Architects of change: professionalizing the Islamic scholar in the United Kingdom and Germany
Anhorn, Evan Christopher
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This dissertation examines two recent programs for post-secondary Islamic theological training in Europe that aim to produce a new class of professional Islamic scholars for emerging roles within European society. Graduates can use their training and new qualifications to secure advanced professional roles and leadership positions within the Muslim community and the broader society and state. In the process, these graduates develop and define an emergent institutional role for Islamic knowledge and authority in Europe. This study is based in seven months of fieldwork research in 2017 at two centers for higher Islamic education, including participant observation within classrooms and interviews with students, faculty and alumni. Founded in 2009, the Cambridge Muslim College in Cambridge, England is a small private school that provides professional training for about a dozen graduates of the many Islamic seminaries in the UK. Founded in 2012 with support from the German state, the Center for Islamic Theology at the University of Tübingen provides Islamic theological training to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students each year, many of whom have received no prior formal Islamic education. In addition to the institutional differences between the schools, their graduates enter into different job markets. Where the British graduates must develop new entrepreneurial roles for Islamic leaders in the UK, the German graduates become the skilled workforce to meet existing demand for public school Islam teachers, academic theologians and professional chaplains. Comparing these two educational programs—one private, the other public—this dissertation explores how the position of each school vis-á-vis the Muslim community and the state shapes the construction of scholarly authority and the professional outcomes of the graduates. It finds that students at each school leverage their new authority to formulate creative programs of Islamic reform that justify and promote new roles for professional Islamic scholars within both the Muslim community and the larger society. Drawing upon current scholarship about Muslim identity, Islamic authority and secularism in Europe, this study considers how prevailing national discourses that marginalize Muslims in Europe shape students’ creative programs of reform and so also the future institution of Islamic knowledge in Europe.
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