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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 15 Jan 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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'I Am Malala' Incorporated In George Washington University Curriculum

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Jan 2015

Footage has emerged on social media of a veiled woman being publicly executed by an Al Qaeda splinter group in Syria for alleged adultery - a sentence that has sickened even Islamic State militants



 Mocking K-Pop Fans, Facebook Page Glorifies Syria’s Female Fighters

 Feminisation of Shops Faces Many Challenges in Saudi Arabia

 Anjali Refuses To Go With Parents, Sindh HC Allows Her to Live With Husband

 Saudi Women Trainees to Be Counted As Staff in Nitaqat

 Al-Qaeda in Syria Kills Woman Accused Of Adultery

 British Muslim Women's Helpline: Their Voices Won't Go Unheard Again

 UN Conference Asks Men to Speak Out For Women's Rights

 Turkey’s Media Watchdog Fines TV for Lesbian Kiss in Music Video

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau






'I am Malala' incorporated in George Washington University curriculum

15 Jan, 2015

Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousufzai’s inspirational memoir, 'I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban' has compelled George Washington University's Leadership Program to incorporate it into its Summer Reading Series Symposium, according to the university's website.

To further expand the reach of Malala's memoir, the GWU, in collaboration with the Malala Fund, has also developed a resource guide for high school, college and university students. Launched in Nov 2014 with Malala's father Ziauddin Yousufzai in attendance, the resource guide supports global efforts to mobilise people to address girls’ rights to an education.

In order to ensure that the resource guide does justice to Malala’s story, the Global Women’s Institute has convened a committee comprising GW faculty with expertise in a wide range of disciplines — including international affairs, media studies, language and literature, religion, history, women’s studies, leadership studies and education.

Malala was 15 when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head as she travelled on a school bus in response to her campaign for girls' education.

Although her injuries almost killed her, she recovered after being flown for extensive surgery in Birmingham, central England.

She has been based in England with her family ever since, continuing both her education and activism.

Last year, the 17-year-old became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. She won the prize along with Indian campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, 60, who has fought for 35 years to free thousands of children from virtual slave labour.



Mocking K-pop fans, Facebook page glorifies Syria’s female fighters

15 Jan, 2015

A popular Malaysian Facebook page has taken a dig at the Malay girls who were embraced by K-pop artistes at a concert – by comparing their alleged lack of honour to the more “honourable” Muslim women taking up arms in Syria.

Sukan Star TV, which has 1 million likes, posted a comic strip yesterday glorifying women fighting in Syria, as opposed to the girls who were hugged and kissed by members of the B1A4 band during a meet-the-fan session on Saturday.

The first panel of the comic strip uploaded by Sukan Star TV reveals a niqab-wearing woman holding a firearm on her shoulder, with a caption that states: “Di Aleppo Syria, wanita menjaga maruah mereka dan turut sama mengangkat senjata mempertahankan Islam.” (In Aleppo Syria, women protect their honour and also take up arms to defend Islam.)

The second panel reveals a tudung-clad girl grinning as a man hugs her from behind, with the caption: “Sementara di Malaysia... Mereka merelakan maruah mereka diratah di atas pentas.” (While in Malaysia... they allow their honour to be destroyed on stage).

The artwork is signed off by “nabil’s art”. It is unclear whether the artist is affiliated with the page, but the post has received over 14,000 likes and 572 comments since it was uploaded yesterday.

Sukan Star TV had first sparked the K-pop controversy after it uploaded a 3.20-minute clip titled “Perempuan melayu dicabul atas pentas oleh mat kpop semalam” (Malay girls molested on stage by K-pop men last night) on Sunday.

The video soon became viral, as thousands of angry Facebook users shared and commented over how the “stupid” girls had “shamed” Islam.

The comic Sukan Star TV shared yesterday of the Syrian fighter was met with more vitriol as Facebook users condemned the K-pop fans for “selling their dignity”.

Facebook user Azmer Fikri wrote: “Mak bapak tak ajar pg sekolah agama sbb tu tak tau hukum kesian. pakai tudung tp perangai bohsia” (Their parents did not send them to religious school that’s why they don’t know the religious rules, pity them. They wear the tudung but they act like prostitutes).

“Minah tu pakai tudung utk cover love bite je kot,” suggested Aizad Amrom Hakim. (The girls probably wear tudung just to cover their love bites.)

