Panel discussant, ‘Dara’ (National Theatre London/Ayoka Theatre Pakistan) screened at the University of Sheffield, UK, February 20, 2017.
‘Ethical issues in researching Muslim women’s voices online’, Research Day, Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds, UK, Jan 25, 2015.
‘Sisterhood, new media, and empowerment – Muslim women’s online interpretations of Islamic texts’, Gender, Cyber and Digital Ethnography in a Globalised World Seminar Series, International Gender Studies Centre, University of Oxford, UK, Oct 16, 2012.
CONFERENCE PARTICIPATION (RECENT AND FORTHCOMING)
‘Progressive mosques as new agents of religious pluralism in the West’, Emergent Religious Pluralisms Conference, The Woolf Institute, University of Cambridge, April 16-17, 2018.
This paper discusses the role of “progressive” mosques in some Western interfaith settings. It addresses their positioning in relation to other religious actors, including mainline Protestant churches and Muslim organisations. Regardless of the common perception of Islam as an inherently conservative and inward-looking religion, lived Islam is undergoing a multifaceted process of reformation, likely fuelled by contextualised and critical hermeneutics-based approaches, in particular feminist readings of Islamic texts by scholars such as Amina Wadud. This reformation, whilst by no means just a contemporary phenomenon, has recently become more marked in the West through institutionalisation (i.e. the emergence of several “progressive” mosques, in Denmark, Germany, and the USA) and a change in attitudes – for example a steadily increasing acceptance of homosexuality (Pew Research Center, 2017). I argue that these phenomena open up possibilities for grassroots interfaith initiatives, i.e. alliances capable of articulating powerful responses to political events, and as such are conducive to greater religious pluralism. The paper is based on a case study of Qal’bu Maryam Mosque in California, known as a “women’s mosque”. It involves interviews with the mosque founders, staff, congregants, and interfaith collaborators, as well as public documents: the website and social media accounts. The four analytic axes of this discussion include a) energetic engagement with diversity b) active seeking of understanding across lines of difference c) encounter of commitments d) dialogue (Eck, 2006). Through this examination I address ways in which religious pluralism may be intertwined with other pluralisms: racial, cultural, and sexual, and others.
‘Videoconferencing as a Tool Facilitating Feminist Interviews with Muslim Women who Wear the Niqab’, American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 17-21, 2017.
There has recently been a surge of methodological interest in videoconferencing software for qualitative research purposes. This chapter analyses ethical issues which arose during a research project based on in-depth interviews with Muslim women who wear the niqab. I consider these issues in the context of key ethical dimensions of feminist qualitative research. By discussing the process of videoconference interview in detail, I draw attention to issues that Oakley (1981) described as outside the traditional research protocol, and which still remain largely in the domain of feminist research accounts. These include setting up of the interview to accommodate the participant’s individual needs, providing information to participants as an act of reciprocation, and managing the relationships with the participants upon the completion of the interview.
‘Identity and experiences of women who choose to wear the niqab (the Islamic face veil) in the UK’, American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 17-21, 2017.
This paper examines religious practices, identities and meaning-making practices of Muslim women who wear the face veil in the UK. The niqab, commonly cast as a symbol of the Islamic faith, more visually prominent than the hijab, features prominently in political debates on immigration, assimilation, and the role of religion in the British society. However, the women who wear it are excluded from participation in these debates – their voices are largely absent from the mainstream media and academic literature. Adopting feminist methodological perspectives that emphasize the need to engage with women as producers of knowledge, this paper analyzes in-depth interviews with 14 women who choose to wear the niqab. Contrary to the common perception of the niqab as a political statement, the niqab is interpreted by women as religious practice. The paper argues that women’s adoption of the niqab may constitute an assertion of their agency and identity.
‘Narrating ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ places: oral histories of niqab wearing in the UK’, Oral History Society Annual Conference: Remembering beliefs – the shifting worlds
of religion and faith in secular society, Leeds Trinity University, July 14-15, 2017.
