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Islam and the West ( 6 Jul 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islam-studies in Leiden, The Netherlands – a tradition of over four centuries

By Prof. Maurits Berger, head of the department of Islamic Theology

7 July 2009

Leiden University has a long tradition of Islam-studies. Granted, these studies were subject to their times. Studying Islam in the 16th and 17th century was aimed at understanding the religion of a faith that was considered inferior and even hostile to Christianity. And in the 18th and 19th centuries, when The Netherlands were colonizing Indonesia, the study of Islam was considered relevant for colonial purposes.

 

But times have changed drastically since then. Until recently the study of Islam meant a trip to the library or to some faraway exotic land. But now Islam is here, in the West. Muslims are our lawyers and legislators, bankers and bakers, cleaners and criminals. There are over 450 mosques in The Netherlands alone, headscarves and djellabas have become common features of street life. Many of our students are Muslim.

 

The academic landscape has changed accordingly. Muslims are not only subject-matter of research, but they are researchers themselves. Western societies are not outsiders to what is happening in Islamic discourse, but they play an important role.

 

Leiden has met these changes with a new study programme: Islam in the Contemporary West. The dialectic between ‘Islam’ and the ‘West’ has effects both ways: Muslims react to how they feel treated by the societies they live in, and their fellow citizens and societies react to the changes and threats they perceive are being created by Muslims. The interaction of these two forces creates new discourses of Islam.

 

Where will this lead to? Europe is dealing with a growing conservatism among young Muslims who have only recently started identifying themselves as ‘Muslims’.  They are eagerly fitting this new identity into the modern society they are part of. The outcome is still unforeseen, but the process is fascinating.

 

It is for these reasons that we invite students from abroad, especially from Muslim countries, to come and study here in Leiden, because we need the visions and opinions of outsiders. Their fresh looks may yield new findings and clues in these challenging times.

Prof. Maurits Berger is the head of the department of Islamic Theology 

URL:http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/islam-studies-in-leiden,-the-netherlands-–-a-tradition-of-over-four-centuries--/d/1530

 

Relevant links:

 

http://www.hum.leiden.edu/religion/organisation/institute-staff/berger.html

 

For the Master programme Islamic Theology:

http://www.postgraduate.leidenuniv.nl/programmes/ma_islamic_theology.jsp#tab_overview

 

For the master programme Religious Studies, track Islam in the contemporary west:

http://www.postgraduate.leidenuniv.nl/programmes/ma_religious_studies.jsp#SP_ma_religious_islam

 

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Discovering Religions since 1575 - Director's Welcome

Talents and Tradition

Our job is to study and help you discover the vast array of ways how people have expressed religion in the past and how they still do it today. The diversity of our Institute is expressed by a broad range of study programs offered within three main disciplines: Theology, World Religions and Islamic Theology, choosing from subjects as diverse as Old Testament and New Testament studies, ancient and modern Judaism, material culture of the biblical world, ethics, comparative studies of religion, psychology and sociology of religion, church history, science and religion, philosophy of religion, Islamic studies, courses in Buddhism and Hinduism,  and New Religious Movements. Dozens of more courses can be picked from the program of the Faculty of Humanities and the vast resources of Leiden University as a whole. In all three disciplines, degrees are offered on the Bachelor (3 years in Dutch), Master (one year in English) and Ph.D. level (usually four years).

Excellence and Expertise

Regularly, the Leiden Institute of Religious Studies has scored excellent in evaluations of our research and teaching activities, topping the list of the best Theology / Religious Studies Programs in the country. This professional feedback and our students who share their talents and questions with faculty and each other in class stimulate us to further produce relevant scholarship of the highest quality and train outstanding, competitive graduates for the national and international job market and for future professions in religious communities and the society as a whole. Opportunities to supplement one’s academic studies through field work (be it on an excavation, in a company or at an institution) and to broaden one’s horizon through international contacts for students and staff are a necessary addition to regular class work.

Challenges and Community

Academic studies not only pose an intellectual challenge. A person can only grow in a stimulating community. We are proud of an international staff which provides high-level education for an international student body. Many of the religious traditions we teach are represented by people sharing these traditions, but our approach in teaching and research is strictly academic and neutral – based on a thorough study of relevant sources and always open for unconventional, congenial discoveries. Small classes, direct contact between students and staff, and individual guidance by our academic advisors help students to get the best out of the Institute’s resources and find their own way through the program.  

We would be honoured to personally welcome you as a student at our Institute. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions. We are here to help you discover! 

Jürgen K. Zangenberg 
Academic Director, Professor of New Testament

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/islam-studies-in-leiden,-the-netherlands-–-a-tradition-of-over-four-centuries--/d/1530

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