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Call for papers: Continuations and Disruptions in Muslim Religious Leadership in Europe

EASR conference in Tartu, 25–29 June 2019

Chairs: Simon Stjernholm (University of Copenhagen) and Kasper Ly Netterstrøm (University of Copenhagen)

Muslim authority structures are changing globally. In many European contexts, an older generation of religious leaders, active within largely ethnically defined communities and institutions, have had difficulties reaching younger generations of Muslims. The generation gap is at once linguistic, cultural and religious. While youths born in post-migration contexts primarily speak the local language, members of older and migrating generations often prefer languages of their countries of origin. Generations are also differently culturally habituated due to varying experiences and identifications, e.g. in terms of what is perceived as ‘home’. Moreover, differences are framed in religious terms: a search for ‘deculturised’ Islam, ostensibly purified from the varied local Muslim practices around the world, is prioritised among many reform-oriented young Muslim activists.

At the same time, advocates of global Islamic discourses compete for influence among these young Muslims, not least by establishing Islamic universities with attractive stipends aiming at international students. Moreover, non-Muslim audiences and societal institutions – for example, hospitals, schools, and prisons – require responses, engagements and task fulfilment from Muslim leaders. The necessary cultural translation of global Islamic discourses to locally situated audiences therefore requires skilled individuals with competencies in all levels of this transmission and communication: it requires a new generation of Muslim religious leaders.

The ‘new generation’ of religious leaders entails not only a change in personnel, but important new types of Muslim religious leaders that go beyond and mix traditionally separate roles. This involves being fluent in and habituated to the local language and culture, as well as ability to combine knowledge of Western intellectual concepts with traditional Islamic learning. It might mean being a social role model in streets and university campuses as well as leading worship, preaching, teaching, and giving personal religious advice in and outside mosques. In order to investigate the issues outlined above, the session encourages invites to consider the following questions:

  • How do Muslim preachers and teachers in European contexts articulate and embody Islam with local audiences in mind, how can their religious discourse be interpreted, and how is it received?
  • Why do young European Muslims pursue Islamic education abroad, what kind of universities and schools are they attending, and what impact does this have upon their return?

  • How does the public sector accommodate and use European Muslim religious functionaries, how do these functionaries fulfil their roles, and what are the consequences of this accommodation?

Scholars are invited to contribute with both empirically and theoretically oriented papers engaging with the topics covered in this description. If you would like to contribute to this panel, please submit an abstract via the conference website by 15 December 2018: