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Portraits of Women in Islam conference Nov. 10-11

Ingrid Mattson is keynote speaker

Chicago (Oct. 5, 2006) – A two-day conference exploring the roles and experiences of Muslim women and featuring Ingrid Mattson will be held Nov. 10 and 11 at Saint Xavier University, 3700 W. 103rd St., Chicago.

Titled “Portraits of Women in Islam: Comparative Perspectives and Challenges,” the conference, open to all, provides a platform for prominent national scholars and religious leaders to explore the influence of Muslim women as scholars, mentors, family members and people of faith.

“Saint Xavier serves a significant number of Muslim students, mostly women, who come to the University for a values-based education,” said Sister Susan Sanders, R.S.M., Ph.D., vice president for university mission and heritage, who organized the conference. “Aware of some of the challenges that they face, especially our young women, the University hopes to provide opportunities for learning and interchange that support dialogue and greater understanding through higher education.”

The conference features Ingrid Mattson, Ph.D., president of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest religious organization for Muslims on the continent. In 1995 she served as advisor to the Afghan delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and from 1987-88 she worked with Afghan refugee women while living in Pakistan. She is a professor of Islamic studies and director of Islamic chaplaincy at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. 

Other speakers include:

• Scott Alexander, Ph.D., associate professor of Islam and director of Catholic-Muslim Studies at Catholic Theological Union. Alexander’s academic career has been dedicated to training as a historian of religion, with a focus on the study of Islam. His teaching and research interests include medieval Muslim sectarianism, the mystical traditions of Muslim spirituality, Qur’anic studies, and the history and future of Muslim-Christian relations and interfaith dialogue.

• Umar Faruq Abd-Allah (Wymann-Landgraf), Ph.D., chairman and scholar-in-residence of the Nawawi Foundation, a nonprofit educational institution that provides Islamic teachings to America’s first- and second-generation Muslims. He received his doctorate with honors in Islamic studies from the University of Chicago, and taught Islamic studies and comparative religion at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for 16 years.

• Kecia Ali, Ph.D., assistant professor of religion at Boston University. She is the author of Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence and is completing a book on marriage in ninth-century jurisprudence.  She is also working on a biography of the jurist al-Shafi’i. She has been a research associate in the women’s studies in religion program at Harvard Divinity School and held a Florence Levy Postdoctoral Fellowship at Brandeis University.

• Very Rev. Canon Francis V. Tiso, Ph.D., associate director of the secretariat for ecumenical and interreligious affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he serves as liaison to the dialogues with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Native America/Tradition religions. He is a priest of the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro, Italy, where he holds a canonry in the cathedral. He participated in the conference on World Religions and World Peace at the University of San Francisco in 2002, where he articulated the basic principles by which religions in dialogue can foster the peacemaking process.

• Marcia Hermansen, Ph.D., professor of theology at Loyola University Chicago, where she directs the Islamic studies program. She received her doctorate in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Chicago. In the course of her research and language studies, she lived for extended periods in Egypt, Jordan, India, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan; she conducts research in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu as well as the major European languages. Her book, The Conclusive Argument from God, a study and translation (from Arabic) of Shah Wali Allah of Delhi’s, Hujjat Allah al-Baligha, was published in 1996, and she is currently writing a book on American Sufi Movements. Hermansen has also written numerous academic articles in the fields of Islamic thought, Sufism, Islam and Muslims in South Asia, Muslims in America and Women in Islam.

Conference presentations are as follows:

• Friday, Nov. 10, 7:15 p.m.: Very Rev. Canon Francis Tiso, “Mediating Place and Space: Contributions of Muslim Women to Interreligious Dialogue.”

• Saturday, Nov. 11, 9 a.m.: Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, “Famous Women in Islam.”

• Saturday, Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m.: Ingrid Mattson, “Heaven’s Gate: How Muslim Women Open or Close Doors for Their 

• Saturday, Nov. 11, 12:30 p.m.: Kecia Ali, “Progressive Muslim Sexual Ethics: Reflections on Academia and Activism.”

• Saturday, Nov. 11, 1:50 p.m.: Scott Alexander, “Hagar as an Abrahamic Symbol of Freedom from Oppression.”

• Saturday, Nov. 11, 3:20 p.m.: Marcia Hermansen, “Neither of the East nor of the West: American Sufi Women – Spirituality, Leadership and Gender Justice without Borders.”

The conference is sponsored by Saint Xavier University’s Center for Religion and Public Discourse with support from the McCormick Tribune Foundation and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. 

The conference is open to the public. Admission ranges from $50 for the entire conference and all meals to $20 for the full conference without meals; college students and the Saint Xavier University community pay reduced fees. Prayer times have been included in the conference, and dietary laws will be observed for Friday evening dinner, snacks and Saturday box lunches. 

For more details and to register online for the conference, please visit www.sxu.edu/women_in_islam/ or call (773) 298-3981.


Visit www.sxu.edu/women_in_islam/ or call (773) 298-3981

Saint Xavier University, a Catholic institution inspired by the heritage of the Sisters of Mercy, educates men and women to search for truth, to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to serve wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good.

Saint Xavier University Media Relations: 773-298-3325
3700 West 103rd Street, Chicago Ill. 60655 * 18230 Orland Parkway, Orland Park, Ill. 60467
online faculty expert guide: www.sxu.edu/relations/faculty_experts.asp