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Call for Papers: Online Conference – Islam, Secularism, and Atheism

The Contemporary Islamic Studies programme at the Middle East Centre in conjunction with Cambridge Muslim College is hosting a two-day online conference on Islam, Secularism, and Atheism.

There has been a steady number of publications on the subjects of secularism and atheism in the past few decades. However, Islamic perspectives on these topics have been somewhat marginal in the literature. Accordingly, this conference aims to break new ground in these areas by offering scholars an opportunity to explore and discuss Islamic perspectives on and engagements with secularism and atheism. Abstracts may focus on one or more of the themes listed below, or on themes not listed but related to them:

On secularism
‣  What might Islamic conceptions of “religion,” “the secular,” and “secularism” look like, and how might they reconfigure dominant Western discourses concerning these concepts?
‣  What notions of “religion” and “the secular” are to be found in canonical Islamic texts or in the legal, theological and other discourses of the Islamic scholarly tradition?
‣  How “secular” was pre-modern Islam?
‣  How plausible are arguments that secularism is a precondition for economic development in the modern Muslim world?
‣  What is the relationship between secularism and colonial and postcolonial Western domination?
‣  How successful has secularism been in Muslim-majority states?
‣  How do Islam, secularism and the modern state relate to each other?

On atheism
‣  To what extent have there emerged noteworthy trends towards atheism in modern Muslim-majority countries? (How) Do these differ from Muslim-minority contexts?
‣  Can we discern a genealogy for atheism in Islamic history?
‣  What is the impact of new atheism on Muslim societies?
‣  Does Islam have any distinctive theological or philosophical arguments against atheism?
‣  How have challenges raised by (new) atheism affected pastoral care/theology?
‣  How is the relationship between atheism and science perceived by Muslims, and how does this relationship, in turn, affect or inform their understanding of Islam and science?
‣  How is the biological theory of evolution related to atheism in modern Islamic discourses?

We intend for this conference to be an exploratory space for wide-ranging discussions on the above themes. We invite abstracts from several different disciplines, especially in the areas of philosophy, theology, fiqh, history, Qur’anic and hadith studies, sociology, and political theory. We are also open to both descriptive and normative approaches provided that they are intellectually rigorous. The language of the papers and presentations for this conference will be English.

For consideration of your proposal, please send a 300-word abstract to cisoq@sant.ox.ac.uk along with your full name, current association, and title by the 15th of April 2022. Please send the email with the subject line Abstract for ISA.

Select participants may be asked to send in full articles which will be published either as articles in a special issue of a journal, or as a book chapter in an edited volume.

We would also like to highlight that this conference is envisioned as a starting point for a scholarly conversation on the above themes. It is our intention to build a network and host future events through which further discussions and publications on these themes can be supported and encouraged.

If you have any questions or queries, please email Usaama al-Azami at usaama.al-azami@orinst.ox.ac.uk for inquiries related to Islam and secularism and Shoaib Ahmed Malik at sm02@cambridgemuslimcollege.ac.uk for inquiries related to Islam and atheism. For general inquiries, please email either.

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About Ali Teymoori

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