Islam, Secularisation and Democracy

The Cadbury Centre’s focus on religion and global politics has resulted in a series of research projects and publications which seek to investigate the relationship between modernization, politics, and Islam in Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Group of students using mobile phones

Our work in this area has challenged the usual terminology of Islamism and post-Islamism by taking a more in depth and historical approach to national and religious cultures. Our core findings suggest that nation-building processes in these states have not created liberal democracies in the Western mould, but have instead spurred the politicization of Islam by turning it into a modern national ideology. Specific projects and outputs in this field include:

  • A major research project on Islam, Gender and Democracy in Comparative Perspective, which resulted in an edited volume of the same name (edited by Jocelyne Cesari and José Casanova and published by Oxford University Press in 2017)
  • Jocelyne Cesari’s award-winning book What is Political Islam?
  • An upcoming special issue of the journal Religions on the future of political Islam
  • A new series of thematic conversations on political Islam sponsored by the Middle Eastern Studies Association (2020-2023)
  • A definitive reference resource, the Oxford Handbook of European Islam (2017)
  • A significant collaborative research project on Pluralism and the Islamic Tradition (with the Foundation for Religious Sciences, Bologna and the Islamic Studies Centre at the University of Palermo, which started in June 2019 to develop large-scale international cooperation between universities across the Muslim world, Europe and the USA

The project looks also at the status of Islam in European and American democracies through its internationally-respected website EuroIslam was initially created in 2005 with a grant from the European Commission and transferred to the Centre in 2016. It has become a clearing house for information and research on Islam and Muslims in Western Europe, the USA and Canada, and is used on a regular basis by researchers, media and policymakers. It is based on grassroots research conducted by young researchers in France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the USA and Canada.

Finally our Islam, Secularisation and Democracy project benefits from the opportunities for theoretical and methodological reflection that arise through the Centre’s editorial leadership of the Brill  journal Research Perspectives on Religion and Politics.  The first volume of this series, released in Summer 2019, is an essay from Jose Casanova on secularism based on his Cadbury lectures delivered in May 2018. Upcoming issues  for 2020 will comprise discussions of Russian orthodoxy and secularism (Kristin Stoeckl), and Chinese secularism in a comparative perspective (Mayfair Yang).