Racialised representations of Muslims and Islam in the social media: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Pakistani Muslim HE students perceptions and experiences

  • Ishba Rehman

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background: Research specific to Muslim minority perspectives on social media representations of Islam remains limited and literature pertaining to Pakistani Muslim students' experiences of the phenomenon almost non-existent. This study makes an original contribution by examining social media depictions of Muslims and Islam from the perspective of Pakistani Muslim HE students. Given its commitment to issues of difference and diversity (in the context of wellbeing), it is important for counselling psychology to examine this subject. Methodology: A qualitative design was adopted to explore the perceptions and experiences of six Pakistani Muslim students attending university education in Britain. Semi structured interviews were conducted and an IPA approach was used to analyse the transcripts. Findings: Four key super-ordinate themes were identified: 'The self and the (perceived) other', 'Understanding exposure and influence', 'Making sense of intersecting identities' and 'Processing and coping'. Conclusions: Negative social media constructions of Pakistani Muslims (and Muslims in general) were found to be relevant to participants' experiences of perceived discrimination, microaggressions and racist abuse (in both online and offline contexts). Participants' subjective processes of rationalisation and normalisation allowed them to make sense of and cope with hateful expressions towards their ethnic and religious identities. Also imperative to their processes of coping, were participants' positive experiences within British HE institutions. These findings taken together are aimed at offering an understanding of the discursive power of the social media particularly in forming perceptions pertaining to racialised identities. The potential implications, limitations and recommendations for future research are discussed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJo Shuttleworth (Supervisor) & Terry Hanley (Supervisor)


  • Counselling psychology
  • Higher Education (HE).
  • intersecting identities
  • lived experience
  • Social Media
  • Islam
  • Muslims

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