A note on the new Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies (University of Western Sydney)

On the 16th of July, UWS launched a new Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies as part of its partnership with NCEIS (National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies). I have received emails and queries about my involvement and position with the centre, as well as questions about its program and agenda. Since I have been mentioned as one of the ‘senior academics’ appointed to the new centre, and since some academic colleagues were aware of my intention and efforts for the past two years to start a centre along the same lines, I feel that I need to clarify the current situation and my collaboration on this project with my friend, and co-editor of the book series Muslims in Global Societies, Prof. Bryan Turner.

The original idea for this centre began with my earlier endeavors, such as my journal, which I founded when I was at the University of Aberdeen. I discussed further the idea of starting a centre with Prof. Bryan Turner in Amsterdam during a symposium I organized with the publisher Springer to launch my journal, Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslims life. As we both moved to UWS, we decided to work together towards establishing the centre with the intention of leading it together.

Unfortunately, my role within the centre has been gravely marginalized in the past months, and my involvement has not been publicly acknowledged, so that Prof. Bryan Turner is now recognized as the only foundation Director (UWS apparently lacks a position title of ‘Deputy Director’ for their research centres) and is solely responsible for setting the agenda and program (as well as the appointments) for this new centre. The foundation Director, Prof. Bryan Turner, will not be based, other than for three months per year, at the centre since he is currently Alona Evans Distinguished Visiting Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College, Boston, at least until 2012.

Therefore, after careful consideration, although I will remain based in UWS, I have decided to ask the foundation Director of the centre, Prof. Turner and UWS to remove my name from the list of the scholars affiliated to the newly established Centre for Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies.

Hence, I wish to clarify that, at the present, I am not involved in any decision making or other administrative tasks for this Centre, or in its research plans. In particular, allow me to disperse some current voices that have designated me as the ‘community liaison officer’ responsible for ‘engagement’ with the Muslim communities, which is the main target of the research of this centre.

Although I am an anthropologist, and I have a very good relationship with many Muslim communities in various countries, it is not my task, as an academic, to assume such a role and I surely do not have (neither would I consider having) such a role as far as the new Centre for the Study of Muslim Societies – or for that matter NCEIS, UWS, or any other entity – is concerned.

Finally, let me stress and clarify beyond any doubt that, although I invited Prof. Turner to be a member of the editorial board of Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslim life, and I also invited him to start a new book series with me, neither my journal, nor my blog, nor my editorship of the book series, or any other aspect of my work conducted so far are expressions of, or affiliated to, this centre and remain independent academic endeavors.

Nonetheless, I wish my friend, Prof. Bryan Turner, and all colleagues involved, all the best for this new centre and its future research.

15 thoughts on “A note on the new Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies (University of Western Sydney)

  1. But I didnt say “well done” to what you wrote above…. what you wrote above suggests that you have a very narrow view of “those non-heterosexual people” who “feel” Muslim….I’mone of them, and personally I find Professor Habib’s interventions in this area are crucial to an ongoing debate among Muslim themselves. Which is why a hate people like Paul White (who isn’t a Dr by the way, he has no MD or PhD) who distort what people are really trying to say….I’ve never seen anythign written about that unit by someone who actually took that unit except here:


    and that gives a very different view from what you’ve interpreted….. that’s why I was a bit indigninant, because you are intervening in “community-based debates” and being a clairvoyant about them when you obviously know so little and have spent so little time there…..

    Muslimgirl07 I appreciate you, and I hear you….anthropologists just want to watch, not change, but we still love them. Randi, you’re not helping.

    John Wilkes

    1. Dear John Wilkes,

      Thank you for your comment, I appreciate the change from your previous uncivilized comments (that I have not published). So I can now reply.

      The only issue that I find with the above comment is that you have not read my chapter in my book and you are commenting without actually knowing my position. Please, before commenting on a scholarly matter, it is good to read. I would be happy to debate the topic with you (not here since it is not the right post).

      In any case, I am sure that you can agree on one point: as you have the right to express and say that you are a Muslim non-heterosexual, you should also recognize the right of those Muslims who feel that there cannot be one because of their own Islamic exegesis.

