In the Islam in the Contemporary West specialisation, you will be focusing on the interaction between Muslims and Islam within a minority situation in the West, and the reactions it provokes in the Western societies. You will be studying these relations from different perspectives: legal, political, theological and cultural anthropological. You will be guided in your studies by a teaching staff with extensive knowledge of this subject, both theoretical and practical.
You will be expected to participate not only in the study of the features of Islam as a living religion within the Western secular context in a general sense, but also to concentrate more specifically on the position of Muslims and the development of Islam within a particular geographical area.
In order to study the Western response to these new phenomena, a number of regions have been selected: North America, Western Europe and South-East Europe. Each of these regions has reacted to Islam in a different way, both in terms of legal structures (the relationship between state and religion) and politically and culturally. For instance, some countries allow Islamic family law courts, while others absolutely forbid them; in the same way, there are major differences regarding the attitude to the veil and minarets, and regarding the policy of integration and radicalisation.
NB: If you are interested in theoretical and methodological approaches to historical and current forms of Islam with a focus on ‘Islam and society’, see the Islamic Studies specialisation of the MA in Middle Eastern Studies.
It is also possible to study Islam within the two-year Research Master’s programme Middle Eastern Studies
“It’s so inspiring to be able to choose a subject that is both topical and enduring.”
“For my master’s in History at Leiden I wrote a thesis on the rediscovery of the ideas of Ibn Roesjd (1126-1198) in the Arabic world of the 19th century. My thesis supervisor Dr Umar Ryad then encouraged me to continue my studies with a second master’s: ‘Islam in the Contemporary West’, a specialisation of the MA in Religious Studies.
This master’s programme gave me the opportunity to make a more in-depth, interdisciplinary study of the position of Islam in the West. I looked at the interchange between the ways Muslims in the West experience and express their religion, and the kind of reactions that come from the rest of society. You can choose from different approaches with this programme, ranging from theological or legal to social scientific or political.
I opted for the political approach for my final thesis, and carried out a broad analysis of the position of Muslim philosopher Tariq Ramadan as adviser on integration issues and visiting professor in Rotterdam (2007-2009). The fact that you can choose from different scientific disciplines, depending on your personal interests and background, to study a particular subject that is both topical and of enduring interest, is something I found – and continue to find – very inspiring.
I can put my experience with this interdisciplinary approach – that is so typical of all research on Islam – to excellent use in my work as co-ordinator and editor at the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS). LUCIS is an interdisciplinary knowledge centre and interfaculty collaboration. It brings together researchers who are involved with Islam in all its many facets, in the context of differing regions, periods and cultures.
Leiden is about the only place where such a centre of expertise could exist; the University has such a long tradition of expertise on Islam based on different disciplines. With my background as historian and religious scientist and the writing experience that I gained in my work next to my studies, I feel I have really found my place here.”
Annemarie van Sandwijk, MA | Co-ordinator and editor at LUCIS and NISIS