Debate: Muslim Women and the Veil
26 Oct, 2006
Leila Ahmed came to the Divinity School in 1999 as the first professor of Women's Studies in Religion and was appointed to the Victor S. Thomas chair in 2003. Prior to her appointment at HDS, she was professor of Women's Studies and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. While at the University of Massachusetts, she was director of the Women's Studies Program from 1992 to 1995 and director of the Near Eastern Studies program from 1991 to 1992. Her latest book, A Border Passage, has been widely acclaimed. Her other publications include the books Women and Gender in Islam: The Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, and Edward William Lane: A Study of His Life and Work and of British Ideas of the Middle East in the Nineteenth Century, as well as many articles, among them Arab Culture and Writing Women's Bodies and Between Two Worlds: The Formation of a Turn of the Century Egyptian Feminist. Her current research and writing centers on Islam in America and issues of women and gender.
Homa Arjomand was born in 1952 in Iran and started her political/social activities when she was 17 years old. She studied medical physics in England and has worked as a teacher in various colleges and universities. Since 1970 she has devoted her life fighting for women’s rights. In the winter of 1989 she fled Iran through mountains because her life was endangered by the Islamic Regime of Iran. Homa Arjomand has lived in Canada since 1990 and she has attended/organized countless meeting and international conferences panel discussions and forums on issues related to women's, children's and gay and lesbian rights. She had many interviews for leading newspapers and TV programs in Europe and North America defending secularism. Homa is founder of the International Campaign against Sharia Court in Canada and she actively participated as a speaker at various conferences to oppose Sharia Court in Canada and the restrictions that political Islam were imposing on women and children. She is a strong advocator of secularism. Homa is the chair person of Children First Now, the coordinator of The Campaign in Defense of Women's Rights in Iran - Canada, and continues to lead The International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada.
Sheema Khan came to Montreal from India at the age of 3. She obtained a Masters degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard. She writes: "It was at Harvard that I embarked on a spiritual quest which led me to strenghthening my devotion to Islam. It was at Harvard that I began to wear the hijab (headscarf), after much research and reflection." She returned to Canada to work in R&D for a pharmaceutical firm and is an inventor of a number of patented inventions in drug delivery. After that, she worked at a couple of law firms in intellectual property law. She is a certified patent agent, acting as a consultant with a law firm in Ottawa. Ms. Khan also served as chair of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), a grassroots advocacy group from 2000-2005.