Islam, Women and Feminism(26 Aug 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)
Leading Muslim Organization Campaigns for Women-Friendly Mosques in America




















Muslim women prepare to pray during the service at the Masjid Al-Abidin mosque December 6, 2002 in the Queens borough of New York City. KATIE FALKENBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

Leading Muslim Organization Campaigns for Women-Friendly Mosques in America

Moroccan Muslim Vying For Miss Italy Title Denies Insulting Islam

Pakistani Teenage Dancer Fakes a Smile to Hide Her Misery

Woman, 21, Commits Suicide in Makkah Protection Home

Not Every Country Has Doors Open for Muslim Women

Convictions Upheld For Minnesota Women in Somali Terror Case

Child Bomber Kills Six in Nigeria

Aisha Mambo: Malawi’s 1st Female Muslim Legislator

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/leading-muslim-organization-campaigns-for-women-friendly-mosques-in-america/d/104386

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Leading Muslim Organization Campaigns for Women-Friendly Mosques in America

08/25/2015

Whenever Muslim feminist Hind Makki sees photos of a stunning mosque, she wonders, “Would there be an adequate place for me to pray?”

For years, Muslim women activists like Makki have been calling attention to the state of women's prayer spaces in mosques. There's an incredible variety in America -- some mosques have beautiful prayer halls for women, while in other mosques, women are relegated to crowded basements or asked to watch the service on television from an overflow room.

"The prayer experiences of many Muslim women are too often frustrating; mosques seem to be built to cater only to the male experience," Makki wrote on Side Entrance, her blog that documents Muslim women's prayer spaces around the world.

Now, after action from Islamic Society of North America, Makki is hopeful that a change is on the way.

ISNA is the largest and oldest umbrella organization for Sunni Islam in North America. In a statement released this week, the organization called for American mosques, called masjids in Arabic, to work harder to be more inclusive of women.

The organization used scripture to bolster its claims -- referring multiple times  to the Quran and to the hadith, sacred texts that list the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The general guideline was set by Prophet Muhammad when he ordered that women be allowed to freely attend the masjid: "If the wife of anyone of you asks permission to attend the masjid, he should not prevent her" ... Thus we call on all our masjids to be welcoming to women -- such that their experience at the masjid be uplifting and not demeaning. To realize the ideal of being welcoming to women, masjids should (a) ensure that women’s accommodations are comfortable, clean and well-lit; (b) support and facilitate women’s activities and groups; and (c) proclaim clearly on the minbar [or pulpit] and by other means that women are an integral part of the masjid.

The group also boasts support from the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization composed of renowned and respected Islamic scholars. 

For Makki, who was part of an ISNA task force dedicated to creating women-friendly masjids, the statement is a "big deal."

"We've been working over the last year to have this backing by religious scholars whose credentials are unimpeachable," Makki said. "The best way to get mosque leaders and everyday community members to agree that this is not some fringe persepctive was to get the backing of these scholars."

A screen at a New York City mosque marks off an area designated for women to pray December 9, 2011.

In the statement, ISNA called for women to have access to the main hall of mosques, called Musallas, and even recommended that there should not be physical barriers in these halls to separate men and women.

This is the part of the statement that Makki feels will be the most challenging principle for mosques to adapt. The 2011 American Mosque Report found that 66 percent of the 2,106 mosques surveyed used dividers to separate women's prayers spaces during daily prayers. In addition, many American mosques weren't purpose-built as worship spaces -- they are often renovated churches or storefronts.

"Space is always an issue for mosques in the U.S.," Makki said. "People will say it is incumbent on men to pray at the mosque, but it's not incumbent on the women, which is true. But then they make the leap to say that men's spaces should be prioritized over women's spaces. That's the fight I'm anticipating."

Research shows that the way women's prayer spaces are set up is often a reflection of a mosque's attitudes toward women. Mosques reporting women’s participation at the board level were less likely to use dividers, according to the American Mosque Report.

