Ayesha S. Chaudhry named 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow

Research project will spark a conversation on Islamic legal reform through a Feminist Sharia.

The Faculty of Arts is pleased to announce that Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Associate Professor in the Social Justice Institute, has received a 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellowship to research Islamic legal reform.

Every year, the Foundation awards up to five fellowships to intellectuals in the humanities and social sciences who are recognized for their productivity, their commitment to communicating their findings to the public, and their ability to devise innovative solutions to some of the major issues facing Canada and the world.

As part of the fellowship, Chaudhry will engage the academic, policy and public spheres in a conversation on Islamic legal reform through a Feminist Sharia.

“I am thrilled and honoured to receive this award,” says Chaudhry. “I am most excited about creatively re-imagining the study of Islam, interrogating what it means to be Muslim, and holding a space for playfulness in Muslims’ relationship to Islamic law.”

Chaudhry’s research focuses on Islamic legal and theological reform, with an eye toward promoting human rights by focusing on women’s rights. She has consulted on high-level national and international cases concerning human rights and religious pluralism and freedom. She also works with NGOs and international development organizations to improve women’s rights and promote pluralism, and regularly contributes opinion pieces to provincial and national newspapers.

“It is important to spark a conversation around Islam and Muslims because lately, Muslims have become a litmus test for Canadian multiculturalism,” says Chaudhry. “There was the niqab and citizenship ceremony controversy, which dominated the 2015 federal elections. Then M103 was tabled by MP Iqra Khalid, which led to a heated parliamentary debate about systemic racism, religious discrimination, and Islamophobia. Most recently, Quebec passed Bill C62 whereby Muslim women can be denied public services if they are wearing a niqab.”

Feminist Sharia Project objectives: Chaudhry’s project develops narratives for a gender-equal Islamic law by rethinking the historically patriarchal Islamic legal tradition, paying special attention to narratives surrounding ‘Ā’isha, Muhammad’s youngest wife; this will be done through the following initiatives:

  1. Hosting international workshops to explore existing narratives of ‘Ā’isha, and to imagine narratives that can support gender equal laws;
  2. Publishing academic articles and a monograph;
  3. Engaging in policy conversations with NGO’s, government and inter-governmental organizations;
  4. Contributing to public conversations through op-eds and articles in national publications.

Read the full project.

About Ayesha S. Chaudhry: Chaudhry is the Canada Research Chair in Religion, Law and Social Justice and an Associate Professor of Islamic studies and Gender studies. She was a 2016-17 Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC and she was the 2015-16 Rita E. Hauser fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is the author of Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition: Ethics, Law, and the Muslim Discourse on Gender (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is currently working on two major projects, one entitled “Feminist Shari’a” and the other “The Colour of God”.

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