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Muslim women activists tackle global issues at international conference

Sughra Ahmed

Feminism, political revolution and ‘honour based’ violence affecting Muslim women are among the issues to be discussed at an international conference, at the University of Derby.

The Muslim Women’s Activism Conference will feature speakers from Turkey, Belgium, America, Jordan, Bengal, Pakistan and the UK; and be held on Thursday June 26 at the University’s Enterprise Centre in Bridge St, Derby. It has been organised by the University’s research Centre for Society, Religion and Belief; and New Horizons in British Islam, a charity working for reform in Muslim thought and practice.

Issues to be tackled include Muslim women and:

political empowerment through the use of social media (with perspectives from Iranian women);
ensuring educational rights, employment and free speech for all women;
their role in countering violent religious extremism;
dealing with people’s reactions when they choose to wear the niqab (the veil leaving only the eyes visible);
women’s roles in faith contexts;
the Egyptian revolution;
working in science.

Speakers will include Tahera Shireen Rahman, an American Muslim broadcast journalist who regularly appears on TV and radio in her native Chicago; Zeynep Jane Louise Kandur, a senior Turkish politician and speaker on her country’s foreign policy; Dr Juliane Hammer, academic and author of American Muslim Women, Religious Authority and Activism; and Sughra Ahmed, the first female president of the Islamic Society of Britain.

Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor – Research Fellow at the University’s Centre for Society, Religion and Belief, and one of the conference organisers – said: “Across the globe, Muslim women are active in society. They run anti-war campaigns, are protest artists, establish women’s refuges and girls’ schools, and assert their rights to decide themselves whether to wear traditional religious clothing such as the niqab or hijab (full body covering).

“We believe our conference will be one of the first of its kind in the UK to discuss what Muslim women’s activism has done and may do in the future. We have attracted women speakers in senior roles in politics, education and the media who are true ‘firsts’; leading the way for others to follow.”

Rabiha Hannan, of New Horizons in British Islam, added: “The perception among people today, including some Muslims, is that Muslim women have a very limited role in the public sphere. This event demonstrates how women are taking action to reclaim their right to interpret their faith for themselves, in very diverse ways, and act accordingly”.

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