UCSIA and NISIS conference “Islam and the State”
On Friday 12 May 2023, the University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp (UCSIA) and the Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies (NISIS) organized a one-day conference on the topic of “Islam and the State” at the University of Antwerp. The day was opened by Barbara Segaert (project coordinator at UCSIA) and Joas Wagemakers (academic director at NISIS) and started with a session on Islam and the state in Lebanon. This session, which was moderated by Joas Wagemakers, included presentations by Ward Vloeberghs (senior lecturer in political science, Erasmus University Rotterdam), who spoke about Sunni Islamic “sectarian entrepreneurs” and how they have played a role in negotiating an identity in post-war Lebanon, and Roschanack Shaery-Yazdi (associate professor of history, University of Antwerp), who analyzed the politicization of the Shiite community in Lebanon since the 1960s, with a focus on Hizbullah since the 1980s.
After a nice lunch, the day continued with its second session, which focused on Morocco and was also moderated by Joas Wagemakers. The first speaker, Sami Zemni (professor of political and social science, Ghent University), discussed the historical role Islam has played in the legitimization of authority in Morocco and how the state has sought to create an “official Islam”. The second speaker in this session, Nina ter Laan (postdoctoral researcher, University of Cologne), built on this theme by concentrating on the aesthetic practices the Moroccan state employs to express this “Moroccan Islam”, particularly through the promotion of Sufism and the heritagization of the country’s Jewish history.
The third and final session of the day, moderated by Leni Franken (educational supervisor, University of Antwerp), was aimed at a broader audience and therefore conducted in Dutch. Its first speaker, Nadia Fadil (associate professor of social and cultural anthropology, Catholic University Leuven), spoke about the idea of a Belgian Islam, which she presented as ascribing too much coherence to both the Belgian state and Islam in Belgium. The second speaker of this session, Martijn de Koning (associate professor of Islam, politics and society, Radboud University Nijmegen), analyzed Islamophobia in the Netherlands and how the Dutch government’s policies have affected this phenomenon.
Although there were some unfortunate problems in Dutch public transport on 12 May, forcing several students and PhD-candidates to cancel their participation, we nevertheless look back on an interesting day and a successful cooperation between our two organizations. We thank our UCSIA partners in Antwerp, Barbara Segaert and Gilke Gunst (who were also responsible for the photographs), and look forward to collaborating again in the future.