Makki said that ISNA is planning to launch the campaign at its annual convention next month, and follow it up with community forums across the country aimed at educating mosque leadership. She says the team is also looking at ways to measure the effort's impact.

But some Muslim activists are waiting to see whether ISNA's statements will translate into action.

Dr. Amina Wadud, a visiting scholar at the Starr King School for the Ministry, has been working toward women's inclusion in mosques for years. Wadud stirred controversy in 2005 by leading a mixed-gender congregational prayer.

She told HuffPost that the ISNA statement was quite significant and a "good first step."

"I think they have responded well to the community's needs," Wadud said. "I'm hopeful that it will make a difference and that we'll be able to see that difference."

Muslim women prepare to pray during the service at the Masjid Al-Abidin mosque December 6, 2002 in the Queens borough of

Muslim women prepare to pray during the service at the Masjid Al-Abidin mosque December 6, 2002 in the Queens borough of New York City.

Other Muslims, tired of waiting for change to happen, have been creating spaces meant just for female worshippers. The Women's Mosque of America, based in Los Angeles, offers Friday prayers for a congregation composed of just women and children. Women are allowed to recite the call to prayer, deliver sermons and have direct access to imams by sitting in the front row.

M. Hasna Maznavi, founder and president of The Women's Mosque, told HuffPost that ISNA's move towards women-friendly worship spaces should be "celebrated and supported." But Maznavi said that ISNA's statement may not address the concerns of Muslim women who don't wear a hair covering, or who feel uncomfortable sitting behind men at a mosque.

"I'm afraid that while it shows progress, it only helps an already privileged class of women who are already current mosque-goers, and it does not address the concerns of unmosqued Muslim women," Maznavi told HuffPost in an email. "ISNA has been working toward women-friendly mosque reform for many years, but change has been incredibly slow because policies and statements don't easily translate into action or a change in societal behavior."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/muslim-women-mosques_55dc9317e4b0a40aa3ac3c59?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000051&section=india&adsSiteOverride=in

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Moroccan Muslim Vying For Miss Italy Title Denies Insulting Islam

26th August 2015

ROME: A Model of Moroccan origin who hopes to become the first Muslim Miss Italy has vowed to defy critics who accuse her of insulting Islam by taking part in the beauty pageant.

Ahlam El Brinis, 20, who was born in the northern Veneto region to Moroccan parents, has received threats and insults on social media for her decision to participate in the contest next month. She has been criticised for posing in bikinis, lacy underwear and revealing clothes, with some Muslims accusing her of bringing Islam into disrepute.

But she has labelled her critics "ridiculous people with too much time on their hands" and said she has drawn strength from the support of her grandmother back in Morocco, who told her "religion is in the heart, not in the choice of clothes you wear". "There have been insults but there have been far more messages of encouragement, both from friends and people I have never met," the model told La Repubblica newspaper. "Religion should have nothing to do with a beauty contest."

Miss El Brinis, who first dreamed of becoming a beauty queen when she watched the Miss Italy contest as a six-year-old, will take part in the final qualifying round of the pageant next week at Jesolo, a resort town near Venice.

She is a non-practising Muslim who says she respects Islam but does not want to be defined by it. She feels entirely Italian, having been born and raised in the northern city of Padua.

"My parents came to the Veneto region more than 20 years ago and I was born in Padua hospital. I went to a nursery school run by nuns, where my mum worked as a cook. My family is Muslim but they have always been guided by Western values." She lives with her boyfriend, Cristian, and speaks Italian at home, having learnt no Arabic as a child.

She is an admirer of Sofia Loren, as well as Denny Mendez, a model of Dominican origin who became the first non-white Miss Italy in 1996.

Her crowning sparked an intense debate in Italy about immigration, identity and racial intolerance, with some critics furious that a "black" contestant should win the competition.

