How Muslims in the West view freedom of speech is the subject of a symposium to be held next Wednesday at The University of Western Australia.
Questions about freedom of speech and the Islamic world have emerged following recent controversies such as last month's cancelled publication of US writer Sherry Jones' novel Jewel of Medina, about the Prophet Mohammed's youngest wife; Danish cartoons in 2006 that depicted the Prophet Mohammed; and the 2004 film Submission, by Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh which dealt with the treatment of women in traditional Islamic society.
The UWA symposium, ‘Freedom of Speech and Association: Muslims in the West', aims to understand the issues surrounding the right to free speech and its limits using examples from Muslim experiences.
- Award-winning Melbourne-based writer Hanifa Deen, whose new book The Jihad Seminar will be launched at the symposium. The book looks at the five-year row that started in 2002 when three Muslim converts in Victoria attended an evangelical Christian talk, and the ensuing court battle under a controversial ‘hate speech' law that put the spotlight on freedom of speech versus freedom from vilification. Deen's book will be launched at the symposium by writer and former ABC broadcaster Sandy McCutcheon, who now spends much of his time in the Medina in Fez, Morocco.
- Dr Julie Macfarlane from the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, Canada, who is studying the practice of Islamic divorce in North America. Dr Macfarlane is also an experienced facilitator and specialises in dispute resolution.
- Associate Professor Samina Yasmeen, from UWA's Centre for Muslim States and Societies. A/Prof Yasmeen will look at Muslim responses to contemporary debates about freedom of speech. Her work focuses on the role of Islam in world politics, citizenship among immigrant women, and political and strategic developments in South East Asia.
The symposium will tackle questions such as: Is Islam inherently against the freedom of expression? How can the possibility of disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims be reduced while making free speech available to all? Do Muslims agree among themselves on the manifestation of their right to free speech and expression?
It will be held on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at UWA's Social Sciences Lecture Theatre from 4pm. To find the lecture theatre http://www.uwa.edu.au/campus_map and for more details: www.cmss.uwa.edu.au/welcome/whats_new/annual_islam_symposium_2008
NB: Speakers are available for interview on request.