Defining Islam on Our Own Terms: African-American Women Negotiating Transnational Muslim Identities

Spelman College Professor Dr. Jamillah Karim spoke on November 11, 2005, about the challenges Muslim women, both African Americans and South Asian immigrants, face in negotiating gender roles, taking into account issues of religious doctrine, cultural norms, and community expectations. Karim focused in part on women's variable and historically shifting forms of headcovering, arguing that the shift among some African-American Muslim women to culturally foreign styles of hijab in place of the typical "wrap hijab" serves as one indicator of the power of norms embraced by "immigrant Islam." At the same time, the emergence of hybrid styles of headcovering suggests that creative negotiation of religious observance by Muslim women from all backgrounds is ongoing.

Over 30 people attended the event, which introduced them to some of the complexities of African-American Islam, while, at the same time, showing a model of scholarship by a researcher who is unapologetically part of the community she studies. The event was cosponsored by the Kraft-Hiatt lecture fund.