From being a homogeneously white nation just a couple of decades ago, Italy has become much more multicultural, but still struggles to integrate and accept its growing population of immigrants from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/Moroccan-Muslim-Vying-For-Miss-Italy-Title-Denies-Insulting-Islam/2015/08/26/article2994414.ece

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Pakistani Teenage Dancer Fakes a Smile to Hide Her Misery

FAZAL KHALIQ

MINGORA: Sumbal Rehman is a teenage local dancer but the performing art is not her passion. She performs in functions to earn livelihood for her family and buy medicines for her ailing father, brother and sister.

Sumbal, 16, decided to step out of her house and start her career as a dancer when both her father and brother, the bread earners of the family, fell ill. She joined the dancing profession, which is looked down upon in conservative Pakhtun society, to save her family from starvation.

She wears a fake smile to hide her sadness when she performs in functions and wedding ceremonies. “I was the only one in the family to do something for livelihood when my father and brother fell ill,” Sumbal told Dawn.

Being an illiterate girl, she could not find any job in any government or non-governmental organisation. “So I decided to dance in functions to look after my nine-member family and buy medicines for my father and brother,” she said in a choked voice.

Sumbal is lone bread earner of her nine-member family

Ali Rehman, her father, was a cook and had a barber shop in Eingaro Dherai, a suburban area of Mingora. However, he was attacked by paralysis suddenly, leaving the family in a lurch.

But it was not the last tragedy for Sumbal’s family. The mental illness of her brother Farooq, a rickshaw driver by profession, proved the last straw on the camel’s back. The worries of the starving family multiplied when Saima, Sumbal’s elder sister, was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Sumbal said that she earned enough money from her first function to arrange medicines for her father and take him for a checkup. “Dancing in our society is not a respectable profession but I had no other option as I could not see my family dying in front of me. No girl prefers to dance in front of strangers but poverty compels her to do so,” said Sumbal. She added that she glamorised functions of other people with her dance but her own world was withered with grief.

Sumbal said she would leave dancing if arrangements were made for the treatment of her father, brother and sister. Her family lives in a two-room rented house, which does not have any toilet and kitchen.

Ali Rehman said he had never thought that he would become so poor that his daughter would go out to dance for livelihood.

“When I earned I ran the affairs of home and we all were happy. But everything changed after I fell ill. After long discussions, she convinced the entire family to allow her to dance for livelihood. It is really a pathetic condition. God save every father from this bitter experience,” he said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Husan Pari, Sumbal’s mother, is also not happy with the profession of her daughter. “Presently, our neighbours do not know about Sumbal’s dance. I do not know what they will think and say when they come to know,” she said.

Husan Pari said that she put a huge burden on her heart to allow her daughter to go out and attend functions as a dancer. “What can we do as the male bread earners of the family are ill,” she questioned. Sumbal and her family appealed to the government and philanthropists to help them in treatment of the three patients and save them from more miseries.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2015

http://www.dawn.com/news/1202931/teenage-dancer-fakes-a-smile-to-hide-her-misery

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Woman, 21, Commits Suicide In Makkah Protection Home

26 August 2015

MAKKAH — A 21-year-old female at a protection home for girls here was found dead after allegedly committing suicide, according to authorities.

Makkah Police acting spokesman, Capt. Fahd Al-Malki, said the police received a call from the protection home about the woman's hung body. “Staff members there were not sure if she was dead or not. Police officers arrived at the scene and reported that the woman had committed suicide,” he said.

The woman had been admitted to the home only eight months ago after running away from her family home.

“Staff members at the home said they tried contacting her father but he refused to take her back,” he said. 

Staff members, he said, also claimed that she was abused verbally and physically by her father.

Hafsah Shuaib, director of the protection home, said the woman’s mother had disappeared 13 years ago and she never found out what happened to her.

“Her father and mother traveled together, but only her father returned,” Shuaib said. “When her father was questioned by her, by family members and the police on the whereabouts of the mother, he would not answer. He faced a year in prison because of it.”

