Contemporary Islamic Studies

Contemporary Islamic Studies

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In 2009 a cooperative agreement was established between St Antony's College and the Qatar Faculty for Islamic Studies (QFIS) in Qatar, part of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and the Contemporary Islamic Studies Oxford Qatar (CISOQ) programme at the College's Middle East Centre was launched. The programme goals are to promote exchange, research and scholarship in areas of mutual interest between QFIS and St Antony's College, focusing on the three areas of contemporary Islamic thought; the situation of Muslims in Europe; and relations between Europe and Muslim-majority countries.

The Work of the Programme

Promoting Academic Scholarship

As part of the agreement, Professor Tariq Ramadan, a Fellow of the Middle East Centre, teaches at the QFIS for part of each academic year. In 2011-12 he taught the topic of Social Justice, Civil Society and Democracy from an Islamic Perspective within the Masters in Arts in Public Policy in Islam course. In 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 he taught within the Masters in Arts in Comparative Religions, the topic of Sharia, Ethics and Sufism covering the Islamic legal tradition, spirituality and ethics. In 2016-17 he is teaching Political Islam within the Masters in Contemporary Muslim Societies.

Other Fellows at St Antony’s College have been working with staff at the QFIS to help develop course modules for their Masters of Arts in the Study of Contemporary Muslim Thought and Societies course.

In February 2015 the programme welcomed four second-year Masters students from QFIS to the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College in a research training study visit, specifically aimed at providing academic support and advice as they worked on their Masters research and theses. The students, Lulwah Al-Khater, Buthaina Dosari, Sultan Al-Kuwari and Saad Rashid Al-Matwi made the most of their four weeks with us, participating in student seminars, attending classes and lectures, meeting for one-to-one tutorials with their designated Oxford supervisor as well as presenting their own Masters research to the Middle East Centre’s MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies students. Lulwah Al-Khater presented her research findings relating to the steps which the Qatari government takes in making decisions and implementing public policy strategies. Buthaina Dosari discussed the role that Qatari television stations have played in the promotion of Qatari nationalism. Saad Al-Matwi spoke of his comparative study between the Qatari model and Norwegian model of petroleum resources governance. The students had opportunities to meet with other Oxford academics – such as Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis, in her capacity both as a member of the St Antony’s College European Studies Centre and as the Director for Politics and International Relations – as well as guest speakers to Oxford and the wider Oxford community. CISOQ is continuing to work with QFIS following the success of this study visit, so as to consider opportunities for similar visits in the future.

April 2015 saw Dr Walter Armbrust, Dr Michael Willis and Professor Eugene Rogan, Fellows at the Middle East Centre, participate in a teaching visit to QFIS, aimed at providing a continued Oxford academic presence at QFIS for part of their Spring semester. The Fellows met with QFIS students and staff, combining guest seminars with public lectures and individual tutorials with QFIS Masters students.

Promoting Research

Working with staff at the Qatar Foundation, Professor Ramadan has established the Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics, with a vision of ‘Reform and Renewal of Contemporary Islamic Legal and Ethical Thought and Behaviour’, and a mission of ‘Producing, applying, recommending and disseminating Islamic ethical thought and behaviour’.

The programme welcomes visiting scholars and visiting graduate students for self-funded independent research projects connected with some aspect of the programme's work.

Promoting Academic Exchange

In February 2014, CISOQ brought together over 20 academics from institutions in Oxford, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to explore contemporary challenges to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue in South East Asia, with specific emphasis on cross-cultural perspectives. Collaborators included St Antony’s College Asian Studies Center, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS), Universiti Brunei Darussalam. Our College Warden, Professor Margaret MacMillan, opened this 2-day international workshop and one of our College Fellows, Dr Matthew Walton, updated an evening public audience on the latest thought-provoking issues surrounding ‘Closing Myanmar’s Pandora’s Box: Resolving the Buddhist-Muslim Conflict’.

CISOQ provides liaison support for Oxford Fellows working with QFIS. In May 2012 Fellows from the Middle East Centre of St Antony’s College together with representatives from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, participated in a seminar workshop hosted by QFIS in Doha, relating to the Arab Spring and the implications for the region and beyond. A follow up workshop took place in April 2013, exploring the prelude to the Arab Spring.

CISOQ promotes exchange with other centres and it is in this role in April to June 2012, that the programme jointly hosted and organised with the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies a weekly guest lecture series on Islamic Ethics: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives.

The CISOQ programme also works with St Antony’s College providing the operational management and venue for some of the 3-day closed seminars which are a unique key component of CILE’s research, bringing together scholars of the Islamic religious texts and expert practitioners to explore the contemporary challenges of today in specific subject fields. In May 2015, scholars and practitioners navigated through key issues relating to Islamic Ethics and Gender; and a lively public panel discussion followed focusing upon ‘Women and Men in Religious and Ethical Thought: Towards an Alternative Approach’ in light of contemporary realities, with guest speakers Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, University of London; Dr Mohamed El-Tahir El-Mesawi, International Islamic University of Malaysia; Professor Terrell Carver, University of Bristol and Dr Ruqaia Jabir Al Ulwani, University of Bahrain. Participants of the April 2014 seminar considered Islamic Ethics and Education, with prominent scholars such as Dr Ahmed Addaghashi from Yemen, Sheikh Wim Van Ael from Belgium, Sheikh Ahmed Jaballah from France, Dr Omar Faruk from Turkey, Professor Khalid Samadi, from Morocco and Dr Farid Panjwani from the Institute of Education in London enjoying 3 full days of intense debate and deliberation. The May 2013 seminar on Islamic Ethics and Art included a public panel discussion on ‘The Ethical Limits of Artistic Expression? An Islamic Perspective’. Dr Jasser Auda, from CILE, Doha; Dr Jonas Otterbeck, Lund University, Sweden; and Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of the Canadian TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie joined Professor Tariq Ramadan to explore the relationship between ethics religion and art and discuss whether Islamic ethics hinders artistic expression. Panellists ably and enthusiastically answered questions posed by University of Oxford students and the wider non-academic local community.

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