Call for Papers: Navigating the non/confessional in university Islamic studies

4th Annual Birmingham Spring Islam Conference 

A three-day international conference funded and organised by the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham, in partnership with the Muslims in Britain Research Network

Dates: 20-22 April 2020

Across Europe there are numerous examples of recent linkages between universities and Islamic seminaries. In Germany the experiment, now over ten years old, of establishing departments of Islamic theology in five universities has now recruited close on 2000 students, many of whom will end up teaching confessional Islam RE in schools. At Vienna, in VU Amsterdam, and in UC Louvain there are programmes for Islamic leaders, teachers, and imams. In the UK, partnerships have been developed at under- and postgraduate level between e.g. Warwick, Birmingham and Middlesex universities and Islamic seminaries representing a range of Islamic traditions. Movement between confessional and non-confessional Islamic educational contexts by students and staff, both as a result of such formal links or informally, is now common.

The conference will explore the opportunities and challenges created by the emergence of bridges and permeable membranes between confessional and non-confessional Islamic educational contexts. It will bring together scholars from across Europe working in different policy and educational settings to look at how Islamic education operates, and the implications of this for the transmission and representation of the Islamic tradition, as well as the teaching of Islam in universities. The conference’s remit will be any arena where Islam is included as a part of higher-level study, from the confessional teaching of Islam, to theology and religious studies, history, politics and the social sciences.  We have invited six main speakers to help us move the discussions along:

Prof. Bekim Agai, Dept. of Islamic Studies, University of Frankfurt

Prof. Ednan Aslan, Depts. of Teacher Education and Islamic Theology, University of Vienna

Prof. Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Professor in Religious and Theological Studies, Director for the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University

Prof. Birgitte Schepelern Johansen, Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

Dr Walaa Quisay, Teaching Fellow, University of Birmingham

Prof. Alison Scott-Baumann, Professor of Society & Belief, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Abstracts are now invited for papers that address any of the conference themes:

  • How students and staff navigate between confessional and non-confessional Islamic educational contexts
  • How policy contexts affect the development of linkages between seminaries and mainstream higher education institutions;
  • Teaching about Islam beyond Islamic and religious studies (for example, in history, politics and the social sciences);
  • ‘Insider’ and ‘outsider’ dynamics in the teaching of Islam in European contexts
  • Complementarities and tensions between confessional and non-confessional approaches to the study of Muslims and Islam
  • Securing the study of Islam within and beyond higher education institutions

The organisers will cover the costs of accommodation and scheduled meals for accepted paper authors, but they will need to cover their own travel costs.

If you are interested in presenting at this conference,  please send a 250 word abstract to the email address below by 17 January along with a biographical note of no more than 50 words. We intend to invite selected speakers to develop their contribution into an article for publication in a thematic volume.

Abstract submissions and any general questions should be sent to the conference organisers at MuslimsinBritainRN@gmail.com.