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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Jul 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iran's 'No To Mandatory Hijab' Campaign Grows

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Jul 2012 

 Saudi Woman Can’t Wear Headscarf Rules Judo Federation

 At Karachi Zoo, the Sight of a Woman Is More Exotic Than the Animals

 The Legacy of Aqsa Parvez, And the Many Poisonous Definitions of ‘Honour’

 Rohingyas Suffer Murder, Rape, Torture: Violence Survivor

 Women Scarred & Wounded In Assam

 Somalia Constitution Allows Abortion to Save Mom

 Respect the Right of Muslim Women to Education

 Gambia to Get Islamic Institute for Girls Education

 Minor Girl Dies of Suffocation in Van during Load Shedding Protest

 Miriam Ben-Porat, Israeli Judge and Civic Watchdog, Dies at 94

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Iran's 'No To Mandatory Hijab' Campaign Grows





Iran's 'No To Mandatory Hijab' Campaign Grows



As Cyber Police announce Facebook crackdown, Iranians protest obligatory Islamic dress code on social networks.

A Facebook campaign against the obligatory veiling of women in Iran continued to grow this week, attracting over 15,700 'likes' by Thursday - even as Iran's Cyber Police vowed increased crackdowns on the social network, and after morality police raided and closed Tehran coffee shops for serving improperly-covered women.

Liberal students from Iranian universities launched the Facebook campaign, called 'No to the Mandatory Hijab', two weeks ago. Since then, thousands of Iranians have 'liked' and commented on the Facebook page, which reads "Rules cannot force anyone to do anything, this includes all people and all women all over the world". The page asks Iranians to send in photographs that are then posted to Facebook with a banner that reads 'Unveil Women's Right to Unveil.'

The campaign has also generated enormous interest across the Persian-language cyberspace, with blogs, Twitter and Facebook discussing it.

While she has not sent her photograph to the Facebook campaign, Ayatollah Khomenei's granddaughter, Naimeh Eshraghi, also criticized the mandatory hijab this week.

Eshraghi, a petrochemical engineer, told the Jamaran news site that her grandfather had never actually decreed that Iranian women most cover their heads.

"I have a positive view on the hijab, and personally I like it," Eshraghi said. "However, I'm not really interested in the chador (the usually black, floor-length, full body covering, whose name means 'tent' in Persian), because it makes things hard for me and also, when a woman is dressed from head to toe in black it doesn't really make too pretty a sight."

Notably, another of Khomeini’s granddaughters, Zahra Eshraghi, has also previously spoken out against the mandatory hijab.

Ironically, Iran was the first Muslim country to ban the veil. In 1936, Reza Shah Pahlavi - the father of Mohammed Reza Shah - banned the hijab and the chador, and ordered the police to arrest women who appeared in public wearing it.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, however, the hijab has been compulsory for women in Iran.

However, over the years, many women have pushed the boundaries regarding head-coverings.

This month, the Iranian police launched a new campaign against 'un-Islamic' clothing and hairstyles. In a single July weekend, the Basij 'morality police' and regular officers raided and closed down over 50 Teheran cafes found to be serving improperly veiled women, ISNA reported.

(Such crackdowns are not uncommon - in January, the Iranian police launched a campaign against sellers of 'pernicious Western' Barbie dolls.)

Meanwhile, Iran's Cyber Police announced this week that it was cracking down - yet again - on Iranian use of the social network.

In an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency on Tuesday, Cyber Police chief Kamal Hadianfar said the authorities planned to take down sites on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet that promoted "prostitution and licentiousness".

"In 2010, Facebook was a free country for criminals, but thanks to Allah and the Cyber Police, over the past 15 months we have made great progress in cleansing social networks, especially Facebook," Hadianfar said.

The Cyber Police chief boasted that the authorities had already shut down a major Facebook page, Daf & Paf.

According to Reporters without Borders, in January the Cyber Police arrested four Iranians allegedly involved in setting up the Daf & Paf page which had 27,000 members and allowed Iranians to take part in an online beauty contest by uploading photographs of themselves.

