Born in Iran in 1967, Chahdortt Djavann claims to have been “born a rebel”. Born a rebel because she was born in a country where women do not have the right to exist. She grew up in Tehran, raised by her mother along with four older brothers and sisters. . Even as a child, Chahdortt was not afraid to voice her beliefs, and despite the government’s oppression, she had a clear understanding of freedom and a taste for it. A real tomboy, she stood out, and at a very young age, she was exiled: after a short stay in Istanbul, she arrived in Paris in 1993. Life there was hard at first; she didn’t speak the language. After a series of odd jobs, she was accepted into the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales where she studied anthropology. In 1998, she defended her Master’s thesis on religious indoctrination: an analysis of elementary school textbooks in Iran. A year later, she focused her studies on the socio-linguistic issues concerning immigration.
In 2002, she published her first novel, Je viens d’ailleurs, written in French, to tell her story. A year later, Bas les voiles ! which condemned the Muslim veil worldwide, earned Chahdortt sudden notoriety as well as several threatening phone calls. In September 2004, she was again brought into the limelight, this time for the publication of Que pense Allah de l’Europe ? (translated into German and Italian).
Her articles and interviews are periodically published in the French national press (Le Point, Libération, le Figaro, Elle…). She also gives lectures at the Senate, the French National Assembly, la Mairie de Paris, le Grand Orient de France, the Assembly of Women and la LICRA (the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism) which awarded her the International Prize for Secularism in 2004. Just published in September 2005: Comment peut-on être Français ? Montesquieu et Roxane
Secularism and Political Islam: Reflexions on the Islamic Veil
Chadhortt Djavann will answer the following questions in light of her personal experiences and graduate research.
How are masculine and feminine identities formed in a traditional Muslim society? What are the dominant social models of men and women?
What is the Islamic veil? What is its religious, social, psychological, anthropological, political and legal significance? What is the underlying issue of the Islamic veil? Why do only the women wear it?
What distinctions need to be made between Muslims (the great majority), Islamists (those who do not support jihad), Jihadists and finally, terrorists? Similarly, how do you distinguish religious thought from religious philosophy and religious dogma? Why does a religion, when reduced to its dogma, become fundamentalist?
Chahdartt Djavann will explore the history of the Heretical thought of Muslim philosophers of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries with regard to Islamic dogma. She will also analyze the disasters of political religion and the barbarity that ensues.
What is an Islamic system and how do the principles of this system maintain themselves? What structural differences exist between Muslim and democratic countries? Why do all Islamist systems, despite their differences, demand that woman wear a veil? (Examples of Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia).
According to Islamists, why does Islam withhold the absolute and divine truth, implying the necessary conversion of Jews and Christians?
What is secularism? How can secularism prevent the abuses and political manipulation of people’s religious beliefs and allow for peace between believers of different faiths as well as non-believers within the same country?