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Literature and Islamophobia: Muslima Authors Speak Out

Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method Literary Festival panel

Date: Saturday 19 February 2011 
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue:  Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building
Speakers: Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, Senay Özdemir, Naema Tahir
Chair: Professor Luc Bovens

There are few places in Europe in which the voices of multiculturalism and Islamophobia have clashed more forcefully than in the Netherlands, often in the most dramatic ways. To name just a few, Pim Fortuyn, Theo Van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and most recently Geert Wilders have been very much in the international press over the last decade.

In the UK we are now 14 years on from the publication of the influential Runnymede Trust report Islamophobia: a Challenge for us All which sets out an agenda for overcoming social exclusion of British Muslims.

Fiction writers from Muslim backgrounds have played an important role in the debate about multiculturalism and Islamophobia. We will explore how they see their art as a tool to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and political discourse about integration.

Our panel consists of Şenay Özdemir and Naema Tahir, two women Muslim writers from the Netherlands, and Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, a woman Muslim writer from North London, who will talk about what motivates their art as women Muslim writers in respectively the Netherlands and the UK.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed grew up in North London and is the author of Love in a Headscarf (2009) in which she tells an autobiographical story of finding love through an arranged marriage. She is also known a Spirit21, a blogger who expresses her views as a British Muslim woman on a variety of political, cultural and religious issues.

Şenay Özdemir (born in Turkey) is a Senior Fellow in the Osgood Center for International studies in Washington DC, the founder of the online SEN magazine – a magazine for Mediterranean women residing in the Netherlands – and was a guest lecturer in the Journalism School in the University of Texas in 2009-10. Her first novel, De Harsclub (The Waxclub) was published in 2009.

Aside from being a bestselling author, Naema Tahir (born in Slough, Great-Britain, of Pakistani descent) practised as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations and the Council of Europe and is a guest lecturer in Leiden University and the Middelburg Roosevelt Academy. Her novels include Een Muslima Ontsluiert (A muslimwoman unveils) (2005) and Groenkapje en de Bekeerde Wolf (Little Green Riding Hood and the Converted Wolf) (2008). Her forthcoming novel is Bruid van de Dood (Bride of Death).

This event is organised with the support of the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Forum for European Philosophy and the Migration Studies Unit.

Update, Thursday 27 January: Unfortunately, Naima El-Bezaz will no longer be participating in this panel. 
Update: Monday 14 February: We are delighted to announce that Shelina Zahra Janmohamed will be joining this panel.


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