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Writer as an Activist: Begum Rokeya's Pioneering Role in the Education of S...

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University of South Australia, Magill Campus

C1-60 Lecture Theatre, University of South Australia, Magill Campus

Adelaide, SA 5072

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Free Public Lecture

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932), fondly known as Begum Rokeya, is an iconic figure in the history of Muslim women’s education in South Asia. Born in a conservative Bengali Muslim family of Persian descent, she was brought up on Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages and forbidden by her father, the stern family patriarch, from learning both Bengali and English, which he perceived as non/un-Islamic languages. Yet, ironically, Rokeya grew up to be a trilingual writer, writing primarily in Bengali, but also in Urdu and English. Her writings were aimed at empowering and emancipating contemporary South Asian Muslim women. However, Rokeya was not just a writer but also an ardent educationist. Although she didn’t have the privilege of a formal education in childhood – thanks to her dogmatic, chauvinistic father – she came to believe that education was the only way for Muslim women to break the shackles of misguided traditions and find their rightful place in society. This paper will investigate Rokeya’s educational ideals and her pioneering role in the education of South Asian Muslim women through her writings, but more importantly the school she set up in Calcutta in 1911, which was only the fourth school established for Muslim girls in British Bengal.


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Mohammad A. Quayum (PhDl, Flinders University) has taught at universities in Australian, Bangladesh, Singapore and the US, and is currently Professor of English at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He has published 32 books with such reputable publishers as Brill, Macmillan, Marshall Cavandish (Singapore), Orient Longman, Pearson Education, Penguin, Peter Lang, Routladge and the Singapore National Library Board. He has also published more than 80 scholarly articles in leading literary journals around the world. Quayum’s books on Rokeya include, The Essential Rokeya (Brill) and The Feminist Foremother (Orient Longman). He was Dean of the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences at IIUM (2017-2018) and Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs (1916-1917).

Lecture Theatre: C1-60, UniSA, Magill Campus

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University of South Australia, Magill Campus

C1-60 Lecture Theatre, University of South Australia, Magill Campus

Adelaide, SA 5072

Australia

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