I will be looking at the religion Islam where I will be comparing the ‘religiosity’ of Muslims in Tower Hamlets to those in Bangladesh.
My hypothesis that Bengali Muslims living in Tower Hamlets are losing their religious beliefs because of the society they are brought up in.
I have chosen to study Islam because as a Muslim it will interest me to find out if there is a link between the society one lives in and the decline in ones beliefs.
I have noticed in my Bengali friends that their interest in religion and its way of life has declined. It seems to me that obtaining the materialistic goals of the ‘American Dream’ is their sole purpose in life.
Context and concepts:
The United Kingdom has changed from a country mainly populated by Christians to a country that holds many religions.
Wilson 1995 argues that this pluralism in religion means that religion no longer acts as a unifying force in society.
My research will try to find out if the Bengali Muslims in the UK are losing their faith because there is no unifying force on Muslims; Islam is a minority religion in this secular state where the mainstream religion is Christianity.
This pluralism gives Bengali’s the choice whether or not to integrate into the capitalist way of life, in other words the ‘American dream’. Hence, living in the UK is causing a decline in faith.
Research of August Comte, a Structuralist, explains that religion goes through three stages and that in each stage religion loses its importance as an institution that governs society.
These stages are:
1: The pre dominant era where religion played the theological stage in providing the dominant force of thought.
2: The Meta physical sage where philosophy became the dominant force of thought and religions supernatural beliefs were replaced with philosophical answers.
3: the last stage was the positivist’s stage where science had taken over the role of religion in providing answers to human thought.
My research into Bengali Muslims in Tower Hamlets will tell me if, like the mainstream religion, Bengali Muslims are at stage 3 of Comte’s theory. If so then my hypothesis is correct.
However, is it scientific explanations Muslims are looking for or is it the materialistic goals of the American dream as my hypothesis states?
The concepts that look into, and give meaning to, why my hypothesis may be correct are ‘ the American dream’, ‘religionisity’ and ‘secularisation’.
The secularisation theory by Wilson states that religion has lost its importance in society using the ‘disengagement concept’. This is when you immigrate and become separated from your home nation and therefore become disengaged from your religious institutions and come into contact with a materialistic way of living rather then your spiritual welfare.
Muslims that I know are conforming to the secularisation theory when accounted for through a positivists approach, taking into consideration the attendance to mosques. My research will show if it is the case for Bengalis in Tower Hamlets.
Durkheim explained possible reasons behind why a religion will lose its function. Durkheim believed that some of the functions religion promotes like taking care of your elders was now being taken over by the government. It did this by providing pensions schemes and care homes where the elderly and the poor. Bengali Muslims, the parental age group, living in the United Kingdom will also have access to these services, which in return might ease the importance of religion parents might place on their children.
Religionisity looks into the ways in which religion has lost the importance in a person’s life. It looks at the methods used to measure the decline in religious importance. I will be taking into consideration Brierley’s methods when I begin my research.
Belonging: this looks at how an individual puts themselves in line with their religion.
Practise: this looks at attendance figures of church and how attendance is declining.
Belief: this defines the way a person is involved with the religion.
My research will adapt Brierlys concepts to use them on Bengali Muslims in Tower Hamlets. My gatherings from this form of research will give me enough evidence to come to the conclusion on whether or not religion is declining and if so then to what it is declining to.
The American dream is a concept used to explain the capitalist way of life ‘Legitimate greed that excludes the belief in religion in ones life’. It can be used to explain how Bengali Muslims might have come to a stage of neglect towards their religion. It might be that pressure to conform towards the American way of life has forced my friends to choose greed over belief. The ‘American dream’ in this context can be in the form of materialistic goals such as education, work and wealth and by conforming to these means causes an adverse effect in ones belief.
My study is inevitably looking at the concept of secularisation. However not many sociologists have looked at secularisation on an ethnic minority religion in the United Kingdom. As it was believed that ethnic minority religions are more integrated with their beliefs than the mainstream religion. However, as Comte’s theory goes that over time the society comes to the third step of Comte’s theory. My hypothesis states that Bengali Muslims in the UK have come to this stage, the question arises ‘what happens to the future of Islam in the United Kingdom?’
