Home About the event Programme

The following programme is subject to alterations:

09:30 - 10:30



Introduction by Professor Jeff Haynes and Shaykh Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi

10:30 - 12:40

Islam and Democracy in Europe

Keynote Speech: Professor Jeff HaynesEurope And Islam: Democracy, Civil Liberties And Blasphemy

Religion is now politically active in ways which until recently were unthinkable. Both in Europe and elsewhere in the world, there are numerous examples of how religion has left its previously assigned place in the private sphere, becoming in some cases an important contributor to various political issues, conflicts and competitions. To understand what has happened in this regard necessarily involves a remodelling and re-assumption of our understanding of the public roles of religious actors. Until the 1960s or 1970s, theories of secularization had long condemned religious actors in both Western and non-Western countries to social and political marginalization. Secularization theory maintained that as countries modernized, religion would lose its public centrality. But, as this did not happen, there is now a need to rethink the public role of religion. This talk is concerned with this issue, with a focus on Islam in Europe, using democratization, democracy and civil liberties as key examples.

Dr Sara SilvestriWhat Does Engagement With Muslim Communities In Europe Mean?

Starting from an overview of a selection of European countries' mechanisms aimed at dealing with Muslim communities, Sara Silvestri provides a comparative analysis of the multiple goals and typology of actors involved in the development of policies of 'engagement with Islam' and with religion more broadly. Subsequently, Sara questions the purpose and effectiveness of these efforts and examines how these initiatives affect the visibility and the authority of Islam as well as the agency of Muslim communities in European society and politics, and what implications this may have for a culturally and religiously increasingly diverse Europe.

George GallowayEurope, Islam and Democracy

Details to follow.

Dr Jonathan ChaplinThe New Muslim Presence in European Democracies: A Response from Christian Political Thought

The emergence of diverse expressions of Muslim democratic activity in European states over the last two decades has evoked a wide range of responses. On one side, advocates of 'public secularism' regard this upsurge of political engagement (as well as much other resurgent public religion) with deep suspicion or even as a threat to liberal democracy. On the other side, defenders of a 'neo-Christendom' position – the view that the 'Christian' (or 'Judeo-Christian') character of European nations must be protected, not least for the sake of liberal democracy itself – express alarm at the supposed 'Islamicisation' (as well as 'secularisation') of European polities. There are, however, other streams of Christian political thought which are much more affirmative of vigorous democratic pluralism and which would critically welcome Muslim political engagement, within the necessary minimum parameters of an open and just constitutional democracy to which all would subscribe. In such a pluralist democracy greater space than exists as present would be available for the articulation of democratic claims on openly religious (or secular humanist, etc.) grounds, 'reasonable accommodation' of religion would be generously practised, while all stakeholders would repudiate any aspiration (in Europe or elsewhere) to the monopolisation of the polity by their own worldview.

End of session / Q&A

12:40 - 13:30


13:30 - 15:30

The Middle East, Islam and Democracy

Keynote Speech: Dr Naveed S SheikhIslam, Constitutional Theory, and the Search for Democratic Pluralism

Western scholarship on Islam's politics is often compromised by a tendency to situate Islam, qua community and theology, as the binary opposition to post-Enlightenment West, disregarding thereby the rich and varied intellectual resources that derive from Islam's millennium-long tradition of engaging with the political. The current paper will take Islam's normativity, with its adjacent Shariatic sources, seriously, and attempt to provide a genealogy of the nomocentric values and guiding principles of the Muslim theory of statecraft and governance, as expressed in normative documents from the very founding document of Islamicate statecraft, namely the Constitution of Medina. Relying chiefly on the Sunni canon, the paper notes not only the principal differences between Islamicate and Western notions of statecraft and governance, but also their historic roots, whilst equally challenging the Orientalist charge of Islam as providing for a Caesaropapist paradigm of governance that remains in essential dissonance in the modern and postmodern lifeworlds. On the premise that institutions are the outgrowth of both definatory values and implementative power, the paper proceeds to identify tropes that are institutionally operationalizable from the resources of Islam’s own intellectual history, and which therefore are pragmatically and programmatically significant for the development of an authentically Islamic paradigm of democracy. In its conclusion, the paper suggests a new vocabulary of democratic legitimacy by which sacred traditions can engage both with both democracy, modernity and politics but without the schismatics of civilizational clashes or charges of neo-imperial subjugation.

