What is Islam? What is the ‘West’? Is Islam inherently resistant to secularisation as some scholars and Islamic activists believe? Why is one defined in terms of religion and the other a geographical designation?  The aim of this course is to focus on the historical, political and religious relationships between ‘Islam’ and the ‘West’.  Islam has for centuries been Europe’s neighbor and cultural contestant with a history of conflict and co-existence.  Since September 11 there has been increasing talk of a ‘clash of civilizations’, but globalization has also has created an interdependency of faiths which requires greater co-operation, understanding, and dialogue.

Students in this course will be exposed to the recurrent theme of whether it is possible to separate the world into monolithic entities called ‘Islam’ and the ‘West’.  Students will also gain insight into the profound urgency to develop mutual understanding between the West and the Islamic World which is highlighted by a myriad of violent events over the last decades. On the assumption that ignorance is the enemy of peace, this course intends to explore the sources of conflict that have led towards the notion of “a clash of civilizations.”



  • Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Suleymaniye Mosque and UK Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre, Shoreditch
  • Rumi's Cave, Kilburn Park



Understanding Civilizations: Islam and the West

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