Monday, April 28, 2008

Islam and the Veil conference

See for details of this week's event at the University.

Islam and the Veil

14th April 2008: Tiered Lecture Theatre, Francis Close Hall. Tuesday April 29, 10.30am.

Dr Theodore GabrielTackling the issue of Islam and the Veil, the annual conference on Islam returns to the University of Gloucestershire on Tuesday April 29.

Organised by the Department of Humanities, based at Francis Close Hall in Cheltenham, the event has been running for more than 10 years and usually focuses on themes which are of contemporary significance. Guests will be welcomed by Dr Keith Sharp, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Sciences and the conference opens with Reverend Dr Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Congress of Faiths.

Associate Senior Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow Dr Theodore Gabriel said: “The issue of veiling has been intensely debated in British society and has implications for religious liberty, inter-communal relationships and cultural interaction.
“This conference hopes to generate open and objective discussion of this highly important, though controversial subject led by knowledgeable scholars including female practitioners of Islam. Provoked by the then Home Secretary Jack Straw this subject has inflamed passions and generated heated debate in the media. This conference aims to look at the historical background, and theological and social factors underlying the veiling of women in Islam.”

Speakers also include Dr Simonette Calderini, Senior Lecturer in Islam at Roehampton University and Mrs Rabiha Hannan, who is vice chair of Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) in Leicester, and a member of the team which led to the foundation of the National Christian-Muslim Forum.

Doctoral student Myles O’Byrne, from the University of Warwick, will be speaking on The Veil in France’s Public Sphere: Conformity in Mind and Body, while Mrs Sariya Contractor, doctoral candidate at the University of Gloucestershire, will be discussing The Hijab, a Symbol of Muslim Women’s Identity. “It is hoped that such discussion will enable the participants to arrive at a well-informed consensus on the subject, or at the least hear well-balanced, unbiassed analyses of this important aspect of Islamic practice,” Dr Gabriel explained.
“Veiling is an important issue in the study of Islam and contributes to a deeper understanding of the faith. This is a subject that comes up often in different contexts where Muslim citizens of this country are involved in, such as education and other public scenarios. Therefore this conference is timely, relevant and though sensitive and even emotive, can play a hugely vital part in inter—communal relations and social debate in this country.”

This event is open to the public. Admission is £16, or and £8 with concessions (students and unwaged).
An application form is normally required, but those who would like to attend can either telephone 01242 714570 or email with their address and a form will be sent - or just ring for more details.
Coffee in the morning and tea in the evening are supplied free. A sandwich lunch will cost an extra £5.

Friday, April 25, 2008

MA: The Child: Literature, Language and History

As one academic year begins to move towards its conclusion, many of you may be considering future study...

In addition to the research options we offer (from Masters to Doctorate), and the many of our current Final Year students who are off to do a PGCE, we also have an MA programme entitled The Child: Literature, Language and History - the course description reads:

This multi-disciplinary course begins by exploring the idea of ‘the child’ and changing constructions of childhood. Both literatures for children, from picture books to young adult fiction (the child as reader), and literary representations of children (the child as subject), will be considered from a variety of perspectives. Children’s acquisition and use of language, from both linguistic and psychoanalytic viewpoints, the history and theory of childhood, and literary theory will inform analysis of works ranging from fantastic fiction by George MacDonald and Philip Pullman, to fictional engagements with childhood, from Dickens to McEwan, to children’s fiction by predominantly adult writers, such as Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson.

The core modules will be combined with occasional intensive Saturday workshops, when there will opportunities to work with visiting scholars. It will be possible to take an option module in the MA in Creative & Critical Writing, and would be ideal for those with an Education or Humanities background or those interested in writing for or about children.
If you want more details, contact me, or Debby Thacker - the Course Leader.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Prince Henry's High School - Evesham - Death and beyond...

Yesterday saw another school visit, to talk to the A Level students in Evesham at Prince Henry's High School -
Where the friendly, cofffee-providing staff helped us through a 2 hour session - on life-after-death (though we decided this was a problematic phrase) and religious language.

I was subjected to a range of rather difficult, but insightful, questions: and really enjoyed my visit. I hope to be back before too long.

For something on the philosophy of mind - how it relates to the notion of 'surviving death' see or HERE - or the very clear account HERE...

Cheers, Dave

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Money really cannot buy you happiness....

According to the Office for National statistics and their annual review, Money really cannot buy happiness.

Among its comprehensive reports on anything from what we Brits eat,buy and enjoy to how many sexual partners we have had, it suggests that despite the average Briton's salary doubling in the last 30 years, we are no 'Happier' - citing only 86 percent of us claiming to be either satisified or very satisified with our lives - the same figure as 30 years ago.

Perhaps most worrying, the survey posits that "only half of 16-21 year olds feel happy with their prospects for the future"

The first thing I found myself asking was what exactly constituted happiness; in this survey it seems to be overall contentment. Is happiness not something more? something harder to quantify?

Source: The Independent, Wednesday 9th April 2008, pg.12

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rushcliffe School Visit

Phew - this has been a manic set of school visits - but it is proving very exciting - giving a taste of University-style sessions -and getting to talk to a wide range of teachers and students: I am certainly learning a lot!

Today I did a long round-trip up to Nottingham - to Rushcliffe school - to talk mainly about Buddhism. The subject index I mentioned for Pali texts - very useful - is at Pupils may also find my Four Noble Truths podcast (and accompanying text) useful - access it via For a podcast on Not-Self (from Milinda's Questions) see

Hope these help - and hope to visit again at some stage - Dave

Somervale - Midsomer Norton

This Monday, I headed south to Somervale school, in scenic Midsomer Norton. I talked (a lot!) about Religious Experience, Life after Death and a little about Design and Evil. The groups had, overall, lots to say - and asked some great questions. This set of school visits has been a privilege for me: I have had so many questions put to me that I have not thought of myself - or that have made me think in different ways about topics.

There is a set of links for Religious Experience at: that may be of interest. Check out on Near Death Experiences - and for Evil - well see the links at this post:

Hope to see you all again at some point!