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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.
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