?

14 December 2020

Pupils of St Teilo's Church in Wales High School being interviewed for the project
Pupils of St Teilo's Church in Wales High School being interviewed for the project. Image credit: Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK

Secondary school pupils are sharing their thoughts about what it means to be a Muslim in Britain, thanks to free teaching and learning resources developed at Cardiff University.

Discovering Muslims in Britain is a programme of nine lessons based on cutting-edge sociological research, giving Key Stage 3 students insights on what practising Muslims experience in their day-to-day lives.

Incorporating first-hand accounts from a range of sources, the resource is based on the Islam-UK Centre’s successful Muslims in Britain Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Academics are also supporting RE teachers by designing an accompanying CPD course, which will be delivered in January 2021.  Deadline for applications is 16th December 2020.

Project lead Dr Matthew Vince, of the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, based at the University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: “In the past, the teaching of Religious Education has been criticised for focusing too much on theology and beliefs at the expense of how it is actually experienced by people in modern society. Islam has been particularly vulnerable to misrepresentations and stereotypical views. Our teaching resources aim to remedy that by providing insights on the lived experience of individuals and communities."

Although the resources are aimed at anyone teaching RE across the UK, we feel they will be particularly complementary for the new Curriculum for Wales, giving teachers the flexibility to use them in full or adapt them according to the specific needs of their students.

Dr Matt Vince Honorary Research Fellow

The resources draw on views of practising Muslims in the UK.

Sixth-form student Hanan, who contributed to the project, said: “I think Islam is something that gives you hope because there's something there, there's a reason for your life. It gives you a reason, a purpose to live and it gives you guidance in life so you're not just lost.”

Fellow student Hamza added: “Islam is peace, not like what is portrayed in the news. Being a religion of peace is something to have for me to be guided every day.”

Marie Timberlake, teacher at Gilbert Inglefield Academy in Bedfordshire, who has used the materials in lessons, said: “The resources were used to develop our curriculum provision in Year 8 and have proved to be very popular with the children. They enjoyed the personal approach that the unit offered, and it was invaluable to have the videos to show the children as it allowed them to relate to people, rather than simply reading information on a page.

“The pupils particularly liked historical and geographical links in the lessons and loved the "expression through art" lessons. It was interesting to introduce them to the concept of Sociology as they have not experienced it directly before. We will certainly be reusing these resources in the future.”

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales said: “We are pleased to see that academic expertise and research has been utilised in order to prepare lessons and training material that capture the diversity of Muslim experience in Britain."

It is especially valuable that the material foregrounds the voices and experiences of Muslims themselves. This helps show Islam is not a foreign religion, but one lived and practised by millions of people in Britain today.

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Stephen Pett of RE Today said: “Islam is among the most popular topics at KS3 and GCSE-level teaching, and this resource offers thoughtful, detailed CPD for teachers and interesting ways of examining Muslim living. It roots study of Islam within recognisable contexts, providing meaningful and engaging opportunities for learning.

“Teachers will find a wealth of associated resources, including recent, cutting edge research, to extend and deepen their own subject knowledge. It is great news that these resources are freely accessible and have been made available digitally. This helps to ensure that everyone can engage fully with the course.”

To download the teaching resources simply complete this survey and follow the link that is sent afterwards.

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