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Professor Humayun Ansari

Professor Humayun Ansari

Professor Humayun Ansari - Professor of Islam and Cultural Diversity

I am a historian of Islam and cultural diversity, with a focus on Muslims living in the West. My book The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain Since 1800 (first published in 2004) pioneered the historical study of the experiences of Muslims living in this country. But while my academic publications have explored ethnicity, identity, migration, multiculturalism, Islam in the West, Islamism, Islamophobia, radical Islamic thought and Muslim youth identities, since these themes are also of contemporary interest, my work has connected the university world with government, policymakers and local communities, underpinning consultancy and research projects. In 2002, I was awarded an OBE for services to higher education.

According to the 2004 The Independent’s review of The Infidel Within, ‘Striking diversity is the most distinctive feature of the Muslim community in Britain. Yet, as Ansari argues in this history of Islam in Britain, British Muslims have consistently been portrayed as denizens of a monolithic and undifferentiated world, ill at ease with modernity, secularism and democracy. Through painstaking research, and an inspired exploration of the issues of identity, Ansari sets out to dispel this absurd, but widely held, myth.’ Likewise, the review in The Times commented: ‘Nowadays, Muslims are hardly out of the news, but they still seem ultimately mysterious, driven by inexplicable motives and surrounded by controversy. With impeccable timing, Humayun Ansari’s history reveals British Muslims in all their diverse humanity and outlines their contribution to shaping modern British society over the past two centuries.’ The 2018 edition elicited similar positive feedback: ‘Ansari’s The Infidel Within remains compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand British Muslims in all their glorious diversity. Packed with evidence, statistics and polling this new edition brings the fast-evolving story of British Muslims up to date. An engaging account that is as relevant for its historical context as it is for its commentary on contemporary challenges’ (Baroness Sayeeda Warsi).

Much of my research work unsurprisingly has connected directly with local communities in contemporary Britain. In 2011, for instance, I prepared a scholarly edition of the Minutes of the London Mosque Fund and the East London Mosque Trust: 1910-1951. The richness of this important archive - a unique cultural memory of what was a variegated British Muslim experience - meant that by tracing the institutional evolution of Muslims in London, and by delineating how their religious activity was shaped both locally and in relation to wider, national as well as international, developments, I was able to further encourage a more textured understanding of the place of Muslims within British society. With my support, the East London Mosque subsequently acquired funding to make its archives available to the public.

Another area of my research interests in recent years has focused on the involvement of Indian Muslim soldiers in the First World War, and issues of their loyalty in particular. Indeed, my work here connects with my long-standing research interest in the places of British Muslim significance in and around the Surrey town of Woking, home to the historic Shah Jahan mosque and various Muslim burial places. I am advisor to the Everyday Muslim project that has put together a hugely innovative heritage trail connecting these important sites of British Muslim collective memory 

My current research is a biographical study of the life and times of an less well-known but hugely interesting late nineteenth/early twentieth century Indian Muslim, Maulana Barkatullah Bhopali, whose personal political journey took him around the world several times as he moved from being a pan-Islamic radical to a revolutionary nationalist and one of the founder members and leaders of the famous Ghadar Party during the First World War. In many ways, this project takes me back to earlier work that I conducted on the reception of socialist thought among North Indian Muslims, which was republished in a revised edition by OUP in 2015.

More information about my research is available via PURE


British Muslims

Islam in the West

religious diversity



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