Radio Zamaneh, a Persian-language news site based in Amsterdam and blacklisted by Iran's Intelligence Ministry, reported on Wednesday that several Iranian Facebook users have said their accounts have been hacked in the past few days.

Some Iranians, however, are fighting back against the crackdowns and against the Islamic dress code.

Since the police shut the Daf & Paf site down,  Iranians created several 'protest' Facebook pages, one of which features a bareheaded woman in an off-the-shoulder dress with an above-the-knee hemline.

Meanwhile, the 'No to Obligatory Hijab' campaign has attracted support from men as well as women, including several prominent Iranian figures. On Thursday, writer Moniro Ravanipor - who formerly faced trial in Iran for taking part in the 2000 Berlin Conference - sent in her photograph. Also featured on Thursday was human rights activist Kourosh Sehati, who was arrested and detained for helping organize the July 1999 student uprisings, which led to street battles in downtown Teheran.

The pro-democracy Iran Press News website, which posts news from inside Iran, reported recently that several people attacked Basij 'morality police' officers after they arrested a young girl in southeast Teheran for violating the Islamic dress code.



Saudi Woman Can’t Wear Headscarf Rules Judo Federation

July 27, 2012

LONDON (AP) — The International Judo Federation said one of Saudi Arabia’s first female athletes selected for the Olympics would not be allowed to wear a head scarf during competition.

Marius Vizer, the federation president, announced Thursday that Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani could not fight with a head scarf, saying the move was “according to the principles and spirit of judo.” The federation also cited safety concerns.

“In judo we use strangleholds and chokeholds so the hijab could be dangerous,” said Nicolas Messner, a federation spokesman.

Asian judo federations have previously allowed Muslim women to wear the hijab during major competitions, but Messner said the IJF had decided against it.

“The only difference between competitors should be their level of judo,” he said, explaining that the sport aims to be nonpolitical.

The ruling could jeopardize Shahrkhani’s participation in the Olympics. Saudi leaders only agreed to send women to the Games for the first time on the condition they be allowed to wear appropriate clothing for Muslim women, including a head scarf.

Shahrkhani was given a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee to compete in London. She has never fought at the international level before and has mostly been coached by her father, a judo referee.

Headscarves are allowed in taekwondo; the World Taekwondo Federation changed its rules in recent years to accommodate Islamic traditions. Some of the strongest Olympic medal contenders are from Egypt and Iran. But all taekwondo fighters also wear a headguard which covers any head scarves.

After previously banning headscarves on the field, FIFA, the governing body of soccer, now allows them.

Sarah Attar, Saudi Arabia’s other female Olympic athlete, is expected wear a head scarf when she competes in distance running.



At Karachi Zoo, the Sight of a Woman Is More Exotic Than the Animals

By Saad Hasan

July 27, 2012

KARACHI: It has been almost two decades since women were banned from entering the Karachi zoo over the Eid holidays. This year, too, won’t be any different.

The ban was imposed after a woman was assaulted in the zoo around 18 years ago. “Since then we haven’t allowed women in for first three days of Eid,” said Dr Kazim Hussain, the director of Karachi Zoological Garden. “There are so many people that it is impossible to keep an eye on everyone. No matter how hard we try, there will be too many people to handle. But this does not mean that the ban would continue forever.”

Zoo officials say that thousands of people visit the zoo because they have spare time on their hands. Almost all of them are from the socio-economic strata which find other modes of recreation a burden on their meagre incomes.

The zoo officials have considered restricting the entry of men in the zoo but haven’t implemented it for the fear of being dragged into court. “It would have become an issue of civil rights,” said another zoo official. “We tried and implemented that at Safari Park. But I am not sure if it will work at the zoo as well.”

He said that tens of thousands of labourers work in Karachi and they can only afford to either go to Clifton beach or the zoo, where the entry fee is only Rs10 for adults.

