Ibn Rushd Young N2: Exploring Sexuality, Islam and Cosmopolitanism through Literature

Talks with Hassan Ait-El-Ouali and Saleh Chaoui & music by Quasim Kzar

The „Ibn Rushd Young“ series provides a platform for young researchers,
intellectuals, and artists to share and discuss their current projects with an audience of like-minded peers. With this unique format we are opening up an alternative space outside the confines of traditional academia— one that’s non-hierarchical and embraces interdisciplinary dialogue on topics, issues, and projects holding significance for the Arab World.

In our upcoming event, we’re excited to host two sessions delving into the exploration of gender, religion, and social norms in literature.

Session 1: Sexuality and Arab Male Autobiography
This session begins with a Sufi music composition by the Iraqi oud player Qasim Kzar.

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Qasim Kazr studied music at Beit Al-Oud in Baghdad and continued his studies at the Arab Institute of Music in Berlin (AMI Berlin), where he is currently a member of the institute’s band. In Arab cultures, the sexed body and autobiography are intuitively considered to be somewhat antithetical. This is predominantly attributable to the influence of religiosity, which assigns taboos to matters of the body and sexuality and strictly regulates them.

In the session titled „Sexuality and Arab Autobiography” the Moroccan researcher Hassan Ait-El-Ouali will explore how the discourse of masculinity and religiosity historically shaped the representation of the sexed body in Arab autobiographical writings, emphasizing the concealment of bodily desires. He will scrutinize in what ways certain Arab autobiographies, such as Mohammed Choukri’s „For Bread Alone,“ Abdellah Taia’s „Salvation Army,“ and Amrou Al-Kadhi’s „Life as Unicorn,“ defy traditional norms by giving prominence to the sexual aspect and affirming queerness within the context of Arab-Islamic culture.

About the speaker:

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Hassan Ait-El-Ouali is a Moroccan PhD researcher at the University of Debrecen (Hungary). His current research project explores the (re)production of men and masculinities in Arab men’s autobiographical narratives. He holds a Master’s Degree in Gender Studies in 2019 from Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez, Morocco. His research interests include issues related to Feminism, gender, and queer identities in the Arab world.


Session 2: Islamotropics: Muslim Identities and Spiritualities in Anglophone Fiction
In the contemporary literary landscape, a growing body of fiction by Muslim and non-Muslim authors explores the complexities of Muslim identities, experiences, and
spiritualities across diverse contexts. This emerging genre, termed “Islamotropic fiction,” employs rich literary tropologies to capture the complex realities of everyday Islamic lived experiences often obscured by dominant stereotypes.
In the session “Islamotropics: Exploring Muslim Identities and Spiritualities through Contemporary Anglophone Fiction,” Saleh Chaoui will explore how the tropes of journey,
displacement, and cosmopolitanism function in Islamotropic fiction to depict the dynamic formations of transnational Muslim identities, particularly for female protagonists negotiating religion, culture, and belonging. He will examine in what ways Islamotropic fiction complicates rigid secular/religious binaries through its representation of Muslim women’s sartorial practices, such as veiling, as embodied expressions of autonomous agency and ethical self-cultivation grounded in faith. And how does this genre of fiction employ poetic language, metaphor, and literary techniques to articulate the metaphysical and affective dimensions of Islamic spirituality, enabling a postsecular reading sensibility that integrates spiritual and material realms?

About the Speaker:

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Saleh Chaoui is a doctoral candidate at the University of Debrecen and working on the portrayal of Muslim cultural identities and gender in contemporary transnational
literature. He has published articles in prestigious journals such as ‘Critique’(Ensouling Agential Praxis in a Secular World: A Sufi Spiritual Turn in Leila Aboulela’s ‘The Kindness of Enemies’) and ‘Religion and Gender’ (Navigating the Religious in the Cosmopolitan: Displaced Muslim Female Identities in Camilla Gibb’s ‘Sweetness in the Belly’).

Moderation: Dr. Amany Alsiefy (Ibn Rushd Fund/ Humboldt University of Berlin)

The event will be held in English.