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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?’
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