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Superb course well delivered. Would have liked one more day!

Participant, church group, Birmingham

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Roundtable Seminar: British Muslims and the Secular State
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Date: Wednesday, 21st January 2009
Venue: The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, London
Organisers: Policy Research Centre, Markfield Institute of Higher Education, and Kube Publishing.


The relationship between religion and politics is no longer a settled question in contemporary Britain, but while it has re-emerged as a controversial issue particularly in relation to British Muslim communities, there is still further need for critical and creative engagement. This roundtable intended to illuminate further:

1) Theological reflection from the three Abrahamic traditions on the rights and duties of believers vis-à-vis the secular state.

  • What theological grounds, reflecting on the British case, are there for the category of the secular within contemporary Islamic, Jewish and Christian thought?
  • What implication does the secular, plural arrangement have for relationships between communities?
  • How should one’s faith-tradition represent itself institutionally to the secular state?
  • What role is there for religious justification within secular public reason?

2) the role of the secular British state in plural multifaith society from a range of political, policy and academic perspectives.

  • How is the recognition of religious groups by the state to be understood and accommodated?
  • How are multifaith recognition and the common good to be held in balance? In any attempt to achieve this balance, does British multiculturalism need amending or radical reformulation?
  • How have post-9/11 security concerns made all these questions less resolvable and more difficult?
  • Is Britain’s moderate secularism, that has room for Anglican establishment and, some would argue, a tacit multifaith establishment, able to address adequately these concerns? And, if not, are more radical changes needed?

Papers Presented

Paper 1: Islam, Secularity and the Culture of Critical Openness: A Muslim Theological Reflection, by Dr Abdullah Sahin
Paper 2: Civic Recognition and Respect for Religion in Britain’s Moderate Secularism, by Professor Tariq Modood