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ASU hosts 'Religion in Public Life' conference

February 25, 2013

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will host the annual American Academy of Religion - Western Region (AAR/WR) conference March 9-11 on the Tempe campus. 

This year's conference brings scholars together to share current research on the topic of "Religion in Public Life." 

"In a world where religion plays so central a role in social, political, and economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individuals, there is a critical need for ongoing reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values," says the American Academy of Religion.

Topics of reflection and discussion at the AAR/WR conference will include gay marriage and California's proposition 8, the dynamic relationship between Catholicism and public affairs, religion employed on behalf of environmental and ecological concerns, teaching religious studies and/or theology, religion in ethical public discourse, the public role of Jewish organizations in America, Islamic feminism, the ban on ethnic studies in Arizona's public schools, the interrelation between religious and secular reasoing, how the arts make public space for religion, and the construction of modern Mormon identities online among others. 

The plenary address, "Muslim Women in the New Millennium: Many Roads to Justice," will be delivered by Amina Wadud at 9:45 a.m., March 10, in Old Main.

Wadud's book, "Qur’an and Woman" (Oxford UP, 1999), caused great controversy among Muslims the world over due to her stance in favour of women’s rights based on theological arguments. Among other controversial statements in the book, Wadud asserts, "the prophet Mohammad allowed a woman to lead the prayers."

Despite much Qu'ranic evidence about the significance of women, gender reform in Muslim society has been stubbornly resisted. Wadud's reading of the Qu'ran confirms women's equality and constitutes legitimate grounds for contesting the unequal treatment that women have experienced historically and continue to experience legally in Muslim communities.

The full conference program is available here

"At the conference reception on March 10, awards will be given for original, unpublished papers by independent scholars and graduate students that present the most intellectually sophisticated and rigorous treatment of a topic related to the conference theme," says Souad T. Ali, associate professor of Arabic literature and Middle East/Islamic studies in ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures, current president of the AAR/WR, and conference organizer. 

In addition to her work at ASU and with AAR/WR, Ali is an executive committee member of the International Association of Intercultural Studies, Cairo Egypt and Bremen Germany, a board member of the Sudan Studies Associate of North America, and author of "A Religion, Not A State: Ali’Abd al-Raziq’s Islamic Justification of Political Secularism," which topped Amazon’s list for “Bestselling New and Future Releases in Turkey” in 2010.

Registration and most AAR/WR events will be in the Language and Literature (LL) building on the Tempe campus. Conference attendees may park for free in the Fulton Center located on University Drive and College, directly across the street from the Language and Literature building on Saturday and Sunday. Parking on Monday will involve a fee.