      I do not enter into the debate of whether Muslims (heterosexual or otherwise) are “real” Muslims or not (and if you read my book that I have linked, you will understand why). I am only concerned with the reasons for which a person (despite his or her sexual orientation) “feels to be” a Muslim.

      Best wishes

  2. I am gobsmacked at the level of aggression and viciousness that has been used in attacking a different viewpoint to yours, presented by a lecturer at the UWS? Isn’t the purpose of education to broaden one’s mind through dialogue with people from different backgrounds/beleifs/opinions etc?

    Are the attackers that shaky in the beleif that they have to absolutely silence any viewpoint different to theirs? While reading this forum and many others slandering a certain lecturer’s character , one can’t help but wonder whether the attackers are fearful of certain hidden desires in themselves that they have to silence any kind of debate about homosexuality in Islam?

    Do we really want to raise a generation of young muslims who spend years and incur debts at universities to hear nothing different to what the local imam in their local mosque has repeated all throughout their lives? I beg not….please stop demeaning Islam to being yet another tool of censorship.

    1. Dear Muslimgirl07,

      thank you for your comment. I am not sure which “forum” you are referring to; maybe you wish to provide a link and be a bit more precise about who the lecturer is that you are speaking about? I can only suppose that you are speaking about the course Women in Islam offered at UWS and you are replying directly to the previous comment mentioning it by Mr Ali White.

      I wish to say that I would prefer if my blog is not used for a new discussion concerning that specific controversy. My post above was only about my decision to not be part of the Centre which I had helped to develop.

      At the end, the Centre became something different from what I thought it should have been; hence my purely academic decision of resigning from both the centre and UWS.

      When that story appeared in forums and newspapers, I was not employed by UWS. I was not aware of the controversy until quite recently. I do not know what happened and I have not spoken to the protagonist (and I am not even interested in doing so for research).

      I found all the debate at the end useless and time-wasting when I was informed of it. I think that certain topics can be discussed if we leave religion aside and observe human behavior. As I have explained in my books, a person “feels to be” Muslim (or any other religion or aspect of identity) despite what others think of it. Then, of course, there are other aspects, such as the issue of social inclusion or exclusion, orthodoxy or orthopraxy, being accepted or rejected, and exegesis versus historical morphogenesis. Yet to just discuss the hadiths and the Qur’an as a means of explaining certain realities, or to defend or denigrate them, is extremely reductive. There is a very vague general orthodox consensus on Islam and non-heterosexuality; yet it is marked by differences, disagreements and strong discussion even among religious scholars. I think that theology should be left to the theologians. Social scientists can explain things while leaving aside the religious elements or entering into the debate about it.

      My personal position, research, and analysis–as an anthropologist– on the specific topic of those non-heterosexual people “who feel to be Muslims” can be found here:

      The Anthropology of Islam Chapter 8

      for a review of the book you can read here

      I hope this can help

  3. Dear all,

    recently I have started to receive offensive messages as the last two above (both on the blog and by email).

    Around the centre there is a community-based political, ideological debate between two extremists: those whom believe that Muslims should be taught how to be civilized and ‘secularized’ and those whom believe that any study of Islam and Muslims should not be conducted or, if unavoidable, should only be conducted by people in kaftans and long beards with degrees maybe from a Pakistani Madrasa and under the control of Shari’a (but which one they often do not explain).

    I resigned from the Centre first, and UWS afterwards (I am based in NUS at the present). I have explained the reasons and I am not interested in the little jihads and crusades which it seems to be affected by, and which have nothing to do with research and academic life.

    Said this, I believe in freedom of speech. I believe that each human being has the right to express his or her own opinions as others have the right to criticize or reject them.

    Yet I will not publish any comment (other than the two idiotic examples above) which is a simple, and often stupid, diatribe among foul-mouthed individuals who are unable to formulate any real argument.

    So, if you want to articulate a criticism of somebody else who left a comment here, do not call him names and do not call me names, but rather show that you have a brain at least able to think ten minutes and put forward a counter argument. If you ask for censorship, you are wasting your time.

    No offenses will be published towards third parties and comments containing no argument will be treated as spam.