Poor security had already made the zoo a no-go area for women, even on the week days. But the three-day Eid holidays were the worst. Former mayor Mustafa Kamal tried to improve the security in 2007 and vowed to lift the ban but nothing actually happened.

When Bashir Sadozai took charge as the zoo director last year, about 40 city wardens were deputed there to assist the security guards who were outnumbered and overwhelmed with work. The addition of city wardens helped ease the burden on the security guards who had 25 extra pairs of legs to patrol the zoo premises. But when Ramazan began, all 40 wardens were transferred by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to different road intersections to help traffic police regulate traffic.

The zoo administration has asked the KMC to increase the number of guards immediately. At present there are 33 security guards at the zoo’s payroll and they work in three shifts. This leaves just 11 guards for an eight-hour shift. There are five gates and each one is manned by one guard. “Two of them are on weekly holidays and among the remaining four at least one is always sick,” said a security official. That leaves only three guards to patrol the entire zoo at a given time. “Three men for patrolling 33 acres of land!” he exclaimed. “It’s just not possible.”

However, harassment of women is not the only security concern, says one guard. “People harass the animals even more,” he said. “They throw fruit, popcorn and even packets of juice into the cages.”



The Legacy of Aqsa Parvez, And the Many Poisonous Definitions of ‘Honour’

Jonathan Kay

 Jul 26, 2012

Five years ago, Waqas Parvez strangled his 16-year-old sister Aqsa to death in their Mississauga home after she refused to wear the hijab. Ontario Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno spoke for many of us when he declared himself “profoundly disturb[ed]that a 16-year-old could be murdered by a father and brother for the purpose of saving family pride, for saving them from what they perceived as family embarrassment.”

More than any other single crime; the murder of Aqsa Parvez by her Pakistani-Canadian Muslim family woke Canadians up to the phenomenon of honour killings. In denouncing this particularly “abhorrent motivation” for murder, the judge gave voice to our understanding of honour killings as pathology quite distinct from ordinary domestic violence.

As Phyllis Chesler and Nathan Bloom write in the Summer 2012 edition of the Middle East Quarterly, “honour killing is the premeditated murder of a relative (usually a young woman) who has allegedly impugned the honour of her family.” Unlike other forms of spousal or child abuse, honour killings invariably are conspiracies involving multiple family members, often including the victim’s own siblings, parents and in-laws. As the authors note, the practice “tends to predominate in societies where individual rights are circumscribed by communal solidarities, patriarchal authority structures, and intolerant religious and tribal beliefs. Under such conditions, control over marriage and reproduction is critical to the socioeconomic status of kinship groups and the regulation of female behavior is integral to perceptions of honour, known as maryada in many Indian languages and as ghairat in Urdu and Pashto.”

We tend to use the term “honour killing” generically, to describe any murder conspiracy of this type. But as Chesler and Bloom demonstrate in their MEJ article, honour killings actually fall into several distinct and identifiable types. An understanding of the typology is crucial for preventing them from becoming common in Western immigrant communities.

Worldwide, most honour killings take place in Muslim countries — Pakistan, in particular. But the northern parts of Hindu-majority India also are plagued by the phenomenon. Official estimates suggest at least 1,000 honour killings take place in each country every year. The actual numbers likely are many times that.

But look behind the absolute numbers, and you find significant differences in murder motive — which Chesler and Bloom were able to analyze by studying samples drawn from both countries.

In the case of Pakistani honour killings, the researchers found, three motives prevailed: punishment for “illicit relationships” (often involving a woman who elopes with a mate of her own choosing); “contamination by association” (in which family member are killed for the moral sins of their sister or daughter); and “immoral character,” in which the woman or girl (the average victim age is 22) is punished for going unveiled, or otherwise flouting the standards of dour piety expected of Muslim women in backwards societies.