Eiyn Zul wrote in the comments hoping that God would strike down more disasters to teach the “cheap K-pop girls” a lesson.

Muhammad Fadhil Roslizan commented: “Agak2 peminat kpop ni kalo mamat korea ajak tidor sekatil diorang nak tak? *ni soalan bukan tuduhan*” (Do you think these K-pop fans would say yes if a Korean guy invited them to sleep in the same bed? *this is a question not an accusation*)

The Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) had said it would haul up the event organisers of the mini-concert, saying that it was a shameful act for the artistes to hug and embrace the tudung-clad Malay girls.

It would also apply for an arrest warrant if the girls refused to cooperate with their investigation, Jawi director Paimusi Yahya told Utusan Malaysia.



Feminisation of Shops Faces Many Challenges in Saudi Arabia

15 Jan, 2015

Long working hours, evening shifts, lack of transportation and low salaries are all but discouraging the Saudi women in taking up jobs making it difficult for the Saudi policy of feminizing employment in certain sectors of business.

It becomes all the more demanding if the working women are married and there is no availability of baby sitters to take care of their children back home.

According to a report, store owners complained of the short training period, which is adding to huge economic losses in their busniesses.

Referring to the Labor Ministry’s strict implementation of feminization program, some businessmen said it has not taken into account the emerging issues resulting from the rapid replacement of the existing workers with women, including lack of suitable infrastructure for female working in the shops.

Women’s participation in the local market is driven by the government’s policy on nationalization and which is supported by the Labor Ministry, the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and other bodies.

The report indicates that the feminization of shops is a very important issue which has a direct impact on Saudi society with far reaching consequences. While pointing out the positive effects of this decision, the report urged the need to evaluate it on the economic, social, cultural and political levels.

The project will have an important effect on the minimum wage which will increase and affect the prices of goods.

Companies’ returns will be affected because the volume of production is related to the number of working hours while companies will be affected because of the inexperience of the workers and the need to conduct continuous training for their staff which will need heavy investments and in turn, result in huge losses to the companies.

On the social level, there will be a new paradigm shift as women enter unconventional work environments besides education and health. It is noteworthy that the feminization project is taking women into an open work environment devoid of privacy.

On the cultural level, a number of factors should be taken into consideration such as the impact of feminization on the work culture and its effects on the consumer culture in addition to the future movement toward academic specializations in female work in the Kingdom, the report said.



Anjali Refuses To Go With Parents, Sindh HC Allows Her to Live With Husband

15 Jan, 2015

KARACHI: A new bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC) allowed Anjali Meghwar, a Hindu girl who converted to Islam, to live with her husband.

Once Anjali, whose Muslim name is Salma, refused to go with her parents, the court passed the ruling. Earlier, the bench asked her to meet her parents and her husband separately, without any pressure or fear.

This bench was assigned the case after another division bench, comprising justices Ahmed Ali M Sheikh and Syed Muhammad Farooq Shah, declined to further proceed with the matter after the girl expressed no confidence in them.

Case history

The matter was taken to court by the girl’s father, Kundandas Meghwar, who claimed that his 12-year-old daughter was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. He accused the Ghotki police of not taking action against the culprits.

He accused the police of helping the culprits by not producing the girl before the court on time and giving a chance to the respondent party to destroy the evidence against them and to prepare documents in favour of their baseless version.

He had pleaded the court declare Anjali as underage, which would mean that no statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure could be recorded. He also requested that, if her statement was necessary, then a judicial magistrate in Karachi be authorised to record it. He also demanded the constitution of a medical board for her examination.

Kidnapping case

Meanwhile, another petition was filed by the mother of Riaz Ahmed Sial, who is the spouse of Anjali. The petitioner submitted that her son had married Salma, who converted to Islam with her freewill but the police had implicated him in a false kidnapping case. She had sought quashing of the case against her son by the Ghotki police.


In a rare move, the two judges had on December 2 declined to further proceed with the matter as the girl claimed that the Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah was trying to influence the court proceedings to get an order in favour of her father. The SHC chief justice had assigned the case to another division bench.


On Wednesday, the members of new bench asked the girl to hold separate meetings with her husband and parents that lasted for around half-an-hour each. After the meetings, Anjali stated on oath that she was not converted and married under duress.

The girl said she wanted to live with her husband whom she married out of her own will.



Saudi women trainees to be counted as staff in Nitaqat

15 Jan, 2015

JEDDAH — Each Saudi woman trainee in the private sector will be counted as one Saudi under the Nitaqat Saudization program, according to sources at the Ministry of Labor.

