New Age Islam News Bureau
21 Aug 2012
• State Department Teaching "Women's Rights" to Imams
• Twitter alert helps police rescue stolen baby
• Egypt police stand by, laugh as women harassed, groped
• Blasphemy case: Christians flee Islamabad slum
• Arrest of Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges deeply disturbing: US
• Women feared kidnap, rape while in Pakistan
• Status of Pakistan Women Rising
• Hindu panchayat chief traded honour for wine
• Will the masculinity of weapons defeat the femininity of peace in Syria?
• More poll power for Jamia’s Eves
• Zahida fails to make peace with daal & jail
• Japanese reporter killed in Syria's Aleppo, 3 missing: NGO
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: State Department Teaching "Women's Rights" to Imams
Gender blow: Iran bars women from 70 university courses
Aug 21, 2012
Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses, according to a recent report by The Telgraph.
The move follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country’s religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam, The Telegraph reported.
Writing to Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, and Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian Nobel Laureate and human rights lawyer exiled in the UK, said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50% — from around 65% at present —thereby weakening the Iranian feminist movement in its campaign against discriminatory Islamic laws.
“It is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena,” says the letter, which was also sent to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. “The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights.”
This latest development in Iran’s policies just strengthens the US view of the state as a regressive Islamist nation. Crtitics further this view slamming Iran’s recent take on women’s education as a sign that the country is not willing to offer equal civil rights to women.
Iran has been in the news for the wrong reasons for a long time now. In addition to the criticism it has been facing on the civil rights front, it has also been subject to sanctions by the United States because of its uranium enrichment programme.
The US believes Iran’s Islamist policies make it regressive and a recent announcement that the latter would host the upcoming summit of the Non Aligned Movement has had the US up in arms.
“Iran is going to try to manipulate this (NAM) summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the UN Security Council, the IAEA and other international bodies,” the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland told reporters at a press conference recently.
Iran has the highest ratio of female to male undergraduates in the world, according to UNESCO. Female students have become prominent in traditionally male-dominated courses like applied physics and some engineering disciplines.
State Department Teaching "Women's Rights" to Imams
20 August 2012
A story from CNSNews reveals that the U.S. Department of State has once again undertaken the dubious task of trying to reform Islam to fit the department’s international agenda. According to an August 10 report released by the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 450 imams were the target of the most recent effort, which aimed to combat “gender-based violence” which has been linked to Islam.
Word of the new State Department program came to light roughly two years after the department was engaged in a public controversy centered on the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was engaged in an effort to build an Islamic center near the site of the September 11, 2001, attack in New York City. On August 10, 2010, a story for FoxNews.com (“Group: State Department Is Wrong to Sponsor Imam Trip”), the State Department was busy paying for a junket which would take Rauf to several Middle Eastern countries:
The State Department confirmed Tuesday that the administration is sponsoring Feisal Abdul Rauf's trip to Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which is described as part of a program to send Muslims abroad to educate other countries about the role of religion in the United States. Rauf made similar trips during the Bush administration.
Rauf and his partners are preparing to build a $100 million Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that left nearly 3,000 dead.
Plans for Rauf’s junket at the expense of American taxpayers led to protests from the American Center for Law and Justice; the organization’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, was quoted by FoxNews as noting the offensive character of the State Department’s action during the midst of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy: "This shows a tremendous lack of judgment on behalf of the State Department; and for the American taxpayers to be funding this global journey is not only wrong, but deeply offensive … It seems with each passing day we learn more disturbing information about this project and the people behind it. We demand that the State Department put a halt to the Imam's participation in this publicly funded trip."
Now, according to CNSNews, the State Department is involved in a massive "educational" endeavor which is aimed at guiding Muslim imams to start teaching the compatibility of "women’s rights" and Islamic doctrine:
As part of its effort to combat “gender-based violence,” the U.S. State Department has trained 450 Muslim leaders (imams), using a curriculum focusing on the “compatibility of women’s rights and Islam,” according to a report released on Friday.…
The U.S. government defines gender-based violence as violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex, gender identity, or how a person is perceived to follow socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity.
The State Department says such violence includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; threats; coercion; arbitrary deprivation of liberty; and economic deprivation.
Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are poured into the effort: For FY 2013, the State Department and USAID requested $147.1 million for programs addressing gender-based violence worldwide, an increase of approximately $30 million over the FY 2012 request of $117.2 million.
The existence of the training program was detailed in a published report, and CNSNews explains that the program is the direct result of a presidential directive: “The report, “United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally,” was released by the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Aug. 10, after President Barack Obama issued an executive order instructing government agencies to come up with a ‘multi-year strategy that will more effectively prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally.’”
