Thursday, January 02, 2014

An analysis of religiosity and social attitudes of Muslims in the UK

by Salman Hameed

Here is an interesting recent paper that not only looks at the religiosity and social attitudes of Muslims in the UK, but also tries to locate the source(s) of the differences between minority Muslims in a  majority Christian country: Are Muslims a Distinctive Minority? An Empirical Analysis of Religiosity, Social Attitudes, and Islam by Valerie A. Lewis and Ridhi Kashyap in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR). [Unfortunately you do need subscription to access it. If you want to read the full article, drop me an email and I can send you a copy]

So what do they find? Well, they find that British Muslims are more religious and more conservative in social attitudes than their non-Muslim counterparts:
In this study we principally addressed two questions: How religious are British Muslims across different measures of religiosity? To what extent can religiosity and disadvantaged socioeconomic factors explain Muslims’ attitudes on gender, abortion, and homosexuality? Using new data we find that Muslims are indeed more religious than other Britons. Religious adherence among Muslims remains strong across a range of measures, involving both practice and belief. Compared to other religiously affiliated Britons, Muslims attend services more, pray more, read scripture more, are more likely to believe in God, and report more salience of religion to daily life and identity. Even as the levels of Christian belief and practice have dwindled in Britain (Voas and Crockett 2005), it appears that Muslim religious identity, belief, and practice remain strong. 
In addition to being more religious than other Britons, our data indicate that Muslims are more conservative than other Britons across the range of social attitudes: gender roles in a family, divorce, premarital sex, several cases of abortion, homosexuality, and gay marriage.
Okay - so this is not that surprising. But then, here is the interesting part:
Upon disentangling the effects of religiosity and socioeconomic factors in explaining conservatism among Muslims on attitudes of gender and sexual liberalism, we find that religiosity among all Britons, whether Muslim or Christian, is related to more conservative social attitudes on sex and gender. This finding indicates that there is less distinctive about Muslims qua Muslims on gender and abortion attitudes; in fact, Muslim social attitudes on several measures resemble those of other religious people more generally. This suggests that the distinction between the religious and nonreligious is more salient to social attitudes than distinctions between different religious groups. As a contribution to an ongoing sociological debate, our analysis suggests that those who are more religious, regardless of religion, tend to hold more conservative moral and social attitudes, but the extent of the impact of religiosity varies on different issues. These findings support findings in contexts such as the United States that suggest religiosity rather than any one religious tradition is correlated with conservative social attitudes (Putnam and Campbell 2010).
However, two factors buck this trend: premarital sex and attitudes towards homosexuality (though, interestingly, not towards civil unions).

Here is are two nice graphics that summarize their results (including normalizations):

The question about abortion uses the following three situations: The three situations asked of respondents are if a woman's health is endangered, if a couple cannot afford any more children, and if a woman decides on her own she does not wish to have a child.

There is a lot more entanglement between minority issues and socioeconomic factors, but I appreciated the way these authors have approached this topic. And yes, their sample size is small (close to 500 Muslims) and mostly made up of South Asians, nevertheless, this provides a way for a deeper analysis.

Lewis and Kashyap (2013), Are Muslims a Distinctive Minority? An Empirical Analysis of Religiosity, Social Attitudes, and Islam, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (Volume 52, Issue 3, pages 617–626, DOI: 10.1111/jssr.12044)

And of course, if you want to understand some of these issues through films, try Beautiful Launderette or My Son the Fanatic - both by Hanif Kureishi. Here is the trailer for My Son the Fanatic:


DonE said...

Thanks for the heads up. I'm rewriting the paper I presented at the SSSR conference (again) and I'll take a look at this. It might help me support some of the complications that I need to introduce into the comparative picture.

Salman Hameed said...

Great. Send me the draft when you are done.