International Conference on “The Making of the Islamic Diaspora”

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Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims



On 7-9 May 2004, the SSHRC-funded, York University-based MCRI project
on Diaspora, Islam, and Gender project held an international conference
on “The Making of the Islamic Diaspora.” Under the directorship of
Haideh Moghissi, Saeed Rahnema, and Mark Goodman, the event was held
in Toronto and was cosponsored by the Ford Foundation Educational
Project for Palestinians, the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional
Studies, the York Centre for Refugee Studies, and the York Centre for
Feminist Research. The conference brought together an impressive collection
of scholars from around the world to share knowledge and insight into
the challenges that face diaspora communities of emigrants, refugees, and
exiles who originate from Islamic cultures, with a specific focus on the gender
dimension of displacement.
In addition to the invited guests and speakers, the conference was
attended by approximately 50 academics, graduate students, and the public
at large. The conference’s guest of honor was the Honorable Zahira Kamal,
Minister of Women’s Affairs for the Palestinian National Authority, who
participated in the conference and presented a keynote address at a dinner
reception in her honor.
The conference’s panels discussed themes related to identity formation,
gender in diaspora, fundamentalism and human rights, the diaspora
experience, and the media and representation. Nergis Canefe, for example,
spoke about issues of religious identity and national belonging and
noted that diasporas offer a site of new membership that is different than
migrants and represent the flourishing of hybrid identities. She described
the “common immigrant story,” where such socioeconomic barriers as
racism, stereotyping, media representation, and difficulty in recertification
make it extremely difficult to have a smooth life transition in a new
country ...

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