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Islamic Authority and Social Liberalisation in the Muslim World

By: | posted on: Oct 8, 2020

Date(s) - 10/08/2020
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

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The Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World

Date And Time

Thu, 8 October 2020

12:00 – 13:30 EDT



About this Event

As part of a series of lectures and seminars celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh, we are delighted to be hosting Professor Masooda Bano (University of Oxford) for a special keynote lecture to launch the series.

Chaired by Professor Frederic Volpi (Director, Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, University of Edinburgh) and followed by a Q&A.

This lecture will be hosted online via Zoom, with joining instructions sent 24 hours before the lecture begins.

Lecture Overview

Global connectivity fuelled by easy access to the internet, widespread use of social apps, and increased opportunities for travel has led to growing demands for social liberalisation in the Muslim world. This change of attitudes towards more liberal social choices is creating increased pressure on the Islamic scholarly classes to endorse liberation of the social sphere in ways they have resisted in the past. This lecture will map the multiple responses from within the scholarly classes to the changed sensibilities of the Muslim youth. Drawing on examples from Muslim majority countries as well as from Muslim communities in the West, the lecture will illustrate attempts at resistance as well as pragmatic reforms. In particular, the lecture will focus on the current developments in Saudi Arabia to illustrate the complex set of factors that are making the ulama accept ongoing social reforms and what this tells us about the limits of contemporary Islamic authority.

Speaker Profile

Professor Masooda Bano’s primary area of interest rests in studying the role of ideas and beliefs in development processes and their evolution and change. Particular emphasis is on understanding the dynamic interplay between material and psycho-social incentives and the consequences of this for individual choices and collective development outcomes. Professor Bano builds large-scale comparative studies combining ethnographic and survey data.

She is currently directing a five-year major research project: Changing Structures of Islamic Authority and Consequences for Social Change – A Transnational Review (CSIA). The project is supported by a 1.4 million euro European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. Building on her earlier work where she argues that in order for beliefs to persist they must have everyday relevance, in this project Professor Bano studies how both old and new centres of Islamic authority are responding to changed expectations of the Muslim youth in Muslim majority countries as well as those living in the West.

Prior to this, Professor Bano held an ESRC/AHRC flagship Ideas and Beliefs Fellowship. Under this fellowship she explored the causes of the emergence and spread of female Islamic education movements across the Muslim world since the 1970s. This project drew on extensive fieldwork in Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria and has resulted in a number of publications including a book monograph: Female Islamic Education Movements: The Re-Democratisation of Islamic Knowledge (Cambridge University Press). She is also leading a longitudinal study comparing the demand for secular versus Islamic education among teenage girls in Pakistan and Nigeria and the impact their respective education has on their psychological well-being and future economic opportunities.

Other completed major studies resulted in two book monographs, The Rational Believer: Choices and Decisions in the Madrasas of Pakistan (Cornell University Press) and Breakdown in Pakistan: How Aid is Eroding Institutions for Collective Action (Stanford University Press).

Between 2008 and 2016, Professor Bano advised on the largest ever education sector support programme rolled out by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) in Nigeria, leading a number of studies to understand existing education choices in the northern states of Nigeria. She has also designed specific interventions to increase children’s access to primary education under this project, one of which has been profiled by ESRC as being amongst the best examples of social science impact. She has participated in many media interviews including those for BBC World, the BBC World Service (English and Urdu), BBC Radio 4 and her research has also featured in The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (USA), the ESRC website, Oxford University publications, and the Times Education Supplement.

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