This will be in coordination between the National Employment Program for Joint Training and the Human Resources Development Fund in order to create suitable jobs for Saudi women.

This is part of an ambitious initiative to train Saudi women jobseekers in different trades in accordance with the labor market needs. This also aims at ensuring the active participation of the private sector in providing training to Saudi women so as to enable them to take up challenging careers.

Meanwhile, the Saudi and Jordanian ministries of labor signed here on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in different fields related to labor systems.

The MoU, which was signed by Saudi Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih and his Jordanian counterpart Dr. Nidal Al-Qatameen, included unifying recruitment procedures, electronic link-up, exchange of expertise and training programs.

“The MoU reflects the development of the joint interests in the field of labor and workers,” said Fakeih.

Al-Qatameen said: “The excellence of the Saudi labor market regulations caused ILO to praise the efforts of the Saudi Ministry of Labor.”



Al-Qaeda in Syria kills woman accused of adultery

15 Jan, 2015

BEIRUT — Al-Qaeda's Syria wing, Nusra Front, shot dead a woman in the northwest of the country after accusing her of adultery, a monitoring group said on Wednesday, saying it showed such execution-style killings were not confined to the the self-declared Islamic State group.

Islamic State, which split from Al-Qaeda and has seized land in Iraq and Syria, has beheaded and stoned to death Syrian and foreign civilians and combatants for crimes it sees as violating its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

But Nusra Front, which sometimes fights alongside Western-backed insurgents in Syria as well as against them, has also carried out such killings or physical punishments after accusing people of violations such as insulting God or thievery.

Both groups have been targeted by US-led strikes which started last year.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said he received a video showing the woman being shot in the head outside Idlib city after being charged with adultery. Before she was killed, she begged to see her children but her killer refused, he added.

Photos posted on Twitter said to be of the woman showed her dressed in a black robe, headscarf and a red jacket and crouching on a pavement next to a group of standing men who appeared to be from Nusra Front. One man clothed in black wore a balaclava and held an assault rifle.

Other photos showed her falling to the ground beside a wall sprayed with Nusra Front's name and then her body on the ground.

Nusra Front controls between 70-80 percent of Idlib, Abdulrahman said.

Hardline groups such as Islamic State and Nusra Front have become the most powerful insurgent forces in Syria's nearly four-year conflict, undermining rebel fighters the United States and its allies say they want to train and equip.



British Muslim women's helpline: Their voices won't go unheard again

15 Jan, 2015

Today sees the launch of the first national helpline for Muslim women and girls, tackling problems such as sexual abuse, forced marriage and divorce - still taboo subjects in their communities. Alia Waheed speaks to the people behind it

When the Muslim Women’s Network (MWNUK) launched a report, last year, on sexual exploitation in the Asian community, it could only have dreamed that something like this would come to pass.

That report was called 'Unheard Voices - The Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women'. Its publication coincided with the revelations around child sexual exploitation by Asian gangs in Rotherham and challenged the view that the the issue was purely one of race and that somehow, Asian girls were left untouched by abusers because of loyalties to their own culture.

MWNUK found that a worrying number of women and girls were slipping through the net, as agencies - such as social services and the police - grappled with the difficulties reaching out to victims because of cultural sensitivities – those same points of faith, which are exploited by their abusers to ensure their victims’ silence.

It confirmed what many already knew - that many Muslim girls and women are trapped in a cycle of abuse and violence because of a lack of services. What's more, it recommended a helpline be set up as an outlet for them to confide their problems and seek advice.

And today, as a result of the charity’s awareness-raising activities, the first national helpline for Muslim women is being launched by Minster for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson.

The helpline will initially be run part time by trained, bilingual staff and will be accompanied by a website containing information on the issues which they are most commonly asked about: sexual abuse, domestic violence and divorce.

It’s aim? To make sure the voices of Muslim girls and women never go unheard again.

Sadly, it's impossible to know just how many are suffering right now. Figures for violence against women in the Muslim community remain elusive.

Last year, the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit was informed of 1,302 cases. Of these, 15 per cent of victims were under 15, though figures peaked in the 16 to 17 age group, coinciding with the age that young women finish school. While the the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation found, under the Freedom of Information act, that more than 2,800 incidents of ‘honour’ based violence were reported to police across the UK in 2010.