My research will be from a Structuralist perspective, I will be analysing secondary statistical data to judge the religiosity of Bengali Muslims in Tower Hamlets and Bangladesh. The data I will be looking at is going to be the data of mosques in Tower Hamlets as well as a community in Bangladesh. This data is going to be in a Quantitive form where the local mosques will carry out research I have set them to do.
My representatives will use the questionnaire I provide them as their skeletal for the research they will carry out. The data I will collect will be secondary as it is being carried out by the representatives. This data will provide me with enough evidence for me to come up with my conclusions on whether or not the British Bengali Muslims are conforming to the American way of life.
I have chosen to study the country Bangladesh because it has more than 80% of the population as Muslim. So it could be said that Bangladesh, because it has Islam as its mainstream religion is at Comte’s stage 1 of the secularisation theory. Having Bangladesh at stage 1 will help me conclude on whether or not the UK, at stage 3 of Comte’s theory is affecting Bengali Muslims.
The data I will be looking for are going to be figures that show a decline in attendance to the mosques. This will be for the Muslims in Tower Hamlets whereas I will be looking to find no change in the data collected for Bangladesh to prove my theory. This type of data was not found in the statistics of the UK nor was it found in the statistics of Bangladesh. For this reason I have decided to set up my own research that pin points down the type of material I need. However I have kept it statistical as well as secondary as the representatives of the mosques have been more then willing to carry out the research for me.
The ways in which I will do this are using % ratios and comparative techniques; an example of this is shown:
An example of this is when the mosque in East London has only 10 people out of 100 Muslims come the first day (10%) and then 5 people come the next day (5%) and then for Bangladesh you get 200 people out of 400 Muslims come the first day (50%) and then 210 people out of 400 Muslims come the next day (52.5%). This shows that the UK has a fall in attendance whereas Bangladesh does not. Even though there are more people in Bangladesh the percentage ration has enabled me to compare both countries.
I have used religionisity as a concept to explain how my hypothesis may be correct. The methods it uses to make claims about secularisation can be applied to my research. It is very practical in the sense that Brierley’s methods can be easily adapted to suit my research.
Brierly 1999 looked at the mainstream religion Christianity where he analysed the research methods, belief, practice and belonging to come to the conclusion that religion is declining. However Brierley raised problems of religionsity ‘the measurement of the importance of religion in a person’s life’.
The ‘practise concept’ looks at attendance figures. The criticisms it faces are to do with the different methods it uses to gather the statistics. Research methods have to contain the same techniques throughout different pieces of research in order to use them to compare them with each other. For this reason I am going to explain to my representatives how to measure attendance.
The other problem I will face with statistics is that secondary data might be unrepresentative. This is because the population of the area in the UK might be different to the population of the area in Bangladesh. In that case I will not be able to make any direct comparison. To overcome this problem I will have to come up with ratios that put everything into perspective.
Also that the definition of attendance might differ from mosque to mosque, it might mean attendance to prayer once a day or five times a day. Does going to mosque once a day justify ones beliefs? This is why I will be defining attendance as going to mosque, any mosque, 5 times per day.
Another problem when analysing attendance figures is that it does not necessarily mean in Islam that not going to mosque means a decline in belief or faith. Muslims are allowed to worship at home. However as my research will be done through a Structuralist perspective I will be sticking to the method which links mosque attendance to the belief in religion. This is a problem because if someone came to the mosque in the morning and did not attend in the evening then under the secularisation concept these Muslims will be conforming to secularisation:
The problem with researching the ‘belief concept’ is that it is hard to define what belief is. To keep my research simple I will be categorising belief by defining it as the belief in Islam. This is expressed through the name one chooses to be called; a believer must have a Muslim name.
For the reasons above I have decided to set the agenda and give a representative of the mosque a particular date for them to do their research for me. This will overcome any problems of defining practise, belief and attendance as I will define it for them. It will also solve the problem on the different methods of collecting the statistics, as I will set the method for the representatives to use to collect their data.