Research for Development and Justice

Sharia and Human Rights


Venue: Aud. 3, Dragefjell, Faculty of Law, University of Bergen

The focus of the workshop will be on questions pertaining to this area of study. There are widely conflicting views and practices on the issue of human rights, and in particular on women’s rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion in the Islamic world and in the west. Views range from the liberal to the most repressively conservative. In the twenty-first century, important interpretations of Islam open the way for political visions in which Islam, human rights and feminism are mutually supportive. Efforts by Muslim activists and intellectuals to Islamize human rights are grounded in a re-interpretation (ijtihad) of foundational religious texts in Islam, and a variety of understandings of the concept of human rights. This seminar will elaborate on the relationship between sharia and human rights. Is Islam compatible with human rights? What are the implications of the struggles of contemporary Islamic feminists and Muslim human rights activists on both the concept of sharia and human rights? What are the challenges and consequences?

The event is planned as a two-day seminar. During the first day, there will be a series of lectures given by internationally renowned scholars in this field which will be open to the general public. The second day will be reserved for presentations given by the Ph.D.-candidates. We have 3 confirmed speakers:

1. Amina Wadud

Amina Wadud is an African American convert to Islam and a  controversial Islamic feminist. She was the subject of much debate and Muslim juristic discourse after leading the Friday prayer of over 100 male and female Muslims in New York on March 18, 2005, breaking with the tradition of having only male prayer leaders (imams). Wadud is an activist and a scholar. She received her MA in near eastern studies and her PhD in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Michigan in 1988. During graduate school she studied advanced Arabic in Egypt at the American university of Cairo, she studied Qur’anic studies at Cairo university and took a course in philosophy at al-Azhar university. She achieved full professor of Islamic studies at Virginia commonwealth university in Richmond, Virginia in 2007. Recent publications: Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam (Oxford: Oneworld Publ 2006); Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective (Oxford University Press1999)

2. Ann Elizabeth Mayer

Ann Elizabeth Mayer is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies in the Department of legal studies and business ethics at the wharton school at the university of Pennsylvania. Ann E. Mayer has also taught as a visitor at  Yale University Law School in 1997, at Georgetown University in 1992 and at  Princeton University in 1983. She has written widely on issues of Islamic law in contemporary legal systems, comparative law, international law, and the problems of integrating international human rights law in domestic legal systems. A major portion of her scholarship concerns human rights issues in contemporary  North Africa and the Middle East. She has published extensively in law reviews and in scholarly journals and books concerned with comparative and international law and politics in contemporary Middle East and North Africa. Recent publications: The Internationalization of Religiously Based Resistance to International Human Rights Law, in Global Justice and the Bulwarks of Localism: Human Rights in Context, Christopher L. Eisgruber and Andras Sajo, eds. (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2005); The Evolution of the Concept of Human Rights, in Islam and Human Rights: Advancing a U.S.-Muslim Dialogue, Shireen Hunter, ed. with Huma Malik (Center for Strategic and International Studies 2005).

3. Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen

Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen is a professor at Copenhagen University, Denmark. He is a historian of religion specialized in Islam. In 2005-2008 he was the director of the Danish-Egyptian dialogue institute in Cairo, Egypt. His research concentrates on Islamic law, Arab mass media and Egypt. Publications: Defining Islam for the Egyptian State (Brill 1997); The Global Mufti: The Phenomenon of Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Colombia University Press 2009).


For more information contact Marianne Bøe

The workshop is organised by Chr. Michelsen Institute, The Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion (AHKR), and The Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies  at University of Bergen

Published October 25, 2009

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CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute)
Phone: +47 47 93 80 00 - From abroad: +47 55 70 55 65
Fax: +47 47 93 80 01
E-mail: - Web:
P.O.Box 6033 Bedriftssenteret, N-5892 Bergen, Norway
Visiting address: Jekteviksbakken 31, Bergen