She added the victim was often put in solitary confinement beside five other inmates.

“She would always talk to other inmates through her cell and ask them what was waiting for them outside,” Shuaib said. “She was devastated by the lives they would face after they leave as they were full of humiliation and disgrace.”

She also said she never spoke about suicide, and never gave any indication that she was contemplating death or suicide.

“It took us by surprise — she was chatting with her inmates right before Asr prayer,” Shuaib said. “She then told them to go and pray, then her voice disappeared. We called her, she wouldn’t answer. We opened her room to find her body hanging at the window with a piece of cloth tied around her neck.”

The protection home has no functioning surveillance cameras installed.

“We had several surveillance cameras but they stopped working one by one,” Shuaib said. “We contacted the Ministry of Social Affairs but no one has ever responded to us.”

The body was taken to a local morgue, and police are currently investigating the case.

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20150826254544

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Not Every Country Has Doors Open For Muslim Women

August 25, 2015

It’s rough for Muslim women around the globe.

They’re oppressed in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, India and Saudi Arabia, among other places.

For many of them, waking up in the morning to attend school is a dream. Driving a car is a dream. Many are beaten, raped and dismissed so frequently it’s second nature.

What’s the response from most leaders in those countries? “Islam does not allow it” or that “It’s God’s laws, not men.” The truth, however, is that it’s not Islam. It’s not God’s law.  It’s culture.

Most people believe Saudi Arabia not allowing women to drive is because Islam prohibits it, but that’s completely bulls—. There’s not a single mention in the Holy Quran that says so. Islam regards women as jewels and ones to be protected. After all, women of all religions do the harder labor — literally, they’re in labor delivering the world’s population. Respect.

Many people assume that Muslim women in the United States of America are considered free. Again, that’s BS. They are not as constrained in a small box as other countries, but they are still placed in a box — one with a little more room. 

Instead of not being allowed to drive, they’re not allowed to wear a hijab — a veil that covers the head and chest, usually worn by Muslim women when in public — for certain jobs.

This problem mostly rises in employment with government jobs, like the police force.

Recently, The Columbus Dispatch reported a Somali-American and Muslim woman, Ismahan Isse, dropped out of the Columbus police academy after being informed hijabs are not allowed to be worn by officers. The division refused to change the policy and was backed by Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman.

“I strongly believe that our police force needs to be reflective of every corner of our city,” said Coleman to The Dispatch during an interview.

With all due respect to Mayor Coleman, the above quote does not make sense at all. Isn’t hijab “reflective” of the city’s large Muslim population? Aren’t Muslim women one corner of the city?

This situation saddens me because it’s another case of a Muslim woman not seeing her dream come to fruition because society, specifically America, hasn’t adapted to her.

Most have fled to the states from their home countries to live a life of potential and have the opportunity to pursue happiness to its full capacity. And that is a journey Isse was on when she earned her associate degree in criminal justice and then entered the police academy.

There is good news for Isse: She has received offers to join the Edmonton Police Service in Alberta, Canada. She told The Dispatch that she is considering joining, but has not made up her mind yet. The police service in Edmonton has designed uniforms to accommodate candidates, but they do not have any female Muslim officers yet.

Other cities around the country like St. Paul, Minnesota, have accommodated Kadra Mohamed, who is their first female Muslim police officer.

But I think one fear that’s holding America back is the fear of radical Islam “taking over.”

It’s not only in the states where Muslim women face these hurdles. After the January 2015 attacks on the satirical news magazine Charlie Hebdo and a supermarket in France, many Muslim women have faced backlash for wearing hijabs in public. A professor at the University of Paris 13 told France24, a news organization based in Paris, that he does not support “religious symbols in public places,” referring to a student in his class wearing a hijab.

I’m Muslim and I have two sisters. Both wear hijabs by choice, not by force. I’m fearful that they will be restricted as to where they can go and where they can work.

