Muslim asylum-seekers and refugees: negotiating politics, religion and identity in the UK
Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Yousif M Qasmiyeh
In the current geopolitical context, religion, nationality and country of origin have increasingly become intertwined and politicized in relation to asylum, both as policy and as personal experience. Based on interviews conducted in the UK with a range of Middle Eastern Muslim asylum-seekers and refugees, this article proposes that regional and religious identity markers have grown to dictate interactions, be they real or imagined, with the host community. Throughout the article we explore the nature of changes in religious identity, identification and practice since interviewees applied for asylum in the UK. We also highlight the significance of a range of gendered factors and experiences, including childhood and growing up in the UK, effective masculinity and un/productive parenthood, in negotiating transformative political and legal realities. More broadly, our research suggests that UK-based Muslim asylum-seekers from the Middle East find themselves exposed to three intersecting vulnerabilities: firstly, their uncertain legal status; secondly, their voluntary or imposed religious identification as ‘Muslims’; and lastly, their exclusion from established Muslim communities in the UK.