Within four months of its report last year, MWNUK had received 35 case studies from different agencies - a surprising number from what is traditionally such a closed community and especially considering the intimidation victims often face from their abusers, in the name of 'family honour'. It suggests that the real number is much higher.

Among them was a young woman, raped by 30 men, including a father and his schoolboy son, during a horrific six-hour attack. The common factor in each case? That cultural and religious issues were perpetuating the abuse and preventing victims from accessing help.

The desperate need for a helpline was cemented by the growing number of calls MWNUK staff were receiving from desperate women.

“We are predominantly a campaigning organisation but found we were getting many helpline-type enquiries,” said Shaista Gohir MBE, Chair of MWNUK.

“These calls confirmed that there's definitely a gap in services for Muslim women, which are faith and culturally sensitive, and non-judgemental. While there are services for specific issues such as domestic violence, there hasn’t been a general helpline.”

The charity also found many women were struggling to reconcile their faith with their problems. They simply couldn’t find an alternative perspective to those patriarchal interpretations – which so often dominate religious discourse - that had been used against them.

“More women are asking about the religious implications of issues like abortion,” explains Shaista, “Often they feel that Islam cannot be as harsh as they’ve been led to believe. We can understand that predicament.

“We don’t pretend to be religious scholars, or force our beliefs upon them. We give them a range of religious perspectives and show them that their faith does make allowances.”

MWNUK began as an advisory group to the government on issues relating to Muslim women and public policy in 2003, before becoming an independent organisation four years later.

The Birmingham-based charity now consists of a network of nearly 700 individuals and organisations, and has become one of the leading campaigning voices for Muslim women in the UK.

The power of that collective voice led to 19-year-old Shabana* contacting the charity after the attempted rape of her sister, then 11, by their uncle.

“Our dad left when we were small and mum had health problems so her family helped a lot,” she explains. “But as we got older, we grew aware of how controlling my uncle was and how my mum and her sisters were scared of him. They had to ask for permission every time they went somewhere.

“Once I went with my grandmother to stay with cousins, while their mum was in hospital. When my uncle found out, he told my mum to bring me home or he would kill her and burn the house down.”

It was while her grandmother was in Pakistan, that their uncle began bombarding Shabana with calls, trying to lure her to her gran’s empty flat.

“He claimed he had pictures of me with boys and wanted to meet at the flat to discuss them, or he’d tell my mum.

"Every time he texted me to meet up I'd swear at him. But he'd always reply back that he loved me. I threatened to call the police, but he told me to go ahead because my mum wasn't going to believe me over him.

"I knew this was true, so I never told anyone.”

A few weeks later, while Shabana was at a driving lesson, their uncle turned up at the family home and offered to take her 11-year-old sister shopping. Instead he took the terrified youngster to their grandmother’s flat and tried to rape her.

“When I got home, she started crying and said 'it's uncle, he kissed me touched me and make me do things'. I screamed the house down and phoned the police. Even then, my mum told me to stop so we could deal with it within the family. But I knew they just wanted to talk me out of it.“

Shabana’s uncle was arrested, but as the trial date got nearer, the pressure on her to withdraw the case grew.

“Our whole family was against us. They went on about family honour, playing the religious card to make us feel guilty and accused my sister of leading him on”.

It was at this point that Shabana came across an article on MWNUK and contacted them. They were able to support the girls and raise awareness about their case.

“MWNUK understand about our culture and how ,when things like this happen within Muslim families, the first reaction is to keep quiet and make sure nobody finds out. But the charity are completely against that. Knowing we weren’t alone gave us the strength to carry on.”

Their uncle pleaded guilty to assault and oral rape and was sentenced to 64 months in prison in June.

“Shabana added; “A helpline is needed because many Muslim women don’t have anybody to turn to. It's not talked about in our communities.”

One of the most recent cases the MWNUK dealt with that concerning a 17-year-old victim of forced marriage. Aisha* faced months of emotional and physical abuse by her parents before she was taken to Pakistan to wed her 30-year-old cousin, who she’d never even met.

“It started off with lectures about family honour, but then they started beating me with leather belts. They took away my phone, purse and Western clothes. I wasn't allowed see my friends or go to the shop unaccompanied,” she explained.

When Aisha arrived in Pakistan, she was warned that if she didn’t play the role of the happy bride, she would die.

“With my dad, it wasn’t about family honour, but his honour. He threatened to kill me if I didn’t go through with it. I knew he meant it.

