Now many will wonder not only what Islamicate is but also what the word means. The term seems dubious indeed, and for the suspicious sort such newfangled terminology may mystify an already conflicted mind. But for those interested, those who tend to glance, with curt curiosity, at anything that appears to further the Islamic cause, perhaps Islamicate is what you have long been waiting for.
The 1960s and onwards saw the influx of an immigrant population, and many of those coming from the East brought with them a monotheistic system of belief from times immemorial. However, most of these immigrants were seemingly unaware of, or failed to internalise, the ancient and profound nature of the divine message, and so, as economic migrants they settled in post-colonial lands seeking material prosperity and a stable environment in which to raise a family and maintain their various ethnic cultures. Whilst this as an aspiration sufficed them, it has not proved sufficient for subsequent generations, who, now considering themselves westerners seek much more contextual meaning. Whilst ethnic practices may have lingered, there has indisputably been the rise of a religious attitude amongst these westerners, a new found interest in matters of faith far more centered on revelation as opposed to inherited practices. It is understood that this has not been the product of ethnic loyalties (in many households such loyalties are often contested vehemently) but the result of a western education, dissatisfaction with moral decadence that furtively unweaves the social fabric, and the rejection of cultural superstitions.
However, the rise of such an attitude has also raised a number of issues that Muslims (those of post-immigration generations, converts, as well as all those in between) struggle with. Not only are Muslims in Britain somewhat fragmented, they also lack definitive focus and accurate self-perception. Whist they may self-identify as Muslims, the definition of the term ‘Muslim’ and its implications remain unclear to most. For many, a British Muslim is not the engendering of a worldview within a British cultural identity but a facet of one’s ethnic, and often foreign, makeup. Thus we see that Islam and the Islamic cause has suffered, and instead of a burgeoning phenomenon (as has been the case with Abrahamic monotheism’s interaction with various world cultures), Muslims have been left confused and conflicted between old ethnic loyalties, contemporary post-immigration identities, and religious doctrine and practices.
It is in seeking to address these conflicts that Islamicate wishes to initiate discussions on British Muslim culture and identity, to discuss political, social, and cultural phenomena in a way that relates with religious principles, to challenge the present state of Muslim affairs and to facilitate a realm where Muslim leaders and the intelligentsia discuss issues specific to western Muslims and their interaction with the wider society they are inextricably a part of.
The incessant claim that Muslims and Islam have much to offer has time and again come up empty. To advocate faith-based ethics and principles should in no way mean that a Muslim discussion ends at sexual immorality and foreign policy. If it is maintained that Islam in its mainstream and orthodox manifestation merges effortlessly with a British (and western) way of life, then how is it that western Muslim discourse has generally proved intellectually deficient and its focus rather narrow?
This quandary should be of primary importance to western Muslims as it is noticeably an impediment to the next stage of progressive Islamic interaction with secular society. Rather than positing an uncouth response (as has often been the case), Islamicate wishes to provoke discussion since every Muslim is a stakeholder in the outcome, regardless if they engage in the discussion or follow the lead of others.
So why the name? The word Islamicate is one mostly found within intellectual and academic discourse, with many asserting that it was the academic Marshall Hodgson who first coined it. He endeavoured to find a term to distinguish between phenomena deemed only religious, often in the realm of theology and law, and those that were the products of Muslim culture.
For our own context, our Islamicate is one where we seek to provoke critical debates and offer thought provoking analysis on matters affecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Islamicate is the discursive space where Muslim voices may take part in the conversation necessary to advance and mature British and, broadly speaking, western Muslim perspectives by examining religious and political cultures and working to form a distinct and relevant intellectual trend in contemporary Muslim thought.
But does it stop there? Beyond insightful narratives about events in progress, studying society, engaging in key political discussions, exploring cultures and expounding intelligent religious ideas, we aim to create the cultural space that marries the best of the majority culture with elements that are specific to believers.
It is to these ends that we require the community of the faithful to engage with this project by visiting the site regularly, commenting on articles, taking part in the upcoming debate and discussion section, contributing guest posts as specialists from specific fields, and spreading the word either via social media or by informing friends and family.
So, to get started…welcome to Islamicate.
(And as with all things, we humbly ask the Most High to aid us and grant us success.)