Two PhD Positions in the ERC Starting Grant - Study of Islam in Interwar Europe, Netherlands

The Faculty of Humanities hosts a wealth of expertise in fields including philosophy, history, art history, literature, linguistics, and area studies, covering practically the entire world. The Leiden Institute for Religious Studies (LIRS) is one of seven research institutes within the Faculty of Humanities. LIRS creates unique opportunities to study multiple religious traditions from antiquity to the modern age.

The PhD students will work within a research programme funded by the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant), entitled: Neither visitors, nor colonial victims: Muslims in Interwar Europe and European Trans-cultural History Principal investigator/supervisor of this research programme is Dr.Umar Ryad (Islamic Studies, LIRS). The Leiden Institute for Religious Studies (LIRS) invites applicants for:

Two PhD Positions in the ERC Starting Grant: Study of Islam in Interwar Europe (1.0 fte)

Vacancy numbers: 13-271 & 13-272

Description of the ERC Starting Grant research programme and the two PhD projects:

This ERC Starting Grant programme will cover the history of Muslims in interwar Europe. The project will go beyond the existing works that focus either on the nineteenth-century Muslim travelers, diplomats, students and residents or on the later post-World War II influx of Muslim immigrant workers. The research project will study Muslim networks in interwar Europe as neither simply visitors nor colonial victims, but that they constituted a group of engaged actors in the European and international space. Since such Muslim actors were active in Europe, having intensive contacts with peers across colonial lines, the focus on their activities and networks challenges the long standing historiographical assumptions that ignored their significance for the history of Europe. The project team shall hypothesize that histoire croisée (entangled history) is the most appropriate approach to study the encounters and experiences of Muslim actors in interwar Europe from within. By exploring the complex relationship between the historical data and the social, political, theological and cultural patterns of Muslims as a new social structure in interwar Europe, the project will represent a step towards a systematic global approach of Muslim connections in interwar Europe. Based on personal and official archives, memoirs, press writings and correspondences, this project analyses the multiple aspects of the global Muslim religious, political and intellectual affiliations in interwar Europe, broadly defined. How did Muslims in interwar Europe act and interact among each other; and within the European socio-political and cultural context? The project contributes to our historical conceptualization of Europe itself as much as to our understanding of the contemporary scene of Islam in Europe and the world today, without resorting to a neatly tailored hypothesis. Many Muslim groups in the West nowadays still trace their heritage to the ideas of the great reformers of the early twentieth century. More historical reflection on Islam in Europe can put the present “fear” for the Islamization of the West into perspective.

PhD project 1: Muslim Religious Identity and Institutions Vacancy number: 13-271

A number of official mosques were established in Europe after World War I: (Working Mosque in London (1914), Berlin (1923-1925), and Paris (1926). This PhD-project will investigate the question whether religion was a well-embedded framework of reference to the self-identification of Muslims in interwar Europe. It will address the question how Muslim mediators were trying to develop forms of social, intellectual and political agencies in religious ideological terms. What were the structures and role of mosques and religious (missionary) institutions in Europe? How did the European recipient societies react to their existence? Did the activists and thinkers in question perceive Islam in the singular, and as something distinct? Or did they consider their Muslim identity as merely one aspect of their complex experience as individuals living in Europe? How did Muslims define Islam (for instance, with regard to the diversity of Islamic schools, ethnic origins etc.) and the Muslim community (for instance, with regard to class differences, educational background, urban/rural background, migrants/indigenous Muslims)? How did such actors relate to non-Muslim communities, movements or intellectual trends? In what ways did Muslims try to enhance/adjust their sense of religiosity in their search for religious-based interpretations in a secular context? Were there other affinities than religion which bound these groups of Muslims? How far were these historical actors motivated by religious ideals? How far did they propagate a kind of a “European Islam”?

PhD project 2: Political activism and Pan-Islamism Vacancy number: 13-272

In their attempt to overturn the domination of the post-World War I international order by France and Britain, a number of Muslim nationalists assumed anti-imperialist, leftist, Fascist and Nazi coalitions as allies in their anti-imperial struggle. Muslims in interwar Europe were entangled between their personal experiences of the universal notions of global democracy, freedom and civilization propagated inside Europe, and the imperialist contrasting Eurocentric politics outside. Most Muslim political mediators chose Switzerland, Germany, Britain and France as central regions for their political mobility. This PhD-project will examine the impact, forms, and the geopolitical intellectual East-West connections of Muslim political activism in interwar Europe. This sub-project will shift the emphasis on Muslim nationalism as a modern secular project, to its interwar variety of guises, causes and transitions. It investigates Muslim political engagement in history through their interactions in/with European societies by addressing such question: How did Islam and politics interact in the western environment? How did pan-Islamic political ideologies and expatriate identities interplay with European political regional and quasi-national ideas and movements? How and why did they resort to European cultural/political frameworks in their struggle? In what way did they shape the visions of pan-Islam to incorporate the notion of international solidarity among fellow Muslims?

Duties and responsibilities

The candidates are supposed to carry out the following tasks:

· Writing a Ph.D. thesis;

· Submitting research results for publication in peer-reviewed academic journals;

· Submitting research results for incorporation in a synthetic publication to be written by the programme director;

· Presenting papers at (international) conferences;

· Some teaching in the second and third year of the appointment;

· Co-organizing workshops and an international conference together with the supervisor of the programme;

· Participating in reading and discussions groups, seminars and workshops within the remit of the ERC Starting Grant group, within LIRS, as well as the wider Faculty of Humanities.


· The applicant has a master’s degree in Arabic/Islamic Studies, modern Middle-Eastern or European history or an equivalent degree in cognate disciplines. The MA-thesis must be of high quality, with a grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale, or comparable assessment;

· The applicant’s MA thesis testifies to well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate relevant and creative research questions and hypotheses, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;

· The applicant’s CV illustrates familiarity with and experience in research into the study of Islam and modern intellectual and political history;

· The applicant has a good command of Arabic;

· The applicant has proficiency in English (spoken and written) as well as the ability to work with primary secondary literature in modern European languages;

· A good knowledge of other primary languages necessary for the project will be highly recommended;

· The applicant has ability to work independently and willingness to work in a research team, with good organizational and social skills;

· The applicant undertakes to finish the proposed Ph.D. research within 4 years.

What we offer

The successful applicant is initially appointed for a period of 12 months, with the preferred starting date of February 1st 2014. After positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility and if progress is satisfactory, the appointment will be extended by another 3 years. The appointment must lead to the completion of a Ph.D. thesis. Appointment will be under the terms of the CAO (collective labour agreement) of the Dutch Universities.The gross monthly salary is set on € 2.083, - in the first year up to € 2.664, - gross per month in year four. This is based upon a fulltime employment and in conformity with current salary scales under the collective employment agreement (CAO) for Dutch Universities.

An appointment with Leiden University includes a pension build-up and facilitates other benefits such as an annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8,3%. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

Further information

• For more information, please contact Dr. Umar Ryad: e-mail:

• For information about LIRS see .

How to apply

Please submit your application letter (with the vacancy number), Curriculum vitae, and two recommendation letters before 21 October 2013,  to and

Please add to your application the following appendices: the MA thesis, a copy of relevant course assessments and the MA degree certificate, and other relevant documentation such as certificates of relevant language courses.