The Muslim Institute is indeed a fascinating organisation, and I reflect on this fact, having been appointed its new chair, and I am pleased to be joined by Asim Siddiqui as my deputy chair. It was set up 50 years ago this year in a very different time. Like the world around us, the Institute has been through its own tumultuous changes. It has however sought to stay true to its original purpose 'to promote and support the growth of thought, knowledge, research, creativity and open debate'.
It was established in 1973 by the late Kalim Siddiqui, Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, a young Ziauddin Sardar, and others. In fact, I arrived on these shores in 1979 on a scholarship grant from the Institute after I had graduated in Islamic Studies at the famous Darul Uloom, Deoband, India, where I qualified as a Mufti.
The Institute’s task in the 1970s was to reimagine a Muslim civilisation after decades and centuries of intellectual decline. The 1980s was spent as a platform promoting ‘the global Islamic movement’. The 1990s was about Muslim minorities looking after themselves with the creation of the Muslim Parliament, Halal Food Authority and more. The 2000s were spent campaigning against foreign wars and for human dignity at home. In the 2010s it became a fellowship society with the Winter Gatherings at Sarum College, publication of the quarterly journal Critical Muslim and annual Ibn Rushd lectures at the Arts Workers Guild.
The 2020s will undoubtedly bring another decade of change.
I was a young man when the Muslim Institute was set up and who knows where we will all be in another half a century. But here’s to another 50 years, God willing.
Mufti Barkatulla is chair of the Muslim Institute.