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Wash U. professor lectures on Islam

Sarah Mayer | Friday, February 1, 2008

Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, director of Eastern Religious Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, presented a lecture entitled “The Role of Women in the Muslim World” Thursday in the Stapleton Lounge at Saint Mary’s College.

“Knowledge about Muslim women is more than just facts, it’s about their culture, their history, and their talent,” Keshavarz said. Originally from Iran, Keshavarz said women are often alienated in the Islamic world, despite the fact that they are an integral part of it.

“Women are culturally distant yet so close at the same time,” she said.

Muslim women still face great obstacles, especially since they are considered the property of their husbands, Keshavarz said. However, they are beginning to overcome these obstacles and receive education. In Iranian universities, 70 percent of the students are women. But the government is considering establishing a quota system because women are doing such better than men.

“[The quota system] would just be holding women back and is a ridiculous idea,” Keshavarz said.

The majority of her lecture focused on the fact that many American students know very little about Iran and Muslim culture. Although Keshavarz says even the most intelligent students do not know 60 to 70 percent of the facts or real story behind the history of Iran.

According to Keshavarz, only 300 Americans a year travel to Iraq, and when applying for a visa, “the United Nations gives you a million reasons not to go.” Keshavarz said she was happy to speak at Saint Mary’s and “bridge the gap between the Muslim world, especially Iran, and the United States.”

According to Keshavarz, who received all of her facts from the United Nations, every Iranian woman needs her husband’s consent to travel abroad.

“If the husband does not approve-than she cannot go, it is absurd and the law needs to change,” Keshavarz said.

Kashavarz is involved in the 1,000,000 Signatures Campaign with many other Muslim women between the ages of 17 and 25. The all-female organization send members from village to village in Iraq asking for signatures to support gender equality issues.

The talk was sponsored by the Justice department, CWIL, and the Political Science and English departments.