Dr Saleema F. Burney

Dr Saleema F. Burney

Department of Theology and Religion
Research Fellow

Contact details

Department of Theology and Religion
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a scholar of religion with experience of working with British Muslim communities. My 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)


I 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, and we are a multidisciplinary team of researchers 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.

My 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. My 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, I highlight methodological limitations in the application of social science theories and approaches to the study of religious minorities generally, and Muslims more specifically.

I am passionate about studying and fostering cross-community relations in urban settings. I argue 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, I have worked in local government, as a Research Fellow for a think tank and in the education sector as a schoolteacher and governor.

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

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


My 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. I believe that robust research on the role of religion in society can inform public policy and perceptions. To this end, I have devoted a significant part of my PhD study to studying the everyday, inter-community interactions between London residents originating from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

I have 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, I am 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 my continuing interest in documenting unheard views, breaking down stereotypes fed by misinformation and studying lived realities for religious individuals in liberal societies.


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