Dr Saleema F. Burney

Dr Saleema F. Burney

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Research Fellow

Contact details

School of Social Policy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Burney is a scholar of religion with experience of working with British Muslim communities. Her research interests include ‘lived religion’ in the West, how individuals negotiate religious identities in post-secular societies and research approaches that tackle the increasing populism and division observed in multicultural societies.


  • PhD Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, SOAS, University of London (2020)
  • MA (Distinction) Islamic Societies & Cultures, SOAS, University of London (2012)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Education, The Open University (2009)
  • PGCE in Primary Education, Brunel University London (2000)
  • BA Hons. (First Class) in Religious Studies & Economics, SOAS, University of London (1994)


Saleema Burney joined the University of Birmingham in June 2021 as a Research Fellow on the ‘Science and the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in Britain’ (2020-2023) project, funded by Rice University, Texas. This project sits within the wider Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society Research Group, based in the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion that conduct social scientific and humanities-based research on various aspects of the relationship between science and religion in society.

Her PhD thesis, entitled ‘British Muslim Women Between Community, Country and God’, explores the successful identification of an otherwise caricatured and unheard group of minority women. Her research focuses on British Muslim culture, religion in the West, the integration of minorities and Muslim women's social activism. It aims to rebut the ‘veil and victimhood’ caricature of Muslim women with first-hand narratives of their lives and their contribution. In addition, she highlights methodological limitations in the application of social science theories and approaches to the study of religious minorities generally, and Muslims more specifically.

She is passionate about studying and fostering cross-community relations in urban settings. She argues that there remains significant potential in superdiverse urban spaces to develop 'weak ties', and that, given the appropriate conditions, the future for both minorities and host communities in Britain is positive.

Prior to joining the University of Birmingham, she worked in local government, as a Research Fellow for a think tank and in the education sector as a schoolteacher and governor.

She returned to higher education after spending many years raising her family, and proudly support the empowerment of all young people, but especially girls like her own. She believes that together we can build a more cohesive and contemplative society, and contribute to this through her research on the role of religion in society.

Currently, she also support the integration of migrants and refugees in their new societies through her work as a Trustee of Wycombe Refugee Partnership


Her research interests include ‘lived religion’ in the West, how individuals negotiate religious identities in post-secular societies and developing research approaches that break down misrepresentation and binary modes of thinking in the popular imagination. She believes that robust research on the role of religion in society can inform public policy and perceptions. To this end, she has devoted a significant part of her PhD study to studying the everyday, inter-community interactions between London residents originating from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

She has successfully conducted three independent studies:

  • ‘British Muslim Women Between Community, Country and God: A Case Study of Successful Identification’ (PhD fieldwork 2015- 2017);
  • ‘Matrimony, Matriarchy and the Quran: A Case Study of Muslim Women in West London’ (M.A., Distinction 2012);
  • ‘Nizari Ismailism, Past and Present: The London Community’ (B.A. Hons., First Class 1994).

Currently, she is working on a project entitled 'Science and the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in Britain’ (Rice University, 2020-2023). This project will address a significant gap in the current sociology of science and religion by investigating how the relationship between Islam and science is understood and discussed by those involved in the transmission of Islamic knowledge and the establishment of Islamic authority in Britain. The project will be informed by her continuing interest in documenting unheard views, breaking down stereotypes fed by misinformation and studying lived realities for religious individuals in liberal societies.


We Don’t Have a Say: Muslim Women, Methodological Conundrums and the Potential of Hybrid Identities, Journal of Muslims in Europe 10:2 (2021) Beyond ‘the Stepford Wives Syndrome’ in: Journal of Muslims in Europe Volume 10 Issue 2 (2021) (brill.com)

British Muslim Women: Enabling Social Contribution Through Strong Hybridised Identities, Muslims in the UK and Europe V, 5:55, Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge (2019) Layout 1 (cam.ac.uk)

Reaching Out: Tackling Disengagement Among Pakistani and Bangladeshi Women in Britain, research input into report for the Institute for Public Policy Research (2018) Reaching out (ippr.org)