Same-Sex Couples: A father feeding his baby (illustrative). Photo by Dreamstime
Syrian Girl Commits Suicide, Forced To Marry Al-Qaeda Terrorist
Female Front Office Clerks Still Being Stigmatised In Saudi Arabia
Opposition to Muslims and the Muslim headscarf in Western Europe
Mother of Four Develops a Child Sex Abuse Film
Women to Enjoy Rights under New Tunisia Constitution
Bill Would Allow Same-Sex Couples to Use Surrogate in Israel
10-Year-Old Girl Granted Divorce by Iraqi Court
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Pakistani Taliban has 500 female suicide bombers ready to act
FEBRUARY 10, 2014
SLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban has as many as 500 female suicide bombers ready to act, a representative of the group involved in peace negotiations said, underscoring the risk of further violence if talks fail.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan ? known as the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP ? sees no urgency to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, Maulana Abdul Aziz, one of three negotiators representing the TTP, said in a February 7 interview at his Islamabad seminary. The two sides started talks last week.
“You should know that at the moment they have at least 400 to 500 female suicide bombers in Waziristan and other tribal areas,” said Aziz, former head cleric of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, referring to the TTP. “The government should realise the situation and their demands.”
Sharif revived peace talks with the group as pressure grows for a military strike after attacks last month killed more than two dozen soldiers, part of violence that caused the deaths of 40,000 Pakistanis since 2001. Failure to reach a deal would threaten Sharif’s efforts to bolster the US$225 billion (RM750) economy as the US reduces troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Imran Khan, whose party runs a province bordering Afghanistan, predicted in an interview last week that terrorist attacks would prompt the talks to fail, and a military operation would start soon afterward. Khan turned down an offer from the TTP to sit on the same committee as Aziz.
Aziz said the Taliban is most interested in implementing Sharia law in Pakistan. The US military presence in Afghanistan is “a very small factor” in the fight, he said, disputing statements by Khan and others.
“They are fighting for the implementation of Sharia,” Aziz said at the seminary, where some 1,300 female students are studying. “It’s the law of nature that when people don’t get their rights, they pick up arms.”
The Pakistani Taliban has demanded the withdrawal of troops from tribal areas and the release of prisoners, Dawn newspaper reported today, citing officials it did not identify. The demands stemmed from a meeting of TTP clerics over the weekend, the report said.
The number of female suicide bombers mentioned by Aziz “is an exaggerated figure,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. “The Taliban are way ahead in the propaganda war, and they have given a tough time to the state,” he said. “Female suicide bombers have been used, but not too many.”
Aziz’s brother died in 2007 along with at least 100 others when former President Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to storm the Red Mosque to end a challenge by pro-Taliban clerics seeking to impose Islamic law in the capital. The move sparked demonstrations and reprisal attacks.
Aziz, who was jailed for two years after the Red Mosque raid, last week temporarily withdrew himself from the talks because the government insisted the negotiations be held under the constitution and avoid including the imposition of Islamic Sharia law, a key TTP demand. He will remain on the TTP’s committee, he said.
“The Taliban are in no hurry,” Aziz said, when asked whether the group wanted a deal soon to avoid a military strike. “They say they are not worried about it. They have been in a state of war for the past 10 years.”
Sharif won an election last year after pledging negotiations with the TTP, a loose group of militants operating along the Afghan border. While Sharif received the backing of all political parties in September to begin talks, the two sides had postponed meeting amid a series of suicide bombings and a US drone strike that killed the TTP’s leader.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who leads the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, has called on Sharif to take a tougher line against the militants. He said in a January 28 Twitter post that Sharif was following a “policy of appeasement.”
In 2009, Taliban militants took control of Swat district in the north western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law, which forbade girls to attend schools. They beheaded local officials and burned schools in a two-year fight that uprooted 2 million people from their homes before a 10-week army offensive ended their rule.
Suicide bombers have been used frequently in the conflict, including two that killed more than 80 people at a Christian church in Peshawar in September. Aziz justified the use of suicide bombers, saying that they believed in the cause and were willing to sacrifice.
“If the military has weapons and air power, they have suicide bombers,” Aziz said of the Taliban. “You cannot match them. Suicide bombers even destroyed the power of America in Afghanistan.”
By Global Research News
February 10, 2014
A Syrian girl committed suicide on Wednesday in Raqqa city after being forced to marry a member of the al-Qaeda affiliated group of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Fatima Abdullah al-Abo, 22, was a student at the University of Raqqa before being pressured by her family to marry a member of the ISIL group. Al-Abo preferred death instead of the alleged marriage.
The incident came to draw attention to the phenomenon of the increasing number of Syrian women who marry foreign jihadists fighting against the Syrian regime.
Himod al-Musa, director of the media office in Raqqa city, told ARA News that Fatima Abdullah al-Abo has committed suicide in Raqqa city because of having been forced by her father to marry a Tunisian ISIL jihadist.
“Fatima was 22 years old and was an English literature student in the University of Raqqa,” al-Musa said.
Feb 10, 2014
MADINAH – Young women who work as front office clerks at hospitals and clinics are overcoming the challenges of facing the stigma associated with the job with great confidence and determination, Makkah daily reported.
