Professor Grace Davie leads discussion on religion and Islam
On 13 April, the WCIA welcomed Professor Grace Davie from Exeter University to the Temple of Peace to explore the importance of religion in the public sphere in her talk, ‘Contextualising Islam in 21st Century Britain’.
Professor Davie began her discussion by noting that the debate about religion and public life is very important for the democratic future of countries, stating that if we cannot allow for religious diversity then there is something very wrong with our democracy.
She drew upon five factors which she believes people must take into account in order to understand religion in Britain, as well as the complexities and pressure that is put on the Muslim community, these being; cultural heritage; vicarious religion; the shift from obligation to consumption; new arrivals; and secular alternatives.
Professor Davie then spoke about three world changing events that she considers to have been pivotal in the debate about religion; the 1979 Iranian Revolution; the fall of communism in 1989; and the 9/11 bombings in the USA.
She suggested that since these events, discussions about religion have become more prominent in fields of social science including law, politics, welfare and health care. In each of the different fields of study, something different is bought to the table and only by bringing all of these fields together can we have a constructive debate about issues of extreme importance. The problem, Professor Davie suggested, is that there is still very much an ill informed and ill mannered debate within the media about religion and in particular, Islam.
The discussion then concluded with a Q&A session. One audience member drew upon the discussion of the social sciences as a lens to study religion and asked whether it is possible to effectively study social sciences and be devoutly religious and in particular Muslim. To this Professor Davie replied; "Being a Muslim gives you great insight and means for reflection, everyone brings baggage to the table from all aspects of life, therefore there is nothing to stop you from studying the social sciences well if you are a Muslim or of any other religion or background."
We spoke to audience members after the discussion to find out what they thought;
“Grace’s talk was empowering in discussing the new sociology of religion when religion nowadays is being so often marginalised in contemporary debates,” said Matthew Vince.
Becci Broard said it was: “A really intellectually stimulating debate that raised a lot of interesting questions surrounding the integration of religion within the public sphere, it was especially interesting to learn about the importance of emphasising the positive role religion can play within the context of policy making. A great talk.”
Professor Davie said of the event that there was a: “Lovely welcome, very interesting questions and a wonderful audience”.
To learn more about Grace’s talk, read the event write up and view pictures, head to our post event resources page.
Baroness Scotland explores the role of the Commonwealth
On 22 March, the WCIA invited Baroness Scotland, new Secretary General of the Commonwealth
to the Temple of Peace to explore the role of the Commonwealth today from the perspective of Wales and other Commonwealth members from around the world.
After students from the local area welcomed Baroness Scotland, President of the WCIA, Sir Emyr Jones Parrry
, introduced the event and spoke about the way in which the Commonwealth helps us to better solve issues like climate change and security.
During her talk, Baroness Scotland discussed the value of the Commonwealth for Wales and the UK. She spoke of how the Commonwealth is an asset to every country and of the advantages we have from working together.
There are issues, she said, that we cannot solve alone and that are a threat to the whole world, such as climate change and terrorism, these are multilateral problems that are best tackled together. She spoke about how she intends to pull together a Commonwealth climate change summit.
Baroness Scotland also discussed the opportunities that the Commonwealth provides for sharing expertise and working together to create platforms for dynamic communication. This means that we can learn from one another, for example in Rwanda, the health care system involves cross-country 4G meaning that thousands of nurses can liaise with doctors over mobile phones.
The Baroness said that one of her biggest aspirations as Secretary General was to eliminate domestic violence from the world. The only way that a country can be truly wealthy, she argued, is by investing in social capital, by treating men and women equally, and by ensuring that women and girls play a proper role in development and leadership.
Concluding the talk Baroness Scotland reflected on the way her father taught her at age six the value of personal action on big issues; explaining to her father how the apartheid regime in South Africa made her feel, her father asked; what are you going to do about this? She boycotted South African fruit!
She said that she has followed this commitment of asking herself what she can do about international issues since this point. She concluded: “It starts with us as individuals, I want to encourage you to ask these questions, you are never too small to start: “My father taught me at six years old that ‘you’ is ‘all of us’ and that you are never too small to make a difference”.
After the event, Susie Ventris-Field, Deputy Chief Executive of the the WCIA said; “Baroness Scotland was an inspirational and knowledgeable speaker, and we hope those present will seek to answer her question; what are YOU going to do to make a change?”
To learn more about Baroness Scotland’s visit, head to our post event page