At the end of July, American Islamic Scholar Amina Wadud was scheduled to speak at the University of Madras. Her engagement was cancelled by the university at the 11th hour, in the midst of confusion after the city’s police force alleged unnamed threats of violence, suggested her appearance had earlier precipitated riots in Tamil Nadu (flatly false, as she has never spoken there before), and refused to offer security.
The University of Madras’s decision elicited a slew of sensational headlines within India and abroad, including The Hindu’s “One SMS, and Amina Wadud’s lecture was called off,” and the American Bazaar’s “After furor in NYC, Amina Wadud lands in controversy in Chennai.” In response, Dr. Wadud expressed her dismay in her blog post, “Why I Try to Stay Away from the Media.” Few articles gave real credence to Dr. Wadud’s substantive contributions to Islamic thought, and virtually no one mentioned that she has spent nearly a year living, speaking, and working in India, without any issues. Instead, the general, mainstream coverage emphasized threats from “fringe” Muslim groups and painted Dr. Wadud as a brazen feminist looking to pick a fight. Another article in The Hindu, for example, suggested that there was no support for Dr. Wadud’s talk at the university, quoting a source from the Islamic Studies Department at the University of Madras, saying, “we got an email from a representative of a Muslim outfit. The mail expressed shock over us inviting someone who does not accept the Quran completely, supports homosexuality and mixed prayer congregations.” [Read more...]