This paper analyses the oral history narratives of four Muslim women who intermittently wear the face veil (the niqab) in the UK. It attempts to understand ways in which the interviewed women create specific ‘mental maps’ of places where it is safe for the carrying out of a religious practice which is covering their faces. It focuses on narrated memories of positive and negative social events (interactions) that involved these women in places where they lived: streets, neighbourhoods and towns. I combine spatial and historical analytic approaches in the examination of the face-veiled women’s meaning-making practices in relation to their bodies, dresscode, religious belief, and social interactions. By doing so, I attempt to increase the understanding of actions of British face-veiled women. This is important, as they do not have access to means of publicity and their thoughts, feelings, and actions are obscured by the dominant anti-Islamic discourse that presents them as threatening separatists (Nagar 1997).
‘Women-led mosques in the UK, the USA and Denmark as spaces of women’s citizenship – a comparative online study’, British Association for Islamic Studies Conference, University of Chester, UK, April 11-13, 2017.
Mosques are socio-religious institutions that may either increase the participation of women and promote women’s liberation, or reinforce the disciplining and control of women (Nyhagen Predelli, 2008). In Europe and the US, there has been a long-standing concern over lack of inclusion of women in mosques. In particular, the lack of designated women’s space or inferior quality of such spaces where available were criticised (Katz, 2014). Furthermore, women are rarely to be found in position of authority in mainstream mosques (Bano, 2012). This paper asks whether women-led mosques have the potential to redress these problems. It presents findings from the pilot stage of a wider research project on women-led mosques as spaces of women’s citizenship. Adopting the qualitative content analysis method, the I evaluate and compare the online presence of 3 such institutions (in Bradford, Los Angeles and Copenhagen), using their websites and social media profiles. The preliminary findings indicate that the main challenges for women-led mosques are: a) navigating cultural assumptions related to women’s religious authority, or presumed lack of thereof, and b) managing such a project in the context of the ‘securitisation agenda’ (Kundnani, 2013) and the risk of being perceived as being co-opted by it.
‘Face-Veiled Women, Violence, and Islamophobia in the UK’, FWSA Biennial Conference: Everyday Encounters with Violence: Critical Feminist Perspectives, University of Leeds, UK, Sept 9-11, 2015.
‘To wear or not to wear the niqab? Discussions of recently converted Muslim women in the West’, 21 World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions, University of Erfurt, Germany, Aug 23-29, 2015.
‘Insider-outsider continuum matters: A non-Muslim woman’s research with Muslim women who wear the niqab’, British Association for Islamic Studies conference, University of London, UK, Apr 13-15, 2015.
‘Videoconferencing as a tool facilitating feminist interviews with Muslim women who wear the niqab’, British Association for the Study of Religions Conference, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, Sep 4, 2014.
‘Normalising the niqab: constructions of the niqab in British niqabis’ online interactions with readers and viewers on photo-sharing websites’, International Society for Media, Religion and Culture Conference, Canterbury University, UK, Aug 4, 2014.
‘For the love of God: British niqabis’ religious and social identities’, British Association for Islamic Studies Inaugural Conference, University of London, UK, Apr 11, 2014.
‘Experiences of Access to Higher Education students in England in the context of changing educational policies’ (with H. Busher, N. James, and A. Palmer), European Society for Research on Education of Adults/network Access, Learning Careers and Identities, Linköping University, Sweden, November 28 – 30, 2013.
‘Gendered experiences of studying on Access courses to Higher Education’ (with H. Busher, N. James, and A. Palmer), Education and Learning: Sociological Perspectives, University of Surrey, September 25, 2013.
‘Agency and future life trajectories in accounts of access to higher education students in the United Kingdom’ (with H. Busher, N. James, and A. Palmer), European Society for Research on Education of Adults, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, Sep 4-7, 2013.
‘Ethical challenges in researching Muslim women’s closed religious newsgroups’, Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion, University of Derby, UK, Nov 27, 2012.
‘Women’s empowerment through grassroots-based interpretations of Islamic sources in virtual spaces’, Muslim Women ad Authority in Islam conference, University of Boston, USA, Mar 8, 2012.
‘Young LGBTIQ People Who Self-harm: the Online Research Perspective’, the ‘Gender’ stream of the British Medical Sociology conference, University of Chester, UK, Sep 14-16, 2011.