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Centre for Political Thought

Specialism in Multiculturalism and Religion in Politics


SGIA was established by bringing together the old Department of Politics and the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. One of the consequences of this merger was the expansion of the expertise in the field of political thought. In addition to the scholars in Western Political Thought, SGIA gained scholars in Islamic political thought. Projects for collaborations were developed among which the theme of Multiculturalism acquired some prominence. The Centre for the History of Political Thought organised a major international conference on Multiculturalism. Selected papers from the conference, plus other invited contributions, were published in a collection Multiculturalism and Moral Conflict (Routledge, 2010), edited by Maria Dimova-Cookson and Peter M.R. Stirk.


Photo by Espen Faugstad on Trendhype / CC BY
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Religion and Government

A notable feature of the modern experience is the increasing and permanent presence of Muslim minorities in the West. Whether in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, America or Australia, Muslims are adapting to life in these societies as well as challenging some of their social and political assumptions. Muslims have been subjected to media stereotyping and discrimination on the job and in schools, even as they engage with and participate in the political system. In the process, they are shaping both a new ‘jurisprudence of the minorities’, dealing with the demands of living in dominant non-Muslim societies, and a distinctively Muslim concept of pluralism.

Muslims in the minority are helping, in particular, to reformulate the nature of citizenship in democracies where communal—and religious—rights have not traditionally been central to civic order. The Western political order has conventionally been predicated on several assumptions: secularism, individual freedom, equality of rights, and the rule of law. For the vast majority of Muslims in the West, prevailing norms are not being rejected; rather, they are often invoked in defence of distinctive minority rights. Proponents of the hijab or headscarf in France, for instance, have routinely invoked the notion of individual liberty and freedom of speech, and British Muslims, upset by Salman Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses and urging an extension of the law against blasphemy to Islam and other religions, have built their case on equality of rights. At the same time, however, questions have been raised as to the culturally embedded meaning of a democratic liberal order. These include: why must religion necessarily be circumscribed to the private domain, and should the recognition of communal rights, particularly those based on such primordial affiliations as race, ethnicity, or religion, be seen as inconsistent with individual freedom?

The interpenetration of the larger Muslim community (umma) and local societies, and the shifting notions of pluralism and citizenship, suggest a new civic geography that heralds transformations in conceptualisations of both Muslims’ political and legal philosophy and those of the home society itself.

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The areas of specialism include:

  • Multiculturalism and Human Rights
  • Islamic political and international thought
  • Religion and Politics in the Arab states of the Gulf
  • Multiculturalism and the concept of the state
  • Muslim Theology and Philosophy
  • The history of Muslim political Thought
  • Jewish Politics and Zionism

Members of staff who research and supervise in this field include:

Ilan Baron

Maria Dimova-Cookson

Peter Stirk

PhD students

The school has an expanding number of PhD students who work in the fields of:

Islam and Human Rights

Religious, Secular and Multicultural Models of Governance

Freshta Yosufi (PhD student)

Freshta Yosufi is working on “The Politics of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan”. Her thesis focuses on how different organizations and institutions including different regimes in Afghanistan have used 'women’s rights' for political interests, and how current politics continues to shape and manipulate the status of women in Afghanistan. She investigates the effects of domestic, regional and international politics on the condition of Afghan women.