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Lums is in the spotlight for hosting all-male conference

Lums is in the spotlight for hosting all-male conference

The college's conference on Muslim Intellectual Tradition didn't feature a single female scholar.
Updated 02 Dec, 2015

On November 13-14, Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) organized a two-day conference, titled "Pakistan’s Contribution to the Muslim Intellectual Tradition” held at the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Social Sciences and Humanities. That's all fine. The catch? All the speakers at the conference were all male.

Many current students, alumni, faculty and researchers associated with Lums were troubled; one former student, Fatima Tassadiq, took matters into her own hands and started an online petition titled "Letter of Protest to LUMS MAG School of Humanities Social Sciences".

The petition says: "We appreciate the intellectual premise of the conference and consider it a hallmark of LUMS’ vibrancy to have scholars present exciting research on this important topic. However, we are at a complete loss to understand how a two-day conference boasting six panels, each with multiple speakers, along with chairs, and keynote speakers, was organized without the inclusion of a single woman."

"Are there no female scholars working in these fields? If the organizers of the conference did not receive high quality papers from female researchers responding to the conference’s call for papers, was it not possible to invite female scholars to at least chair some of the panels? Given that one of the panelists participated in the conference via a proxy who read the paper out, is it unreasonable for us to expect that the same could have been done for female scholars not based in Lahore?"

Whether this was a genuine oversight or an intentional course of action, attention must be brought to highlight the gender disparity that exists in Pakistan.

So far, 200 people have signed the petition, which was created a day ago.

It can't be lack of merit that led to the female voice being expunged in the arena: scholars like Ayesha Jalal, Riffat Hassan and Leila Ahmed or theologian Amina Wadud would have been welcome additions to the line-up of speakers.

LUMS response: LUMS prides itself on a tradition of inclusive dialogue, and we believe that constructive criticism pushes us to work harder to create an exemplary environment for teaching and learning. We welcome the recent feedback we have received suggesting the need to be more proactive in ensuring not simply more, but more meaningful, female representation within academic settings. Such change requires a sustained and institution-wide commitment to understanding histories of marginalization and the manner in which such exclusions are often indirectly and even unintentionally reinforced. As we draw lessons from this experience for the future, we are committed to engaging our students, faculty, and staff in the ongoing and sometimes difficult conversations necessary to achieve our vision of an even more inclusive, and thereby more vibrant, LUMS. We aim to do this in particular through our recently established Saida Waheed Gender Initiative.

Clarification: The article has been modified from the original to more clearly reflect the views expressed in the online petition.

