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Expert sees grounds for optimism

The past can offer hope for future relations between the Islamic world and the West, a University expert says.

Hugh Goddard, Professor of the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, outlined models for positive relations between the two cultures in his inaugural lecture.

Intellectual interaction

Professor Goddard highlighted the "considerable constructive intellectual interaction" that took place between Christians and Muslims in two key periods of history - Iraq in the 9th to 10th century, and Spain in the 11th to 12th centuries.

Professor Goddard said these two periods are often overlooked as people focus instead on the more turbulent episodes of the Crusades or Ottoman assaults on South-Eastern Europe.

Models from history

In recent years, a number of incidents – including the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses in 1988 and the controversy surrounding the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammed in 2005 – have seemed to demonstrate a relationship of hostility between the world of Islam and the West. Other times in history offer a very different model of the relationship.

Professor Hugh GoddardProfessor of the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World

He also said that in addition to these historic examples, there are many modern initiatives such as the Building Bridges seminar of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Common Word initiative, and the Alliance of Civilizations project under the auspices of the United Nations that seek to demonstrate the positive relations between the two cultures - these could be used as models for the future.

Deeper understanding

Professor Hugh Goddard, an internationally recognised scholar on the impact of Islam on the contemporary world, heads the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University.

The Centre has been set up with funding from the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation to foster deeper understanding between the Muslim world and the West, and aims to improve public knowledge and awareness of Islamic culture in Britain.