BOULDER, Colo.—Naropa University is preparing to host a timely and important keynote talk and symposium on “Women’s Leadership and Activism in the Muslim World.” Sponsored by Naropa’s Peace Studies Department and the Cordoba Initiative, the events will be held on Oct. 9 and 10, 2009 at Naropa’s Nalanda Campus.
The events begin on Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m., with a keynote talk titled “Human Rights and Women’s Rights in Islam” by Dr. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate. The talk is followed by a public symposium, “Women’s Leadership and Activism in the Muslim World” on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian attorney who won the Nobel Prize for defending women and children’s rights in Iran. She has also founded three NGOs in Iran—The Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Child, The Association for Human Rights Advocates, and the Organization Against Mines in Iran.
Peace Studies Department Chair Candace Walworth said it is fitting that Naropa would host the upcoming series of events, partially because Naropa’s mission is to embrace the “richness of human diversity with the aim of fostering a more just and equitable society and an expanded awareness of our common humanity.”
“More broadly, we hope the symposium will amplify the voices of Muslim women leaders, deepen participants’ understanding of the evolving role of Muslim women, and serve as a catalyst for thoughtful conversation and networking,” said Walworth.
The Cordoba Initiative is a multi-faith nonprofit, and its primary mission is helping to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West. John Bennett, Cordoba’s co-founder and a current member of its board, said it is important for people to understand that women are working for progressive causes from within the Muslim world.
“The courage of these women leaders is quite extraordinary, and we’re delighted to enable them to be heard by a wider audience,” said Bennett. “We think that the role of women leaders in the Muslim world is critical to the process of both sides understanding each other.”
The public symposium, “Women’s Leadership and Activism in the Muslim World” will include interactive panels, lunch with interest groups, and informal conversations over tea. Walworth said Naropa hopes to attract a diverse audience—Muslims and non-Muslims, women and men of all spiritual perspectives, students and teachers, academics, activists, artists, youth, community leaders, global citizens, senior citizens and lifelong learners.
“The symposium is designed to inform and empower us as individuals and as interconnected communities, following the example of Shirin Ebadi who discourages ‘hero worship’ and encourages each person to find and follow his or her own contribution and path,” said panelist Haqiqa Ochs, Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Liberal Arts and International Studies at the Colorado School of Mines.
A distinguished group of panelists will participate, including but not limited to:
·Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, a leading international advocate, researcher, trainer and writer on conflict and peacebuilding.
·Laleh Bakhtiar, author of more than 20 books and translator of many works, including the first complete English translation of the Quran by an American woman.
·Daisy Khan, Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. She also launched two groundbreaking flagship programs: the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow and The Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality.
Banafsheh Keynoush, a specialist in Middle East foreign relations, security issues and international human rights law, will serve as Dr. Ebadi’s translator at Naropa. Terry Greenblatt, executive director of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, will moderate the opening panel. Please go to the web site for a full list of participants.
Amina Ghazi, a Naropa student in the MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology program, works as a graduate assistant for the Peace Studies department and plans to attend the October events. Her mother is from Egypt, her father is American, and she was raised between Houston, Texas, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Cultural identity development and issues of acculturation have been—and continue to be—of particular interest to her.
“Given the often one-dimensional view of Muslims in the media, I particularly appreciate how these events will represent the pluralism and diversity within Islam,” said Ghazi. “As a Muslim trying to unite my own identities as a woman, a modern American and an Arab, I seek contemporary voices in my faith who can speak to the realities I face daily and move beyond the barriers of politics and tradition to the message at the heart of Islam —justice and peace.”
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Naropa University is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education. This approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others. The university comprises a four-year undergraduate college and graduate program in the arts, education, environmental leadership, psychology and religious studies.