    I have nothing personal against the UWS Centre for the Study of Muslim Societies, as I have explained above. At the same time, as an academic, I can decide when and how to be part of a project or not. This is called academic freedom. Thanks for respecting it.

    with regards


  4. Paul White is a bully, in person and in cyberspace…..within his own community, he has been banned from Muslim Village forum numerous times…..His tirades are libel, defamatory and completely delusional. He has acted offensively in public in the name of his zeal for Islam, but what he is concealing is a mental health issue not faith…… I hope you can see this a form of freedom of speech you well spoken, well mannered hunk of man! With sincerest regards for you Dr Marranci.

  5. Adn you Dr Marranci, ought to be ahsamed of yourself for publishing this asshole’s words!

    1. I am never ashamed of freedom of speech. I am ashamed by the fact that you have used somebody else name and offensive language. If you want to reply to one of the comments, please do so, the blog accepts debate, yet be respectful of other people viewpoints even if you do not like them or disagree.

      Best wishes whoever in reality you might be.


  6. None of this is surprising. UWS has declared itself to be the most ‘Muslim-friendly’ university in Australia, yet it continues to attempt to manipulate Muslims and others who take it on face-value.

    The Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies is a part of the NCEIS. The NCEIS, in turn, was launched with much fanfare as a supposed gift from the UWS nomenklatura to Australian Muslims. Yet, whenever Muslim academics or even qualified Muslim scholars have politely stated their unease with certain aspects of the NCEIS, the response has been an undisguised snarl on the part of UWS, from the top down. UWS Muslim students at the NCEIS have been treated in an even worse manner. UWS’s appartchiks seem to believe that literally anything is permissible, if they simply invoke the mantra of ‘academic freedom’.

    The reality is that the NCEIS was not established to facilitate understanding of Islam, but as part of a dishonourable exercise in social engineering. Among other things, this aims to produce so-called ‘modern’ or ‘secular’ young Muslims. That is why Units studied at the NCEIS include 101.471: ‘Women in Arabic and Islamic Literature’, which supposedly uses Qur’an and Ahadith, then other literature, to examine how Islam impacts on women. In reality, Muslims enrolled in this course have faced a barrage of propaganda in favour of lesbianism. People are free to decide their sexual preferences for themselves, of course, but one wonders whether the content of this course was not chosen with the express purposes of provocation and misleadership.

    The Holy Qur’an has been derided as supposedly misogynist in the NCEIS. It has been asserted that Ahadith are simply hearsay accounts (so-called ‘Chinese whispers’) of statements of Prophet Muhammad (S). Students are taught that homosexuality ‘is neither condemned nor condoned’ by Islam, and that hijab is not obligatory in Islam. Again, people will make up their own minds about these questions, also, but such instruction is hardly part of a genuine attempt to understand Islam. It is, however, very much part and parcel of a nasty pseudo-intellectual attempt to break the Islamic convictions of many of its students, as well as to foster a bowdlerised version of Islam. All this has been documented by myself.

    None of this is new, of course. Britain pioneered such shenanigans in colonial India — albeit not so crudely.

    Academics are well advised to steer well clear of these two toxic centres.

    For more information, go to:
    (Scroll down the page for 3 blog entries.)

    (A fully referenced and documented critique of the NCEIS.)

    Dr. Ali White

  7. Good luck with it all Gabriele… we are all rooting for you and for academic freedom/integrity in any case

  8. Dear all,
    I am very concerned about the level of freedom of speech and academic freedom existing within the University of Western Sydney (in particular when, as in the post above, solely, and unchallenged, actual facts have been reported) .

    As you may notice from comparing the cache version of my UWS profile page with the one active now, not only has the link to this blog been removed, but also the link to my speech to the House of Lords concerning my research on Muslim prisoners within the UK prisons!

    I can only express surprise about the decision of removing the link to my blog and even more about the decision to remove the link to the pdf of a British Academy sponsored report.

    Indeed, I have never received any official complain from UWS about the facts which I have been stated in the above post (which, if needed, may be easily proved in a court-room) nor I have been informed of the intention to remove the links from my profile webpage.


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