The Centre for the Applied Study of Muslims and Islam in Britain was born out of the interest in the study of Islam, especially Islam in the West which has increased dramatically since the second half of the twentieth century. A number of centres have already appeared in Britain. These are the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University and the Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslims in Scotland at Dundee’s Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. Both departments maintain a strong regional focus and there was no comparable centre in England. Liverpool Hope University is ideally located amongst the North-West Muslim populations and in Liverpool’s own historic Muslim community.
The Centre’s activities begin with the ethical position that the ‘hands off’ stance determined by such methodological positions as ‘neutrality’ needed to be reassessed when working closely with religious communities under pressure. The Centre seeks for collaborative partnerships in which ‘persons’ are helped to develop into ‘individuals’ able to utilise higher order objectifications to transform aspects of everyday life.
‘My position as a ‘friendly stranger’ in anthropological terms had progressed beyond such methods to that of a trusted confidante and a ‘friend of Muslims’ in Britain. I felt that there was a need for a Centre that would work not only in producing ‘pure’ research but able to engage in knowledge transfer activities’.
Professor Ron Geaves
The mission of the Centre for the Applied Study of Muslims and Islam in Britain is firmly rooted within the mission of Liverpool Hope University, an ecumenical Christian foundation, to educate students in mind, body and spirit and to apply scholarly knowledge and understanding to the processes of human integration whilst recognising the innate dignity of religious and cultural difference.
To fulfil this mission, the Centre brings together staff, researchers, students, and visiting experts to conduct research, present lectures, deliver seminars, host conferences and colloquia, and publish documents to promote harmonious cultural exchange.
The Centre aims to promote scholarly and public understanding of Islam and the life of Muslim communities in the UK.
• Conduct research on social, cultural and religious developments within Britain's Muslim minorities.
• Facilitate contacts between those actively engaged in ethnographic research amongst members of these communities.
• Build, and provide public access to, a comprehensive store of reliable information about these developments and their significance.
• Provide consultancy services to those whose professional practice brings them into regular contact with members of these communities.
• Provide training courses to those wishing to develop their competence in ethno-sensitive professional practice.
Professor Ron Geaves, Dr Salman al-Azami, Dr Nabil Sultan, Professor David Weir, Dr Adel Ahmed, Dr Doaa Mohsin
In November of last year (2009), Liverpool Hope University funded the Director of the Centre to visit Gujarat, Hyderabad and Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. In all, over twenty dar al-ulums (Muslim ‘seminaries’) were visited and over fifty interviews took place with some of India’s foremost ulema involved in Islamic education. Among the institutions visited were Dar al-Ulum Deoband, Nadwat (Lucknow), Aligarh Muslim University and the historic Dar al-Ulun Nizamia in Hyderabad. Various papers have already been delivered on the research findings but translations of the interviews are ongoing. It is intended to follow up the research with interviews with comparable figures in the UK. The work builds upon previous projects undertaken by Professor Geaves on British imams (BBC Newsgathering and the Journal for Muslim Minority Affairs).
The Director continues to advise the Department of Communities and Local Government on Imam training and other related matters as part of the wider consultation with faith leaders and academics able to contribute to the PREVENT programme, a major cross departmental part of the Government’s strategy to confront religious extremism. Capacity Building in Youth work at North West and Midlands mosques.
Consequently there are plans to:
i) Hold training seminars for Imams and Mosque committees, sharing expertise on how to establish youth centres attached to mosque premises. Around twenty mosques will be involved in the project from across the region including Blackburn, Bury, Bolton, Manchester, ands also including Birmingham and Leicester. It would be managed by Professor Geaves and involve youth workers from Chester, the Muslim Youth Foundation, Church youth workers, and Mosque leaders.
ii) Further develop links between Liverpool Hope University and Liverpool’s Muslim communities through fostering and developing existing contacts at the Al-Ghazali Centre and the Abdullah Quilliam Foundation. The al-Ghazali Centre is keen to develop a BA in Islamic Studies and Arabic and The Abdullah Quilliam Foundation, already working in partnership with the Centre to deliver lectures and seminars, is trying to purchase Liverpool’s original mosque and Islamic centre to found a library and Muslim think-tank and seeks university partners to assist with the project.
Recognising the historic significance of Liverpool’s Muslim communities, the Centre is working alongside Liverpool Museum’s oral historians to collect the life histories of some of the key figures in the city who have contributed to the development of the Muslim presence in the City. It is intended to develop the project in partnership with the newly built Museum of Liverpool to provide a historical and ethnographic archive.
Finally the Centre is building upon research undertaken by the Director in 2008-9 in which 15 focus groups were interviewed in London as part of the larger European and North American project seeking to investigate the role of religiosity in the civic life of Muslims. The focus groups generated material to develop a unique questionnaire to be used to gather quantitative data (800 interviews in London) for one of the largest comparative projects undertaken. The Centre is working in partnership with Professor Jocelyn Cesari of Harvard University, an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool Hope University.