Islam, Liberalism and National Identity: Lessons from British Islamic Institutions

Dr Stephen H. Jones
Wednesday, 11 November 2020

National identity and liberal democracy are recurrent themes in debates about Muslim minorities in the West. Britain is no exception to this, with British politicians responding to public claims about Muslims’ integration in the UK by mandating the promotion of ‘fundamental British values’ such as ‘democracy’ and ‘individual liberty’. Drawing on his forthcoming book Islam and the Liberal State, in this talk he will seek to elucidate the lessons that recent changes in British Islamic institutions hold for these two themes. He will chart a gradual – but he argues decisive – shift in British institutions concerned with Islamic education, Islamic law and Muslim representation and argue that this amounts to the building of a distinctive British Islam. Using this narrative, he will argue for a variety of liberalism that is open to the expression of religious arguments in public settings and to associations between religious groups and the state. Challenging claims about the isolation of British Islamic institutions, he will attempt to map out how the national orientation of Islam called for by British policymakers is, in fact, already happening.

Dr Stephen H. Jones is a sociologist of religion whose research focuses on the intersections between ultimate belief, politics and public policy. His main areas of expertise are in Islam and Muslims in the UK and religious and non-religious publics’ perceptions of science. He was General Secretary of the Muslims in Britain Research Network (2017-2020) and is the author of Islam and the Liberal State: National Identity and the Future of Muslim Britain (IB Tauris, forthcoming 2020). He is currently Primary Investigator of the projects ‘Science and the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in Britain’ (TRT) and ‘The Nature of Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain’ (British Academy). He is a Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham, UK.

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