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Religion, Identity and Conflict

Friday 2nd - Saturday 3rd December 2016


St Mary’s University, in Collaboration with the Institut Catholique, Paris

Date: Friday 2nd - Saturday 3rd December Location: Waldegrave Drawing Room, St Mary's University, Twickenham The role of religion in the formation of identity has become a pressing issue for our time following recent global events. The conference will look at the psychology, motivation and social consequences of using religion as legitimation for violence in the name of God, for coercive religious behaviours that cause division and destroy social cohesion, and for the persecution of religious minorities. Confirmed speakers:
  • H.E. Cardinal Vincent Nichols
  • Dr Brigitte Beauzamy (Institut Catholique, Paris)
  • Emman El-Badawy (University of Exeter)
  • Sheikh Usama Hasan (Quilliam Foundation)
  • Prof Ian Linden (St Mary’s University)
  • Paddy McGuiness
  • Dr Christopher Moran (Cooperation Ireland)
  • Dr Abdullan Sahin (University of Warwick)
  • Dr Sara Savage (Cambridge University)

Further information:

Conference Material:

For further information contact or visit the InSpiRe webpages.

Dr Brigitte Beauzamy

Biography: Dr Beauzamy is a lecturer at Schiller University and an adjunct lecturer at the Institut Supérieur de Pédagogie-Faculté d'Éducation, Institut Catholique de Paris. She is an independent researcher associated with the CADIS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris). She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and was a Marie Curie Fellow in Political Science at the University of Warwick. Her main research interests deal with direct action in transnational movements as well as security policies. She is currently investigating how French schools may engage in the field of the fight against the radicalization of youth. Contact: Paper: Is religion the issue? Addressing the politicization of religious identities in France Abstract: In the context of the recent wave of terrorist attacks, it is increasingly common for public discourses to frame them in religious terms : terrorists would be motivated by their heinous religious beliefs, and for many commentators the only question is whether their problem would be inherently linked to their faiths or simply psychopathological. Taking a step back, this paper will address how religious modes of action are generally ignored in the French political space, unless they are violent. The context of laïcité renders religious modes of direct action invisible as they tend to be framed as non-political. Comparing different contemporary political religious identities practicing both violent and non-violent modes of direct action, we shall question how the concept of ‘radicalization’ is currently framed by experts, and its impact on policies preventing terrorism.

Emman El-Badawy

Biography: Doctoral Researcher at Exeter University's Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies. She was the Senior Analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, during which time she co-authored the report ‘Inside the Jihadi Mind: Understanding Ideology and Propaganda’. Much of the findings of her presentation will be based on the empirical analysis of Salafi-jihadi propaganda of ISIS, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Jabhat al-Nusra (now Jabhat Fatah al-Sham). Emman's research interests include the role of education policy on identity and societies across the Middle East and North Africa, and the rise of global Islamic extremism and regional sectarianism. She has worked professionally within the field of counter-extremism and Islamic radicalisation and has taught at the University of Exeter on North Africa and Islamist movements, and the politics and economy of the Middle East, assisting Dr Omar Ashour. Since 2014, she has been a BBC Expert Voice on MENA politics and global Islamic extremism. She also provides consultancy to organisations operating within the region as well as providing her expertise for the construction of international examination papers for schools across Egypt offering the British IGCSE and A-levels. Co-author of Milestones to Militancy: what the lives of 100 jihadis tell us about a global movement. Paper: The making of jihadists: tracing their physical and mental journeys Abstract: Tomorrow’s jihadist leaders are being shaped today, on battlefields across the Middle East and Africa, and in prison cells, training camps and campuses worldwide. Many are forging allegiances and absorbing the ideology that will secure them prominent positions in this global, violent movement. Emman’s presentation will draw on her research into the lives of 100 prominent jihadist leaders from across the Middle East and Africa, and her research into the propaganda and ideologies of ISIS and al-Qaeda. Using her original empirical analysis, she will trace the physical and mental journeys of the most prominent terrorists today. Through this, she will demonstrate how personal journeys have contributed to the evolution of Salafi-jihadi ideology, and provide a framework for analysis of an ideology that is continuing to adapt to survive changing circumstances. With this framework, it is possible to see what parts of the extremist message is static, unchanging and rooted in religious and historic heritage, and what parts are fluid, dynamic and adaptable for different audiences and different times. The distinction she draws will have relevance for those wanting to counter and challenge extremism- ideologically and structurally.

Dr Sara Savage

Biography: Dr Savage, a social psychologist, is Senior Research Associate at the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, and Director of Research for IC Thinking (Cambridge) Ltd. Sara and the ICthinking® Research Team at Cambridge have developed interventions to address extremism, sectarianism, inter-ethnic and inter-group conflicts based on social neuroscience principles, operationalising Prof Peter Suedfeld’s construct of integrative complexity (IC). The aim is to enable young people in our globalised context to ‘see through’ the false binaries of extremisms and conflict, to engage with different viewpoints while maintaining their own important values, leading to behavioural change. Forty-nine IC interventions show a significant change using the non-fakable and predictive measure of integrative complexity, leveraged through experiential learning. Sara has over forty publications in her field. IC interventions are effective at the sharp end among former extremists (Al Shabaab members in Kenya and ex-Taliban youth in Pakistan). However, the primary work of IC Thinking is in prevention and the promotion of social cohesion and personal flourishing. IC interventions are run in schools, colleges, prisons, communities and religious organisations. The IC model has been developed in range of contexts in England, Scotland, Kenya, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Pakistan (Swat Valley), largely through government funding. We work in partnership with organisations such as the British Red Cross. All interventions are supported by continual empirical assessment and training.

