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Letter of Protest to LUMS MAG School of Humanities Social Sciences

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Dear Professors,

We, the undersigned, are alumni, current students, faculty, and researchers associated with the Lahore University of Management Sciences. We are writing to protest the organization of an all-male conference titled “Pakistan’s Contribution to the Muslim Intellectual Tradition” held at the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Social Sciences and Humanities at LUMS on November 13 - 14, 2015. We appreciate the intellectual premise of the conference and consider it a hallmark of LUMS’ vibrancy to have scholars present exciting research on this important topic. However, we are at a complete loss to understand how a two-day conference boasting six panels, each with multiple speakers, along with chairs, and keynote speakers, was organized without the inclusion of a single woman.

 The panelists and chairs at the conference hail from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds with degrees and research foci including Islamic tradition, Islamic law as well as politics, policy-making, and religious studies. Given the diversity in the backgrounds of participants, it is difficult for us to understand how women were completely excluded from the program. Are there no female scholars working in these fields? If the organizers of the conference did not receive high quality papers from female researchers responding to the conference’s call for papers, was it not possible to invite female scholars to at least chair some of the panels? Given that one of the panelists participated in the conference via a proxy who read the paper out, is it unreasonable for us to expect that the same could have been done for female scholars not based in Lahore?

Gender inequity is one of the many systemic social ills within the academia globally. We are not suggesting that LUMS rectify these enormous disparities on its own via a single conference. However, we are deeply troubled by the total erasure of all female voice at a major conference in one of the leading institutes of the country, especially considering the relatively high number of female academics and students at LUMS. All male conferences in 2015 are not mere accidents, nor are they to be taken lightly. Far from passively reflecting pre-existing gender inequities, such events actively reinscribe and reinforce the exclusion of women.

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