2015 Thesis: “Construction of Philippine Muslim Identity: An Exploratory Ethnography of Values” by Robin C. Asbury

Understanding the psyche and motivations of Muslims has been an increasingly popular topic discussion. Popular media that tries to dissect the issue has a tendency to essentialize Islam and Muslims, which is a disservice to one of the world’s most diverse religions. This thesis examines how 16 individual Philippine Muslims construct their religious identity and what their construction says about their underlying values that make up their Muslim identity. Using personal interviews as the primary source of information, the study delves into their personal history, culture, and their conflicts to help elucidate how they view their religion and themselves as Muslims. Many informants tended to describe what Islam is in common ways, centered around the profession of faith – though others provided more emotional and/or novel ways of framing their view of faith. Conflicts relating to culture were a common trend in the respondents’ narratives, which in part led to transcultural/universalist understanding of Islam. Several informants also hold varying degrees plurality tolerance – some being wholly exclusivist to those that accepted differences in beliefs as an undeniable reality. Despite these commonalities, this study shows that the emotional and cognitive understanding of what these values mean and how they came to be part of the religious identity construction differs from individual to individual.

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