Professor Ian Linden

Biography: Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Director of policy 2010-2013; Senior Adviser 2013 – 2016. Associate Professor, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London 2001-2016. Courses: Religion & Development, Christian-Muslim Relations: 1790-present. Executive Director of Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) 1986-2001. Directed capacity-building programmes in 11 different low-income countries, (Asia, Africa, Latin America) theological research on social justice 1986-1989. Professor, Historisches Seminar, University of Hamburg 1979-1980 Hauptseminar: ideology and social change in Africa; Visiting Concordia University, Montreal, 1978-1979. Tutor in Comparative Religion, Open University 1977-1978. Visiting Reader in Religious Studies, University of Ife, Nigeria 1976-1977; Lecturer then Senior Lecturer in History, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, 1973-1977; Graduate Student SOAS 1971-1973 Thesis on Religion and Ethnic Conflict in Rwanda. Introduction: The Contemporary Context for the Study of Religious Extremism

Dr Abdullah Sahin

Biography: Reader in Education at the Centre for Education Studies, Warwick University, Dr Sahin comes from an Islamic Studies, Theology, Educational Studies and Social Sciences background. He has conducted research on religious identity formation among British Muslim youth and worked on educational strategies to address the impact of religious extremism within Muslim minority and majority contexts. Dr Sahin has developed the first recognised Masters' level degree programme on Islamic education within the UK higher education system. He has taught at the universities of Birmingham, Aberdeen, and the Gulf University for Science and Technology (Kuwait). Before taking up his appointment at Warwick, Dr Sahin worked as a Head of Research and Senior Lecturer at the Markfield Institute of Higher education. He served as a visiting professor (2009/10 Academic Year) at the Institut d'Etudes de l'Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Dr Sahin is a member of International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV). Dr Sahin has produced numerous scholarly publications on Islam and Education. He has contributed to recent national level discussions on educational policy development regarding religious extremism and community cohesion. His most recently published book is entitled: New Directions in Islamic Education: Pedagogy and Identity Formation (Kube Academic, Leicester, Rev Imprint 2014). Paper: Islamic Education: Building an Islamic Identity at ease with diversity and dialogue

Dr Usama Hasan

Biography: Imam Dr Usama Hasan is Head of Islamic Studies at Quilliam and was a founding advisor to the organisation in 2008. As a teenager Usama became a radical salafi activist and, whilst still a Cambridge undergraduate, briefly took part (1990-1) in the ‘Jihad’ against Communist forces in Afghanistan. However following the 7/7 bombings in London, Usama took it upon himself to start campaigning against extremism and for religious reform within Muslim circles. Fluent in English, Urdu and Arabic, Dr Usama completed memorizing the entire Qur’an by the age of 11. He has served as a part-time imam for over 30 years since his teens and is a certified transmitter of the Qur’an and Hadith scriptures and has translated a number of Islamic texts into English, including The Islamic Foundation’s “Way of the Prophet” (2009). He has recited or co-recited the entire text of the Qur’an to Ramadan mosque congregations over twenty times, including twice in the reading of Warsh. Before joining Quilliam, Dr Usama was a Senior Lecturer in Engineering at Middlesex University (2003-2012), Visiting Associate Professor at NUST in Pakistan (2002-3) and a consultant in artificial intelligence in UK industry (1997-2003). He holds a PhD, MSc & MA in Physics and Artificial Intelligence from the Universities of Cambridge & London and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and of the Muslim Institute. As a Muslim community activist, Usama served as elected President of the student Islamic Societies at Cambridge University (1990-1), King’s College London (1993) and Imperial College (1994-5). He also served as imam, khatib, trustee and Vice-Chairman of Al-Tawhid Mosque (1985-2011); senior shura member, JIMAS (1990s), and as Director and Trustee of the City Circle (2008-12). Usama has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and for the BBC Online Magazine. He has been an invited delegate at major international conferences including the World Economic Forum – Middle East (2008-9), Ditchley Park (2015), the Marrakesh Declaration (2016) and the Reconsidering Religious Radicalism conference at Cambridge University (2016). The Quilliam Foundation is a London-based think-tank dedicated to countering extremism and promoting pluralism, human rights and democracy. A list of Usama's publications and published quotes can be downloaded here. Paper: Salafi and Post-Salafi Thought in Identity and Conflict Abstract: Modern salafi thought is a puritan attempt at revivalism within Islam, based upon a return to the way of the salaf (the early generations of Islam). The intellectual foundations of Salafism have three major aspects to them: doctrine (‘aqida), jurisprudence (fiqh) and spirituality (tazkiya). This paper will outline these triple spaces, and their contestation by neo-traditionalist Islam, in the context of identity and conflict, most notably the major strands within Salafism itself: quietist, political and takfiri-jihadist. Finally, the emergence of post-salafism over the past 20 years will be discussed.
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Friday 2nd - Saturday 3rd December 2016

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For more information about this event please email or call 020 8240 8219.

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