Conference to challenge Western stereotypes of Islam on 4th anniversary of 9/11

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Reframing Islam: Politics into Law, 10-11th September, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway

Some of the most influential writers and thinkers on Islam will travel to Galway this week to address and recapture the debate on the social, political and religious dimensions of Islam. They will be attending a conference on "Reframing Islam: Politics into Law," which will be hosted by the Irish Centre for Human Rights in the Arts Millennium Building at NUI Galway on Saturday and Sunday, the 10-11th September. Sunday is the fourth anniversary of 9/11.

Speakers will include a leading Iranian activist, imprisoned in Tehran for criticising the regime and an acclaimed Islamic scholar recently refused entry to the US by Homeland Security.

The conference aims to challenge and move beyond the stereotypes that currently grip the discourse on Islam—terrorism, enforced democracy building, Islamophobia, and militant regimes.

Topics to be addressed include: challenges to the Muslim world post September 11th, the question of democracy in Islam, rights of non-Muslims in Islam, human rights and Islam, women within Islam, and specific regional challenges and attempts to create a civic Islam. The conference will explore what Islamic political thought is, and how it originated, developed and changed over the past 1400 years, and particularly since 2001.

Dr Kathleen Cavanaugh, of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway and conference director said: It is a great privilege for the Irish Centre for Human Right to welcome the pre-eminent writers and thinkers in the Muslim world to NUI Galway, to debate critical issues facing Islam and current Western liberal perceptions of Islam. There is an urgency to begin to reframe the debates and the narratives that have enveloped the discourse on Islam, especially post September 11th—the twinning of Islam and violence, the arguments that there cannot be faith in democracy, the notion that there is a 'clash of civilizations.' This conference hopes to provide a space that goes beyond the idea of right thinking and wrong thinking and to lend some empirical and theoretical weight to the current debate on Islam.

Dr Cavanaugh went on to say that change and reform within Islam, grassroots in origin, is underway and, as one commentator has noted is, "Islam's best kept secret." Change can be charted in countries such as Malaysia, Morocco and Turkey where civil society (informing political establishments) have endeavoured to address questions of democracy, gender equality and reinforcing and nourishing a vibrant civil society. Yet these changes and challenges are off the radar.

This conference will attempt to refocus and reframe the debate on Islam, looking beyond the current 'face of Islam' to what is actually happening within Islam—which is both multifaceted and complex and often contradictory, i.e., moderate to extreme, reform to regressive, she said.

Amongst those addressing the conference will be:

Professor Tariq Ramadan, recently appointed (August 2005) by Tony Blair to a UK government taskforce attempting to root out Islamic extremism in Britain, is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder, in 1928, of the Muslim brotherhood. Dr. Ramadan lectures at academic institutions and civic organizations around the world. He has authored and co-authored over 20 books and over 700 articles. Through his writings and lectures, he has contributed substantially to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world. He is active both at the academic and grassroots levels, lecturing extensively throughout the world on ethics of citizenship, social justice, and dialogue between civilizations. Dr Tariq Ramadan taught Islamic Studies and Philosophy as a professor at Freiburg University in Switzerland for many years. Regarded as one of the most important voices in Islam, Dr Ramadan was not allowed enter the United States in 2004, to take up his post as Professor of Religion Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame.

Dr Mohsen Kadivar is a cleric and activist in Iran. Kadivar was arrested for the first in 1978 and 20 years later, the unconstitutional Court of Iran found him guilty of campaigning against the Islamic Republic, because of the statements he had made in an interview where he argued that acts of terrorism are condemned in the eyes of the Shiite faith. He was sentenced to spend 18 months in Evin Prison, Tehran, and was released on July 17, 2000. He is still campaigning for the reform of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, at the University of Delaware. Author of many books, including American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom (Amana, 2002), Jihad for Jerusalem: Identity and Strategy in International Relations (Praeger, 2004), Dr Khan frequently comments on BBC, CNN, FOX and VOA TV, NPR and other radio and TV networks. His political commentaries appear regularly in newspapers in over 20 countries.

Dr. Jillian Schwedler is Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland and has conducted extensive field research in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. She has travelled to Lebanon, Turkey, Qatar, Syria, Israel/Palestine, and more than two-dozen countries outside the Middle East. She is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), publishers of the quarterly journal Middle East Report. In 2002, she was elected Secretary of the Palestinian American Research Centre (PARC). Dr. Schwedler s current research interests include protests and policing, political Islam, social movements, democracy and democratisation, identity, political culture, and transnational public spheres.

Additional speakers, their profiles and the conference agenda can be found on: www.reframingislam.org

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