Religion does play an important role in cultural transition, focused on UK

Society is shaped by religion among just other few things, therefore a definition of what this is talking about seems required: [religion is a set of] “beliefs, actions, and institutions predicated on the existence of entities with powers of agency (that is, gods) or impersonal powers or processes possessed of moral purpose (the Hindu notion of Karma, for example), which can set the conditions of, or intervene in, human affairs” (Bruce, 2002). The main changes that transferred most of the societies from religiously-ruled to what we would meet today (secularization) is modernization. Modernity begins with, and means the, questioning and somewhat rejection of tradition, the enforcement of individualism and formal equality, and belief in inevitable social, scientific, and technological progress (Foucault, 1975: 170-77). Note: not the entire world is secularized, but there is a globalized secularization manta (Peter Berger) – this will be discussed with another occasion soon enough. The idea of cultural transition is by far not from the past. Various migrants movements are still highly active even within European countries. Just thinking about why Hungary actually built a wall in 2015 proves the point (border barrier as it is nicer called). But the article will be mostly focused on the UK.

The Pakistani Muslims began to fluidly migrate to Britain around 1950s to satisfy the power of labour. Relating from 2001 statistics, there were 650,516 Pakistanis who identified themselves as Muslims. The ONS predicted then for 2005 a growth of approx. 200,000 Pakistani Muslims. In order for all the individuals to integrate in the new society, they had to face change in the perception of the reality: the different manners of living in general had to ‘turn’ the into British citizens. Therefore, the only way in which one can preserve their traditions is by getting together with other alike. Being religious since before moving, Pakistani Muslims had to reconstruct their environment in Britain, which was harder than presumed because of discrimination via stereotyping. According to the 2001 Census, 98% of the British Pakistani are Muslims, that including those born in UK. Key religious organizations have been set up for a better integration, that would be the UK Islamic mission, The British Muslim Forum, The Union of Muslim Organisations, the Islamic Society of Britain, and the Young Muslims (London: Department for Communities and Local Government, 2009: 1.3). These all to prevent losing cultural and religious identity, yet concern mostly the first generation of migrants, although, as seen from the existence of ‘Young Muslims’, in-Britani born Pakistani preserve their traditions and nationality via religion as well.

All this makes perfect sense for the first generation, maybe the second one as well, but what happens, though, after a couple of generations? It is shown by surveys that cross-border marriage within the ethno-religious group help to keep the religious identification (Phalet et al., 2008). That means, individuals usually keep themselves within their specific group to preserve its features for generations to come. We need to keep in mind that we talk about immigrants, individuals whose spouses will be schooled in, in this case, Britain. When being educated, individuals are bound to interact with the environment as of the country instead of that created by his/her family. One more piece of the chain up, we therefore see that secularization is taking over tradition/religion. It’s not implied that religion would not be practiced anymore, but it loses importance in everyday life. “The well-educated were a minority among Muslim immigrants. Their lower religious involvement now is likely to be related to the fact that elites are relatively secular in some countries of origin, such as Turkey” (cf. Guveli, 2011).

An issue to the above idea would be that, on the same fact that they are religious, these groups, Muslims or any other, need their religious traditions kept and, for most of them, that means clustering to have the possibility to, for example, have the day off work when they celebrate a religiously-based event. An example can even be Christians, both orthodox and catholic Christians celebrate Easter, yet a week differs between the dates (usually). Also, a given example are the Jews of northern London, who all live in specific areas, not because anyone would (still) discriminate them, but because they feel the need to continue their traditions and for that they need a closed functioning circle which allows them to look like, act like, and act when and as their tradition is.

Another reason for which migrants cluster can be the simple understanding. Britain is also host country for Nigerian students or young workers who seek profit in order to return home. In Hunt’s interview in 2002, a 22 years old female claimed that “It is not always easy to settle here from another country. God is always here and the church is always here even when I have no money or a job”. The idea that they are not alone and are being understood is also why these people attend the church, 49% of those asked “why did you chose your present Church” answered that they ‘felt like home’; it is also mentioned in Hunt’s interview how the Pentecostal Church did change its face for the younger generations, therefore it is easier to claim membership – “The church is geared to young people. It is not unnecessarily restrictive (…) The Church allows young people to express themselves in their own way” (Jeniffer, 20 years old). Moreover, Pentecostals asked if by ‘believe’ they meant Christian beliefs answered “Yes, that’s part of it. The gospel and all that. But also shared aspirations and hopes”. One of the answers also explains the above ideas in just a few sentences: “People like to continue with the same set up, and with people of a similar background to themselves” (Jennifer, 20 years old).

