Challenges of putting Islam into context

British Islam conference 2018

Speaker: Peter Mandaville

Contextualised Islam doesn’t necessarily mean a liberal progressive form of Islam.

A question to ask is who gets to decide what is orthodox in religion? What group is responsible for normalising and privileging certain interpretations over others?

The major obstacles to the contextualisation of Islam are:

  1. The work is articulated in academic language which is not accessible to the ordinary Muslim and presents itself as elitist
  2. Suspicion from sections of the Muslim community that contextualising Islam is an attempt to westernise their faith. Changing it and then applying Islamic packaging
  3. It is sometime supported and funded by western governments reinforcing the fears of westernising Islam

The major structural challenges identified to the contextualisation of Islam are:

  1. Sectarian tensions within the Muslim community, that have been present for generations, resulting in a clinging to a particular narrow interpretation of scripture
  2. Much of the public discourse revolves around the topic of security. This leads to a polarisation reducing the debate to a binary with the community vs with the government stance
  3. The younger generation of Muslims question whether the vocabulary of a contextualised Islam, for example a British Islam, has any relevance. They are not interested in feeling their way to an Islam that feels comfortable within British society but focused instead on specific causes. That might be race, gender equality or environment and their Muslim engagement with that topic


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