The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

Brandon Turner

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy  


“Most Religious” in Washington, D.C.: A Qualitative Study of Muslim American Religiosity

Director: Wilhelmus Valkenburg, Ph.D.



This dissertation explores the definitions of religiosity and the concepts of most or more religious offered by a select group of Muslim Americans in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to refine and/or enhance understanding of how Islamic religiosity is expressed and defined in the American context. Using the qualitative and ethnographic approach of grounded theory, two studies with 174 Muslim Americans were completed. My research found that while Muslim Americans understand the concept of being religious in different ways, three main areas of agreement were common. As a whole, Muslim Americans feel that someone is “being religious” if they allow Islam to “be a way of life,” if they allow Islam to “change how they act privately,” or if they allow Islam to “change how they act publicly.” However, my research has found that significant differences exist between Muslim cohorts- most notably between male and female Muslims and between older (age 40+) and younger Muslims. Men and women differ in how they conceptualize and discuss issues relating to prayer, the theological concept of taqwa, and the role of education. These concepts tend to be framed as devotional or relational issues for women and ritualistic issues for men. In addition, older Muslims are more likely to define Islam as a “way of life” than younger Muslims. Younger Muslims tend to understand religiosity in a more narrow sense in that Islam isn’t “a way of life” in the abstract but rather a canonical guide of do’s and don’ts. Finally, my research found that Muslim Americans tend to separate specific dimensions on how an individual could become more religious from their definitions of what being religious actually means. In the clearest example of this, the majority of my participants feel that “becoming more educated” would make them more religious, despite the fact that very few participants had mentioned or incorporated any notion of education when defining religiosity. 


More about Turner


Brandon Turner graduated from Carson Newman University in 2001 and Gardner Webb University in 2005. After moving back to Maryland in 2006, Brandon started his doctoral studies at CUA and received a MPhil in 2015. Brandon is currently living in Raleigh, NC where he works as an adjunct professor. His is married to Tirzah Turner and is the father of 3 wonderful kids: Noa (9); Ainsley (7); and Ian (6).