According to the official report: “In Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor supported a program that promoted women’s rights by training 450 imams using a curriculum on the compatibility of women’s rights and Islam.” And the report sought to justify the expenditure of training hundreds of foreign imams in the virtues of the State Department’s knowledge of the Quran by offering a smattering of astoundingly vague anecdotes, including the following:
Community members in the focus groups agreed that most imams have been speaking out about women’s rights in Islam, women’s inheritance rights, and condemning violence against women.
In some communities, wives of imams trained in the curriculum were using it to educate women in their communities of their rights.
It is difficult to come to any meaningful understanding of what is being taught to the imams — or what they are teaching others — on the basis of such platitudes. What is clear is that America’s latest experiment in "nation-building" — the perpetually-failed state of Afghanistan — is no beacon for the State Department’s reinterpretation of Islam; as CNSNews observed:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has endorsed a "code of conduct" issued by a council of clerics that allows husbands to beat their wives in certain cases and encourages segregation of the sexes. The rules also say women should not travel without a male guardian and they should not mingle with strange men in places like schools, markets or offices.
Asked about the code of conduct at a press conference five months ago, Karzai said it was in line with Islamic law: "It is the Shariah law of all Muslims and all Afghans," the AP quoted him as saying.
Karzai's public backing of the repressive guidelines apparently was intended to pave the way for negotiations with the hardline Taliban.
It is hardly surprising that promoting a version of Islam which hardly exists outside of executive orders and State Department briefings is unlikely to have much of an influence within genuinely Islamic communities. American presidents and secretaries of state are rarely models of theological erudition — an observation which is especially true when the doctrine they promote runs counter to the received traditions of the religion’s adherents.
Twitter alert helps police rescue stolen baby
Aug 20 2012
Dubai : A Gulf-wide Twitter alert enabled police to locate a month-old baby girl stolen by a robber along with the car in which she was napping outside a shop in the UAE.
The baby, Laila was sleeping in a white Toyota Prado car when it was stolen, not far from the commercial hub of Dubai late on Saturday, after her parents left the car engine running as they nipped into a shop.
Within seconds the car and the baby had gone.
Police put out a Twitter alert for the missing baby and within minutes they were flooded with more than 1,700 retweets from concerned netizens ranging from ministers to ordinary residents.
But it still took authorities more than seven hours to relocate the girl, when a resident of Sharjah tweeted that he had spotted the stolen car.
The car was found a few kilometres away from where it had been stolen.
"The baby was found safe and immediately rushed to Al-Qassami hospital where she was declared in good health and later restored to her frantic parents," the National newspaper reported quoting Sharjah police spokesperson.
The spokesman gave all credit to Twitter for the dramatic rescue.
Egypt police stand by, laugh as women harassed, groped
Joseph Mayton | 20 August 2012
CAIRO: Along Cairo’s downtown Nile River promenade two police officers stand off to one side, point and begin to laugh. What they are pointing at is not funny: two women are in the throngs of being harassed, groped and assaulted by at least four people, Bikyamasr.com witnessed on Monday afternoon.
The girls were screaming and attempting to push away the boys, somewhere in their late teens, from the area as they implored for them to stop.
The police officers did nothing, only watched and laughed as the girls were being attacked.
While the harassment on Monday was nothing like the women who have been stripped and beaten by mobs of men and the military over the past year, it highlighted what many women feared ahead of the current Eid el-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the Islamic world’s sunrise to sunset fast.
Ahead of the month, Egyptian women lamented the lack of security on the country’s streets as throngs of young boys take near control of central Cairo’s roadways in motorcycles and gangs in the dozens. It is near chaos, and the few police officers stationed at “strategic” positions, do little to maintain order, as evidenced by Monday’s incident, which was only one of many seen along the main road that runs parallel to the world’s largest river.
When asked why they didn’t intervene, one of the officers told Bikyamasr.com “we are here to stop crimes, not these such things.”
For the girls, one of whom was in tears and who had been grabbed on the chest and buttocks repeatedly by the three boys who followed her and her friend, they questioned why they thought this Eid would be different.
“I don’t know what we were thinking. This is just what living in Cairo is like now. We face harassment everywhere,” one of them said before they jumped in a taxi and fled away, leaving what they called “blood-thirsty boys” along the river’s edge.
Unfortunately for Egypt, sexual violence toward women is nothing new. June this year saw some of the worst attacks against women, with both foreigners and Egyptians reporting that they had been sexually assaulted in the square take place following the disbanding of Parliament.
“I was walking in the square and was hoping to be part of the calls for the SCAF to leave power when a man behind me grabbed by butt and started saying disgusting things to me,” one woman told Bikyamasr.com.
“He asked if I was a slut and then swore at me when I yelled at him,” she added.
