Friday, September 19, 2008

COMMENT: Fascinating seminar on History, Modernity and the Muslim World between Europe and Asia ...

I've spent the last few days at an academic symposium on Muslim societies being held at the University of Sydney. It's not often that I get to go to these events, many of which are held in Melbourne.

One session was held on Thursday night, with a paper delivered on the protrayal of North African (mainly nominally-Muslim) migrants in French cinema. More and more children of North African migrants are involved in film, whether in documentaries or dramas. Much of their work deals only with Islam as an influence on their ancestral culture.

Another paper delivered by an academic researcher from Aceh discussed the evolving and changing role of religious institutions in Aceh. It was interesting to learn that the ulama (religious scholars) played a leading role in the struggle for independence from the Dutch. Further, the speaker was of the view that the impact of the tsunami was to generate increased goodwill toward the West, especially to the United States and Australia. Acehnese feel genuinely grateful to the defence forces of both nations for their work in the weeks and months after this traumatic event. The tsunami also led to a genuine wish for peace among Acehnese, with former supporters of the Acehnese independence movement placing pressure on the movement to reach peace with the government.

One paper delivered by prominent British-Iranian academic Elaheh Rostami-Povey dealt with the experiences of woemn from the Afghan diaspora in Iran, Pakistan, UK and North America.

Today, a postgraduate student at the University of Sydney delivered a fascinating paper on the involvement of Muslim women in the public sphere. One interesting point she made was that increased prejudice faced by Muslim women has led them to become more active and less tolerant of what some describe as a "victim mentality".

Another researcher delivered an interesting paper comparing the activism of Muslim women in mainstream politics in Australia and Canada. I never knew that at least one Muslim women has served in the Canadian Senate and another in the lower house. The speaker also said that Canadian Muslim women's groups tend to focus less on welfare-related issues and more on civil engagement, lobbying and media work.

I have recorded the presentations. Hopefully, I'll learn one day how to upload them onto this blog so that people can download and listen.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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