Open Letter to Islamic Conferences

Last week, a popular Canadian Islamic conference released their poster, which included a set list of speakers for this year.

Unsurprisingly, it was halo of male speakers with a sprinkling of women.

I’ll be the first to admit, attending these conferences is a weekend getaway with a bunch of people who make you feel good. I call this religious entertainment; instead of distractions like the Kardashian’s and Justin Trudeau’s abs, we’re pumped full of Hadith’s and verses to reminds us the world is indeed a beautiful place.

Behind this utopia there is a serious problem: the blatant male domination of the speaker list.

[The few token female speakers are often placed in early morning time slots; their headshots sometimes don’t make it on promotional materials.]

Why? Well frankly, I think it’s the subconscious belief that religion from a male simply sells better. And, in a way, is better.

However, and interestingly enough, the audience is often full of young women; the orators and the listener have nothing in common.

Piety should not be a male dominated field, nor should it be portrayed as such. Middle-aged men should not be placing a monopoly on spirituality. And perhaps the most dangerous part of this conundrum, is that it indirectly enforces the idea in many young people, notably women, that religiosity, or its expression, is a somehow a strictly male thing.

Upon voicing my concerns (which if you know me, is very a frequent occurence), the common excuse is there are little to no female speakers. That’s just about as good as an excuse as telling your doctor you can’t locate the produce part of the supermarket when they tell you to start eating better.

You’re either bad at looking or you’re not in the right store. And either way: you’re doing something wrong.

These conferences can be, and have been, a fountain of knowledge and an array of marriage prospects. I do not want to dissolve them. I’m just asking for equal gender representation in the list of invited speakers. Reflect the demographic of your audience; dare to find the produce aisle.