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Black men, religiosity and desistance: exploring Islam, desistance and identity

Shona Robinson-Edwards (Centre for Applied Criminology, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Craig Pinkney (School of Education and Community, University College Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 15 December 2017

Issue publication date: 2 January 2018




The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of Ibrahim, an ex-offender who has embraced Islam. Ibrahim professes Islam to be the influential element to his desistance process. This study explores Ibrahim’s journey, emphasising and reflecting upon youth; criminality and religiosity. Much of the current research relating to Black men and offending is limited to masculinity, father absence, gangs and criminality. The role of religiosity in the lives of offenders and/or ex-offenders is often overlooked. The authors suggest that identity, religiosity and desistance can raise a host of complexities while highlighting the unique challenges and benefits experienced by Ibrahim, following the practice of religion.


This paper took a qualitative, ethnographic approach, in the form of analysing and exploring Ibrahim’s personal lived experience. The analysis of semi-structured interviews, and reflective diaries, utilising grounded theory allowed the formation of the following three core themes: desistance, religion and identity.


The findings within this paper identify an interlink between desistance, religion and identity. The role of religiosity is becoming increasingly more important in academic social science research. This paper highlights the complexities of all three above intersections.

Research limitations/implications

This paper explores the complexities of religiosity in the desistance process of Ibrahim. Research in relation to former gang members in the UK and the role of religiosity in their lives is fairly under-researched. This paper seeks to build on existing research surrounding gang, further exploring religiosity from a UK context.

Practical implications

Time spent with Ibrahim had to be tightly scheduled, due to the work commitments of both Ibrahim and the researcher. Therefore, planning had to be done ahead in an efficient manner.

Social implications

Researching the way individuals experience the world is a “growing phenomenon”. This paper aimed to explore the lived experience of religiosity from the perspective of Ibrahim. However, it was important to not stereotype and label all Black males who have embraced Islam and desisted from crime. Therefore, this paper’s intention is not to stereotype Black men, but to raise awareness and encourage further discussion surrounding the role of religiosity in the lives of ex-offenders’.


To the authors’ knowledge, studies specifically focusing on the role of Islam in the life of an ex-offender are few and far between. Therefore, findings from this study are important to develop further understanding surrounding religiosity, offending and desistance. This study explores the lived experiences of Ibrahim, an former gang member and ex-offender who professes Islam to be a fundamental source to his desistance process.



Robinson-Edwards, S. and Pinkney, C. (2018), "Black men, religiosity and desistance: exploring Islam, desistance and identity", Safer Communities, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 47-67.



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