It’s wrong and idiotic for Muslim women to receive backlash around the world when they are the most innocent.  They have kind hearts, they work hard — incredibly hard — for the people they love and everyone else.

I think it’s time that we all, regardless of where we’re from or what religion we practice, lend a hand so that Muslim women can live a life full of prosperity.

http://thelantern.com/2015/08/opinion-not-every-country-has-doors-open-for-muslim-women/

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Convictions upheld for Minnesota women in Somali terror case

Aug 25, 2015

A federal appeals court upheld the convictions and sentences Tuesday for two Minnesota women found guilty of conspiring to funnel money to a terror group in Somalia despite claiming they were collecting funds for the poor.

Amina Farah Ali, 39, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 68, were convicted in 2011 on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, after prosecutors told jurors the women were part of a "deadly pipeline" that routed money and fighters to al-Shabab.

Ali was also found guilty of 12 counts of providing such support and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Hassan was convicted of two additional counts of lying to the FBI and received a 10-year sentence.

• Previously: Guilty verdict reached in Somali terror case

Defense attorneys appealed on several grounds. They argued that U.S. District Judge Michael Davis should have recused himself because he made several statements suggesting he equated fundamentalist Islam with terrorism and was prejudiced. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

"This assertion is baseless," the judges wrote. For example, during sentencing, Davis asked the women questions about the meaning of jihad and al-Shabab's strict interpretation of Islam.

"Plucked from context, some of these questions may appear unconventional," the judges wrote. "However, rather than showing bias or partiality, when viewed in context, these questions demonstrate that the court sought to comprehend Ali's understanding of al Shabaab's goals and actions, a legitimate topic for a sentencing court to explore" in a case of this nature.

Messages left with attorneys for both women were not returned Tuesday.

The women, both U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were among more than 20 people charged in Minnesota's long-running federal investigations into recruiting and financing for al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group. Investigators believe more than 22 men left Minnesota to join al-Shabab since 2007.

• More: Called to Fight

Prosecutors said the women went door-to-door in the name of charity and held religious teleconferences to solicit donations, which they then routed to the fighters.

Defense attorneys painted the women as humanitarians who gave money to orphans and the poor, as well as to a group fighting to rid Somalia of foreign troops.

During the trial, Davis held Ali in contempt 20 times when she refused to stand for the court, citing her religious beliefs. Defense attorneys pointed to that as another reason for Davis to recuse himself. But the appellate court said Davis gave Ali a chance to explain herself, and the ensuing discussion shows the nature of the disagreement, not bias on Davis' part.

Defense attorneys also argued that evidence obtained by wiretap violated the Constitution, the women's trials should have been separated and that their sentences were unreasonable. The appeals court disagreed.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/08/25/amina-farah-ali-hawo-mohamed-hassan

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Child Bomber Kills Six In Nigeria

August 26, 2015

KANO, Nigeria - A child bomber killed six people Tuesday outside a bus station in the heartland of the Boko Haram insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria.

Witnesses reported seeing a "young girl" approaching the station in the Yobe state capital Damaturu around 7:00 am (0600 GMT) and refusing to be searched by security guards at the gate before blowing herself up.

"A private taxi... drove out of the park. As soon as the car came close, she detonated the explosives. Six people in the car were killed. She was also killed," bystander Sani Dankamasho told AFP. Reports said the bomber was aged around 12. The attack came just hours after United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon wrapped up two-day a visit to Africa's largest economy during which he hailed its "greater stability and peace" under its new leader as he commemorated a deadly 2011 attack on the global body by Boko Haram militants. Police and witnesses reported a second attack 10 minutes after the bus park bombing, in which a suicide bomber managed only to kill himself and slightly wound a bystander on the outskirts of Damaturu.

"There were two suicide blasts in Damaturu today. The first one happened outside the motor park and the second one occurred in Pompomari on the outskirts of Damaturu. But only the bomber has died in the second blast," said Toyin Gbadegesin, a spokesman for Yobe state police.

