Thursday, May 25, 2006

Muslim Women: Event at Stanford

Note: This is part of a series of posts about one event. Please see http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/05/event-with-asifa-qureshi-at-stanford.html for the main page on this discussion.


I am writing this at an event at Stanford University. It features a young scholar named "Asifa Qureshi", who is now at the University of Wisconsin, but who, I am told, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area herself and was, for example, a co-founder of AMILA and graduated from Berkeley. She got her law degree from UC Davis and has an LLM from Columbia. She's curently at Harvard pursuing a LJD.

I am have been meaning to attend more events at Stanford, especially in my areas of interest, and am only now starting to fulfill that aspiration. This event jumped out at me as a "must-see" because the speaker worked on the brief for Baria Mughazu, a woman sentenced to flogging in Zamfara State, in my childhood home in Nigeria and at the same time has to her credit a piece critiquing Zina laws in Pakistan from an Islamic perspective.

To pique my interest further, when the event was posted on our local mailing list for Muslims in Silicon Valley, someone raised the question of whether she was another of "those" people. Especially since the first picture to be found on the Internet was one in which she appears with Aminah Wudud, who led the most public and publicized instance of a woman leading people in prayer. Someone on the list then pointed out her very solid background as a youngster who grew up in the Bay Area Muslim community.

The topic of the event was "Western Advocacy for Muslim Women: It's Not Just the Thought that Counts".

She points out that the issue she's talking about is not coming from ill intentions. The people trying to help women in the places she's talking about do it from very sincere motives. She brings up a "Rescue Mentality" in the Western (not just American) context. Something with a long history.

She starts with the issue of Abortion and the issue of Islamic law and tradition not having the problem of it being a life in the first trimester. And the way the issue is framed by Western activists, and the assumption that Islam is part of the problem. She goes on to the discussion of Zina laws in Pakistan. Zina is a crime in the Qur'an, but there are very strict standards for witnesses--four are required. When the laws were written under Zia in Pakistan, they included rape under the definition of Zina and therefore put the requirement of four witnesses on rape. She looked into whether this was what Islamic law says and then wrote a paper saying that this was wrong--rape is not a category of Zina, but a whole other, very very serious crime. Her point is that there are different tones necessary for the different audiences. She read the two versions of the introduction to the above paper; on for an American journal and for a Pakistani one.

... more in the next post. I don't want to lose work...

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