Experience as a research scholar

Student Profile: Natasha Latiff

URSS

Department: Law
Project title: Gender in Islamic Criminal Justice

Project supervisor: Professor Shaheen Sardar Ali

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Natasha Latiff. I am a 3rd year law student at Warwick. I come from a tiny island called Singapore in South-east Asia. My interest is in the discipline of Gender in Islam, Afghanistan and the development of legal systems in post-conflict & developing countries. In my free time I enjoy reading, writing and lyrical dancing.

What is your project about?

My project has two objectives.

Where variants of Islamic law are followed by an astounding 1/5 of the world’s population, still there are very few resources that educational institutions have available to them to teach Islamic law in a critical and analytical approach; an approach that is much required today, but not yet present in many Muslim-majority jurisdictions. The latter jurisdictions tend not to use publications that approach the study of Islamic law in a critical and analytical way. Therefore there are very few resources that approach Islamic law wholly as an ‘intellectual discipline’. One objective is to develop a bibliography and other resources for teachers and students of Islamic law. These resources encompass a diversity of scholarly views on Islamic law. Furthermore these resources contain multi-disciplinary scholarship on Islamic law touching on issues such as human rights, gender, the Muslim diaspora and international law amongst others.

My 2nd objective for this project is to build my own research & knowledge base in Gender in Islamic law. I am running a legal and literary initiative called Femin-Ijtihad with the Afghan Women’s Network in Afghanistan to increase the accessibility of gender-neutral interpretations of Islamic law in Afghanistan. I intend to share the materials gathered on Gender in Islam with Afghan women and human rights organisations. These interpretations will be made physically accessible through effective dissemination and linguistically accessible by reducing academic language into an engaging, simple-to-understand prose written in a non-confrontational and inspiring style in Dari (Afghan language) for the common Afghan to understand and embrace.

What got you interested in this subject?

The books and journals that I have read about Gender in Islam (the same books and journals I want to make more accessible to Afghans!)

What have you been doing on the project?

My task involves researching and reading journals on Islamic Criminal Justice (primarily). I am compiling a bibliography of relevant materials. This bibliography will be attached to the teaching and learning manuals that Professor Shaheen and the team are producing for the UKCLE funded project ‘Developing Islamic Law Curriculum. For the materials that I decide is relevant for pre-determined topics in Islamic Criminal Justice, I will provide an extended abstract for readers (teachers and students) for each of those articles. Because I have expressed interest in Gender in Islamic Criminal Justice, I will develop materials for a teaching and learning manual specifically for that area of study.

What have you enjoyed about it?

Learning about the research process (yes, even more than the content within Gender in Islamic Criminal Justice!). I now understand research as being a process of first individual discovery through self effort but more importantly, secondly, discussing and sharing the research produced with my peers. If any research were to attain a practical beneficial outcome to society, it has to be a concerted group effort. The feedback and ideas of individuals, even those with different opinions and stakes from me, has to be obtained and included or at least considered in the research content and process. When research pushes those boundaries then the outcome of the research (based in the context of my interest in this project) becomes practical and beneficial to the society I intend to address.

What have you found difficult?

My work primarily involves researching and reading many articles. For law school, I have other readings to do and sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. But then you overcome it naturally as you develop reading skills and techniques!

What skills have you developed that will help you in the future?

My involvement with the Islamic Curriculum Development project has given me the blueprint of how a research project works. As I mentioned above, I am running a research project on Gender in Islam for Afghan women and human rights organisations and it has really taught me that research does not end after collation. Assessment of the research gathered is part of research. Research work requires continuous scrutiny, evaluation and development, inspired by the diversity of views supporting and opposing the selection of resources you have gathered as well as the rigour put into the development of that research.

How did you find out about the URSS scheme?

Warwick University Website.

What are your top tips for URSS students about to start work on their research projects?

Take notes of your learning experience as you go along. I did not always do that but now I wish I did. Also live the literature you read. There is so much beauty in the written word. And there is even more beauty in knowledge.

What’s next for you? i.e. job, further study, ambitions etc

I have my final year to go. Then I would like to work in Afghanistan with an NGO for a few months, learn Arabic in Tunisia and go for a short spiritual retreat in Mcleod Ganj (India) – all in a span of one year before starting my Master Degree (LLM).

How would you sum up your URSS experience in one sentence?

Once it starts, it never ends.
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