Asma Barlas

Professor Emerita, Politics
School: School of Humanities and Sciences


Selected Presentations & Interviews


Headshot of myself during podcast.

Podcast with Sofia Rehman (U.K.), November 21, 2020

Islam, Gender and Feminism are hotly debated and rarely understood. This Zoom discussion was held following a global read along of Professor Asma Barlas's book, Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Quran, led by Dr Sofia Rehman.

Podcast with Riada Akyol: Dignified Resilience. August 16, 2020.

Bosnian writer and journalist Riada Asimovic Akyol presents a podcast about fresh narratives on confronting despair, alleviating distress, and forging ahead. ... Ultimately, this podcast is an invitation for people to engage in a thoughtful introspection, regardless of one’s geographical location or state of mind.

Believing Women

Hidden Figures: Tracing the History of Muslim Women Scholars, Islamic Center of Southern California, August 9, 2020.

New Books: Interview with Asad Dandia. August 3, 2020.

BBC interview

This week marks the beginning of the most important days in the Islamic calendar. It's the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan when the faithful are required to fast from dawn to dusk. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has cast a shadow to this year's festivities. Around the world lockdowns and restrictions have been imposed including on the Holy Lands: Mecca and Medina. Professor Asma Barlas from Ithaca College in New York is a Muslim scholar who is well-versed in the Holy Qur’an. She helps us find out what is allowed, and what is not during the pandemic.


"Reading the Qur'an Justly," Keynote address, conference on (Un)Just Religion: Building Community and Identity, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, March 16, 2019.


“Reading the Word in a Foreign Tongue: Islam’s Scripture, the Qur’an, and Non-Arab Muslims.” Plenary address, International Linguistic Association 63rd annual conference (Language and Religion). St. John’s University, New York, April 21, 2018.

“When Gender is a Problem in Qur’anic Exegesis,” New York University Abu Dhabi Institute. Workshop on Gender and Tafsir Studies. Abu Dhabi, April 8, 2018.


“Secularizing the Qur’an?” and “Decoloniality and Internal Colonialism: The secular turn in Qur’anic Studies.” Center for Intercultural Dialogues (Granada), and the University of California, Berkeley, Granada Spain, July 7, 2017.


“Sex/Gender and Women in the Qur’an,” panel, Human Rights, Gender, and Sexuality in the Islamic World, DISC/WCED Symposium, Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Laureate respondent. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, October 27, 2016.

“Muslim Women and the Qur’an” Marsico Scholar Lecture, Department of Religious Studies, University of Denver, October 13, 2016.

Human Rights, Gender, and Sexuality in the Islamic World DISC/WCED Symposium.

Video of my talk

Video of Panel
University of Michigan
October, 2016

This symposium brought together a diverse group of experts who have contributed to the conversation on human rights, gender, and LGBTQ movements in an Islamic context. Panelists discussed Muslim approaches to minorities, including the the movement towards decriminalizing homosexuals, the Qur’an’s position on sex/gender, and the history of human rights in the Muslim world. This event follows a lecture by the Nobel-prize winning human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who will participate in the panel discussion.


“Why is it so Hard to Speak about Islam?” NYI-St. Petersburg Institute of Linguistics, Cognition, and Culture, Russia, July 24, 2014.

“Qur’anic Hermeneutics as Ethics,” Keynote, “Critical Muslim Studies summer school, Center of Study for Intercultural Dialogues (Spain), and the University of California, Berkeley, Granada, Spain, June 10, 2014.

“Violence against Muslim Women,” Keynote, International Women’s Day, IMDI, Drammen, Norway, March 8, 2014.


“Islamic Feminism, Secularism, and (De)colonization,” Summer School on Islam and Decolonization, University of Berkley and University of Granada, Granada, Spain, June 11, 2013.

“Qur’anic Hermeneutics and Internal Colonialism in Muslim Societies,” Summer School on Islam, Granada, Spain, June 17, 2013.

Video shot of myself

Why I Don´t Call Myself an Islamic Feminist
Summer School on Islam and Decoloniality, Granada, 2013.


“Thinking of Muslims in ‘Morally Relevant Ways,’” Keynote, Faith and Culture conference.  The Wheeler Center, Melbourne, Australia, June 16, 2012.

“Uncrossed Bridges: Islam, Feminism, and Secular Democracy,” Keynote, Istanbul Seminars: The Promises of Democracy in Troubled Times. Reset Doc and Bilgi University, Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2012.

Women's Rights from within the Qur'an, Short film, Reset Doc,, 2012.

A Balloon for Allah

A Balloon For (To) Allah, a film by Nefise Ozkal Lorentzen, 2012.


“Encountering Islam: Women and Gender Equality,” Keynote, Critical Issues Symposium. Hope College, Holland, Michigan, October 5, 2011.

“On Anti-Anti-Foundationalism: Nasr Abu Zayd’s ‘Rethinking’ of the Qur’an,” Conference on Islamic Newthinking: In Honor of Nasr Abu Zayd. Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut of Essen and the University of Zurich, Essen, Germany, June 26-29, 2011.


“Abraham in the Qur’an: the unbound body,” Keynote, Conference on Religion and the Body.  Donner Institute for Research in the History of Religion, Åbo Akademi University, Åbo (Turku), Finland, June 16-18, 2010.

