Arun Janardhanan, TNN | Jul 30, 2013,

Police force Madras University to cancel Islamic feminist’s lecture
Amina Wadud is one of the founding members of Sisters in Islam, a women group for gender equality and justice.
CHENNAI: A scheduled lecture by an Islamic scholar from the US was on Monday scuttled by police who cited possible law and order problems in view of opposition by Muslim groups. Amina Wadud, considered an Islamic feminist, was to deliver a lecture on ‘Gender and Reform in Islam’ at the University of Madras.

On Sunday night, while Wadud was waiting to fly from Kozhikode to Chennai, vice chancellorR Thandavan hastened to call off the programme, following a text message from city police officer who said: “Police cannot allow this (the lecture) considering law and order (sic). Please take action to suspend / cancel the programme.”

PK Abdul Rahiman, head of the Centre for Islamic Studies, said it was frustrating to be “dictated” by people from outside the university. “This has set a wrong precedent of police interfering in university programmes. We’ve lost an opportunity to host an internationally renowned scholar,” said Rahiman. Wadud’s books are part of the Islamic Centre’s curriculum.

A senior police officer said the decision to stop the lecture was taken at “a higher level.”

Sixty-year-old Wadud, born to an Afro-American Methodist family in Maryland, embraced Islam at 20. She is one of the founding members of Sisters in Islam, a women group for gender equality and justice. A consultant to MUSAWA, a global women’s movement, she made news in 2005 by leading prayers of a congregation of men and women – something which only male imams are allowed to do – in New York.

Early on Monday, she reacted to the university’s decision by tweeting from Kozhikode: “I have announced my intention to leave India for good as soon as I have completed some commitments in the region already scheduled.”

Those looking forward to listening to Wadud were disappointed at the turn of events. Former judge of the Madras high court K Chandru said the incident was similar to the ban on Taslima Nasrin. “When a battalion of police is camping before the US Consulate in the city for several months, why don’t they give protection to an Indian university,” he asked.

University sources said the police officer who spoke to them said that an earlier speech by Wadud in Karur in Tamil Nadu had created problems. However, according to Wadud, she had never been to Tamil Nadu before. “She considers it as an assault on her dignity,” said a source.

The vice-chancellor was not available for comment. The Madras University Teachers Union (MUTA) and the Professors Forum, too, refused to talk about the incident. A police officer said, “On Sunday night we were told to inform the university. We are also looking at whether her visa conditions permit her to give such lectures.”


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