"In the first blast outside the motor park six people were killed and 42 others injured by a female suicide bomber. The injured are receiving treatment in hospital."

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bus park bombing but it bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which has in recent weeks used young women to carry out bloody suicide attacks in the restive northeast.

"The dead have been evacuated to a mortuary while the injured victims are currently being attended to by health and emergency workers," Yobe local government spokesman Abdulahhi Bego said in a statement.

Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in Yobe and two other states in its northeastern bastion since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on May 29 amid a wave of optimism that he could tackle the worsening security situation.

The Islamists have also carried out deadly ambushes across Nigeria's borders and in recent weeks suicide bombers, many of them women, have staged several attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

The fresh wave of violence has claimed more than 1,000 lives over the last three months, dealing a setback to a four-country offensive launched in February that had chalked up a number of victories against the militants. An 8,700-strong Multi-National Joint Task Force, drawing in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin, is expected to go into action soon.

Buhari has vowed to destroy Boko Haram, and replaced his military leaders earlier in August, ordering his new chiefs-of-staff to end the militant bloodshed within three months.

The military under his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was heavily criticised for poor handling of the insurgency and its failure to free more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok in April last year.

The "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign marks 500 days on Thursday since the girls were captured and is due to meet the country's new chief of defence staff Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin later on Tuesday.

"I want to reiterate my support for the Chibok girls, and so many other innocent abducted girls and boys, whose names and fate remain unknown," Ban said before leaving for France late on Monday.

"It is intolerable that their lives and schooling has been disrupted in this way. The whole world has been moved by their fate."

http://nation.com.pk/international/26-Aug-2015/child-bomber-kills-six-in-nigeria

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Aisha Mambo: Malawi’s 1st Female Muslim Legislator

By Prince Jamal

26 August 2015

LILONGWE – Becoming Malawi's only female Muslim parliamentarian, Aisha Mambo is keen on using her new role to advocate for a larger representation of Muslim Women in the country’s Christian dominated 193-seat National Assembly, which is one of the lowest in the Sub-Saharan Africa.

“All along, I have always aspired to become a parliamentarian. Therefore, to make it to the National Assembly was a dream come a true for me," Mambo told OnIslam.net.

"I have always wanted to be among those people who make Laws of the Country, that I should be able to advocate for laws which are women-friendly and at the same time to help and empower fellow Muslim Women through the laws which are made there,” she added.

Mambo, a journalist turned politician who used to work for Radio Islam, won a parliamentary seat for Mangochi Mkungulu in June 2014, among 20 other Muslims who made it to the National Assembly.

Winning a seat in the parliament was the first strike in her mission to increase the participation of Muslim women in politics.

“I went to parliament with a mission to emancipate fellow women from the palms of poverty and backwardness. It pains me to see that after 51 years of independence, the number of Muslim women actively participating in politics is very low," Mambo said.

"I came here to advocate for laws which could help to reverse this trend where possible, so that Women could be fully empowered to stand up and lead among men," she added.

The 40-year-old legislator observed that some of the major obstacles holding back Muslim women from actively participating in politics included lack of education and prevailing poverty levels.

"Due to cultural factors, most Muslim women have not attained basic education. This has made it difficult for them to participate in politics, and at the same time, a lot of women in the Muslim Communities are not fully empowered economically to stand on their own and try their luck in politics. Politics requires a lot of money, therefore most of them cannot dare to engage themselves in it," she said.

Religious & Cultural Barriers

Representing Mangochi Mkungulu constituency, which lies in the Muslim dominated region of the south, the hijabi parliamentarian observed that some sectors in the Muslim community in the country have been using religion and culture to bar women from taking part in politics and assuming leadership roles.

“But this is wrong.  In religious activities, we can’t lead, but in politics, we can lead. There is nothing to stop us from assuming leadership roles. We have to lead and fight against societal challenges which are affecting our development in various aspects,” she said.