Interview with Fons Elders, Islam Unknown, Icarus Films, 2010

Islam Unknown: Interview with Fons Elders

video shot of myself

"Islam Unknown" A series by Fons Elders / An Icarus Films Release ISLAM UNKNOWN is a collection of eight interviews with unconventional Muslim intellectuals. In each episode, eclectic Dutch philosopher Fons Elders engages the thinkers in probing discussion on topics including gender, economics, sharia, secularism, colonialism, and the nature of religious authority. What emerges is a nuanced and illuminating series of contemporary perspectives on one of the world's great religions.

PART 1: Asma Barlas — God is Uncreated, God is Without Sex and Gender


“The Qur’an, Shari’a, and Women’s Rights,” Plenary Address, Re-imagining the Shari’a. University of Warwick, Venice, September 14, 2009.

“Islam and Body Politics: Inscribing (im)morality,” Keynote, Nordic Society for Philosophy of Religion conference on “Religion and the Politics of the Body.” University of Iceland, Reykjavek, June 26, 2009.

“Islamic Reform and Gender Equality: Fiqh, Feminism, or CEDAW?” Regional Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Societies. (UNIFEM/ ICIP) Jakarta, Indonesia, March 11-12, 2009.


“Globalizing Equality: revisiting the debate,” Third International Congress on Islamic Feminism. Barcelona, Spain, October 25, 2008.

“Would Spinoza Understand Me? Europe, Islam, and the Mirror of Difference.” Spinoza Lecture. University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 5, 2008.  (Also presented at the University of Nijmegen, June 17, 2008.)

“Believing Women in Islam: Between secular and religious politics and theology,” Spinoza Lecture. University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, May 8, 2008.


“Engaging Islamic Feminism: Provincializing feminism as a master narrative,” Workshop on Islamic Feminism. Tampere, Finland, August 31, 2007.

“Challenges of Reading/ Interpreting the Qur’an,” Master Class, Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden, the Netherlands, June 25, 2007.

“Still Quarrelling over the Qur’an: Five theses on interpretation and authority.” Conference on Redefining Boundaries.  Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Amsterdam, June 24, 2007.

“Women in Islam: Between Oppression and (Self-) Empowerment,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Cologne, Germany, March 9, 2007.


“Does the Qur’an Support Gender Equality?” University Lecture.  University of Groningen, the Netherlands, November 23, 2006.

“Women’s Self-Emancipation through the Qur’an.” University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, November 21, 2006.

“Four Stages of Denial, or, My On-Again, Off-Again, Affair with Feminism: Response to Margot Badran,” Discussion Series, Global Fury/ Global Fear: Engaging Muslims. Ithaca College, October 23, 2006.


“Qur’anic Hermeneutics and Muslim Women’s Liberation,” International Congress on Islamic Feminism. Barcelona, Spain, October 29, 2005.

 “‘Hold(ing) Fast by the Best in the Precepts:’ The Qur’an and Method,” Conference on the Changeable and Unchangeable in Islamic Thought and Practice, Sarajevo, May 7-9, 2005 (read by Christian Moe).

“Women’s and Feminist Readings of the Qur’an.” Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University, March 22, 2005.

Mainstreaming Extremism

screenshot of CSPAN presentation

Panel on Countering Religious Extremism (Muslim Public Affairs Council, California, Dec. 18, 2004)


“Gender Inequality and Scriptural Interpretation in Islam.” Stanford University, November, 22, 2004.

“Teaching about Women and Islam,” AMEWS Roundtable. Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, November 21, 2004.

“Text, Tradition, and Reason: The Qur’an and Sexual Politics.” Cardozo Law School, Yeshiva University, October 10-14, 2004.

“Islam, Gender, and Reproductive Health.” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, D.C., October 4, 2004.

 “Globalizing Equality: Muslim Women, Theology, and Feminisms.” Library of Congress, March 26, 2004.

picture of myself on video

Islamic Feminism: Debate with Margot Badran, University of Torotono, Jan. 12, 2004.


“Reviving Islamic Universalism,” Conference on Contemporary Islamic Synthesis, Alexandria, Egypt, October 3-5, 2003.

“Determining Islamic Authority in North America,” Conference on Islam in America.  Harvard Divinity School, March 8, 2003.


“Challenging Patriarchal Interpretations of Islam,” Anderberg Lecture, University of Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska, November 7, 2002.

“Islam, Feminism, and Women,” Robert L. Bernstein Symposium on Fundamentalism and Modernity. Yale University, April 12-13, 2002.

 “Will the ‘Real’ Islam Please Stand Up?” Master’s Tea Presentation at Silliman College. Yale University, February 21, 2002.


"On Interpretation and Exceptionalism," Ithaca College, October 29, 2001.

“Jihad vs. Terrorism: Interpretive Confusion or Exceptionalism?” Karachi, Pakistan, December 20-21, 2001.

“Muslim Women and Sexual Oppression: Reading Liberation from the Qur’an,” Macalester College Roundtable, Minnesota, October, 2000.

“The Qur’an and Hermeneutics: Reading the Qur’an's Opposition to Patriarchy," Conference on Qur’an and Hermeneutics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, October, 1999.