Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Islamic Feminism for dummies

Silverfish Public Talk by Norani Othman
Subject: Islamic Feminism for dummies
Date and time: 26th October, 2013 at 5.30pm to 7.30pm
Address: Silverfish Books, 28-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur


My Muslim friends tell me that Islam is a simple religion. Yet to others, everything seems frightfully complicated. To make it worse, it appears that there constantly is, 'A battle outside and it is raging.'  Thank God for some sane voices like Norani Othman who will try to unravel it for us.

Islamic Feminism: The current Islamic-feminism began in Malaysia and Indonesia (and some other Muslim countries in the Middle East) in the 1980s. It is now part of a global movement in which Islamic feminism seeks to speak out against patriarchal distortions of Islam. Dr Norani's presentation traces the formulation and emergence of an Islamic feminist movement in Malaysia, and of alternative interpretations of its laws. It describes the various strategies of the Islamic feminist group in Malaysia: SIS Forum Malaysia, better known as Sisters in Islam.

Background/Context: In the beginning of the third millennium, Muslim women throughout the world are still struggling to claim their rights in the private and public domain. A large part of that problem is the dominance of male-oriented, oppressive or misogynistic readings of the religious texts that promote practices, rules and laws that discriminate against women, these purportedly being requirements of ‘authentic' or 'pristine Islam’. More important, these interpretations have become so internalised that even moderate mainstream Muslims assume them to be the final truth. Yet these Muslims (half of them women) are increasingly confronted with different realities in their everyday lives that are far removed from the classical formative period of Islam.      

A bio of the author:
In earlier times, troublesome women, when their arguments became irresistible, were burnt as witches. These days their books are banned.

Norani Othman is a well-known academic and founding member of SIS Forum Malaysia, a Muslim Women's group, popularly known in Malaysia as Sisters-in-Islam. She is also the editor of the book, "Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism", published by Sisters in Islam that was 'banned' by the Malaysian Government, a prohibition order that was lifted only after a long court battle.

She graduated from the University Malaya in Sociology and Anthropology, and obtained her MPhil from the University of Hull, and later also pursued postgraduate studies at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. She was also a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia) and, from 2005 a Professor in Sociology (of Religion).

(Note: SIS & other feminist groups (their allies) in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, etc., also do work on health and reproductive rights of Muslim women as well as on equal access to education for the girls.)

Admission is free (but seats are limited, so do come early).