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Farah Pandith and Zainab Salbi.

Behind the scenes

Debate over women in Islam spills over into a second day with Farah Pandith and Zainab Salbi

By Andrew Tavani on April 10, 2016

On Thursday at the 7th Annual Women in the World Summit in New York City, one of the most controversial and heated panels in the Summit’s history unfolded onstage. Sparks flew when Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who lives under a fatwa for her condemnation of Sharia law, clashed with fellow Somali women’s activist Hibaaq Osman in what turned out to be a very heated exchange. The “Future for Women in Islam” panel was moderated by Indian journalist Barkha Dutt and included Farah Pandith, an Indian-born American and a former State Department official who is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Zahra’ Langhi, co-founder and director of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace.

The debate between Ali and Osman continued backstage as a photographer captured an image of them continuing their argument, but eventually sharing a hug. Women in the World contributor Emma-Kate Symons interviewed both Ali and Osman after the panel to follow up on the debate. But they weren’t the only ones to continue the discussion after the panel had wrapped up. Pandith and Zainab Salbi, Women in the World’s editor-at-large and who wasn’t involved in the Women in Islam panel, both thought some extra discussion on the topic was in order. The two participated in an impromptu Facebook Live interview at the social pop-up booth in the David Koch Theater. Watch the entire conversation below and further down, see video of the panel that started the discussion that echoed through the corridors of the David Koch Theater.

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Watch the full panel from the Women in the World Summit that triggered much debate offstage.