West Virginia Universitys Center for Womens Studies is co-sponsoring a literary reading this weekend as part of a founding conference of a historic new womens rights organization.

Internationally acclaimed Muslim women writers will read from their work at an interfaith evening,The Daughters of Hajar: A New Generation of Muslim Women Speak,at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 4, at the Garlow House next to the Morgantown Public Library on Spruce Street.

Hajar, known as Hagar in the Bible and Jewish history, was the historical mother of Islam and a symbol of a womans strength.

The Daughters of Hajar is a national organization dedicated to empowering Muslim women and girls, according to Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of Tantrika, one womans personal journey to India and Pakistan in search of spirituality and the discovery of her roots.

Namoni has been active in leading a group of Muslim women to use the front door and pray in the main hall of a local mosque.

In addition to Nomani, a WVU graduate, other participants include: Sajida Nomani, president of Morgantown Muslims and Friends; Saleemah Abdulghafur, author of a forthcoming book about the new generation of Muslim women; Samina Ali, author of Madras on Rainy Days; Sarah Eltantawi, a writer and activist; and Mohja Kahf, associate professor of literature at the University of Arkansas and author of Emails from Scheherazad , a poetry book.

Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice, WVU assistant dean of student affairs, will give the welcome.

Morgantown is honored to host this historical meeting of Muslim women,Justice said.The women are courageous pioneers and leaders. We are at a crossroads in creating communities of tolerance and inclusion. Morgantown is proud to serve as a shining example of what can be accomplished through the active and vocal participation of women.

Morgantown has become a symbol of womens rights in the Muslim world with the increased participation and leadership of local women, said Barbara Howe, director of the WVU Center for Womens Studies.

Last summer, the Center for Womens Studies sponsored a workshop called `Women in Islam,that was well attended by faculty from across the state. So, to follow up with and help support an event like this is great timing,Howe noted.It also says a lot about Morgantown as a city of diverse people and ideas.

Howe noted that as the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan continues tobe murky and undergo profound change,there will be continued interest and concern about what happens to the status of Muslim women and religion in general.

Sajida Nomani, president of Morgantown Muslims and Friends, said,The Daughters of Hajar is bravely tackling traditions and taboos to make the world a better place.

Amina Wadud, renowned professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective , said,This conference of Muslim women will have a historic impact and help us rescript the current history and face of Islam.

Conference participants also plan to meet at the WVU College of Law at 12:30 p.m. and walk together to the local mosque (434 Harding Ave.) to pray together for the weekly Friday congregational prayer.

The literary evening is the first in a series of interfaith discussions also sponsored by the Shelley A. Marshall Foundation, the Morgantown Public Library, Morgantown Muslims and Friends, the WVU Female Equality Movement , and individual sponsors.

Participant Bios:

Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur (B.A., Columbia University) is currently writing her first book for Beacon Press about the new generation of American Muslim women. Most recently, Abdul-Ghafur was the chief operating officer of Azizah, a pioneering magazine for Muslim women. She is a member of theadvisory council to Bridges TV, a Muslim TV venture, and the grant committee of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation. Ms. Abdul-Ghafur was previously a program officer for Victoria Foundation, a leading foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life in New Jersey. She spoke at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s first Hip-Hop Festival about the emergence of hip-hop activism in philanthropy. She lives in Atlanta.

Samina Ali , born in Hyderabad, India, and raised in India and the United States, is the author of Madras on Rainy Days, a debut novel that chronicles a Muslim woman’s journey from possession to self-possession. Ms. Ali (M.F.A., University of Oregon) was a panelist at the PEN /Faulkner Conference discussing the role of Islam in her novel. She is the recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation award for fiction and has written for such publications as Self and Child magazines, The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle . Renowned author Bharati Mukherjee called Alia compelling storyteller. In language that is at once lyrical and unsentimental, she explores both the upside and the downside of being a first generation Muslim Indo-American woman, trapped between the demands of competing cultural heritages.She lives in California with her son.

Sarah Eltantawi is the communications director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in New York City. She has written and spoken on the American Muslim community, progressive Islamic thought and various geo-political issues. She appears regularly on television and radio in the United States and has lectured throughout the country. She was most recently invited to Doha, Qatar, by the Brookings Institute to participate in a world dialogue between the United States and the Muslim world. She is also the secretary of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom in Washington

D.C. Eltantawi earned a B.A. in English literature and rhetoric, with a minor in creative writing from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University.

Mohja Kahf (Ph.D., Comparative Literature, Rutgers University) is an associate professor of literature at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where she lives with her children and husband, also a professor. She was born in Syria and came to the United States as a child. In a review of her first poetry book, Emails from Scheherazad, Booklist describes her asan earthy, playful, and purposeful poet who writes with as much sass as sensitivity about what its like to be a woman, a person of color, an immigrant, and a headscarf-wearing Muslim in a non-Muslim country.Dr. Kahf co-writes a column on Islam and sexuality for Muslim Wake Up, an Internet magazine.

Asra Nomani (M.A., American University, Washington, D.C.; B.A., West Virginia University) is a former staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal who has written about politics, business, popular culture, sexuality and Islam. Beliefnet selected her first book, Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love one of its top spiritual books in 2003. HarperSanFrancisco will release her second book, Standing Alone in Mecca: A Muslim Womans Pilgrimage to the Heart of Islam, in 2005. She has broadcast a commentary on National Public Radio and written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated for Women. She reported from Pakistan for Salon after Sept. 11, 2001. She co-writes the column on Islam and sexuality for Muslim Wake Up. A native of India, Nomani lives in Morgantown with her son, Shibli.

Sajida Nomani (B.A., West Virginia University) was born in India and grew up in a traditional Muslim family before migrating to America to a future she had never imagined. Before retiring in 2003, She was the owner of Ains International, a successful boutique in downtown Morgantown, for 22 years. She has been a cross-cultural volunteer at North Elementary and Suncrest Middle schools, and she has been a pioneer in womens participation at the mosque in Morgantown. She is president of Morgantown Muslims&Friends and lives in Morgantown with her family .