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Video Shows Women Fighters Join the Fight against Islamic State in Syria

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 Dec 2015 

Photo: Syria civil war: Female fighters of Syria. (Source: Ruptly)


 Pakistan Police Uncover Women-Led IS Fundraising Network: Official

 Rahila Durrani becomes first woman speaker of Balochistan Assembly

 Iranian and Islamic Model of Women: Exhibition in Salarjung Museum

 Slain Muslim Sisters’ Families Fight Grief to Honour Legacy

 The Place of Muslim Women in Islamic Space

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau





Video Shows Women Fighters Join the Fight Against Islamic State In Syria

December 23, 2015

Syria, Islamic State, Syria female fighters, Female fighters Syria, Women fighters Syria, Women soldiers Syria, Syria women fighters, Female fighters islamic State Syria civil war: Female fighters of Syria

To quell the scourge of the Islamic State militants, a battalion of female volunteers have thrown their weight behind the Syrian army. In a show of support, some female volunteers conducted military training south of Damascus to ‘protect the sovereignty of motherland’ from Syrian militants.

Islamic State, Female fighters Syria, Women fighters Syria, Women soldiers Syria, Syria women fighters, Female fighters islamic State A female volunteer in Syria. (Source: Ruptly)

The battalion known as Al-Mahavir primarily consists of female fighters, who have joined hands with the Syrian army to thwart militant expansion in Syria. In the video, female fighters explain the difficulties of being accepted in the military and say that Eastern society doesn’t accept women with guns fighting alongside men. But they justified their presence and proved their ability to protect the homeland.

The presence of female fighters, however, did not perturb male fighters. In fact, a Syrian army commander encouraged their role in the fight saying, “The role of women is not only to bear children. Her role includes heroism. In training and on the battlefield. Therefore, a woman is inclined to greatness.”



Pakistan Police Uncover Women-Led IS Fundraising Network

AFP | Dec 21, 2015

KARACHI: Police in Pakistan's port city of Karachi said on Monday they were hunting a network of women from well-off families acting as fundraisers for the Islamic State group, highlighting its growing appeal among the country's middle classes.

Raja Umar Khattab, chief of the Counter Terrorism Department of Sindh province, said the hunt was launched after police arrested the suspected financier of a gun attack on a bus that left 44 people dead in May.

The attack on the bus, which was carrying members of the city's Shiite Ismaili minority, was the first inside Pakistan officially claimed by Islamic State, which has proclaimed a "caliphate" over territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria and is seeking to expand its global reach.

Khattab said the suspect, whom he named as Adil Masood Butt and who was arrested last week, confessed to police that his wife had established a religious organisation in the city called 'Al Zikra Academy'.

"The academy has no organisational structure or offices," Khattab told AFP.

"A group of 20 women, all from well-off families, distributed USBs (computer memory sticks) containing Islamic State videos, and also preached in support of terror organisations. They also arranged marriages among the group's followers," he added.

He said the group collected funds for terrorists in the name of Islamic charity which were later handed over to the accused.

"The wife and mother-in-law of the main suspect of the carnage, Saad Aziz, were also part of the network," he added.

Aziz, a graduate of one of the country's top business schools, was blamed by police for both the massacre and the shooting of peace activist Sabeen Mahmud in April. He was arrested in May.

Khattab said efforts were being made to track and arrest the women.



Rahila Durrani becomes first woman speaker of Balochistan Assembly


QUETTA, 24 12 15: Becoming the first woman to hold the post in the history of the province, Rahila Hameed Khan Durrani was elected unopposed as the speaker of the Balochistan Assembly on Thursday.

No other candidate submitted nomination papers during the stipulated time of 9am to 10am.

But a Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) legislator Mufti Gulab's nomination papers were rejected by the Presiding Officer for submitting after a delay of 30 minutes.

"It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to be the first female speaker of Balochistan Assembly," Durrani told after her election.

Take a look: KP assembly elects first ever woman deputy speaker

"I will try to meet the expectations of the masses of Balochistan", she said.

The post of speaker remained vacant after the resignation of Jan Muhammad Jamali in May. In the mean time, Qudoos Bizenjo, the deputy speaker performed the duties of Balochistan Assembly speaker.

Rahila Durrani was elected to the assembly on a reserved seat for women.

She was also a provincial minister for prosecution in former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani's cabinet. Durrani previously served as an MPA in late Jam Yousuf -led Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) government.



Iranian and Islamic model of women: Exhibition in Salarjung Museum

December 24, 2015

Hyderabad: The Consulate General of Islamic Republic of Iran, in co-operation with the Salarj Jung Museum, is organizing an ‘Exhibition of Women in the Iranian and Islamic Model’, from December 26 to 29, at the Museum. The exhibition will be inaugurated at 3 pm on December 26 by Dr Geeta Reddy, former Minister. Dr Christina Z Chongthu, Managing Director, Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation, will be chief guest.

