Last weekend, I attended a conference entitled “Speaking in God’s name: Re-examining Gender in Islam”in London. Organized by Inspire, a Muslim women’s consultancy that aims to inspire and empower Muslim women. The purpose of the conference was to have a conversation about re-negotiating how we understand gender in Islam. The conference featured some big names, such as Amina Wadud, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, and Dr. Khalid Abou El Fadl, and Mukhtar Mai. The conference also launched the start of a new organization named “Jihad Against Violence UK.”
I had a conversation with Eleanor Kilory of Women Living Under Muslim Laws, Word Play of Word Play Blog, Basma Al Mutlaq of Saudi Amber, and Faeeza Vaid of Muslim Women’s Network UK about the conference. It’s a pretty long conversation, so the first part is today and we’ll finish up tomorrow.
Basma: The core idea behind the conference that is rightly named “Speaking in God’s Name” was to examine gender issues in the light of the emerging Islamic feminism as an alternative to the decades-long male interpretation of the religious texts that resulted in women becoming the sole bearers of Islam and the main victims of bigotry and discriminatory edicts and laws that weigh heavily on men’s side.
Sara: Overall, I enjoyed the conference, but the intended audience was never quite clear. The marketing of the conference led me to believe that the focus of the conference would be on tools for British Muslim community. However, while thought provoking, not many of the speakers really spoke about the U.K. context. I was mostly interested in this conference because I thought that it would be an exploration of the grass roots application of many of the conversations about gender and Islam in the classroom.
Basma: And although the main focus of the conference is gender and Islam, with themes of religious moderation and calls for the liberation of women from the shackles of regressive tribal tradition and patriarchal tyranny, it also addressed other issues. For example, the Muslim community in the U.K. and questions about gender mixing in mosques and the hyped question of “burqa or no burqa,” which sounded a bit of cliché amidst the more academic speeches of Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini and the prominent scholar professor Amina Wadud, who wrote extensively about fiqh and offers a female re-reading of the religious texts that have been interpreted by men for almost fourteen centuries.