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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 14 Jan 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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'It Takes Courage to Wear a Scarf': Group of Hamilton Muslim Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

14 Jan 2015

Photo: 'It Takes Courage to Wear a Scarf': Group of Hamilton Muslim Women


 Pak SC Wants Draft of Hindu Marriage Bill Approved In 2 Weeks

 ‘Parents Should Introduce Girls to Hijab Use Gradually’: Kuwaiti Experts

 Sorry Sir, No Touching’, Ex-Model Advises ‘Molested’ Girls

 A Befitting Reward for Muslim Women Crusader, MP Zuleikha Hassan

 Mother Of Teen To Islamic State: 'Leave Our Children Alone!'

 Italian Woman among Isis Fighters

 Judge Frees Austrian Teens Seized On Way to Marry Fighters

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





'It Takes Courage to Wear a Scarf': Group of Hamilton Muslim Women

14 Jan, 2015

Muslim women in New Zealand have power in the family and community and are far from oppressed, a group of Hamilton Muslims tell Andrew McRae.

Women among the 50,000-strong community are probably the most visible due to many wearing Islamic dress.

The majority of girls and women wear the Hijab, which covers the body, leaving only a woman's face and hands visible. Fewer wear the Niqab, where only the eyes are visible.

Allyn Danzeisen, an American who converted to Islam, is now a high school teacher in Hamilton.

She said people often think women, particularly those wearing the Niqab, are forced to wear it. But the decision to wear the Hijab was hers alone.

"The women I know who wear Niqab in New Zealand - actually it has been an independent choice of their own and even to perhaps their husband's not initially wanting them to wear it.

"It is a religious understanding of what you think you should do, and so just because a woman is covered, don't think that it is not their own decision. Anyone who knew me well would know that nobody is making me put this on."

Ms Danzeisen said within Muslim culture, a woman was in charge in the home, and women were far from oppressed.

"In Islam, we say if you raise a child you raise a nation, and that women raise the children so we are actually the centre of the community."

Any assumption that a Muslim woman did not have power in the family or in the community was completely wrong, she said.

"In the history of Islam there have been women who have been active and involved in their community working since the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

"I do think for myself that if there is a man who is doing a good job leading, I would like to step back and relax a little bit.

"But if there isn't somebody who is meeting all the requirements of the family then I would step in and act as support so that is my personal opinion of the role of women."

Social work student Radiya Ali, 21, is from Yemen and has lived in Hamilton for nine years.

She said misconceptions about the role of women within Islam were perpetuated by the media.

"Just because we wear scarves on our heads, they think we are oppressed. We wear scarves because we follow our role model, which is Jesus' mother, and she used to wear the Hijab ... That's modesty and that is what people like to understand nowadays."

Ms Ali said she did not feel envious of the way Western women dressed - and doubted they envied her at all.

She said growing up in New Zealand had been difficult.

"Just as an example - going to school and being different. It is quite hard and it takes courage to wear a scarf and be the only one in class and practise your religion.

"You stand out quite a lot and, being young, you don't want to stand out, you want to be the same as everyone else."

Ms Ali said people would better understand Islam, and in particular the place of women, if they just asked questions.

"People don't actually question you and come up to you, they just seem to judge you by your look."

Sarah Ather, 16, and from India, said she understood why Muslims in New Zealand were sometimes subjected to negative comments.

"Really, very few - but I would say I don't blame anyone for that, because for most of us the media is the window to the globe.

"If you are seeing ISIS and you are seeing terrorist organisations, of course you would have a negative idea of us."

She said it was the aim of Muslims living in New Zealand to prove the myth wrong and show people they were not like that.

"Every religion has its own good and bad people."'it-takes-courage-to-wear-a-scarf'




Pak SC wants draft of Hindu marriage bill approved in 2 weeks

14 Jan, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the federal government to ensure that the draft of the proposed Hindu Marriage Registration Bill was laid before the cabinet for final approval in two weeks.

The directions were issued when the attention of a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, was drawn to the issue by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. The court had taken up a case relating to the implementation of a set of guidelines handed down in a June 19 judgment on minority rights.

The issue relating to the absence of a Hindu marriage registration law has been highlighted before the Supreme Court more than once. In 2012, a bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken up a similar issue over a newspaper column that pointed out problems faced by Hindus living in Pakistan in obtaining Computerised National Identity Cards and passports.

Due to the absence of the law, Hindu couples faced difficulties in getting their marriages registered as per Hindu customs.

Sometimes, they had to grease the palms of the officials concerned to obtain the documents, which it was their legal right to possess.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, a National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) representative told the court that it was facing problems in the registration of marriage certificates from Sindh, where most of the country’s Hindu population resides.

Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt was then asked to ensure that cabinet approves the bill on the registration of Hindu marriages.

PML-N minority MNA asks court to order Hindu girls living in Karachi shelters to return to their families

Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the minority representatives, including Dr Vankwani – who is a sitting PML-N MNA from Tharparkar – to meet and apprise the four chief ministers, provincial chief secretaries and inspectors general of police about their problems.

