Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons


Assistant Professor, African American Studies Program and the Department of Religion

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Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion and affiliated faculty in the Women Studies Department. Simmons received her BA from Antioch University in Human Services and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion with a specific focus on Islam from Temple University as well as a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. Simmons’ primary academic focus in Islam is on the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) and its impact on Muslim women, contemporarily. Simmons spent two years (1996-1998) living and conducting dissertation research in the Middle East countries of Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. The areas of focus for her teaching at this time include: Islam, Women, Religion and Society; Women and Islam, African American Religious Traditions, and Race, Religion, & Rebellion. In addition to her academic studies in Islam, Simmons was a disciple in Sufism (the mystical stream in Islam) for seventeen years (1971-1986) under the guidance of Sheikh Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyadeen, a Sufi Mystic from Sri Lanka, until his passing. She remains an active member of the Bawa Muhaiyadeen Fellowship and Mosque and student of this great Saint’s teachings.

Simmons has a long history in the area of civil rights, human rights and peace work. She was on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace, justice, human rights and international development organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa. for twenty-three years. During her early adult years as a college student and thereafter, she was active with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and spent seven years working full time on Voter Registration and desegregation activities in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960′s.She has been awarded the Quiet Courage Award.Publications include: “Striving for Muslim Women’s Human Rights – Before and Beyond Beijing” in Windows of Faith: Muslim Women Scholar-Activists in North America, ed., by Gisela Webb, Syracuse UP, 2000.The Islamic Law of Personal Status and its Contemporary Impact on Women in Jordan, dissertation, Temple University, January, 2002.“Racism Today in Higher Education as Manifested in the Continued Assault on Affirmative Action” in Florida Law Review, University of Florida Levin School of Law, February 2003 (forthcoming).“Are We Up To The Challenge: The Need for a Radical Re-ordering of the Islamic Discourse on Women” inCritical Islam, ed., by Omid Safi, London, One World Press, April 2003 (forthcoming).

Fall 2011 Courses Civil Rights and Religion: AFA 3930/2452. This Course will examine the African American Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s, investigating the men and women who were both leaders and followers and the organizations they formed. The Civil Rights Movement has been hailed as the most successful social movement in American History. It was a Movement that transformed the American South with its racial apartheid systems of government and institutions into a more racially equitable society offering some of the benefits of American life to its African American citizens and other persons of color who chose to live in this part of the United States. It also transformed this whole nation as institutional racism and a racial caste system operated in the North as well as in the South. We will explore the role of Religion in this African American led Movement, which galvanized people of all races in the effort to make this nation truly one of liberty and justice for ALL.