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Exploring Radicalisation and Securitisation

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University of Birmingham

Birmingham

B15 2TT

United Kingdom

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The Department of Theology and Religion is pleased to announce this sysmposium and consequent Special Edition in The Journal of Muslims in Europe.

Policy and public concerns regarding 'religious terrorism’ and 'radicalisation' have led to a flurry of publications from a range of disciplines - politics, law, sociology, education, criminology and public administration. In contrast the associated disciplines of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies have kept a relatively low profile on these issues. Scholars have not been silent, as the ESRC funded "Religion, Security, and Global Uncertainties report" (2014) and the special edition in the journal Religions (2015) show, yet their voices have been drowned out by 'security studies’ and 'terrorism' experts who largely 'bracket-out' questions of religion. The comparative quietness of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies is surprising given the disproportionate impact of current policy and discourse of radicalisation has on religious - specifically Muslim - communities.

These communities are 'securitised' such that their everyday moves are constructed as 'security problems'. These are apparent in the hyped discussions over the appropriateness of the 'burkini’ on France's beaches to the less discussed pressures on local authorities to remove children from families if they are deemed ‘at risk' of religious radicalisation. These issues are seen as 'religious', but 'religion' and 'Islam' themselves are presented as largely unproblematic concepts. Exploring radicalisation and the securitisation of Muslims from both Religious Studies and Islamic Studies perspectives is therefore vital to move policy and public discussions on the role of religion in radicalisation beyond ‘how Islamic is….' and 'Islam is a violent/peaceful religion…'. Such tropes ignore nuanced insights on the importance of religious literacy; religious iconography and themes operating in radical groups; transformations of religious identity; contestations in religious authority among others.

We wish to highlight not only the insights of these fields on radicalisation and securitisation of Muslims in Europe, but also demonstrate how the debates of radicalisation and securitisation impact on the study of Islam and religion. The impact is felt in the securitisation of Islamic Studies students, the curricula in schools and universities, and research agendas of staff. It is also apparent in the reinvigoration of 'cult studies' and 'new religious movements’, and the renewal of psychological and sociological approaches to the study of religious minorities. The securitization of Islam as a discipline presents 'religion' as a problem that requires solving, and yet paradoxically those studying it from 'within' - that is as Islamic studies or religious studies scholars - are considered suspect. Radicalisation and securitisation are transforming Muslims in Europe, and 'the study of Muslims' in Europe. Addressing these topics from Religious and Islamic Studies perspectives will open up debate in this important area, and have relevance to a wide variety of approaches to the topic.

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University of Birmingham

Birmingham

B15 2TT

United Kingdom

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