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HerstoriesCafe: Conversations with Iraqi Diasporic Women: Public and Private Negotiations of Religion, Sexuality, and Identity

Nadia Jones-Gailani will be speaking on Iraqi women and issues of identity, sexuality, memory and religion.

When: November 27th at 630pm.

Where: Malvern Public Library, 30 Sewells Road, Scarborough, ON M1B 3G5

This event is free and will include refreshments. Please register by visiting herstoriescafe.com

This talk explores new interpretations of modesty and sexuality amongst young veiled migrant women in Toronto’s Iraqi Muslim community. Recent refugees to Canada, Iraqi women find themselves at the intersections of new and old Muslim communities, first and third-world feminisms, and first and second-generation ideals of female modesty. In their interviews, some Iraqi women discussed their anxieties about maintaining a ‘good reputation’ and securing marriage partners from Iraq, while others believed that the veil provided an outlet through which to explore their sexuality and femininity. These women are often from moderate Muslim families, resulting in a growing disconnect across generations within families of Iraqi migrants. Growing up in diaspora and negotiating their identity within multicultural and multiethnic spaces, the veil as religious performance is also a means of protecting their reputation by providing an outlet through which to explore other aspects of sexuality and femininity. With the rise of the Arab Spring, the veil has become increasingly central to ideological debates about Islam and women’s rights in the Muslim world. Absent from these debates is an understanding of the complexity and fluid meanings that the veil embodies for young women living transnational lives. As the public face of Islam in the west, it is critical that we understand the multiple meanings of veiling and the new role that religion plays as Muslims in the diaspora come into contact with different expressions of Islamic traditions and ideas. This paper offers thoughts on how virtual networks create a broad and unfiltered ‘Muslim space’ (Naber, 2012) online which enables the circulation of politicized messages of Islam, and informs how young Iraqi women in North America express modesty, sexuality and religiosity.