Halal meat, the representation of Islam in the British press, and female, Muslim hip-hop artists will all be topics of discussion at a three-day symposium held by Cambridge University’s Centre of Islamic Studies.

Muslims are rarely out of the news in the West.

Yasir Suleiman

Muslims in the UK and Europe runs from May 16-18 when 24 current Master’s and PhD candidates from universities in Britain and Europe will gather to discuss, debate and present their research on issues affecting the life of Muslims in the 21st century.

Conversion to Salafism, hate crimes and wearing of the hijab will also come under scrutiny at the event, which takes place at the Moller Centre, located in the grounds of Churchill College, Cambridge.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies, said: “Muslims are rarely out of the news in the West. The symposium brings together some of the best young scholars from the UK, Europe and USA to debate pressing issues facing Muslims in the UK and Europe. We hope that this symposium will become an annual event and that it will expand to bridge the gap between fundamental research and practice in different walks of life.”

Ruth Helen Corbet, from Glasgow University, will talk at the symposium about British Muslim piety and the welfare of animals for food – spotlighting three UK Islamic enterprises practising excellent welfare standards.

Corbet said the negative media portrayal over the slaughter process for halal meat was caused by the assumption that all halal meat is non-stunned and infiltrating schools, supermarkets and restaurant chains. However, she argues that according to Government figures - only three per cent of cattle are slaughtered without stunning and more than 80pc of animals used for halal meat are stunned.

“I would contend that all means of death should be labelled, to do otherwise culturalises cruelty, making one minority group of consumers appear responsible for the suffering of animals for food," she said. "This seems unreasonable when 19 million quadrupeds and 750 million birds are slaughtered per year in the UK alone.”

Elsewhere, LSE’s Adviya Khan will report on her research into the experiences of British hip-hop group Poetic Pilgrimage, which consists of two black, female, Muslim converts, Sukina Abdul Noor and Muneera Rashida. Her work is raising the profile of black female converts whose experiences have often been almost entirely absent in conversion narratives – a discrepancy also noted by Cambridge’s Centre of Islamic Studies during its own study into the experiences of 50 female converts last year.

Khan said: “During my interviews, it became clear that racism was a lived reality for Poetic Pilgrimage – and was far from one dimensional. It came from various sectors of society, including Muslims and non-Muslims and was manifested in terms of both colour racism and Islamophobia. Black, Muslim voices are absent in media, politics and popular discussions around Islam. Poetic Pilgrimage along with other female acts is virtually invisible from mainstream Muslim TV channels, websites and events, unlike their male counterparts.”

The symposium begins with registration at noon on Friday, May 16, and continues until lunch on Sunday.

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