From September 2005, a new and unique postgraduate course on ‘Islam in Contemporary Britain’ will begin in the ‘Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK’ (CSI-UK) at Cardiff University. Cardiff has a long history of Muslim settlement, and is recognised has having one of the oldest Muslim communities in Britain. Few people know that the first mosque in the UK was established in Cardiff, in 1860. From this early history, there is now a sizeable and well-established Muslim population in the city, making Cardiff one of the best places to fully appreciate the full and dynamic history of Islam and Muslims in Britain.
The ‘Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK’, the first academic institution in the UK to focus upon Islam and Muslims in Britain, is due to be formally launched on 20th September this year. It is based in the University’s School of Religious & Theological Studies, which was awarded the highest possible grade (a 5*) in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise. The Centre offers a wealth of teaching expertise and a lively programme of research activity.
The new Centre has a strong and positive relationship with the local Muslim community, and members of the community form part of the Centre’s advisory committee. This partnership between the University and the Muslim community in South Wales has enabled a range of new courses and activities to take place. Some of these courses have been over-subscribed, such is their popularity.
The study of Islam in Britain is a rapidly growing academic field, and there is a need for more scholars and researchers with in-depth knowledge of the history and contemporary context of Muslims in Britain. The new MA/Diploma course is specially designed for those with an interest in understanding Islam in Britain: past, present and future. The new MA/Diploma course therefore aims to:
-Provide students with an in-depth understanding of the theoretical and conceptual vocabulary surrounding Islam in Britain
-Equip students with the skills to undertake high quality research on Islam in Britain, according to codes of professional ethics
-Provide students with a recognised qualification indicating competence to work in a professional capacity with British Muslims
The course comprises three modules. The first, ‘Researching Islam in Britain’ will equip students with a range of research and study skills, with particular emphasis on qualitative social science methodology. Module two, ‘The History and Development of the Muslim Community’ examines the migration of Muslims to Britain, and the diversity and dynamics which shape the community today. This module also critically evaluates a number of theories and concepts relating to the Muslim presence in Britain, such as ‘multiculturalism’, ‘ethnicity’, and ‘identity’. Module three, ‘Islam in Britain Today’ introduces students to a range of contemporary debates, such as Islamic schooling and education, Islam in Britain post- 9/11, and ‘Islamophobia’. This module also gives students the chance to undertake their own interview-based research, in order to develop their understanding of the Muslim community in Britain.
In terms of careers, the course offers a wide range of possibilities. It is a particularly suitable programme for those who are looking for careers in the public sector (such as local authorities) in the race and community relations industry, inter-faith work, community development, and the voluntary sector. Students will leave the course with a range of skills that could be deployed in a wide variety of careers. For those who are keen to develop a research or academic career in this exciting new field, this course will be an invaluable starting point.
The establishment of the new ‘Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK’ (CSI-UK) is being met with a very enthusiastic response from Muslims living in Wales. Public lectures and courses in Islamic Studies are proving to be very popular, and the new MA/Diploma course has already attracted significant interest from the local community. Speaking about the Centre, Mohammed Evans from the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service in Cardiff City Council has said, “the Centre is an accessible, vibrant, and inclusive hub of learning about Islam in Britain, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike”.
Please contact the Centre, if you would like to know more about courses and activities or view www.cardiff.ac.uk/relig/islam-uk. There is detailed information about the new MA/Diploma in ‘Islam in Contemporary Britain’ on the web site.
Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray
Director, Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK