The three-year project, entitled ‘Digital British Islam: How do Cyber Islamic Environments impact everyday life?’, is a multi-institution project led by Professor Gary R. Bunt (University of Wales Trinity Saint David – UWTSD). As the Principal Investigator, Professor Bunt is working in collaboration with Co-Investigator Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry University) and Co-Investigator Professor Frédéric Volpi (University of Edinburgh). The team includes two research fellows, Dr Khadijah Elshayyal (Edinburgh) and Dr Sadek Hamid (UWTSD), along with two Post-Doctoral Research Assistants, Dr Alamgir Ahmed (Coventry) and Dr Laura Jones (UWTSD). The Economic and Social Research Council’s grant (ES/W002175/1) for the three-year project was valued at £804,000. The project began in May 2022.
The multi-disciplinary team is undertaking the first-ever exploration of the social impacts of digital activities that focusses on lived experiences of diverse Muslim communities in Britain. Digital British Islam is mapping and interrogating the impact of the exponential growth of cyber Islamic environments (CIEs) on intergenerational transformations within diverse UK Muslim communities, and the extent of their influence on Muslim lives, societies, practices and beliefs. Cyber-Islamic environments’ (CIEs) is an umbrella term, used to describe how different forms of internet media are used within diverse Muslim contexts. The research will map how CIEs are growing and evolving in relation to intergenerational changes within diverse UK Muslim communities. Focusing on changing narratives and experiences of religious authority, gender and political agency, this unique project will provide a platform for mapping, interpreting and understanding the diversity, interlinkages and influence of CIEs, examining reciprocal interactions between the ‘digital’ and the ‘real’.
Methodologically, this project draws upon the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team to use advanced digital archiving techniques combined with a more traditional mixed methods approach entailing focus group discussions, interviews, diary solicitation and a national survey. Rooted in lived experience, through consultative research approaches, it is envisaged that this research will directly respond to the concerns and needs of those who can use its findings in policy, organisational and community settings. Mapping CIEs within a set geographical context, which in this case is the UK, is complicated due to online spaces transcending national borders and identity categorisations. The inherent transnational nature of Islam and Muslim identities in Britain poses further challenges for this research. Yet this is also an opportunity for new theorisations around identity and geography in religious online spaces.
This research is predicated on being meaningful and relevant to those who can use its findings. It is envisaged that four audiences will benefit from this work: (i) Muslim organisations and communities, through findings that will inform their organisational digital strategies. (ii) Policy makers, through findings relevant to areas of policy-interest in relation to Muslims in Britain (iii) Public and third sector organisations that engage with Muslim communities in the UK, through findings that enable them to better reach/access/engage diverse Muslim communities and (iv) Academia. Impact will be achieved through a planned programme of public-facing and academic impact activities and resources including a sustainable, curated and open access archive of CIEs collated during the lifetime of the project, a policy brief, resources to aid community organisations in developing their digital strategies and teaching resources.