Professor Caroline RooneyReligion, Secularism and the Egyptian revolution

While the Egyptian revolution was initially portrayed by some in terms of an aspiration for a Western-style secular democracy, this has certainly turned out to be an over-simplification. Most Egyptians are religious and what is at stake concerns the often competing ways in which the relationship between religion and secularism is negotiated. While the terrain is a very one, my intention will be to draw attention to some of the key issues in theological, ideological and cultural terms with respect to the question of what might constitute the best chances for a democratic common ground.

Dr Maria HoltGender and democracy in the Arab world

At 15.9 per cent, the representation of women in national parliaments in the Arab states is among the lowest in the world. Although the situation is improving, women continue to face significant barriers to progress. However, while formal involvement remains limited, many women are finding other ways to access democratic processes.

In this paper, I will discuss gendered expressions of democracy in the Arab context, both formal and informal. The recent 'Arab spring' protests witnessed a visible female presence in the public sphere. Women were victimized and also empowered by their ability to raise their voices against oppressive regimes. But it is not clear whether their situation has improved in the post-revolutionary period. My paper will consider some of the obstacles faced by Arab women in their quest for greater political participation. On the one hand, they continue to face violence and discrimination; on the other, the role of Islam has been identified as an inhibitor but, I argue, it should also be seen as a promoter of female activism.

Dr Barbara ZollnerThe Muslim Brotherhood: from party to prison. What’s next?

On the 28 September 2013, the interim government of Mansur 'Adli announced the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The following arrest of Brotherhood leaders bring to a close an eventful two years and eight months. During this period, the organisation took the highest institutions of the state only to fall from grace when, on the 3 July 2013, President Muhammad Mursi was removed from power through a coup d'état led by General Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi (Somerville, 23 September 2013).

Apart from the fact that the ban deeply divides Egyptian society, we also need to consider the implications on the organisation. Of course, it is not possible to make predictions about the future. However, it is possible to examine the MB's mobilising structures. By looking at shifts in these structures, we can say something about the MB's political performance before President Mursi was removed from office and comment, albeit carefully, on whether the organisation will be able to reinvigorate its informal political networks in order to survive the new period of confinement. An assessment of the Brotherhood's mobilisation capacity can give us an idea of the current state of its popular appeal. In particular, the paper looks at the MB's mobilising structures to assess organisational decisions it needs to address. We therefore turn to the movement's use of mobilising networks to see which strategies it used in the past, whether these underwent changes after 2011 and whether it is feasible to return to a similar political mobilising strategy after the coup of August 2013.

End of session / Q&A

15:30 - 15:45


15:45 - 17:45

Islam and Democracy Internationally

Keynote Speech: Shaykh Faizul Aqtab SiddiqiImplementation of the Democratic Ideal in the Muslim World

Globally, the existing political frameworks that pertain to the democratic ideal have brought about unequivocally unusual outcomes. The economic disparity between wealthier and deprived nations continues to widen; the level of education globally remains poor in most countries; and numerous citizens suffer at the hands of corrupt governments. Shaykh Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi will seek to address a plausible roadmap for the implementation of the democratic ideal that would bring progression and justice to the Muslim world.

Keynote Speech: Dr Thomas PierretIslam and democracy: Is it really the question?

Like any other revealed religion that features legal aspects, Islam is likely to conflict with the principle of unrestricted popular sovereignty, that is, with democracy in its philosophical sense. However, the claim that Islam also hinders the establishment of procedural democracies in Muslim-majority countries is unconvincing. Regardless of the ongoing political problems they face, several of the largest Muslim nations (Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey) have an appreciable record of change in power through democratic elections. As for the Arab world in particular, although its democratic record remains mediocre even after the 2011 revolutions, that situation does not reflect some "Arab" or "Islamic" exception since authoritarianism is also firmly entrenched in non-Arab and non-predominantly Muslim regions such as East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hajj Ahmad ThomsonThe subversion of modern democracy and Islamic governance by institutionalised usury

The greatest threat to the teachings of Islam therefore is that wherever they are not embodied by people of wisdom they are in danger of becoming refashioned, reformed and redefined into a state religion which, whilst permitting personal worship and the individual quest for truth and self-enlightenment, ensures that the dominant secular political and economic spheres of human activity, the former masking the latter (democratic usury), remain unaffected and impervious to the way of Islam, which is indeed a way of life and neither a set of rules nor a collection of principles.

Lord Nazir AhmedThe Muslim World at a Crossroad: Democracy or Autocracy

Details to follow.

End of session / Q&A

17:45 - 18:00