Rethinking Western Muslim Identity with Social Representations

  • Tarek Younis University College London, London, United Kingdom
  • Ghayda Hassan Université du Québec à Montréal
Keywords: Western Muslims, social representations, social identity, identity integration, moral panic


The research subject of social identity among Western Muslims raises concern, as it is questionable if one can dissociate its political implications from academic analysis. This article uses the concept of social representations as a viable alternative in providing a more nuanced depiction of Western Muslim identity dynamics. We first illustrate the need to go beyond the identity construct in social psychology, as it may potentially reproduce the moral panic surrounding Muslims in public consciousness. We then propose an alternative conceptualisation Western Muslim identity - using social representations - which emphasizes the importance of common-sensical knowledge structures. We discuss the necessity of understanding Western Muslim group dynamics without politically reifying the implicit incongruity of national/religious affiliations via the construct of ‘identity’.

Author Biographies

Tarek Younis, University College London, London, United Kingdom

TAREK YOUNIS is a psychologist and Newton International Postdoctoral Fellow, funded by the British Academy. He is presently stationed in the Division of Psychiatry at University College London. His dissertation explored the religious and national identity development of Western Muslim young adults. His current research explores the impact of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy on healthcare provision and access. Email:

Ghayda Hassan, Université du Québec à Montréal

GHAYDA HASSAN is a professor of psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Québec, Canada and has several research, clinical, and community-based national and international affiliations. Her clinical and research activities focus on the interplay of culture, identity, mental health, and violence among the specific studied groups. Email:

Free standing papers