Friday, 3 January 2014

Talk : Women, Leadership and Islam

Fascinating talk back in November 2013 entitled "Women, Leadership and Islam" at the Jubilee Campus, UoN.

Organised by social action group Himmah, the event featured presentations by Dr Laura Zahra McDonald (lecturer on Islam and gender issues) and Farzana Shan (management expert and social action volunteer)

Dr Laura Zahra McDonald discussed a number of examples of how Muslim women had been portrayed in recent history, including the remarkable photographs of Marc Garanger who, whilst in the French army during the Algerian war, was told to photograph women in an internment camp without their veils, and the defiant faces of the women as they are photographed are very haunting.

Dr Macdonald also discussed a number of famous strong female Muslims, such as Zainab bint Ali, Queen Amina of Zaria and Umm Amara.

In addition, Dr MacDonald talked about some aspects of the current status of women in Islamic discourse, including examples of women who, controversially, lead prayers and also commenting on how womens theological courses were often much less rigorous and less broad than those of their male co-students, which made it harder for women to take their place at the scholarly table, as it were.

Dr MacDonald

Sr Ferzana talked about her experience with Himmah working at a soup kitchen to feed 50 completely destitute people in Nottingham (including parents and children).

She commented on how disturbing it was to see this situation in Nottingham and pointed out that change can only happen through leadership and through working with other organisations.

Although there were some great example of proactive mosques in Nottingham (with Sr Ferzana being an alumni of the Karimia womens football and netball teams for exmple), there was still a need for further development

Sr Ferzana, working with Himmah, wanted to develop female leaders for Nottinghams Muslim community - by training 25 women at some of Nottinghams mosques so that they become capable of running social programmes.

During the Q&A a number of interesting comments came from the audience, including one person who pointed out the huge difference in acceptance of women speakers between the West (where it was not an issue) and the East (where it was a very big issue)

Chairman Dr Ahmed Meliebary commented on how Islamic Societies at Universitites were driven and funded primarily by women, but that, in some cases, it was men who got all the positions of responsibility in the organisation.

He commmented that this had caused problems in the past and that, as well as gender bias, ISOCs had sometimes also been guilty of ageism, with young people finding it hard to be elelcted no matter how hard or how effectively they worked for the organisation

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