The speech “Made in Britain – the birth of the adjectival Muslim” was given by Dr Phil Lewis, who is a Lecturer in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, and also involved in Bradford Churches for Dialogue & Diversity.
This was the first speech at the MCSCI Conference in January 2016.
Listen to this speech
This is a recording of the speech, which has been edited for clarity and to remove questions (which could not be heard over the microphone).
Abstract: Made in Britain – the birth of the adjectival Muslim
Dr Lewis writes:
When Jews in the 19th century Europe were allowed to access mainstream culture, the exposure of traditional Judaism with modernity generated what Lord Sacks has dubbed ‘the birth of the adjectival Jew’, a proliferation of Jewish ‘denominations’ which were often unable to maintain a dialogue across their deepening differences. Arguably, something similar is beginning to happen across Muslim communities in the UK.
First there is evidence of increasing experimentation within and across all three generations of Muslims in Britain. Let us take one example from each generation. First, Ziauddin Sardar’s pioneering journal, Critical Muslim evidences a self-criticism hardly imaginable ten years ago. Then, the call for the development of a mosque with all women governance in Bradford, as well as a centre for excellence for Muslim women; and thirdly, the emergence of a new ‘Muslim cool’ in the third generation, for example among Bengali youngsters in Tower Hamlets.
In reaction to such engagement, there is a measure of entrenchment and opposition both within ‘traditional Islam’ – especially the Deobandis and Salafis [the fastest growing movement in the UK] – as well as the growing attraction for a significant minority of extremist movements.
These changes can also be formulated as the shift from Islam being a ‘diaspora’ religion to one which is increasingly engaging wider British society, e.g. what counts as ‘Muslim politics’ can vary from ‘ethnic politics’ with a religious veneer [Bradford and Tower Hamlets] to a new pragmatism where Muslim communities are ethnically diverse as in Newham and Hackney.
In short, there is a new self-criticism emerging among Muslim organizations, activists and academics, informed by the social sciences. Also a readiness to acknowledge major social and religious challenges facing Islam and Muslim communities in the UK.
When can I hear him?
Dr Lewis is expected to bring the conference’s first speech, “Made in Britain – the birth of the adjectival Muslim”, on Thursday 7th January 2016 at approximately 11:15am. Delegates (including day visitors) are asked to arrive no later than 10:30am to allow time for registration.
Please note that all times are given as-planned in good faith, but the schedule may be amended without notice if required.
Who is he?
Dr Philip Lewis’s interest in Islam and Inter-Religious/Inter-Cultural relations began more than thirty years ago when he spent six years as a CMS Missionary at the ecumencial Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He has been advising Anglican bishops of Bradford on inter-faith relations for more than a quarter of a century. He has just retired from the Department of Peace Studies at Bradford University where he lectured on ‘Islam in the West: the challenge to co-existence’ & ‘Religions, conflict and peacemaking in a post-secular world’. He sits on a number of national commissions and is one of the scholar consultants to the national Christian Muslim Forum set up in 2006 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At present he is a Visiting Fellow at York St John University and is a consultant on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations to the Bishop of Leeds.
The following selection of his publications give an idea of the range of his interests:
- 2006, “Imams, ulema and Sufis: providers of bridging social capital for British Pakistanis?”, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 15:3, pp 273-287.
- 2007, Young, Muslim and British: for Continuum, London.
- 2009, “For the Peace of the City: Bradford – a case-study in developing inter-community & inter-religious relations” in Stephen B. Goodwin (ed) World Christianity in Muslim Encounter, Continuum, London.
- 2011, J.Birt & P.Lewis, “The Pattern of Islamic Reform in Britain: the Deobandis between intra-Muslim sectarianism and engagement with wider society” in S. Allievi and M. van Bruinessen (eds) Producing Islamic Knowledge, Transmission and dissemination in Western Europe, Routledge, London.
- 2011’The religious formation and social roles of Imams serving the Pakistani diaspora in the UK’ in Marta Bolognani and Stepen M. Lyon (edss) Pakistan and Its Diaspora, Multidisciplinary Approaches, PalgraveMacmillan.
- 2015 [forthcoming] ‘The Civic, religious and political incorporation of British Muslims and the Role of the Anglican Church: whose incorporation, which Islam?’ The Journal of Anglican Studies.