Dr Roja Fazaeli secures €2 million European Research Council grant

Dr Fazaeli is a pioneer of research advances in the field of Islamic feminism

A Trinity researcher has secured a €2 million European Research Council (ERC) grant to explore the issue of Muslim women’s access to justice in Europe. Dr Roja Fazaeli, who is Warden of Trinity Hall and Associate Professor in Islamic Civilisations in the School of Languages Literatures and Cultural Studies, has been awarded a prestigious Consolidator Grant Award to lead a five-year research project BILQIS: Building Conceptual and Methodological Expertise for the Study of Gender, Agency and Authority in Islam.  

Fazaeli will assemble a team of five postdoctoral researchers and one research assistant to explore the issue of Muslim women’s access to justice in Europe. Fazaeli is a pioneer of research advances in the field of Islamic feminism and will now combine research approaches from the fields of socio-legal, gender, feminist and Islamic studies in this new project. BILQIS will explore questions of gender in relation to Islamic Family Laws through comparative study of how Muslim women in Europe have navigated agency and authority over time from the 19th century to the present day across European peripheries of the Balkans and Nordic-Atlantic contexts.

Girl Reciting Qur'an byPicture by Osman Hamdi Bey (1880)
Girl Reciting Qur’an by Osman Hamdi Bey (1880), Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Provost Linda Doyle said:

Roja’s project is so timely and has such great potential to address important questions at a moment when the subjects of agency and authority are in such profound focus in public discourse. It really shows the importance of funding curiosity-driven research at the frontiers and intersections of disciplines.

Dean of Research, Professor Wolfgang Schmitt who is a previous ERC Consolidator Grant awardee congratulated Prof Fazaeli saying:

An ERC award is such a badge of excellence, and extremely competitive to secure. It is a fantastic achievement for Roja and an exciting opportunity to build an interdisciplinary team to embark upon this ambitious and impactful research program on Islamic feminism involving analyses of access of Muslim women to justice in Europe.

BILQIS has the potential not only to make ground-breaking scholarly contributions, but also to contribute to public discussion as Dr Fazaeli has a strong track record of outreach and civic engagement including membership on the boards of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Frontline Defenders, and Scholars at Risk.

Dr Fazaeli said:

I feel very privileged to be able to assemble a team over the next five years dedicated to researching Muslim women’s access to justice in understudied European peripheries. BILQIS, named in reference to the queen of Sheeba in the Quran, is designed to reconceputalise normative studies of Islamic law. It will explore how Muslim women have sought access to justice in Europe and particularly the ways they have functioned as agents in negotiating the authority of courts, community, and religious leadership structures.  I’m tremendously grateful to Trinity’s Research Development Office for their constant guidance in the application process, and also for the goodwill of the many colleagues who supported the preparation of this application.

The European Research Council is the most highly regarded source of funding for “frontier research” and highly competitive to secure. Fazaeli is now one of only two researchers in Ireland to receive a Consolidator award in this round of funding, alongside Dr Emma Tomlinson, Associate Professor in Geology, School of Natural Sciences who secured an award of €2M in March 2022 for her project LITH03: Quantifying the formation and evolution of the Archaean lithospheric mantle.

The ERC offers an exciting opportunity for researchers to fund their best idea, it gives them a significant amount of money over 5 years and allows them to dedicate themselves to delivering the best frontier research in their field. Trinity researchers have performed exceptionally in the ERC competitions and Trinity has consistently been the top Irish university for grants secured. In the ERC’s annual report of activities for 2021, Trinity was listed as the only Irish university to secure more than 30 ERC awards in the Horizon 2020 EU Research & Innovation Programme (2014-2020, and Fazaeli and Tomlinson are now among 47 recipients of ERC Investigator Grants awarded at Trinity since 2014.

Further information is available at:

https://erc.europa.eu/funding/consolidator-grants

https://horizoneurope.ie/excellent-science/european-research-council

https://www.tcd.ie/research/people/erc.php