This last category is particularly dominant in Western-resident Pakistani-origin immigrant communities, where the “immoral character” motive accounted for 65% of honour killings in the authors’ studied sample (with 97% of the murders being committed by the woman’s family, and 59% of the victims being tortured before death). On this point, they speculate: “This may be because there are so many more opportunities for ‘immoral’ assimilation/independence in the West, and young Pakistani women living there may be pushing boundaries more forcefully. In that regard, Aqsa Parvez is a tragically representative example.

In Indian honour killings, these factors sometimes are present. But the dominant motivation is something entirely different: caste.

Hindu religious law and tradition, which still has a stubborn hold on parts of the country, prohibits marriage between members of different castes, as well as with someone within the same sub-caste. It is the violation of this obsolete code — not any generalized accusation of “immoral” or “Western” behaviour — that motivated the majority of Indian honour killings in the sample studied by Chesler and Bloom.

This difference in honour-killing motivation is tied to a difference in the murder-sanctioning decision-making process. In Pakistan, the killings are embarked upon as small-scale family conspiracies. In India, on the other hand, caste-based councils called khap panchatays explicitly order the killings — despite the fact that inter-caste and intra-gotra marriage has been legal in India for over half a century.

The difference in Indian/Pakistani honour-killing motivations also leads to another striking statistical gap between the two nations: “In 40% of the cases, Indian Hindus murdered men, while Pakistani Muslims murdered men only 14% of the time in Pakistan,” the authors report. “The higher percentage of male victims in India underscores the fact that Hindu honor killings are more often about caste purity than sexual purity. While sexual purity is traditionally a female responsibility, the religious mandate to maintain strict boundaries between castes is an obligation for all Hindus, both male and female.”

From a policy-making perspective, this analysis suggest that there is more hope in India than in Pakistan for eliminating the practice of honour-killing.

The Indian government, which is eager to burnish the country’s growing bona fides as a progressive liberal democracy, has unambiguously denounced honour killings, and is clearly keen to crack down on the khap panchatays‘ stubborn grip on popular attitudes in northern India. In particular, a bill drafted in 2011 stipulates that: “It shall be unlawful for any group of persons to gather, assemble or congregate with the … intention to deliberate, declare on, or condemn any marriage or relationship such as marriage between two persons of majority age in the locality concerned on the basis that such conduct or relationship has dishonored the caste or community or religion of all or some of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned.” Unfortunately, the fate of the legislation remains uncertain — because the khap panchatays still have political sway.

In Pakistan, the situation is worse, because national authorities don’t even control large swathes of their own country’s northern borderlands — let alone the murderous intra-familial dynamics of the tribes that inhabit these areas.

Political Islam also is a complicating factor in Pakistan. Like the Hindu faith, Islam provides no explicit religious justification for honour killings. Yet the perceived imperative of “protecting” Muslim women from the “impurities” of the West has become wrapped up with the Islamist political project, and so has blurred into a quasi-religious justification for honour killings.

In 2009, the authors note, “Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, which strengthened legal protections against domestic violence for women and children. However, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body charged with assessing whether laws are consistent with Islamic injunctions, issued a statement saying the bill ‘would fan unending family feuds and push up divorce rates.’ After this, the bill was held up in the Pakistani senate and allowed to lapse.”

Moreover: “Under Sharia-based provisions of Pakistan’s judicial system, murderers can buy a pardon by paying blood money (dyad) to the victim’s family. Since the family of honour killing victims are nearly always sympathetic to the honour killer as well as complicit to some degree, getting a pardon is usually just a formality. Women’s rights organizations in Pakistan have pressed parliament to disallow the practice of blood money in honour killing cases, but conservative Islamist groups have blocked the needed legislation.”

From a strictly Western point of view, the most interesting conclusion from the Chesler/Bloom study is this: Pakistani immigrants to the West sometimes bring the seeds of a deadly honour culture with them, while Indian immigrants typically do not.

That is because the belief that a family’s honour lives and dies with the perceived chastity and obedience of its female members is deeply culturally ingrained in Pakistan, and often survives for decades, even on Western soil. On the other hand, Indians who emigrate to the West also leave behind the khap panchatays, and the codes of caste behaviour they enforce. (To my knowledge, certainly, there are no khap panchatay in Brampton or Mississauga — at least, none that issue murder decrees.)