“On the wedding night, I told my husband that I didn't want to sleep with him, so he forced me. He raped me three or four times each night. Then, in the morning, I had to pretend I was happy.

“When I came back to England, my parents thought I was happy, so they let me have my phone back. When everyone was asleep, I looked up forced marriages and found MWNUK.

“I told them what had happened. They calmed me down and advised me. One night, I ran away with nothing. MWNUK helped me find accommodation, food and clothes. They also assisted me in getting a legal and Islamic divorce. It's changed my life."

With the launch of the first national helpline for Muslim women and girls helpline, voices of women such as Aisha and Shabana will no longer remain unheard. The charity hope that more will find the confidence to come forward and seek help.

Perhaps, finally, the veil of silence which has kept these problems hidden for so long, will finally be lifted.

*names and identifying details have been changed to protect the women’s identities.

The Muslim Women's Network Helpline can be contacted on 0800 999 5786



UN conference asks men to speak out for women's rights

15 Jan, 2015

A controversial conference on gender equality opens at the United Nations on Jan. 14 with its focus squarely on getting men and boys engaged in promoting women's rights.

Organized by Iceland, the "Barbershop Conference" draws global ambassadors and U.N. officials into a conversation about what men can do to stop violence against women and advance equality.

Iceland, home to Europe's first female president, had initially touted the event as a men-only conference but decided to include women in some sessions in response to criticism.

"There is a need to engage men more," Iceland's Ambassador Greta Gunnarsdottir told AFP. "When you look at meetings on gender equality, wherever you go, the vast majority are women in attendance."   

"The point is not to exclude women, but to include men," she said. The barbershop theme is meant to evoke a space where men can speak with ease - even at the United Nations where more than 160 of the 193 countries are represented by men.

The conference hopes to build on the HeForShe Campaign launched last year with British actress Emma Thompson, who said men were also being boxed in by gender stereotypes and needed to speak out.

During a session on Jan. 15, ambassadors are expected to make commitments on behalf of their governments on encouraging male participation in the gender debate.

"This will be a one-off conference, but I sincerely believe we will get the ball rolling," said Gunnarsdottir.

The conference comes as the United Nations is preparing to mark 20 years since the Beijing Women's Conference and has set a new goal of ending gender inequality by 2030.

Todd Minerson, director of the White Ribbon Campaign, a worldwide effort of men and boys to end violence against women, said the conference is timely given the new push on gender equality in international circles.

Minerson is to lead a workshop with ambassadors titled "What Makes a Man?" that will include women.

"When we talk about engaging men on this, we have to understand that talking about gender

equality necessitates that we listen and learn from women," Minerson told AFP.

"Sometimes there is a fear that men will be unwilling or unable to talk about gender issues in the company of women. I think that's an overblown consideration," he said.

Iceland, which ranks number one on the global gender gap index, is co-hosting the event with the South American country of Suriname, which ranks 109.

All five top spots on the index compiled by the World Economic Forum are held by Nordic countries - Finland (2), Norway (3), Sweden (4) and Denmark (5) - while Germany takes the 12th position, followed by France which ranks 18th.

Britain lags behind at 26, below the United States which ranks 20th. Yemen takes the last spot at 142.

Organizers said it was unclear how many countries will be represented at the Barbershop Conference, but the ambassador said there was much enthusiasm at the United Nations surrounding the event.



Turkey’s media watchdog fines TV for lesbian kiss in music video

15 Jan, 2015

Turkey’s media watchdog has fined two music channels for airing music videos with scenes of sexuality, citing Turkish Sexual Health Institute head Cem Keçe’s controversial recent remarks on homosexuality.

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) fined Genç TV for the music video of Elliphant’s “One More,” which features a scene of two women kissing.

The RTÜK report that set the grounds for the fine said the kissing scene was aired without any measures such as obscuring the scene or using pixelization. The clip also contains visual elements and gestures alluding to sexual intercourse, which could negatively affect child development, it added.

The report cited Keçe, who had previously said homosexuality was "not something from birth," but rather something "against human nature" and a result of parenting mistakes.

From Keçe’s point of view, individuals who are in the process of determining their gender identity could be affected by depictions of homosexuality on television, the RTÜK said.

The watchdog also fined Power TV for broadcasting scenes of “passionate fondling of a woman’s half naked body,” as well as “footage and gestures similar to pornography” in popular singer Pitbull’s music video for “Don’t Stop the Party.”