In this paper I discuss the difficulties I faced in getting access to respondents in a qualitative study on the opinions of Muslim religious leaders on domestic violence experienced by Muslim married women. This in turn highlighted the need for me to reflect carefully on my own assumptions about my insider status and take into account how prospective participants identify me as a researcher. For the study on which I am reflecting, I chose an interpretive research paradigm which falls under the umbrella of qualitative research. This research paradigm was necessary as it places emphasis on context and nuanced meanings and was intended to allow me to interrogate the way religious leaders dealt with domestic violence and the rationale behind their approaches. Using this approach allowed me to explore some of the structural constraints that came to the fore via anecdotal research. This paper presents the challenges I faced and how I looked to overcome them and includes a detailed discussion of why the qualitative research approach was the most appropriate for this study, how I selected the participants, and how I experienced the interview process. Importantly, it speaks to reflexivity. In May of 2017, I set out to conduct in-depth semi-structured interviews within the Gauteng region using purposive and snowball sampling. Trying to access participants proved to be difficult and it became clear that a mistrust exists between the academy and some theological organizations. Insider/outsider phenomena, which were envisaged at the proposal stage, proved to be important.


insider/outsider research, sampling, reflexivity

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Muhammed Suleman, PhD, is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa). He recently completed his doctoral research focusing on the views of Muslim religious leaders regarding domestic violence experienced by Muslim married women. His research and teaching interests are in religion, crime, clinical sociology, sport, social justice, family sociology, gender studies, population dynamics, and conflict studies. He has worked as a sessional lecturer at Monash, SA. Suleman is active in community organisations, particularly with the Azaadville Health and Wellness Association and the South African National Zakaah Fund. His recent publications include a 2016 article (co-authored with S. Rasool) entitled “Muslim Women Overcoming Marital Violence: Breaking through ‘Structural and Cultural Prisons’” and a 2018 chapter (co-authored with T. Chagonda) entitled “Crime and Deviance” (in Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction, edited by P. Stewart and J. Zaaiman, published by Juta). He recently co-authored a chapter titled “Women, Children & Families in Southern Africa: Sub-Narratives and Interventions” with Prof K. Naidoo and Dr N. Indongo (in Clinical Sociology for Southern Africa, edited by Prof T. Uys and Prof J. M. Fritz, published by Juta). Suleman has presented at conferences nationally and internationally. His email address is muhammeds@uj.ac.za.

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