Chesler and Bloom’s work should be required reading for Canadian police officers, social-service workers and child-protection officers who work with Canada’s South Asian immigrant communities. It suggests that the greatest risk of honour killings here in Canada is borne by a very specific community — Muslim South Asian girls and women in their teenage years and early 20s — and that these crimes are based on a very specific form of motivation: accusations of “immoral character” launched by family members.

In other words, our goal is to protect the next Aqsa Parvez.

New Europe

Twitter @jonkay



Rohingyas Suffer Murder, Rape, Torture: Violence Survivor


A survivor of the recent communal and religious violence in Myanmar says mistreatment, mass slaughter, rape and torture of ethnic Rohingya Muslims is rife in the western sector of the Southeast Asian country.

In an exclusive interview with Bangla Radio of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) World Service on Wednesday, Zainul Abideen said Myanmarese authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in four places of the Rakhine state, including the capital Sittway and Thandwe, Kyaukphyu as well as Ramree towns, on June 10.

The government officials initially urged Muslims not to perform the mid-day prayers on Friday; however, they later tightened the ban and announced that Muslims were not allowed to celebrate any of their religious ceremonies in mosques, he said.

“Security forces arrested four imams soon after the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and took them to an unknown place. Their fate remains unclear, and they are most likely subjected to excruciating torture,” Zainul Abideen pointed out.

The Rohingya Muslim further said that most of those detained by government troops must have been murdered.

Full report at:



Women Scarred & Wounded In Assam

By Kaushik Deka

July 27, 2012

Having lost their homes, Bodos & Muslims f lock to overcrowded relief camps where conditions are pathetic

IN MAKHANGURI village, a settlement of mostly below poverty line ( BPL) Muslim families in Chirang district, Amena Begum, 47, was a rich woman. The six tin- roof huts she owned were her neighbours’ envy.

Today, she has lost all six of them, her only son Sanwar Ali and her mental balance.

On July 22, she was waiting for Sanwar at lunch around 2 pm. Instead of her son, his body came home. The 30- year- old was shot dead while he was tilling their field for the next crop.

Amena’s houses were burnt and she, along with her daughter- in- law and grandson, fled to save their lives. They spent the night hiding in a jungle and were rescued the next day by the Muslims of nearby Howraguri village.

Now staying in a cramped primary school campus with 2,500 others, Amena asks everyone she meets to bring back her son. Her one- and- a- half year old grandson is pestering his mother Aminnusa Khatun, 24, for food, only to get a blank stare from her. The ‘rich’ family doesn’t know where the next meal will come from.

Full report at: Mail Today



Somalia constitution allows abortion to save mom


Mogadishu (AP) — Somali leaders are debating a new constitution that protects the right to have an abortion to save the life of the mother, and an international law group says the draft guarantees more fundamental rights than the U.S. Constitution.

That's one reason some women are celebrating the document and hardline conservatives are protesting some of its more liberal promises.

But some of the rights introduced, such as the right to medical care or clean, potable water, will be hard for the government to guarantee in a country where basic needs like food are not always met. While other elements, such as banning the circumcision of girls, a practice the U.N. says more than 95 percent of women have undergone, will take years to banish.

Somali leaders 825 of them began a nine-day meeting on Wednesday to examine, debate and vote on the constitution, a document that's been years in the making. A vote by the group, known as the National Constituent Assembly, is likely to be held late next week and is a key step in a flurry of political activity in Somalia over the next month.

The U.N. mandate for Somalia's current government expires on Aug. 20, and Somali leaders are to vote on the constitution, vote in a new 275-member parliament and then vote on a president all before then. If the assembly votes down the constitution, the new parliament will have to debate it and then vote on it.,2df20517-49f9-44cf-b848-40a4f97ce7be.html



Respect the Right of Muslim Women to Education


Kumasi, July 26, GNA – Muslims have been told to respect the right of women to education as dictated by the Islamic Holy Book, Quran.