The exhibition will be open from December 27 to 29 from 10m am to 5 pm for visitors in general. (NSS)



Slain Muslim Sisters’ families fight grief to honour legacy

December 24th, 2015

RALEIGH: Shortly before they were gunned down, a young Muslim couple was eating out with relatives when the conversation turned to anti-Islamic attitudes in the United States.

It was January 2015, months before the massacres in Chattanooga, Paris and San Bernardino, California. Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha had just gotten married and started living together in an apartment near the University of North Carolina.

When Barakat’s mother worried aloud that the family could be harmed because of their religion, “we were all laughing it off, like: ‘Nothing bad is going to happen. This is America’”, said Deah’s brother, Farris. “‘Watch it happen’”, Farris Barakat recalled his sister-in-law saying. “‘You guys won’t be laughing.’” About 10 days later, the couple was killed in their apartment along with Yusor’s younger sister, Razan.

A white neighbour, who described himself as an atheist and expressed disdain for religion, has been charged with capital murder.

The families believe the three were targeted because of their faith; the sisters’ father says federal prosecutors recently told him they are still considering charging the defendant, Craig Hicks, with a hate crime.

The deaths of the three young Muslims lie at the intersection of themes that have gripped the American psyche in recent months: gun violence, attitudes toward Islam and the justice system’s handling of racially charged slayings.

Yet as the anniversary of the killings draw near, the victims’ families are channeling their grief elsewhere, into deeply personal philanthropic projects meant to honour them. “Deah, Yusor and Razan were very good representatives of Muslim-Americans,” said Farris Barakat.

“We’re not scary. We’re not ‘the other’. And I think people should see that.” “The families see the charitable projects as a continuation of volunteer work the three victims were passionate about. It’s work that’s needed all the more, the grieving relatives say, since terror attacks in the US and Europe have ratcheted up anti-Muslim rhetoric, including calls to turn away Syrian refugees. There’s this concept in Islam called a continuous charity,” Farris Barakat said.

“The idea is that your good deeds don’t have to end when you die.” In August, Farris Barakat and his father, Namee, travelled to Turkey to complete a project that 23-year-old Deah Barakat had launched before his death: a dental clinic for Syrian refugees. Fifteen dentists and 40 or so other volunteers treated about 800 refugees, most of them children. “These kids are in so much need, and it’s not by choice,” said Namee Barakat, a native of Syria who came to the US in the 1980s.

“I cannot believe anyone would refuse these refugees” entry to the US. Reshaping negative attitudes about Muslims is a key goal of Farris Barakat’s charity, The Light House Project. He is renovating a house his brother owned in Raleigh to serve as a community centre, host after-school programmes and provide office space for charities including United Muslim Relief, which tackles poverty and related conditions in developing countries.

Scholarships have been created to honour the victims at North Carolina State University, and at the UNC School of Dentistry, which held a day of service in their honor. Deah Barakat was a student at UNC’s dental school; Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, had been accepted to study there.

Razan Abu-Salha was a 19-year-old student at N.C. State who had stopped by her sister and brother-in-law’s apartment for dinner the night all three were killed.

Razan Abu-Salha volunteered alongside her sister and brother-in-law at dentistry clinics in rural North Carolina, her father has said.

Yusor Abu-Salha met her husband while the two helped run the Muslim Student Association at N.C. State, and she had planned to travel with him to Turkey for the free dental clinic.

She discussed growing up as a Muslim in the US in an interview recorded in 2014 as part of the StoryCorps oral history project and broadcast by North Carolina Public Radio.

“Although in some ways I do stand out, such as the hijab I wear on my head, the head covering, there’s still so many ways I feel so embedded in the fabric that is our culture. ... There are so many people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions. But here we’re all one — one culture,” she said.

Hicks, the defendant, had been brazen in Facebook rants about his disdain for Islam, Judaism and Christianity. His attorneys didn’t return messages seeking comment.



The Place of Muslim Women in Islamic Space


By Zafirah Zein

The amount of space afforded to women in Islam has long been a topic of debate. Traditionally, men lead prayers at home and outside. Men raise the call to prayer, preach during sermons, and take up more space in mosques. There are far less female imams, and women typically pray in separate, more modest quarters allocated to them.

In 2011, Istanbul's former deputy mufti, or Muslim jurist expert Kadriye Avci Erdemli implemented the "Beautification of Mosques for Women" campaign, which strove to improve the facilities and conditions of women-designated areas in the city's mosques. In a city that is home to more than 3,000 mosques, including a few of the world’s most majestic, Erdemli had found that many betrayed Islam's message of equality in spaces of worship. While men are more obliged to attend mosques within Islamic tradition, the conditions of female spaces in Istanbul were turning away women from visiting these sacred places at all.

