Le Figaro finds young Muslims prefer to express themselves on the web

This Le Figaro report suggests that both moderate and radical Muslims in France seek support on the web, that the Imam is only one of many possible guides. While it offers a place for more fundamentalist interpretations like Salafism from Saudi Arabia, the internet is also revolutionizing Muslim thought.

As Jocelyne Cesari, a scholar of Islam at Harvard University, explains, the web allows access to a multitude of perspectives, from orthodox positions to those from outsiders or liberals. This range is apparent on topics as broad as veiling to translations of the Koran. This “democratization” of the sacred text has allowed a greater number of interlocutors on all matters related to Islam.

Conversations with History: Jocelyne Cesari on “Islam in the West”

Jocelyne Cesari – Associate, Middle East Center, Harvard University

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Harvard’s Jocelyne Cesari for a discussion of the subtle and complex changes transforming Islam practice and thinking as Muslims live and work in the West. Topics covered include: Muslim women, the changes in religious practices, sharia and Western courts, the emergence of moderate voices, and political factors affecing Western perceptions of Islam.

Recorded December 4, 2008

The Veiled Monologues at the A.R.T.

” . . . a magnificent demonstration of the power of theatre to change the terms of public debate. The monologues make visible – live, in real time, in close physical proximity – women, emotions, and beliefs that are hidden from the non-Muslim world.” Thomas Sellar, Editor, Theater

The American Repertory Theatre is pleased to invite you to the New England premiere of Dutch actress/writer/director Adelheid Roosen’s The Veiled Monologues. Scheduled for one week only, from Tuesday, October 16 through Sunday, October 21, performances will be held.at the A.R.T.’s Zero Arrow Theatre in Harvard Square.

After acting in a production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, Dutch actress Adelheid Roosen approached Muslim women living in the Netherlands to ask them similar questions about their sexuality. The result – The Veiled Monologues – is a vital, surprising, and poetic portrait of love and relationships in the Islamic community. Each monologue is imbued with deep feeling and delicate detail, allowing us more than a glimpse into each woman’s soul.

Several performances will be followed by symposia:

October 16: Post-performance discussion with members of the creative team, co-presented by the Harvard College Women’s Center.

October 17: Post-performance panel discussion, co-presented by Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Tickets: Start at $39, $25 for students (based on availability.) Group rates are available for groups of 10 or more.

At Harvard, Muslims’ traditions are topic of debate

Two issues of Muslim practice are stirring debate at Harvard University. The debate over whether the university should grand women separate gym hours, and whether or not the call to prayer should ring out across Harvard Yard, have prompted student discussion. The first controversy began in early February, when the undergraduate college restricted one of their three largest gyms on the main campus, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center, to women only for several hours week, as requested by a small group of Muslim women undergraduates at the university. The second controversy occurred after the Muslim call to prayer, or the adhan, was broadcast across Harvard Yard at noon from the steps of Widener library during several days in late February. The broadcast was part of Islamic Awareness Week, sponsored by the Muslim student club, the Harvard Islamic Society. The argument over whether or not this constituted proselytizing by stating that the prophet Muhammad is God’s messenger, or symbolized religious pluralism, led several students to write an op-ed article in the Crimson denouncing the practice; the Harvard Crimson has denounced both practices. While these two issues have caused some debate at Harvard, many students, however, seemed oblivious to either one. [See full-text article here.->http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/21/us/21tolerance.html #B#] (Some news sites may require registration)

Harvard sets up women’s gym times to accommodate Muslim requests

Harvard University’s trial policy of denying men use of one of its gyms for six hours a week is causing frustration and controversy among some students. The decision was made to accommodate Muslim women to use athletic and exercise facilities without compromising certain moral obligations relating to gender rules. The Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center has been open only to women from 8-10am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 3-5pm on Mondays, allowing some Muslim women to dress more suitably for exercising. Critics of the move say that cultural notions of modesty become unnecessarily merged with religion, and cite that while only 6 students complained of no female-only hours, the result is now leaving half of the facility’s members shut out. However, proponents cite that the move is expanding the choice for some women who do not feel comfortable exercising in front of males. While the issue has been the topic of debate on a number of news talk segments, the Harvard Crimson suggests that on campus, students’ negative reactions were more directed towards the media than to the policy change.

Why The French Don’t Like Headscarves

Speaker: JOHN BOWEN, Chair, Social Thought and Analysis & Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis; 


Commentators: JOCELYNE CESARI, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Director of Harvard’s Islam in the West Program; MARY LEWIS, History Department, Harvard University; AMY WALDMAN, “The Atlantic” and Fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Sponsor: Social Exclusion and Inclusion in an Expanded Europe Study Group co-sponsored by the Islam in the West Lecture Series 

Location: Lower Level Conference Room

Contact Name: Hilary Silver, Jocelyne Cesari Contact Email: hsilver@email.brown.edu, sprevatt@hds.harvard.edu

Details: “Author Meets Critics” panel discussion of John Bowen’s Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves: Islam, the State and Public Space, Princeton University Press, 2007.

Interpreting the Islamic Tradition in the Contemporary World

All members of the Harvard community are cordially invited to attend the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program’s first annual conference entitled, “Interpreting the Islamic Tradition in the Contemporary World.” Events will be held on Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4. The agenda for the conference events is below. The conference is free, including the lunch reception on November 3 and the Gamelan performance on November 4. The events will take place on the first floor of the Barker Center both days.

