The Negotiation of Religious Identity of Muslim Women in Leh District, Ladakh

  • Samina Rehman
Keywords: identity, Islamic dress, Ladakh, Muslim women, religion


This paper examines the negotiation of religious identity among Sunni Muslim women in Leh, Ladakh. Although Muslims in Leh share the same socio-cultural environment with Buddhists, the differences between the two communities have become more pronounced in recent decades. The assertion of religious identity and increasing religiosity in the form of vegetarianism among Buddhists and strict veiling among Muslim women are fairly visible. Changes are also seen in religious practices, including the imposition of a strict prohibition on dance, music, and alcohol consumption among Muslims. Here, I explore the manner in which religious identity is perceived and propagated among Muslim women in urban Leh. I discuss processes of identity formation and examine the emergence of religion as the most salient source of personal and social identity among Muslim women. The research addresses the question of how women use their agency for religious activities, institutional learning, choice of dress and mobility. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I depict socio-religious changes among them with reference to dress, mobility and lay sermons. The study discusses the motivations behind these changes and the reasons for Muslim women’s focus on the collective identity that distinguishes them from the wider Ladakhi society.

How to Cite
Rehman, S. (2020). The Negotiation of Religious Identity of Muslim Women in Leh District, Ladakh. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 39(2), 131-141.
Special Section Research Article