Female receptionists in front offices are looked down upon by many members of society since they have to interact with members of the opposite sex.
Tahani Al-Jihani, a Saudi receptionist at a health centre, said, “People are still looking down on employed young women who have to deal with men. Some male patients slam their money or credit cards on the counter in an arrogant way, just to avoid handing it directly to the receptionist. Others give us leaflets carrying religious edicts that forbid women working alongside men.”
Al-Jihani added that some men even ask them to immediately resign from their jobs.
Suha Nasr, a Saudi woman who has been working for the past five years at a private health center, said management receptionists responsible for all errors even if the patient is at fault.
“Private businesses, whether they are hospitals or health centres, are keen to satisfy the patient who pays for the service he gets without taking into consideration the psychological effect on the female employee. I was insulted by a patient and he was about to beat me because the doctor refused to see him. When problems occur with the patients, doctors absolve themselves of responsibility and the blame falls on the female receptionist,” she said.
“We have to put up with all of this for a meagre SR2, 000 every month. It is a small amount and we have no right to reply to the patient or defend ourselves. Whoever dares to do so is fired,” she added.
Afaf, a Saudi female receptionist at a private hospital, said she experienced a lot of discrimination and does not receive support or training for self-development.
“Male patients often use rude language when talking to female receptionists. One patient, referring to my eyes, asked me to ‘cover the eyes of the snake’ and another shouted, ‘Hey woman isn’t there a man I can talk to?’ When patients refuse to pay, the management blames us and deducts it from our salaries,” she said.
It has been almost 10 years since France’s National Assembly and Senate approved a controversial law prohibiting students from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols in public schools. While the legislation applies to all students, whether they wear Jewish skullcaps or large Christian crosses, the Muslim headscarf has become the primary focal point in the debate over the principles of secularism and religious freedom. The law in schools went into effect in September 2004 and was extended in April 2011 to include the ban of full-face veils in any public place. The French government defends the legislation on the principle of advancing religious neutrality, insisting that the intent is not to infringe on the right of Muslims. However, the law continues to prompt fervent debate. (A report from the Open Society Foundations — “Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Muslim Women Wear the Full-Face Veil in France” — offers a range of responses of several Muslim women to the ban.) In November 2013, a Muslim woman even brought a case against the ban to the European Court of Human Rights.
According to a 2010 Pew Research Report, before the full-veil ban was passed in France there was widespread support for the measure across Western Europe, with 82% of the public in France supporting it, 71% in Germany and 62% in Britain. But what, if anything, does support for this type of law say about European attitudes towards Muslims in general? Marc Helbling, head of the Immigration Policies in Comparison research group at the Social Science Research Center in Berlin, published a January 2014 paper, “Opposing Muslims and the Muslim Headscarf in Western Europe,” in the European Sociological Review that tries to answer this question. To do so, he explores Western European attitudes towards Muslims in general and legal restrictions on the Muslim headscarf separately. Helbling tests a number of hypotheses on what could shape individual attitudes towards Muslims and the laws, including xenophobia, liberal values, level of religiosity and state-church regimes. To collect his data, he uses the Six Country Immigrant Integration Comparative Survey (SCIICS), computer-assisted telephone surveys conducted in 2008 in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria.
Key findings include:
Opinions on Muslims as a group and the headscarf legislation do not appear to be directly linked; of the sample, “only about a quarter opposes Muslims, but … nearly 60% of the respondents do not like the idea of schoolgirls wearing a headscarf.”
“Religious people are significantly more opposed to Muslims than nonreligious respondents. They are, however, torn when it comes to the headscarf; they are neither more nor less opposed to Muslim religious practices than nonreligious respondents.”
“While people with liberal values are highly tolerant of Muslims, such values are not predictive of support for the headscarf.” Helbling hypothesizes this is because “people with liberal values are tolerant of immigrants in general but feel torn when it comes to religious practices that are perceived by some people as reflecting illiberal values.”
While country-level characteristics do not seem to play an obvious role in explaining attitudes towards Muslim immigrants, the type of state-church regime does appear to play a role in attitudes toward headscarf legislation. People in countries such as France where there is strict church-state separation are more likely to oppose the headscarf: “There is a likelihood of around 85% that the French citizen will oppose the headscarf.”
In contrast, there is more support for the headscarf in countries such as Sweden, where there are few government restrictions on religion, there is only a 35% chance a Swede will take a negative position on the headscarf.
Helbling concludes that the two issues — general attitude towards Muslims and views on headscarf legislation — are not necessarily correlated: “opposing the idea that schoolgirls should be allowed to wear the headscarf in school does not mean that one dislikes having Muslims in the neighborhood or is opposed to close friendship with Muslims.”
For additional related reading see the January 2014 Pew Research Center report regarding government restrictions on religion and its relationship to religious conflict: “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High.”
RIYADH – A mother of four has made a short film that aims to educate little children about sexual abuse. The film was presented during the activities of the third TEDxKids Event, which kicked off Saturday at King Fahd Cultural Centre. In the film, Hind Khalifa explains to children the different forms of sexual abuse. She also urges children not to let anyone, parents included, to touch them on their private parts. The event is mainly organized for children and families and focuses on exploring and developing the talents and capabilities of children.
