Masooda Bano wins EUR2.45m ERC Advanced Grant to study Islamic conservatism in Europe

We are delighted to announce that Professor Masooda Bano has been awarded a 2.45 million euro European Research Council Advanced Grant to study the persistent appeal of Islamic conservatism among young Muslims in Europe.

Professor Bano was one of 209 researchers across Europe to win the highly competitive awards, from a total of 2,678 applicants.

The Islamic networks that have historically embedded themselves in Muslim communities in Europe and the UK represent the most conservative Islamic knowledge traditions, which promote highly conservative social norms, encourage isolation from mainstream society, and in extreme cases also endorse jihad.

Despite facing recent competition from Islamic scholars and institutions that are actively trying to promote teachings from the classical Islamic scholarly tradition – which balances textual loyalty with a focus on contemporary social reality – these conservative movements remain highly popular among second and third-generation Muslims.

Working within theories of institutional persistence and change, complementing them with a focus on understanding the significance of ethical and moral agency as discussed in recent studies in the anthropology of Islam, and taking cues from the growing interest in the role of neighbourhoods in religious socialisation, Professor Bano’s project will develop a unique approach to understanding the ‘stickiness’ of Islamic conservatism in the West.

The project has a threefold focus: firstly, studying the survival strategies of institutional elites, as well as any attempts at internal reform; secondly, expanding an existing focus on ‘push’ factors – such as childhood socialisation and reactionary religiosity – to include ‘pull’ factors, such as the possible appeal of the ethical and moral agency that these movements are able to inculcate; and finally, testing the hypothesis that ‘mosque-dense Muslim-majority neighbourhoods’ are central to ingraining a conservative social Islamic imaginary in each subsequent generation, which, through a dense network of ties, is spread to Muslim youth across the country.  

ERC Advanced Grants support academics who are already established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements. Professor Bano’s award, which lasts five years, was one of five won by the University of Oxford.

'For this last ERC call under Horizon 2020, over 200 researchers will be funded to follow their scientific instinct and dreams. Still, the great increase in demand led to a very fierce competition: only 8% of candidates were successful,' said ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. 'We look forward to seeing what major insights and breakthroughs will spring from this investment and trust.'

Find out more about the awards.