The Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies (WCED) and Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) at the University of Michigan are pleased to welcome to campus Shirin Ebadi, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights. On October 26, Ebadi will deliver the DISC Distinguished Lecture, “Gender and Sexuality in the Islamic Culture,” at Rackham Amphitheatre. “It is an honor and privilege to bring Dr. Ebadi to the University of Michigan,” says DISC director Pauline Jones. “She is a stellar example of the courage it takes to make a difference in the world.”

Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, former judge, and human rights activist. Ebadi became Iran’s first female judge at the age of 23, and was later the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite initially supporting the Iranian revolution like many Iranians, Ebadi soon became its scourge. Although described as “the worst nightmare of Iran’s hardline clerics,” her fight for human rights—particularly those for women—is not anti-religion: “I am against patriarchy, not Islam,” she says. Ebadi will share her views on the treatment of women and homosexuals in Islamic culture at her keynote lecture, where she will be introduced by Bridgette Carr, clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan.

A panel discussion on October 27, “Human Rights, Gender, and Sexuality in the Islamic World,” will expand on the themes introduced in the DISC Distinguished Lecture, featuring a variety of perspectives on modern Islamic attitudes towards women and sexual minorities, and the role of human rights in addressing these topics. The invited speakers are Asma Barlas, professor of politics at Ithaca College and expert on the Qur’an and Muslim women’s rights; Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and a frequent news commentator about the modern Middle East; and Samar Habib, associate researcher at the University of London Centre for Gender Studies whose scholarly work focuses on gender and sexuality in the Arab world. Shirin Ebadi will participate as a respondent, and the panel will be moderated by U-M professor of public policy Susan Waltz.

The program is organized by DISC, an initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that aims to develop a robust curriculum in Islamic studies across the Big Ten. WCED joins DISC as a lead sponsor, and support also comes from the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Ford School of Public Policy, and Law School. All events are free and open to the public.

Gender and Sexuality in the Islamic Culture October 26, 7:00 PM, Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington
Human Rights, Gender, and Sexuality in the Islamic World
October 27, 4:00 PM, Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall, 735 S. State

The Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) combines the expertise in Islamic studies across the Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions to provide students with a truly global perspective on Islam and the Muslim world via blended and synchronous learning environments. DISC is funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Michigan International Institute. For more information, visit

The Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies (WCED) combines academics with practical applications, promoting scholarship to better understand the conditions and policies that foster the transition from autocratic rule to democratic governance, past and present. It also educates new generations of practitioners who can apply their learning and experience to help extend democratic freedoms. Named in honor of Ronald and Eileen Weiser and inspired by their time in Slovakia during Ambassador Weiser’s service as U.S. ambassador from 2001-04, WCED began operations in September 2008. For more information, visit


Contact: Rachel Brichta
Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies

Phone: 734.764.0351