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International Symposium, Leiden University, Netherlands - 2012

Thu 13 - Sat 15 December 2012 | international conference: Islam in Interwar Europe and European Cultural History | Leiden


Link Turkish Review (Vol 3/4 Jul/Aug 2013)

Artikel in Turkish Review (Vol 3/4 Jul/Aug 2013)


In cooperation with the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS) the BMBF Research Group Europe from the Outside, which is part of the Institute for Oriental and Asian Studies at the University of Bonn, organizes an international symposium entitled 'Islam in Interwar Europe and European Cultural History'. The conference takes place in Leiden, from Thursday 13 until Saturday 15 December. Conveners: Dr. Bekim Agai (University of Bonn), Mehdi Sajid, MA (University of Bonn) and Dr. Umar Ryad (Leiden University).



             The Muslim European Congress, Geneva 1935                      The Paris Mosque (built 1922)


                                                Group of Muslims after the Friday prayer (about 1935/36)



The Muslim presence in Europe during the interwar and the Second World War period has been mostly dealt with as part of anti-colonial studies or briefly as related to European migration history. Such existing histories doubtlessly have their justification. Yet they tend to overlook the impact of both Muslim émigrés and nationalists on the socio-political context in Europe itself. Less attention has been given so far to the meaning of the intellectual, political and military contributions of these communities to European cultural history in the wake of the First World War. The time span 1918-1945 is carefully chosen because it was the very era, in which the destinies of the contemporary European and Muslim-majority societies were shaped. The focus on the strong interconnection between both regions can indeed emphasize their shared impartible history.


The symposium will examine the multiple aspects of Islam and Muslim communities in interwar Europe, broadly defined. The focus will be, however, on the study of Islam as part of European cultural history that should include serious considerations to the role of transnational imagination and identity in global history. One should thereby necessarily take into account both the various political upheavals in that international context and the intellectual response of Muslims to them. We shall examine the impact of the intellectual and the political engagement of Muslims by scrutinizing their interaction with their host societies in interwar Europe: How did they fill the already existing reservoir of ideas on the West in Muslim societies? And how did they challenge the European (mis)perceptions about Islam and Muslims?

By focusing on the local and international shape of these political and social movements in interwar Europe, the symposium hopes to combine the interaction between variegated Western and Eastern figures, namely, political agitators, ideologues, colonial administrators, diplomats, orientalists, European anti-colonial socialists and communists, Arab and Muslim nationalist students in Europe, European converts to Islam, and reformist thinkers in the Muslim world. What significance did the activism of those Muslims (either migrants or native European converts to Islam) have on the mutual perception of both Europeans and Muslims of each other? Which type of ideas and concepts were transferred across the cultural borders? How were these Muslim figures in Europe connected to each other? How did their writings impact on the political and military situation in Europe? How far can their presence be seen as an early manifestation of what has to be labeled as „European Islam“? What role did minor figures play in this exchange of ideas and political lobbying? How far did Muslims in interwar Europe participate in the popularization of the European thought in the Muslim mind?

We shall also see whether religion was well-embedded or a framework of reference to the self-identification of those communities; and how Muslim mediators were trying to develop forms of social, intellectual and political agencies in religious ideological terms? Were there other affinities which bound these groups of Muslims? How far were these historical actors motivated by religious ideals? Was this sense of religiosity merely a search for religious-based interpretations in a secular context?

A group of scholars from different disciplines will be invited to investigate these questions and many others, which have primarily influenced the evolution and development of Islam in that era as part of European cultural history. It is expected that the papers will be published in an edited volume, which will contribute to the existing debates in the historiography and territorialities of the Muslim World by studying the parallel history of Muslims in interwar Europe and placing them in the global history of this crucial time.






                                  Dr. Bekim Agai                          Dr. Umar Ryad                        Mehdi Sajid, MA

                                University of Bonn                    Leiden University                    University of Bonn









Thursday and Friday: Pieter de la Court building,

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden, room 1A-01.


Saturday morning: Snouck Hurgronje House, Rapenburg 61, Leiden.







University of Bonn                                                                                    LUCIS
Institute for Oriental and Asian Studies (IOA)                                          Leiden University Centre for the Study of
BMBF-Project “Europe from the outside”                                                  Islam and Society

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