GARY R. BUNT - BACKGROUND
I am originally from London but have lived in Wales since 1993: my interest in the study of Islam developed through an unconventional route. I was working in radio production and presentation, both in the UK and abroad. This included time with the BBC, working in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Bush House (home of the World Service), which was invaluable experience for what I have been doing since, especially as I'm so interested in politics, current affairs, and their relation to religion. I also worked elsewhere in broadcasting and print media. I later found myself working and travelling in the Middle East, in a job that allowed a certain amount of spare time. I had access to a good book collection, started reading about the region's people, history, culture and religions - and became 'hooked'. After exhausting the library, I wanted more, and decided to study the subject in further depth at university. Going to university was something of a surprise for myself, as I'd never thought about it much when I was at school and didn’t come from an academic background. I just wanted to get out of the classroom as quickly as possible! Having worked prior to studies, it took a while to get into the culture shock of university life. My 'years out' were very helpful, especially as I became more and more interested in subjects relating to Islam.
My studies gave me time to develop an interest in the history of Islam and its relationship with 'the West', especially in terms of the flow of ideas and concepts. My journey from traveller to 'academic' occurred when I started to focus on the contemporary issues influencing Muslim societies, and their reflection of historical patterns, during my university studies in Kent, Durham and Wales. I was particularly interested in phenomenology of religion, and the impact of religious symbols and language on spirituality. I was also concerned with the issues of identity and historical representation associated with Islam and Muslims in Britain, and this has influenced a lot of my academic work.
My work has taken me to a number of interesting locations - including research in Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Some of my postgraduate work was closer to home, focusing on Muslim communities in the UK, undertaking interviews and discussing contemporary concerns - especially relating to decision making based on primary sources, including the Qur'an. I enjoy talking to people, and conducted hundreds of interviews with individuals and organisations, which I analysed in my Ph.D.
I have always been interested in current affairs - this was already time-consuming in the pre-internet era. When I discovered that I could access content online, my time was no longer my own! I was able to combine my interests in contemporary Islam and in computers into my research. Results have included my books Virtually Islamic, Islam in the Digital Age, iMuslims and Hashtag Islam.
I approach Islamic Studies as a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary subject, which enables people to draw upon different disciplines, skills and perspectives to interpret a wide range of issues. It's an exciting subject, which attracts many people from different perspectives and worldviews. I've had the privilege of engaging in dialogue, healthy discussion, and - at times - stimulating arguments (and disagreements!) on different issues. My own perspective is based on my academic interest in the subject area. There's plenty of room for different angles on many themes within the subject area. The important thing is to possess or obtain the appropriate academic tools to discuss these different issues, and I have sought to pass these on to the students and postgraduates during my academic career.
Outside of my family, my interests include exploring Wales, photography, and music (playlists range from Natasha Atlas and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to blues, rap, punk and dub reggae).