Comments

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Anon Nov 25, 2015 03:32pm
O for god's sake.. everything is not misogyny... Stop throwing that word around everywhere. There couldve been a hundred and one different reasons for why there were no women on a single panel. LUMS would be misogynistic if they never had women on panels or staff... which is clearly not the case! At worst this would be a case of negligence... Grow up guys
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N Siddiqui Nov 25, 2015 03:33pm
Nothing surprising in Pak society, which is based on misogynist values.
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SM Nov 25, 2015 03:48pm
The first line "Hell hath no fury, blah blah ..." is itself misogynistic and offensive in this context, since it attempts to trivialize the issue. Disappointed.
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Afsar Zaman Nov 25, 2015 03:57pm
How can we progress and compete with the world ignoring our 50% or more of population?
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Khalid Nov 25, 2015 04:14pm
In a society like Pakistan, this is not a surprise. The sad thing about the so called educated minority is that they have not learnt anything when it comes to allowing (and encouraging women) to take some of the limelight. It is only reserved for the bearded old men. To me education means completely different and not just a piece of paper. Education, first and foremost, should liberate our minds.
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Usman Nov 25, 2015 04:33pm
This is utterly stupid. Feminists being feminists.... If women were not interested or qualified to participate in the event, why must it be the case that one of the men (who are both qualified and interested) must be replaced just for the sake of having a woman on the panel.
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S. Haider Nov 25, 2015 04:54pm
Now, the LUMS should organize another symposium on the " Negligence of Women in Islamic Countries". Please do not repeat the mistake of inviting men only for this meeting !! I support the petition.
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Mueen Nov 25, 2015 04:57pm
@Usman Your assumption "If women were not interested or qualified to participate in the event" is not credible.
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Saif Nov 25, 2015 06:31pm
Some of LUMS students and alumni act stupidly. It has been already asked in previous comments as how misogyny is defined or identified in this context, one should consider the following questions to qualify it. Is it a norm in LUMS that female speakers are missing from panels? How many qualified women are there to talk on (the) topic and how many of them are willing to speak? Has the school sufficient funds to finance their across continent travel? Finally what kind of feminist subversive politics are you involved in? Do you want a female speaker (unqualified) for the sake of 'aesthetics' which will make look her more stupid? What kind of (stupid) feminism is this? I can see 'secular/liberal-syndrome' involved (more than feminism) in this absurd critique: it makes the 'secular/liberals' uneasy as how can female voice be neglected when it comes to religion.
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Dave Smith Nov 25, 2015 06:51pm
There is much gender bias that exists even in the developed counties. How can LUMS be an exception? Classical example is the tech sector where a male dominated intelligentsia implicitly believes women can never produce good tech while simultaneously wasting hundreds of man hours in political bickering.
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Muneeza Nov 25, 2015 07:01pm
I have been noticing limited female participation in several promotional videos shot for LUMS. It unfortunate especially since it was not the case when I was a student there. It is not feminist to point this out. It speaks to the lack of female role models for women who study at the university.
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Observer Nov 25, 2015 07:08pm
Every educational institution should have diversity policies in place and its staff trained on procedures to ensure that diversity is reflected in delivery of educational programmes. Having said this, the organisation of the event by LUMS cannot be described as "Misogyny" by any stretch whatsoever. It could be the case that female specialists in the field where not available on short notice or many other plausable reasons could determine the panel. Secondly if there are no Christian speakers on the panel then can we say the organisers are anti Christian? Absence of a group does not automatically imply that the group is deliberately being marginalised. The author should excercise caution before using loaded terminology and get the facts first before accusing anyone of a grave offense.
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Aeyaz Kayani Nov 25, 2015 07:08pm
This case seems like the same sort of storm in a tea-cup that has become all too common at LUMS (and was becoming so in recent years). Since LUMS has not had a problem inviting female scholars to lecture in the past, even on religious and Islamic subjects, and since this is easily verifiable, this petition makes sense only if all the following can be shown: 1. There are female scholars working in the areas this conference focused on (or if in related areas then to show that males were invited even when speaking only on related areas) 2. These scholars were as easily reachable as the people actually invited 3. These scholars were purposefully not invited at all (rather than just declined their invitations) while males in similar positions were invited. Otherwise this petition is nonsense. Misogyny is a problem in Pakistan at large. But please don't go around trivializing the actual problem by reacting in this over-sensitive manner everywhere.
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Shridhar Subrahmanyam Nov 25, 2015 07:13pm
Gender equality is essential for the country to realise its full potential. Keeping women at home to care for the children and not pursue their dream is cruel and is ultimately a drag on the society. Let the women do what they want to do, manage companies, do research, reach for the sky or whatever they desire. That is the only way you will achieve the full potential of the society and country.
