On Thursday, May 21, Department of International Relations and European Studies organized an online guest lecture by Dr. Zilka Spahić Šiljak, a Harvard professor and program director of the TPO Foundation. As a part of the Contemporary Political Thought course, dr. Spahić Šiljak lectured on the topic “Nation-state Building and Islamic Feminism in the 20th Century” for 2nd-year students.
Students from the Department of International Relations and European Studies were given an opportunity to listen to the lecture about Islamic feminism, women’s rights, and the position of women in politics. Dr. Spahić Šiljak also talked about secularization, and the status of women both in the Muslim World and in the West. She observed that despite many advances in the area of gender equality, women continue to be victims of the dominant patriarchal society. This is especially the case in private life, as evidenced with persistence of domestic violence in countries that have passed and enforced gender equality laws in the public sphere
According to Dr. Spahić Šiljak, Islamic feminism challenges male authority in public life as well as traditional gender roles that produce gender inequality in the private domain. In this sense, she sees Islamic feminism as a discourse that inspires political activism, the end result of which is the empowerment of Muslim women.
In the questions and answers section, Dr. Spahić Šiljak answered questions that pertained to the status of Muslim women in the Balkans. Despite the appearance of greater gender equality in the Balkans when compared to the Muslim world, Dr. Spahić Šiljak exposed discrete forms of gender discrimination in the private sphere and insufficient presence of women in political institutions, which together pointed to the long road that is yet to be traveled on the path to genuine equality.