Initiative on Citizenship, Islam, and Identity

Workshop 2: Voices, Communities, Contexts

Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (Aga Khan University-UK) and the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (SFU)

Saturday, July 1, 2017 

Institute for the Study of
Muslim Civilisations (ISMC)
- Aga Khan University (UK)
210 Euston Road, London, UK

For more information and registration, please contact Layal Mohammad (


Session 1

Chair’s Introduction - Daryoush M. Poor (IIS)

11.00: Welcome

11.15—11.45 Amyn B. Sajoo “Four Veils and a Dagger: Minority Citizenship, Populist Rage”
11.45—12.15 Discussion

12.15—12.45 Ziba Mir-Hosseini “Contesting Patriarchy in Muslim Legal Traditions”
12.45—1.15 Discussion

Lunch 1-2

Session 2

Chair’s Introduction Farid Panjwani (UCL)

2—2.30 Derryl MacLean “Community and Identity in an Early Modern Millennial Movement of Gujarat and Sindh”
2.30—3.00 Discussion

3.00—3.30 Malik Ajani “The Pendulum of Inclusion: Citizenship & Identity in Britain and the US”
3.30—4.00 Discussion

Abstracts & Bios

The Pendulum of Inclusion: Citizenship & Identity in Britain and the US

Malik Ajani

This presentation considers different processes of cultural interaction when supposed different groups meet and how the past informs our current societal structures in the global north, notably Britain and the US. In the context of citizenship, attributes of identity such as religion, ethnicity, "race", and gender serve as instruments to support or deny rights, freedoms, and opportunities to various groups. “Identity politics” is a salient issue, where religious and/or ethnic minorities such as Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, and the Roma struggle to face demands for assimilation to shed their religious and/or cultural heritage, and adopt the “superior” culture of the majority. Yet these minority groups and communities also face demands to isolate themselves from the societies they belong to as a strategy of self-preservation, in the hope of protecting their identities against the perceived hegemonic onslaught. In such a climate, how do we create and sustain institutions and practices that seek to foster accommodation instead of assimilation, where all parties seek to make adjustments to find common ground?

Malik Ajani ​teaches Sociology and Diversity Awareness at the University of Maryland, University College Europe (UK). His research interests include the sociology of culture and religion; social justice and social inclusion; and narratives of hope. Dr. Ajani is the author of ​Citizenship, the Self and the Other: Critical Discussions on Citizenship ​and ​How to Approach Religious and Cultural Difference (2015).

Community and Identity in an Early Modern Millennial Movement of Gujarat and Sindh

Derryl N. MacLean

The tenth Muslim century (sixteenth century CE) saw the emergence of a number of movements anticipating this-worldly salvation through the intensification of community solidarity within millennial spaces. Among these were movements associated with a jam’at-khana (“place of assembly”), ‘ibadat-khana (“place of devotion”), dar-khana (“place of refuge”), and, the subject of this paper, the da’irahn (“circle”) of the Mahdaviyya movement, which was founded in Gujarat by Sayyid nMuhammad Jaunpuri (d. 910/1505). This paper examines how the institution of da’ira emerged historically through disputed spatial concepts and social contexts of Gujarat, Sindh, and Qandahar, and concludes with suggestions of what this deep structure tells us of the revitalization of identity and community at a crucial juncture in the history of Muslim South Asia.

Derryl MacLean is the founding Director of the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures at Simon Fraser University. A social historian of religion with a concern for the social consequences of religious contact and change, Dr. MacLean is the author of numerous scholarly articles, the book Religion and
Society in Arab Sind
​(“Theoretical Studies in Sociology and Anthropology,” E.J. Brill, 1989), and the co-editor of Cosmopolitanism in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past ​(Edinburgh University Press, 2013).

Contesting Patriarchy in Muslim Legal Traditions

Ziba Mir-Hosseini

The elucidation and articulation of the ethical values and norms to be found in Islam’s textual sources has been, at least until recently, the responsibility of Muslim scholars. Classical jurists endeavoured to translate these values and norms into legal rulings. These rulings, which still constitute the established interpretations of the Shari‘a, reflect premodern conceptions of justice that entitle individuals to different rights on the basis of their faith, status and gender. During the 20th century, however, they were challenged by the ideals of equal citizenship and universal human rights. In this encounter some Muslims have come to see the jurists’ rulings as unjust and discriminatory, and the interpretations of the textual sources on which they were based as hypocritical, or at best contradictory. I explore the potential of new Muslim reformist and feminist voices in rethinking premodern interpretations of the Shari’a—with a focus on Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family.

Ziba Mir-Hosseini specializes in Islamic law, gender and development, and is a founding member of the Musawah Global Movement for Equality & Justice in the Muslim Family. She is currently a Professorial Research Associate at the Centre for Islamic & Middle Eastern Law, University of London. Her most recent books include
Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in the Islamic Legal Tradition (ed. with L. Larsen, C. Moe & K. Vogt, 2013); and Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition (ed. with M. Al-Sharmani & J. Rumminger, 2015). Mir-Hosseini received the American Academy of Religion’s 2015 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. She has also co-directed two award-winning documentary films: Divorce Iranian Style (1998) and Runaway ​(2001).

Four Veils and a Dagger: Minority Citizenship, Populist Rage

Amyn B. Sajoo

Responses to claims of civic accommodation by religious minorities in the Euro-North American diaspora habitually elicit assertions of secularist church-state separation. These morph into assertions of identity (“Who Are We?”), often with legislative and judicial support, amid waves of populist nativism. Alfred Stepan’s supple critique of “multiple secularisms” supports capacious inclusion within the bounds of pluralist citizenship. Abdullahi An-Na’im’s skepticism about “minority politics” in a diasporic context, and Shadi Hamid’s account of an illiberal tide of “Islamic Exceptionalism,” fall short in recognizing the implications of nativist exclusion. I offer examples of majority-minority contestation in Canadian and European settings — culminating in judicial rulings— to expose the limits of a traditionalist liberal stance. These episodes underscore the need for a less doctrinaire secularism, not only with regard to constitutional frameworks, but also civic narratives that are historically informed. The lessons extend to governance and minorities in Muslim-majority states.

Amyn B. Sajoo is scholar-in-residence at CCSMSC, and lectures in global politics and history at SFU. A specialist in comparative law, religion and civic culture, his many books include Pluralism in Old Societies and New States (1994) and Muslim Ethics: Emerging Vistas (2004). Dr. Sajoo is the general editor of the Muslim
Heritage Series (I.B. Tauris-Institute of Ismaili Studies) in which the fifth volume, The Shari’a: History, Ethics and Law​, is forthcoming.

Farid Panjwani is the director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education (CREME) at University College London, where he is also a senior lecturer. His work is at the intersection of religion, citizenship & education, in which approaches to the philosophy of education, past and
present, are of particular interest.

Daryoush M. Poor is Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, where he also lectures in the graduate program. Specialising in political theory and Ismaili philosophy, he is the author of Authority without Territory: The Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamate (2014).