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Seminar examines “Women in Islam”

April 8, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - The Muslim Student Association at the University of Illinois at Springfield will host a seminar on “Women in Islam” from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17, in the Great Room of Lincoln Residence Hall on the UIS campus. The program is free and open to the public.

Speakers will be Layla Assem, whose topic will be “Why Western Women are Choosing Islam,” and Aisha Sobh, who will address “The Strength of the Feminine in Islam.” Following the presentations and a question-and-answer session, dinner featuring authentic Middle Eastern dishes will be served to all participants.

Raised as a Catholic in a small town in southern Illinois, Assem converted to Islam in 1971 while a student at Southern Illinois University where she majored in Middle Eastern studies and did graduate work in linguistics with an emphasis on teaching English as a foreign language.  Later she taught at the Institute of Islamic Studies in Los Angeles and served with the Saudi Arabian Educational Mission in California before going abroad for 14 years, including 11 years teaching in the Women’s Section, College of Education, at King Abdul Aziz University, Saudi Arabia. Most recently, she has completed training with the Oregon Islamic Chaplain Organization and is working with a committee to form the National Islamic Chaplains College, for which she is vice president of academic affairs.

Sobh is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the U of I at Urbana-Champaign where her dissertation concerns the social reproduction of Muslim communities in the U.S.  Since 1999 she has been a teaching assistant at UIUC in such areas as the Middle East, gender, Africa, and American history. Her chapter on Saudi Arabia will appear in the forthcoming book Islamic Countries of the World, edited by Kathryn Coughlin. She presented a paper on the connection of Islamic intellectual history with Muslim immigration and activism in the United States at the March 2004 Program in South Asia and Middle East Studies held at UIUC.  Another paper, “‘Terms of Engagement’ and Marriage Selection among Immigrant Muslim Women,” has been presented at programs including the Immigration Reading Group and Gender Workshop, also at UIUC.

Funding for this seminar was provided by the UIS Speakers Award Committee, Inter Club Council Board, and Diversity Task Force.

For more information, contact MSA president Fareed Ismail at 206-1012.

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 40 degree programs – 20 bachelor’s, 19 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.
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