Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives
Report of a series of five symposia organised by the Centre of Islamic Studies, supported by the Department of Communities and Local Government, in association with the Universities of Exeter and Westminster.
The overall vision of this project is to create an opportunity for different parts of the British Muslim community to come together to discuss what it means to live faithfully as a Muslim in modern Britain. The project arose out of a desire, expressed by Muslim academics, activists and theologians in meetings with Government, to formulate and address this topic in an independent and faith-inspired way. The project provided a free intra-Muslim space for thinking openly and raising questions about being and belonging in Britain without any outside interference.
The project is called “contextualising Islam” since it is an attempt to understand Islam – understood both as a religious text and as a variety of social realities or “texts” – within the context of British society. It brought together Muslim scholars, academics and activists with a diverse spectrum of views from across Muslim communities in the UK. The meetings were characterised by open and frank discussion, good humour, and a spirit of goodwill. Inevitably, given the range of issues discussed, a diversity of views was expressed. All members of the group saw this diversity as strength, and as the sign of a strong and vital community. The Muslim presence in Britain is not a singular presence, and it is important to hold this diversity constantly in mind.
One particular aim of the project, which crystallised in the course of the discussions, is to explore how Islamic theology and Muslim communities might contribute to notions of active citizenship, civic responsibility and engagement in wider society as well. The starting point is that these are fundamentally Islamic values and practices, and that these values are of relevance not only to Muslims but to wider society too. Part of the aim of the project is therefore to speak to wider debates on citizenship, especially given that Islam is now a well-established part of British society. Indeed, this project is part of a broader context of debate within British society about shared values, and the place of faith-based perspectives on morality and public policy.