Asra Nomani is an American author and former Georgetown University professor. She is co-director of the Pearl Project, a faculty-student, investigative-reporting project into the kidnapping and murder of her former colleague, The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Nomani is the author of two books: "Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam" and "Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love". Articles include: "Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom", the "Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque", and "99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds and Doors in the Muslim World". She has also written for The Washington Post and has been a returning guest on "Real Time with Bill Maher".
Her story forms part of the documentary "The Mosque in Morgantown", aired nationwide on PBS as part of the series America at a Crossroads.
The Fight for International Women’s Rights
Danny Pearl: The Truth Left Behind
Former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani was a friend and colleague of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. In fact, he and his wife were visiting her home in Karachi, Pakistan, when he went off for the interview from which he was kidnapped in 2002. Nomani played a key role in the investigation to try to find Pearl before learning that he had been brutally murdered. Six years later, Nomani is a professor of journalism at Georgetown University, leading the Pearl Project, a faculty-student investigative reporting project that is seeking answers to the questions of who really killed Pearl and why they killed him. The project's reporting has taken Nomani and her class figuratively onto the streets of Karachi and into the trenches of America's "war on terror." The Pearl case serves as a window into important issues related to terrorism, national security, foreign policy, and the challenges Pakistan faces in creating a civil society defined by rule of law.
The Mosque in Morgantown: Dilemmas Facing American Islam
Speaker Asra Nomani got a firsthand glimpse of Islamic extremism when her dear friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Daniel Pearl was murdered in Pakistan. When she returned home to West Virginia to raise her son, she found warning signs of extremism at the local mosque: the exclusion of women, intolerance toward non-believers, and suspicion of the West.
Her resulting campaign against extremism in the Islamic Center of Morgantown brought a storm of media attention, unexpectedly pitting her against the mosque's moderates.
Based on the gripping PBS documentary The Mosque in Morgantown, Nomani frames this local conflict as a means to explore the larger dilemmas facing American Islam.
The Paradox of Women in Islam
In this presentation, journalist, author, and speaker Asra Nomani - who was born into a conservative Muslim family from India - chronicles the struggle Muslim women face in reclaiming the rights women were granted at Islam's birth in the seventh century, which have since been erased by centuries of man-made rules and tribal traditions masqueraded as divine law.
To many, the Islamic feminist movement is filled with "the bad girls of Islam." But Nomani argues that their efforts are not anti-Islamic - rather, they use the fundamentals of Islamic thinking (the Koran; the Sunnah, or traditions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad; and Ijtihad, or independent reasoning) to challenge the ways in which Islam has been distorted by Sharia rulings issued by ultraconservative men. From the mosque to the bedroom, Muslim women have begun to challenge customs that deny them their basic rights, in such areas as gender segregation, mandatory veiling, forced early marriages, clitorectomies, polygamy, death for sex outside of marriage, domestic violence, and strict domestic roles. Nomani shares her personal story of empowerment, in which she walked through the front door of her mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 2003, and gathered up the strength to go into the main hall reserved for men only.
The struggle, she asserts, is to move Islam forward by reaching back to its progressive past. The effort, she says, is nothing short of a revolution.
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