From Imam to Researcher

A Critical Reflection on Researching Muslim Chaplains in the UK


  • Ali D. Omar Ministry of Defence



higher education, HM Prison, Imam, insider/outsider, Muslim chaplaincy, NHS, positionality, religious training, shalwar kamees, shared religious identity


This article has been prompted by fieldwork undertaken on the ‘Muslim Chaplaincy in Britain’ project between September 2008 and August 2009. The article evaluates key challenges and sensitivities encountered during the fieldwork. The points for discussion include issues of positionality, insider /outsider, access and interviewing ‘the other’. In particular the article discusses the significance of the researcher’s biography - himself a Muslim Chaplain and Imam- and how these have impacted on the collection and production of data. In this article I will use the argument that ‘shared religious identity’ can and does affect the research process. The intention of the article is to communicate to other Muslim social researchers engaged in research on Islam and Muslims on what to expect in the field.


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Author Biography

Ali D. Omar, Ministry of Defence

Ali D. Omar currently works as the Muslim Chaplain to HM Armed Forces. Previously he worked in HMP prisons, NHS hospitals, higher and further education institutes and community chaplaincy in UK. He is also an experienced Imam, teacher and counsellor with experience in communicating and engaging with different levels of audiences.


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How to Cite

Omar, A. (2016). From Imam to Researcher: A Critical Reflection on Researching Muslim Chaplains in the UK. Fieldwork in Religion, 10(1), 65–81.