Conference marks 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution

More than 35 international experts on religion, secularism and Iran from Canada, Britain, France, the US, Holland, Iran, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories will meet at York University May 1 to 3 for the conference, Retreat of the Secular? Challenges of Religious Fundamentalism.

The speakers will examine the prospects for separation of religion and state and the evolution of secularist thought in Muslim-majority countries, particularly in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution, when Iran’s monarchy was overthrown and replaced with an Islamic republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran has lived under a strict religious government.

“We hope that this international conference will contribute to the timely concerns and debates over the evolution of the very concept of secularism,” says conference co-organizer Saeed Rahnema, a professor of political science at York. “In the past, secularism meant anti-religiosity. But more and more the need for mutual tolerance between religion and secularism in the public sphere, outside the state sphere, is recognized.”

Conference co-organizer Haideh Moghissi, a professor of sociology at York, says: “The special attention given to the experience of Iran is to provide the opportunity to debate and analyze why while ‘Islamic’ Iran represents a role model to many Islamists around the world, inside the country calls for the separation of religion from the state have become far more widespread than in the past.”

The scholars and authors who will attend the conference will speak about their fields of expertise, including:

  • redefining secularism in recognition of the interdependence of the religious and secular domains;
  • problems and prospects for democratization in post-revolutionary Iran, and in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Palestine;
  • complexities of secularism in Turkey;
  • the women’s movement for gender equality in Muslim-majority societies;
  • the growing gap between the pro-secular Iranians and the anti-secular state;
  • accommodating religious and ethnic differences in modern states that promise equal rights;
  • US foreign policy and fundamentalism;
  • a wave of violence against workers, students and others in Iran;
  • and the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign against violent state control over women’s sexuality.

A panel in Farsi, Iranian Politics and Society Today, will close the conference on Sunday. Simultaneous translation (Farsi/English) will be provided throughout the three-day conference.

Retreat of the Secular? Challenges of Religious Fundamentalism will take place Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3 in the Executive Learning Centre’s private dining room in the Seymour Schulich Building on York’s Keele campus.

To view the conference program, click here. To view a full list of conference paper abstracts and biographies of presenters, click here.