Graduation ceremony for young British Muslims

8 October 2010

A graduation ceremony at the Moller Centre, Cambridge will today mark the end of the Al-Azhar Cambridge Programme, created to train the next generation of Islamic leaders.

During the programme, the students were asked to design a project with practical value for the communities in which they live and work. As a conclusion to the course, the projects are to be presented to an audience of representatives from, among others, the Muslim Youth Helpline in London, and the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, along with diplomats and guests from other Muslim and non-Muslim organisations.

Titles for the presentations include ‘The role of mosques in Britain’, ‘Gathering the tentacles of the octopus – a sociological perspective upon the certification of halal meat in the UK’ and ‘Muslims in Leeds: before and after the 7 July 2005 London bombings’. Discussions and a graduation ceremony will follow.

The 15-week programme is a collaboration between Prince Alwaleed centre of Islamic Studies at Cambridge and Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and students spent time at both institutions, before presenting their projects in Cambridge.

The course was especially designed by scholars from Al-Azhar and Cambridge for young British Muslims studying in Darul Ulooms – Islamic seminaries – where many future Imams and Muslim chaplains are trained.

Many students had previously received a traditional Islamic education, and the course aimed to provide them with a challenging programme of seminars, lectures and personal study assignments that will help them with their roles as leaders in their faith communities.

‘This collaborative programme has been a resounding success,’ said Professor Yasir Suleiman, Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at Cambridge. ‘It explored issues of great relevance to the Muslim communities in the UK to enable the students to play a more effective role in their chosen careers as community activists and leaders. It is a great pleasure to see them graduate and we wish them well in the future.’

Prof. Abdel Daiem Nossair, Consultant to Sheikh al-Azhar and Director of Al-Azhar Alumni Association, commented: “Al-Azhar is very proud of this pioneering programme, which is the result of an extremely fruitful partnership with Cambridge University. I am very pleased to be able to attend this graduation ceremony and look forward to discussing with Professor Suleiman and his team ways in which we can enhance this programme and explore new avenues of co-operation for the future.”

As part of the course, students met with representatives from community organisations of different faiths in order to learn about pastoral care, interfaith working and community leadership. They visited Muslim organisations, a Christian postgraduate theological training centre and a Jewish Rabbinical College.

The role of Muslims in Britain, multiculturalism and integration, gender equality and human rights are all topics of discussion.

Many of the students on the course are aiming to go on to become Imams, or Muslim chaplains in institutions such as universities or prisons.