A scheduled lecture by an Islamic scholar from the United States was forcibly cancelled by police who cited possible law and order problems in view of opposition by Muslim groups.
Amina Wadud, an Islamic feminist, was due to deliver a lecture on ‘Gender and Reform in Islam’ at the University of Madras in Chennai, India, when she was informed by the unversity’s vice chancellor that local police had informed him to cancel the event. It has been reported that the news was delivered to the vice chancellor via a text message that read, “Police cannot allow this (the lecture) considering law and order (sic). Please take action to suspend / cancel the programme.”
A senior police officer said the decision to stop the lecture was taken at “a higher level.”
Abdul Rahiman, the head of the Centre for Islamic Studies at the university said it was frustrating to be “dictated” by people from outside. “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.
Ms. Wadud is author of “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective,” and “Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam.” In her writings, she argues against patriarchal interpretations of the Quran and has lectured in other Indian cities including Delhi and Calicut, according to Mr. Rahiman.
“Instead of asking the university to cancel [the event] the police should have provided security,” Mr. Rahiman said.
Wadud, 60, was born to an Afro-American Methodist family in Maryland, and embraced Islam at 20. She is one of the founding members of Sisters in Islam, a women group for gender equality and justice.
Wadud tweeted her reaction to the university’s decision, stating: “I have announced my intention to leave India for good as soon as I have completed some commitments in the region already scheduled.” She also posted on Facebook: “I will also NOT give any lectures, discussion, consultations, interviews or anything about Islam here. I will SAVE my breath for people of love and spirit and I am NOT really finding that sufficiently here so I give up. I am leaving India and returning to America shortly.”