Sheikh Toffic Abdul-Rahman, an Islamic Scholar, said it was an obligation under Islam to give Muslim women education and that any deviation was unacceptable and counter-productive not only to their own progress but the nation in general.

He was speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Nurul Ameen Islamic School at Asawasi in Kumasi on Thursday.

“Quran and education - the guide to life” was the theme for the event.

Sheikh Abdul-Rahman reminded Muslims to embrace secular education, saying that was the only way they could acquire knowledge and skills to lead productive lives.

He commended the school for the tremendous contribution it was making towards assisting to improve the knowledge base of the youth.

He used the occasion to invite philanthropists to help mobilize resources in support of the development of the school's infrastructure and the expansion of its facilities.

Mr Joseph K. Onyinah, the Ashanti Regional Director of Education, in a speech read for him, counseled against pushing young girls into early marriages.

Such practice, he said, was unhelpful to their progress and must be discouraged.



Gambia to Get Islamic Institute for Girls Education


 26 JULY 2012

The foundation stone of the first Islamic Institute for Girls Education in The Gambia was Tuesday laid at a ceremony held at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding. The ceremony was presided over by the minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Momodou Tangara, on behalf President Jammeh.

Minister Tangaratold the gathering that education and technology are key to any development. But he was quick to add that knowledge without discipline and practice is absolutely useless. He also emphasised on the importance of girl's education, saying that any nation that neglects women's education is doomed to failure.He used the opportunity to thank President Jammeh for his great work towards Islam.

Yankuba Colley, the mayor of KMC, said the event became a reality due to the efficient leadership of the Gambia Islamic Union (GIU) and within the context of the president's drive to bring education to the doorsteps of the masses. He noted that Madarasa education is an important component of the national education curriculum, adding that the Tallinding Islamic Institute under The Gambia Islamic Union is a pioneer in the formalisation of Islamic religious education in the country.

Full report at:



Minor Girl Dies Of Suffocation In Van During Load Shedding Protest

By Fazal Khaliq

July 27, 2012

SWAT: A three-year-old girl died of suffocation during a protest over load shedding in Barikot Tehsil on Thursday.

The girl had been left behind in a van as thousands of people took to the streets as part of the ongoing protests over extended power cuts and low voltage across Swat district, official sources said.

Holding placards and raising slogans against the government and Wapda, the protesters blocked the Grand Trunk Road between Peshawar and Swat for six hours. “We will not leave until our problem is solved,” they exclaimed.

Tilawat Khan, an elder of the area, said the area receives only two to three hours of electricity in a day, “but even then the voltage is so low that it does not even charge our mobile sets”.

Full report at:



Miriam Ben-Porat, Israeli Judge and Civic Watchdog, Dies at 94


July 27, 2012

JERUSALEM — Miriam Ben-Porat, the first woman to serve as a justice on Israel’s Supreme Court and to hold the post of state comptroller, the government’s watchdog, died on Thursday at her home in Jerusalem. She was 94.

Her death was confirmed by a spokeswoman for the Israeli courts administration.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Mrs. Ben-Porat as “a trailblazer” who “sanctified the values of integrity and transparency.”

Mrs. Ben-Porat began working at Israel’s Ministry of Justice soon after the establishment of the state in 1948. Within two years she was promoted to deputy to the state attorney. After serving as a judge and president of the district court, she was appointed a permanent justice of the Supreme Court in 1977. She retired from the bench in 1988.

In the decade that followed, as the state comptroller, Mrs. Ben-Porat, charged with auditing government agencies and their affiliates, aggressively exposed government failings. Her role earned her widespread public respect and national prominence.

In one report, she chastised the government for flaws in its planning for absorbing the first waves of Soviet Jews who immigrated in the early 1990s. In another, she warned of an impending water shortage because of what she described as a quarter of a century of irresponsible mismanagement by the water authorities. That led to the dismissal of the water commissioner.

Full report at: