WALLINGFORD— Friday is the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month marked by sunrise-to-sundown fasting, and this week the Wallingford library will host the first installment of a lecture series on Islam.
Sacred Heart University Associate Professor June-Ann Greeley will present “Women and Islam” Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the community room. Greeley is the director of Middle Eastern studies at the Fairfield school.
“We’ve had specific requests from patrons for a better understanding of Middle Eastern culture and Islam,” said Community Services Librarian Beth Devlin.
“Our patrons never cease to amaze us here. They’re so well read and well informed — so many of them are life-long learners,” Devlin said.
Greeley said her longstanding interest and that of many others in the religion increased exponentially after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed.
“A lot more has emerged on women in Islam,” Greeley said. She decided to launch the series because the topic resonates with Westerners.
She plans to begin the lecture discussing the history of Islam — its inception and propagation.
“Go back to a 7th century view ... what Christianity and Judaism was not doing for that population,” Greeley said. She’ll dispute what she says is the common notion that Muslim women are “all in burqas and that they are all downtrodden,” saying there are pockets of the Muslim world where that’s true, but on the whole that’s not the case.
Greely will also discuss contemporary issues affecting Islamic women, drawing on literature as well as conversations she’s had with Muslim students.
One of the main topics Greeley will discuss is the role of traditional dress. The hijab, or scarf, that many Muslim women wear to cover their hair is sometimes seen in the West as oppressive, she said. But she said many women like wearing the hijab to honor their religion.
She said in her discussions with students from the Middle East and North Africa, many have felt “there’s nothing negative or feeling oppressed if they wear the hijab. The hijab for them, it’s a religious artifact, not done for sociopolitical reasons.”
There’s a need for Westerners and feminists, she said, to honor women’s own voices.
Greeley said she will talk about the difficulty many Muslim American women have in navigating both cultures.
“They’re kind of caught between two worlds,” she said.
Greeley will be back for another lecture on Aug. 16. The subject will be Abrahamic prophets and the ties and differences among Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
“They are, after all, cousins, essentially,” Greeley said.
She’d like to leave ample time for questions and answers at both events. Further lectures depend on patron interest and Greeley’s teaching schedule come fall, Devlin said.
“So far it’s a wonderful partnership; I’m really excited,” Devlin said.
Please write: COMMENT in this box to verify that you are human