Madhavi Sunder, "Reading the Qur'an in Kuala Lumpur"

The Enlightenment took us from a world of Empire to an Age of Reason and equality in the public sphere. But it left the private spheres of culture and religion in the Dark Ages of imposition and unreason. In the Enlightenment worldview, freedom in the public sphere is freedom itself. Human rights came to be defined as “rights guaranteed in the secular political world.” But today on the frontlines of women’s movements in the Muslim world we hear challenges to this view of freedom and equality. Significantly, Muslim women’s challenges do not reject Enlightenment values but seek to take them further. No longer content to accept freedom in the public sphere and tyranny in the private, individuals in the modern world increasingly demand change within their religious communities in order to bring their faith in line with democratic norms and practices. In this talk Professor Sunder tells of a rising, transnational grassroots movement led by Muslim women to read the Qur’an for themselves, thus taking the traditional Enlightenment values of critique and participation the next mile, to religion itself. Madhavi Sunder is Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded May 7, 2009, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas series. Chicago’s Best Ideas, a lecture series begun in honor of the University of Chicago Law School’s Centennial, highlights the intellectual innovations of the School’s distinguished faculty.

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