Saturday, November 3

9:30 am – 12:30 pm

  • Thompson Room, Barker Center
  • John Bowen, Washington University in Saint Louis: “Ibn Ashur in Aceh and Paris: Adapting Shar?`a by way of its Objectives”
  • Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton University: “Religious Authority and the Language of Ijtihad in Contemporary Sunni Islam”
  • Asef Bayat, Leiden University: “Fun and Fundamentalism”
  • 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm Barker Center Middle Eastern lunch reception for members of the Harvard community

    2:00 pm to 5:00 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center

  • Said Arjomand, State University of New York-Stony Brook: “Islamic Constitutionalism: Paradoxes and Pitfalls in the Appropriation of the Islamicate Political Tradition”
  • Farid Esack, Harvard University: “Redeeming Islam: Constructing the Good Muslim Subject in Contemporary Religious Studies”
  • Omid Safi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “Reforming Islam in the ’Axis of Evil’: Contesting Islam in Post-Revolutionary Iran”
  • Sunday, November 4

    9:30 am – 12:30 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center

  • Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University: “Distinguishing Bigotry from Blasphemy in Contemporary Freedom of Speech Debates”
  • David Cook, Rice University: “Faith and Fornication: Behind the Murji’a Debate in Contemporary Islam”
  • Sherman Jackson, University of Michigan: “Ibn Taymya and Black Theodicy”
  • 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm

  • Barker Center Concluding remarks, closing reception
  • Performance by Boston Village Gamelan Group
  • Jocelyne Cesari

    Jocelyne Cesari profile photoJocelyne Cesari, is an Associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Center for European Studies and teaches at the Harvard Divinity School and Government Department. Dr. Cesari is a French political scientist, tenured at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris and specializing in contemporary Islamic societies. Before coming to Harvard, she served as an Associate Research Scholar and Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. At Harvard, she is Director of the interfaculty Islam in the West Program (see http://cmes.hmdc.harvard.edu/research/iw). This research program produced a major publication, the Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States, which was published by Greenwood Press in September of 2007. She also coordinates the new web-based initiative on contemporary Islamic thinking called islamopediaonline (www.islamopediaonline.org).
    Her areas of expertise include Islam and globalization, Muslim minorities in Europe and America, and Islam and politics in North Africa. Over the course of her career, Dr. Cesari has published fifteen books and more than fifty articles in European and American journals. Her most recent books and articles are :Muslims in the West After 9/11: Religion, Politics and Law (2009, Routledge), “Islam in the West from Immigration to Global Islam”, Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review, (8) 2009, pp.147-275, When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States (Palgrave 2006) and European Muslims and the Secular State (Ashgate 2005).She has also received grants to write the reports “Islam and Fundamental Rights” and “The Religious Consequences of September 11, 2001, on Muslims in Europe” for the European Commission (see www.euro-islam.info).

    Muslims in Europe and in the United States. A Transatlantic Comparison

    Friday December 15, 2006

    Panel One: Consequences of 9/11 on Muslims in Europe and in the United States: Legal and Political Aspects

    Chair/Discussant: Louise Richardson, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

  •   Europe: The Consequences of European Security Laws after 9/11 on Muslims in Europe Presenters: Jose Maria Ortuño Aix, University of Barcelona Didier Bigo, Institut d’Études Politiques, Paris
  •   America: The Situation of Immigrant Muslims after the Patriot Act: Legal Ramifications Presenter: Philip B. Heymann, Harvard Law School
  •   The Situation of Arab Muslims and Christians: Political Ramifications Presenter: Wayne Baker, University of Michigan
  • Panel Two: Islam and Muslims in the Western Public Sphere

    Chairs/Discussants: Diana Eck, Harvard University Ali Asani, Harvard University

  •   Europe: Anti-Islamic Discourses in Europe: Agents and Contents Presenter: Yasemin Karakasoglu, University of Bremen
  •   America: Status of Islam in the American Public Sphere after 9/11 Presenter: Emran Qureshi, Harvard University
  • Panel Three: Religious Life of Muslims in the West: Legal and Political Dimensions

    Chair/Discussant: Peter Skerry, Boston College

  •   Europe: Legal Status of Islamic Religious Practices in Europe after 9/11 Presenters: Marcel Maussen, University of Amsterdam Frank Peter, University Viadrina Frankfurt-Oder
  •   America: Religious Practices of American Muslims Presenter: Louise Cainkar, Marquette University
  • Saturday December 16, 2006

    Panel Four: Relations Between the State and Muslims

    Chairs/Discussants: Kishwer, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, John F. Kennedy School of Government Jocelyne Cesari, CNRS-Paris and Harvard University

  •   Europe: Muslims in Europe: Between Secularism and Multiculturalism Presenter: Farhad Khosrokhavar, École des Hautes Études en Sciences, Paris
  •   America: The Debate on Religious Freedom and Civil Liberties after 9/11 Presenter: José Casanova, New School for Social Research
  •   Muslims and American Secularism Presenter: Jane Smith, Hartford Seminary
  • Concluding Round Table

    Chair: Jocelyne Cesari, CNRS-Paris and Harvard University