Others also reported being harassed on social media networks, highlighting the growing concern facing women in the country.
Earlir in June, an anti-sexual harassment demonstration organized by over 20 Egyptian women’s groups in protest against the recent escalation of assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was attacked about an hour and half after it began by unknown troublemakers.
The participants reported being attacked by a mob of “thugs” who attempted to throw rocks and glass at them, but the clash was over quickly as volunteers securing the protest intervened to stop it.
This was not the first time a women’s rights march was attacked in Tahrir Square.
Last March, and on International Women’s Day, a march of tens of women was attacked by a cynical mob of men who did not like women protesting for more rights.
Several female protesters were injured and one woman had to have 8 stitches in her head. Almost all of them were groped and sexually assaulted in the attack.
A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are sexually harassed daily in the country.
The participants held signs that read “It is my right to protest safely,” “Groping your sister is shameful for the square” and “Be a man and protect her instead of harassing her.”
“We are fed up,” protester Mai Abdel Hafez, 24, told Bikyamasr.com.
“We came to deliver a message that it is our right to protest and we will not avoid the square in fear of harassment,” she said right before the attack took place.
And on Monday, once again, that message was forgotten by yet more criminal activity, but under the watchful eye of the police, women once more suffered.
Blasphemy case: Christians flee Islamabad slum
Aug 21, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Muslim anger over the alleged incident of a Christian girl with Down's Syndrome burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran has forced Christians to flee the Mehrabad slum, home to hundreds of Christians and 20 minutes' drive from Western embassies.
Pakistan's president Asif Ali zardari on Monday called on officials to explain the arrest of the girl on blasphemy charges.
There is a growing debate about religious intolerance in Pakistan, where strict anti-blasphemy laws make defaming Islam or desecrating the Quran punishable by death.
Police said the girl, Rimsha, was arrested in a low-income neighbourhood of the capital on last Thursday and remanded in custody for 14 days after furious Muslims demanded she be punished. Police said the girl was in her teens. Activists say she is 11 years old.
Zardari took "serious note" of the arrest and called on the interior ministry to submit a report on the case, state media said. His government has been heavily criticized in the West for refusing to reform the anti-blasphemy law, despite the assassinations of a leading politician and a Christian cabinet minister who spoke out against the law in 2011.
Some reports suggested the girl had been burning papers collected from the rubbish for cooking when someone entered her house and accused the family of burning pages inscribed with verses from Quran.
Arrest of Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges deeply disturbing: US
Aug 21, 2012
WASHINGTON: The US on Monday called the arrest of a young Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges "deeply disturbing" and praised President Asif Ali Zardari for coming out against it.
"This case is obviously deeply disturbing, the arrest of a young Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges," state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters at her daily news conference.
"President Zardari, to his credit, went out very quickly. So conceivably, we've been welcoming of that move in Islamabad, as well," Nuland said appreciative of the move of the Pak President.
"Zardari has now asked the interior ministry to look into the arrest and has underscored that vulnerable populations have to be protected from misuse of the blasphemy law," she said.
"We would call on the Pakistanis to have that investigation in a transparent way. And we think that the president's statement is very welcome, and we urge the government of Pakistan to protect not just its religious minority citizens but also women and girls," Nuland said.
Women feared kidnap, rape while in Pakistan
19th Aug, 2012
The women say that their life in Pakistan was nothing short of hell and they can live freely now that they have arrived in India.
The Hindu women refugees who arrived in India last week are happy to be here. Jamuna, a 20-year-old woman, who bears a stark resemblance to actress Freida Pinto, said that she had spent most of her teenage years confined inside her home as she was afraid that she would be abducted like other Hindu women. "I am happy to be in India as here I can live freely without the fear of being kidnapped and raped because I am a Hindu woman," Jamuna told this newspaper.
Her mother, Sheela Das (55), said that Jamuna's beauty had made her life miserable. "Muslim men had started eyeing her even when she was 13. We were not able to send her to school because of this. Whatever she has learnt has been taught at home by her grandfather," Sheela said.
Full report at:
Status of Pakistan Women Rising
Work needed on ground level of society
By Kremena Krumova
August 20, 2012
The last two decades have seen big improvements in women’s rights in Pakistan: gains in political representation, integration of women into the labor force, and all kinds of discrimination have been put in the public spotlight. The aim now, say activists, is to enhance women’s image more broadly to see these gains realized at the ground level of Pakistani society—the thing they say is the weakest point now.
“The greatest achievement is that the women’s issue has been put on the national agenda,” says Nighat Khan, executive director of the feminist organization ASR Resource Center, and dean at the Institute of Women’s Studies in Lahore.