Inspections under the campaign revealed that many mosques lacked female toilets, and that the areas reserved for women were either unkempt or used for storage purposes. The walls and curtains that carve out these spaces also limited the view women had of the mosque from where they were situated—at the back.

Under Erdemli, massive clean-ups and structural changes ensued, and imams were advised to educate their congregations on the roles of women in mosques. At an event co-hosted by Women in Islam, Inc and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to the United Nations held last year, Erdemli said that there was a rise in women's attendance in mosques by 70 percent as a result of the campaign.1

Turkey has also made other strides aimed at greater inclusion and gender equality in its religious spaces. Sakirin Mosque in the conservative area of Uskudar is the first in the country to be designed by a woman. Zeynep Fadillioglu and other female artists oversaw the construction of Sakirin, where women now pray on its second-floor balcony. From this location, women are granted an unobstructed view of the dome, chandelier, and the area below where the imam leads prayers. At the mosque's inauguration in 2009, Emine Erdogan, wife of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said, "This art is the proof that there is no distance between women and mosque in Islam."2

While Turkey has tackled this issue by enhancing the spaces allocated to women, women in other parts of the world are taking matters into their own hands. In January 2015, the first women-only mosque opened in the United States. Located in Los Angeles, the Women's Mosque of America was founded by two women who sought to improve the place of Muslim women who are often relegated to second-class status in their communities.

In China, the women of the country's minority Hui Muslim community have been symbols of female leadership and empowerment for over 300 years.Nusis are women-run mosques that cropped up in Hui Muslim enclaves in China due to the scarcity of male Islamic teachers. In order to preserve their faith from getting usurped by the majority Han culture, the community encouraged their women to promote Islamic education among their young. What started out as Quranic schools for girls transformed into mosques run solely by women, with female imams spreading Islamic education, leading prayers, and delivering sermons.

While these independent female spaces represent a positive anomaly in Islam's status quo, the struggle remains for women fighting for space within areas where men have traditionally dominated. Islamic scholars diverge on whether women are allowed to pray in the same space alongside men, and whether they are allowed to lead mixed congregations.

When asked what she thought of gendered spaces in mosques, one 23-year-old Turkish woman, named Cansu, said, "Women and men need their own space. The issue is not the segregation of space, but of equal rights. Women should have the same amount of area and facilities in the mosque as [men]. Most mosques in Istanbul don’t have this."

On March 18, in honor of International Women’s Day, Amina Wadud, a well-known American Islamic scholar and author of Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, led a mixed congregation in a Fridayjum'ah prayer. As the imam, she delivered the sermon and led more than one hundred men and women in prayer. Although it was not the first time a woman was the head of a mixed gender congregation, it was the first to gain international attention. While some hailed it as a revolutionary, groundbreaking step towards representing Islam's egalitarian message, others condemned the defying of Islamic tradition. The event even received bomb threats and was finally held in an inclusive church in Manhattan.

Journalist and activist, Asra Nomani who specializes in Muslim reform and Islamic feminist movements, was the primary organizer of the March 2015 event. She raised the call to prayer without donning the headscarf, earning criticism for her methods of promoting gender equality and encouraging mixed gender prayer worldwide.

In a blog post in 2010, well-known Islamic spiritual speaker and author Yasmin Mogahed responded to women-led prayer by stating, "For 1,400 years, there has been a consensus of the scholars that men are to lead prayer. As a Muslim woman, why does this matter? The one who leads prayer is not spiritually superior in any way. Something is not better just because a man does it. And leading prayer is not better, just because it's leading."3

Cansu's friend, Sena, 21, had a similar viewpoint. "I think for your concentration during prayer, it's important for men and women to have their own space. According to my religion and opinion, women and men are different. Women are more emotional, and we need to be protected. There are different roles and I have no problem with men being in front of me in prayer."

The issue of women's space and rights in Islam has hence stirred debate between different Muslim circles. The tension between what is perceived as Western feminism and Islamic feminism, as well as between conservatives and liberals, is a thread that runs through various issues on the minds of today's Muslim societies.

It is worth recognizing, however, the steps taken in respect of women and their empowerment, such as the beautification of mosques campaign in Turkey and the women's mosques of China’s Hui.

About The Author:

Zafirah Zein is a fourth-year student at Northeastern University in Boston, where she is studying Journalism and International Affairs with a concentration in Middle East Studies. Her dream is to become a Middle East foreign correspondent and, she is excited to be reporting for the Fuller Project for International Reporting in Istanbul, Turkey. She has previously worked for Inter Press Service in New York and interned in humanitarian development in India.

Publication Details:

This article was originally published at Solutions Journal under Creative Commons-Share Alike license.  


Hassan, M. and S. Sayeed. Women in Islam, Inc and the OIC Mission to the UN Co-host an All-day Event Aimed at Breaking Down Gender Barriers in the Mosque. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation [online] (2014)




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