“During my meetings with people, including traditional leaders, I’m educating them to realize that there should be a line dividing politics and religion. Some men are hiding behind religion to bar women from leadership roles.  I am therefore reaching out to them with this message. .Time has come that we need to try our luck in leadership and governance.

“The Muslim community has accepted me and embraced me as a role model who can help change mindset and break the cultural barriers. I have taken advantage of this responsibility to reach out various groups of people to encourage women to come forward and lead.

”Of course, there is resistance in some circles, but slowly we’ll be able to get there. I am sensitizing girls on the need to get good education and aim high in life," she stressed.

However, she said, some women with good education were not willing to join politics due to various levels of stereotyping women politicians are subjected to.

“Women politicians in Malawi are associated with all sorts of bad things and are called names like prostitutes. This has discouraged some women with sound education from becoming politicians. This is a challenge that we have to fight against if our societies are to attain any meaningful development," Mambo said.

"Time has come that we should be given a chance to lead in society. There is nothing haram about women becoming politicians. Some men are busy scheming to make the political landscape hard for a Muslim woman. We are being perceived as second class citizens."

The journalist turned politician noted that it was "quite worrying" that the Muslim wasn’t doing enough to support the participation of Muslim women in politics.

Outlining her time in the National Assembly, Mambo said she had been accorded the much needed support.

"It's pleasing to note that I have been able to settle down. I’m getting necessary support from both male and female legislators. The onus is on me to prove to men that I have what it takes to deliver," she said.

Islam, Women & Politics

Various sectors of the Malawi society concurred with Mambo that the participation of Muslim women in politics had its own share of obstacles.

Culturally, Alhaj Jafale Kawinga, president of Muslim forum for democracy and development (MUSFORD), noted that some sections of the Muslim community in the country don’t allow women to lead.

“It’s against this background that they don’t approve the active participation of women in political leadership .Due to this altitude, most of the women who are capable; don’t even dare to take part in politics. It’s very difficult to influence people to change their cultural beliefs overnight," Kawinga told OnIslam.net.

While describing her as a role model, Kawinga said Mambo needs support for her to register success as a legislator.

“As the only Muslim woman legislator, in the country, we need to accord her much support, so that she should leave a mark by contributing meaningfully to development in various aspects. She should be remembered as an achiever and not just a Muslim woman legislator," he added.

Senior chief Chimwala said he has all along been in the forefront in sensitizing his subjects on the need to balance the participation of both men and women in political leadership.

“We are having too many men in political leadership, but their contribution to society is not desirable. We need to mobilize women to fully take part in politics. They have the potential to lead, just like their male counterparts. We shouldn’t bar them either on the basics of religion or culture," Chimwala told OnIslam.net.

He said various efforts have to be put in place to increase women participation in politics.

"We have to do whatever can to have as many women in politics as we can. They have what it takes to steer development in our societies. This is not religion .let us remove all the obstacles which are preventing our women from emerging leaders," Chimwala added.

Renowned commentator, Sheikh Dinala Chabulika, said Islam doesn’t bar women from assuming political leadership.

"The teachings of Islam don’t stop women from taking part in politics. People should not hide behind religion to advance their personal interests .We should all join hands to lift our women.  Let them lead in areas, where they can .we should not stop them," Chabulika told OnIslam.net.

Malawi is a secular, but diversely religious nation. Islam is the second largest religion in the country, after Christianity. Muslims account for 36 percent of the county’s 14 million population.

Mambo advised all women aspiring to become politicians to rise up against all odds.

"They shouldn’t give up .They need to put up a spirited fight to win this war .Every victory precedes a struggle.  And as women, we need to stand side by side in this struggle for political leadership," she said.

"We need to work side by side with our male counterparts in our   endeavour   to develop our societies."

http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/492615-aisha-mambo-malawis-1st-female-muslim-legislator.html

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