Considering the Muslims in UK, the RCCG and the examples of Jews, religion itself as a belief means almost the same as it meant in their home-country, but as migrants and considering cultural transition, it does mean a lot more because it affects all parts of their lives: their interactions, their daily-life goes around the traditions which, most of them, are religious. As Hunt writes, “in terms of their social purpose, the new churches [RCCG] are (…) double-coded, they reflect the developments in Nigeria, and function in a constructive way for West Africans in what is (…) the experience of the alienating environment of British society”. On the other hand, there are secularized individuals who aren’t a part of the group, live further away and adopt the destination’s country life-style, but statistically they don’t consist the peak. Through modernisation and constant brutal technological and scientific process, religion loses ground, but those are not the contra argument. This is because nor science nor technology contradict religion, but explain and extend physical phenomena and, therefore, religious explanations lose ground.

“The fundamental assumptions underlying them [technology and science] which we can summarily describe as ‘rationality’ (…) make it unlikely that we will often entertain the notion of the divine” (Bruce, 19969: 51). For example, on April 5th 2007, The St. Petersburg Declarations quotes “We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree. (…) We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.” (Center For Inquiry, 2007). Moreover, the National Secular Society published in 2016 an article written by Maajid Nawaz, which quotes: “Instead of integrating with wider society, many Muslims in Britain turned in on themselves, integrating more with their co-religionists globally while pulling away from the society into which they were born. (…) As a country we ended up living together, apart”. This information does indeed prove the existence of secular Muslims, but deeply it only shows how cultural transition is so much influenced by religion: even when a group of people declare themselves secular they still need to ‘fight’ religious effects on their own migrant group and on the society they integrate into.

Because of the drastic and rapid technological and scientific development, cultural transition has many ways to happen throughout a workplace, a university, but the migrants who attend one of the two have to be integrated in a more various social life. This can happen in a way or another depending on how secularized the individuals are, but, for example, as some religions interdict consuming alcoholic beverages, those people will not socialise with other over a pint of beer at the end of the day. Socialization over work and university-related duties is hard for people who are bound by their tradition to act in different ways that the country they arrived in and, therefore, clustering happens, in the same time, cultural transition has a hard time to become accomplished. The religious rituals such as attending services once per week, or gathering together for prayers, etc., serve as opportunities for migrants to spend time with people pf their own background. Therefore, religion is important for cultural transition as it has a socializing effect, not only due to the individuals’ beliefs.


[Note] This is adapted from an official submitted essay to the University of Aberdeen for the course Religion and Society, 2016 [/Note]

About allebsart-alexandrabucur

Creativity is in all sorts of fields and I am trying my best to show that even the academic sphere can be made interesting and that social sciences can be understood by everyone, regardless of their background! In my opinion, we, social scientists, abuse the use of jargon and referencing. Our core aim should be making everyone understand ‘what we are on about’, and yet academia forces students to deprive themselves of originality and take for granted that a social scientist must always refer to past-theories and if one would think different, refer to other theories in order to contradict the first. But this is not always the case, is it? I will disagree with a theory through my own seeing of the reality, there is no reference but me for that! Societies change at such a fast rate and sources of research have changed since the 1800s, so then, if I may ask, why be bound to always refer to such past dates? I have written a full article here (click) as well and I will always argue that “The reality begins where we state facts of individuals living through a given period, where individuals of a society confirm the theory”. This website is supposed to showcase creative sociology, with articles written for everyone to grasp, topics that are intriguing, and conclusions that may defy the common belief. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, requirements for topics to be covered, or any help in understanding social processes. [Note] allebsart does not share its work, workload, or meaning with anyone or any other business. [/Note]
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