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Muslim Women and the Jihad for Gender Justice



By Terry Rahbek-Nielsen


“Are you Muslim?” asked a student in Professor Zayn Kassam’s first class on Women in Islam. The Professor replied that she was and the student responded, “Then how do we know you won’t spend this class defending how Muslims treat their women?”


Kassam responded with an assurance and a challenge: “I’m not going to defend how Muslims treat their women,” she said, “but at the end of this course, you might. Or you might rethink the question.”


Professor Kassam has since taught the class and encounter the many times. “Women’s struggles for justice are not restricted to the Muslim world,” she says. “Women of all faiths have struggled with patriarchal understandings of their sacred texts. The question is - how are Muslim women dealing with such interpretations? What forms does their activism take on behalf of gender justice? Rather than being a struggle between faith and justice, Muslim women are finding that their faith asks them to ensure that women are given opportunities to claim their rightful place in society.”


Dr. Kassam is professor of Religious Studies at Pomona College in California and a faculty member at Clairemont Graduate University in Claremont, California.  A graduate of McGill University, she has spoken and written extensively on gender and Islam for thirty years, won several teaching awards, is editor of Women in Islam (Praeger, 2010), and author of the forthcoming For what sin was she slain? A Muslim Feminist Theology, (Equinox, 2013).


The Faculty of Arts and Department of Religious Studies are proud to bring Dr. Zayn Kassam to campus to present the 24th
annual Peter Craigie Memorial Lecture.  Her talk takes place tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Rosza Centre.  Admission is free and all are welcome.  Additionally, the Faith and Spirituality Centre is sponsoring a continuation of the conversation with Dr. Kassam over tea in the Women’s Resource Centre on Thursday morning (9:30 to 11:00 a.m.).


The Peter Craigie Memorial Lecture series was established in 1988 in honour of the memory of Dr. Peter Craigie, distinguished scholar of Biblical studies, ancient Near Eastern languages, and ethics. The purpose of the series is to bring  scholars of international stature to the University of Calgary to address issues related to the theme of religion as engagement with life. 


More on the Peter Craigie Memorial Lecture is at Specific information on Dr. Kassam’s visit to the University of Calgary October 12 and 13, 2011 is available from the latest edition of ArtsNow
or by calling 220-8177.