Women to enjoy rights under new Tunisia constitution
Global Information Network | February 10, 2014
(GIN)—Tunisia’s new constitution is being called “a revolution in itself” for its promises to women of gender equality and other rights.
“It’s a big, historic step, not only for Tunisian women,” said Lobna Jeribi, a member of the Ettakattol party, one of the secular coalition partners within the Islamist-led government. “It was a very emotional moment for me when it passed” recently.
The document has been called the most liberal constitution in the Arab world, produced through consensus.
Under the constitution, torture is banned. Women are guaranteed parity in political bodies. Power has been handed over to a caretaker government led by Mehdi Jomaa, a former minister of industry and an engineer by training. Elections are expected to be held later this year.
In a signing ceremony, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and the head of the National Assembly declared: “With the birth of this text, we confirm our victory over dictatorship,” but cautioned that “much work remains to make the values of our constitution a part of our culture.”
The new constitution also demands that the state protect the environment and tackle corruption. It does not, however, ban the death penalty or end restrictions on freedom of speech.
Approval of the constitution by an overwhelming majority of assembly members—only 12 members voted against—comes three years after the overthrow of the North African country’s long-time ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
“The objective is to arrive at elections and create the security and economic climate to get out of this crisis,” Jomaa told reporters.
No date has been set for elections, but they will be held later this year, with Ennahda and key opposition alliance Nidaa Tounes likely to battle for the government.
Bill would allow same-sex couples to use surrogate in Israel
Same-sex couples would have the right to use a surrogate in Israel under a government-sponsored bill whose first draft was released over the weekend.
The Health Ministry proposal has won accolades from gay rights advocates, but is also being criticized for restricting the use of surrogacy abroad to couples who pay for the services of intermediary companies licensed by the government or clinics approved by special committees.
The bill, which seeks to regulate surrogacy abroad for the first time, states that those who use surrogates abroad without going through an approved intermediary could face one year in prison.
Until now, Israeli couples have been able to use surrogates in other countries without paying the tens of thousands of shekels usually charged by surrogacy agencies.
“This law is a disgrace,” said Ilan Seinfeld, a single father of 2-year-old twins born through surrogacy in India. “Instead of the government trying to create equality, it is creating the opposite.”
Seinfeld, 54, independently paid an Indian woman 250,000 shekels ($70,000) for the surrogacy.
“Theoretically, Health Minister Yael German’s intention to improve the surrogacy law is a good thing. It is meant to create equality in a place where there is none,” Seinfeld wrote on his Facebook page. “In practice, this proposition is going to destroy the chances of people like me to bring children into the world through surrogacy, or make us criminals who could face a year in prison.”
Etai Pinkas, who heads the LGBT Pride Center in Tel Aviv and is a city council member who, along with his partner Yoav Arad, petitioned the Supreme Court to allow same-sex couples to have children through surrogacy in Israel, said he welcomes both elements of the bill.
"If there is strict supervision over the agencies — both in terms of the price they charge and the service they provide — it will ultimately be for the good of the couples or singles who turn to surrogacy," said Pinkas. He and Arad have three children born through surrogacy: twins born in India and a baby girl born in Thailand.
The first draft of the bill was published by the Health Ministry legal adviser, Mira Hivner-Harel, and the bill will be open to suggestions from the public for three weeks.
The legislation process for this bill is expected to take quite some time, due to the sensitivity and complexity of the issue.
Citing problems with surrogacy in Thailand, the bill states that the intermediary agency must describe to prospective clients the surrogacy services in the desired country and must attest that the prospective parents will be viewed by that country as the parents of a child born through surrogacy and will be allowed to take the child out of the country.
In the past, Israel has withheld passports from Israeli couples in Thailand because Thai law grants full parental rights to the surrogate. In the past, the surrogate mother had to sign a statement agreeing to allow the child to be taken to Israel to live with its father.
The bill proposes that women between the ages of 22 and 38 will be allowed to be surrogates, but states that women cannot serve as surrogates more than three times or before they have two of their own children. Under the bill, the parents cannot be older than 54 when the agreement is signed.
10-year-old girl granted divorce by Iraqi court
An Iraqi court decided to divorce a 10-year-old local girl after she was forced by her father to marry a much older man, becoming the youngest divorcee in the Arab nation, an Iraqi news network reported on Monday.
The girl reported her father to court in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyyah after he forced her to marry without considering her small age.
“The girl complained to court about her father and the scholar who performed the marriage contract.
“The court decided to divorce the couple after they married outside court,” Nasiriyya news network said.
It did not mention whether the father and the scholar would be prosecuted but noted that persons performing marriage outside court could be jailed for at least six months.
Man rapes sister herding sheep
A Moroccan man waited for his sister to go out for herding her sheep in a desolate place and raped her before fleeing, triggering a massive police manhunt.
The woman, who is married with several children, has just left her house in the western town of Azemmur when she was attacked by her 25-year-old brother.
She told police that he raped her in a “violent and obscene” way before fleeing the area, according to newspapers.