“It is so to the point that no political party, even the most right wing, can fight the elections without mentioning women in their manifesto. Because even the right wing says, ‘When we come to power, we will give them rights, we will give education.’ It doesn’t mean they do it, but it means that they have to address it,” says Khan.
Full report at:
Hindu panchayat chief traded honour for wine
19th Aug, 2012
Lal, who had gone to meet Sindh Chief Minister to discuss Hindu girls’ plight, came back with wine licence.
Babu Mahesh Lal, the president of Pakistan's Hindu Panchayat of Jacobabad, has been accused by his co-religionists of trading the honour of Hindu girls for wine licences and of blowing out of proportion the issue of Hindus migrating to India to serve his own purpose, reports Dawn.
Mahesh Lal had gone to meet Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Faryal Talpur, a Member of Pakistan's National Assembly, to discuss the plight of Hindu girls in the province. But instead of seeking protection for Hindus and urging the government to stop the kidnapping of Hindu girls, he returned with the gift of a licence to sell wine, said the leaders of Jacobabad's Hindu community.
Full report at:
Will the masculinity of weapons defeat the femininity of peace in Syria?
Yara Nseir , August 21, 2012
Edleb countryside – Anyone visiting the northwestern Syrian city of Saraqeb these days is bound to notice the graffiti that says “the Revolution is female.” Any observer is also bound to notice large groups of men – both armed and unarmed – wandering around. There are men going about their business or manning Free Syrian Army checkpoints, but no women at all.
The graffiti thus seems to be at odds with the general context, and prompts one to look for the role of women today in a revolution that was characterized right from the start by noticeable female participation. Khaled, a university student who left the town of Mareh and recently volunteered in the FSA’s ranks, said that “women are still present among us. Women are cooking for us and others are washing our clothes. All women support the Free Syrian Army.”
When I ask him about women’s role apart from supporting military action, he answers that this is war and that women have no place in it.
Full report at:
More poll power for Jamia’s Eves
By Neha Pushkarna
Aug 21, 2012
IF JAMIA Millia Islamia does in fact decide to hold student elections again, it will make sure its woman students are adequately represented.
The proposal prepared by the varsity recently for student union polls also included a possible 40 per cent reservation for women, to ensure the process is democratic and non- violent.
“ We are planning to keep a quota for girls in the students’ body. We will ensure at least 40 per cent of the office bearers are girls. So, if there are five office bearers in the association, a minimum of two should be girls,” Jamia Millia Islamia vicechancellor Najeeb Jung said.
He said it was an effective way to bring woman students to the fore. A gender- balanced association may also prove to be disciplined, Jung added.
The varsity has not held student polls since 2006, when an incident of violence led to the scrapping of the exercise.
Soon after the election, the student union members alleged that some officials had manhandled the student president and a few others when they insisted on meeting the then vice- chancellor.
What ensued were protests, strikes and the eventual dissolution of the union.
But in July, Jamia informed the HC that it was ready to hold the elections on an experimental basis.
Full report at: Mail Today
Zahida fails to make peace with daal & jail
By Anup Dutta
Aug 21, 2012
PRISON bars cannot tame the temper of inmates, or so it seems from the conduct of Zahida Pervez, the prime accused in the Shehla Masood murder case.
Zahida, a sophisticated interior designer from Bhopal, threw a bowl full of lentils on a woman jail official in front of other inmates after a scuffle broke out between the two.
The incident occured on Saturday night when the prisoners had queued up for dinner on the premises of Indore jail.
As the inmates waited for their turn, Zahida ( 38) entered into a heated argument with official Ujjawala Baghmaare and hurled a bowl full of lentils towards her. She was overpowered by the other jail officials and sent back to her barrack, said an officer.
The jail authorities are now contemplating criminal prosecution of Zahida for assaulting the official on duty.
“ Investigation is on. Action will be taken as per the jail manual,” said Santosh Solanki, superintendent, Indore jail.
Full report at: Mail Today
Japanese reporter killed in Syria's Aleppo, 3 missing: NGO
Aug 21, 2012
BEIRUT: A woman Japanese journalist was killed on Monday while covering clashes in Syria's Aleppo, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that three other reporters were missing.
The Japanese reporter was killed at Suleiman al-Halabi, a district in the east of Syria's second city where troops and rebels were locked in clashes.
The NGO added that one of two missing Arab reporters is a Lebanese woman and the other is a man working for a US media outlet. The third missing reporter is Turkish.
A video posted by militants on YouTube showed a female body lying in a room. It was presented as the corpse of the Japanese journalist, and said she was killed by militia allied to President Bashar al-Assad's troops.
A prominent injury could be seen on her right arm. Next to her, an Asian-looking man appeared to be asking for medical assistance.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the video, or the information presented in it.