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TI Nov 25, 2015 07:24pm
Labeling LUMS "misogynistic" is way out of the line. Yes, we dislike the idea of excluding women from the panel, but let's not get carried away and start using extreme words to label others. Be rational and reasonable.
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tipu Nov 25, 2015 07:26pm
Why is it necessary to have a woman in the panel? Women should get it on merit, not on the basis of propaganda.
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M.Saeed Nov 25, 2015 07:27pm
Today, we have women leading the race against men being miles ahead in every field. Every exams will show women in the lead. Therefore, it is natural for men to be misogynous. This Conference in LUMS simply prove the fact and women cannot be expected to be their own adversaries in such a forum.
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ailly Nov 25, 2015 08:01pm
and we should thank Gen Zia for letting this happen in 1985. many will disagree / rather all may disagree but it was his govt which let it happen. QAU was founded in 1967 under Field Marshall Ayub Khan, Islamabad Islamic University was founded in 1980 again in Zia's regime. AGHA Khan hospital in 1985 during Zia's regime.... to round it off in 1985 PIMS Hospital Islamabad was established as well in Zia's regime. so all notable education centers, hospitals were founded during Army rules, yet these politicians or their cronies are sadistically trying to expunge all these ....... without shame.
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usman Nov 25, 2015 08:54pm
surprised to know how can gender issues come into intellectual discussion ...
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HBK Nov 25, 2015 08:58pm
I've read gender studies and feminism concept in detail and in my opinion it's very safe to say we as a nation are inclined to abuse any foreign concept. Feminism itself is no different.
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noor Nov 25, 2015 09:22pm
Being a graduate from lums, i can say one thing with utmost surety that my university is not misogynist. .. there can be a million reasons for the non participation of a female in this event. i personally have attended numerous events where females were the lead speakers where a male could also fulfil that role, nobody complained then .. why are they complaining now is beyond me !!!
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Namaloom Fard Nov 25, 2015 09:39pm
@Usman I concur
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Adnan Nov 25, 2015 10:57pm
"mole out of a mountain" .. really wasn't an issue
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Hamza Sultan Nov 25, 2015 11:09pm
Why is it an absolute NECESSITY to have women speakers? What if none of the females are interested? Should they be forced to participate at gunpoint next time there's such an event in order to avoid another accusation of misogyny? Pakistani feminists seem to be running out of real issues, which is very surprising. Please focus on real issues, this is completely nonsensical!
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IFTIKHAR Nov 26, 2015 12:14am
Why on earth, any intellectual or even a knowledgeable person would take a seminar or conference backed by John Templeton Fund seriously? John Templeton Fund's sponsorship topics belong better in churches, mosques, seminaries and 'madrassahs' than universities. Women should actually be glad for exclusion from John Templeton Fund sponsored conference.
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shami Nov 26, 2015 01:12am
Could it be possible LUMS may have invited the ladies but they refuse to come due to wahtever reasons?
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Fahim Nov 26, 2015 03:49am
In one moment women demand for equality - then in the next they realize their capabilities are altogether different from men - you demand special treatment! If in any particular field women cannot match men - then fairness demands to honor the men only. It would be quite inappropriate to invite women just for the sake of creating artificial equality. If some one doesn't invite women then thats not misogyny in my opinion! Women should demand and struggle for Justice ... not equality (Equality will be unfair to them). And personally I am all for treating women specially (not with discrimination or anything like that).
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Aku Nov 26, 2015 05:53am
If this had happened at Harvard, which I can guarantee that must have happened several times, nobody would question. We are a society devoid of trust, where everything is planned and conspired. On the contrary we are opposite, we have no planning. I can just say, very childish to have such a discussion and to publish this and make a news out of it.
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sn Nov 26, 2015 05:55am
probably they picked people on merit rather than on gender quota
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Rabbit Nov 26, 2015 07:11am
@Usman Dear either u did not read the names in the last para or u just happened to assume tht there is no female scholars interested /working in this field...see the problem here??
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Rabbit Nov 26, 2015 07:20am
@Saif Dear Saif, first thing u mentioned "feminist/feminism" far too many times in ur comment. second did u not read tht there was a proxy arrangement for distant speakers. Does word "Scholar" makes any sense to u? It means some one expert in her/his field so I pray explain how come a speaker b "unqualified"? U also managed to ignore/skip the names written in the last para of the article. In ur shole comment u used deprecating words to belittle the writer and protesters which is a proof tht u urself is a misogynist :)
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Zubaida khan Nov 28, 2015 05:45pm
@Saif There you go again trying to make decisions for others. The conference only has to invite. It does not pay for travel expenses. How can ICNA here in Connecticut have so many women speakers at their annual conference? While in Pakistan not even one in the city of Lahore? Bottom line did LUMS extend a call for papers to women? Or even an invitation?
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