Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities announce new Centres for Islamic Studies

8 May 2008

The University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh and HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Abdulaziz Alsaud (pictured), Chairman of the Kingdom Foundation have announced plans to create two new research centres for Islamic studies.

Funded by a £16million endowment by Prince Alwaleed which will be shared equally by the two universities, the new centres will aim to carry out both research and public engagement designed to enhance understanding between the Muslim world and the West.

The agreement was formalised at a signing ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, attended by both Prince Alwaleed and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who is Chancellor of both universities.

The Cambridge-based HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies will enable the development of a “constructive and critical awareness of the role of Islam in wider society”, initially through research programmes on Islam in the United Kingdom and Europe, and Islam and the media.

It will also run various public programmes, such as public lectures, conferences and summer schools, designed to promote understanding of Islam in the wider world. Policy-makers and other public figures will be invited to become visiting fellows at the Centre and take part in its research programmes.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Director of the Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge said: “The aim of the centre will be to foster a deeper understanding between Islam and the West through the twin paths of high-quality research and an energetic outreach programme.

“We intend to create a world-class cadre of researchers and build partnerships with other centres and members of the European Muslim community to advance tolerance, mutual understanding and cross-cultural dialogue between Islam and the West.”

The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, based at Edinburgh aims to improve public knowledge and awareness of Islamic civilisation and of Muslims in Britain. It will do so partly through educational outreach to policy-makers, students and the public.

Professor Carole Hillenbrand, Head of the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, at the University of Edinburgh said: “The Centre will ensure Edinburgh’s place as a world-class resource for expertise on Islam in the modern world, with the twin emphases of its programme on both the past and the present, and on how they reinforce and illuminate each other.”

Prince Alwaleed said: “I am pleased to support the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge and the Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh. It is paramount for both Islam and the West to reach mutual ground for pro-active dialogue, respect, acceptance and tolerance. We are determined to continue building the bridge between Islam and the West for peace and humanity.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Alison Richard said: “This new Centre at Cambridge will quickly establish itself as a major force for research, teaching and public understanding.

“By providing a clear, central focus for studying Islam in the contemporary world, as well as engagement with the wider community outside the University, it will harness the richness and variety of Cambridge’s contributions to research and teaching on Islam to make the whole far greater than the current sum of our parts.”

The Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, said: “The University of Edinburgh is honoured to be entrusted with the task of creating this centre, which will foster deeper understanding between the Muslim world and the West through the twin paths of effective outreach and high-quality research.

“Building on our 250 year history of scholarship in this area, we plan to use this opportunity to create an educational legacy that has continued impact across the United Kingdom and beyond, and that reaches far into the future.”