Dr Vankwani also asked the Supreme Court to order the return of two Hindu girls, Kiran and Anjali aged 14 and 15 respectively, who had been living in a shelter in Karachi. Both girls could decide whether to live with their parents or their husbands after reaching the age of 18, he said.

But the Sindh police told the court that the Sindh High Court was hearing the matter of Anjali, whose husband Riaz was in jail. Anjali had also recorded a statement where she had expressed a desire to live with her husband.

The Hindu community has repeatedly raised concerns and said that young girls from their community were being abducted, forced to convert in order to be married off to Muslim men.

In 2012 too, the Supreme Court had witnessed a similar situation when controversial marriages of three young women from interior Sindh were taken up by the bench.

Then the issue revolved around Aasha Devi, the 19-year-old Rinkal Kumari of Mirpur Mathelo (now known as Faryal Bibi), and 30-year-old Dr Lata Kumari of Jacobabad (now known as Hafsa).

On Tuesday, Sindh Advocate General Fateh Malik told the court that the provincial government had devised a law for increasing the job quota in government jobs for minorities to five per cent. But Dr Vankwani lamented that though the law had been made it was not being implemented in letter and spirit.

The court was also told that the Sindh government was also holding a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issues being faced by the Hindu community in Sindh.

After the hearing, Dr Vankwani told reporters that as per directions of the Supreme Court, he would meet the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Jan 19 to discuss matters relating to the protection of holy places, including the Smadhi of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj.



‘Parents Should Introduce Girls to Hijab Use Gradually’: Kuwaiti Experts

14 Jan, 2015

KUWAIT CITY: A number of Kuwaiti citizens and experts expressed varying opinions concerning the use of Hijab (veil) in terms of tradition and religion, reports Al-Al-Anba daily.

They responded to various questions posed to them such as ‘Does the use of Hijab imply the conservative mindset of the women of the new generation of women as in the past?’, ‘How can parents convince their daughters to wear Hijab?’ and ‘What is the best way to do that?’. A student Sana Abdullah said she went on Omrah with her family when she was in her intermediate level of education.

During the trip, her father insisted that she should start wearing it anytime she goes out of the house and eventually she succumbed to the pressure against her personal wish.

According to Dr Abeer Othman, wearing Hijab is part of the religious tenets that every adult Muslim woman should comply with. She insisted that parents should gradually introduce the habit of Hijab use to their children from the early ages of their lives, adding that doing it this way will convince the children without forcing them into the habit.



‘Sorry Sir, No Touching’, Ex-Model Advises ‘Molested’ Girls

14 Jan, 2015

PETALING JAYA: Muslim model Raisha Raina has offered some sage advice to the Tudung-wearing girls who were allegedly “molested” at a K-Pop concert last Saturday, saying that all they needed to do was “say no” to the hugging and kissing that took place.

In a Facebook posting yesterday, she also revealed her own repulsion to being touched by men, even during her modelling days before she converted to Islam.

“From long ago (before I wore a headscarf and was a model), to this day (now a Muslim and wearing a headscarf) I have never liked men touching/hugging me even when only taking a photograph,” she said.

She also detested men draping their arms across her shoulders, and would tell them off instantly, saying, “Sorry sir, no touching”.

Commenting on the video, Raisha remarked how bewildered she was as to why the young Tudung-wearing girls were “excited” about hugging K-Pop artistes.

She advised the girls instead to “say no” and remarked how wonderful it would have been had they said precisely that to the K-Pop artistes on stage.

“Ponder on it. Many non-Muslims too would not let men touch them,” she said.

In her posting she also called for a stop to public-bashing, saying the girls needed to realise for themselves the error of their ways.

“Please stop bashing those young girls. Everyone has the right to learn from their past mistakes. I too did so much wrong before. And from time to time, I will do wrong and sin again.”

Exclaiming, “Allah is merciful,” she also said, “It is better that we pray that they (young Muslim girls) come to the realisation that what they did was ‘distasteful’.”

Raisha Raina, formerly known as Felixia Yeap, was Malaysia’s first and only Playboy Bunny, before giving up her modelling career when she converted to Islam at 28 years old.



A Befitting Reward for Muslim Women Crusader, MP Zuleikha Hassan

14 Jan, 2015

Tears flowed freely as nominated MP Zuleikha Hassan was declared the first Muslim Woman of the Year, an award sponsored by Gulf Bank Africa in partnership with Al Muslimah, a magazine exclusively dedicated to Muslim women. The event, held at a Nairobi hotel a week ago, brought together the who’s who in Muslim women circles and offered them a chance to share experiences. Picked from a pool of 30 shortlisted professionals, Hassan, who was forced into politics by her father, didn’t hide her joy. “Sincerely speaking, I never shed a tear when my mother died a few years ago, but this award means a lot to me: my achievements have been recognised,” said Hassan, who earlier had to be persuaded not to leave early. According to the editor of the magazine Rubina Rehman, Muslim women have always taken a back seat, with major programmes benefiting only men, even though both play an integral role. She noted that the award, which is only given to women under 40, targeted women in academia, media, NGOs, politics, law, sports, entrepreneurship and arts among others. “We mostly focused on an all-round personality and because the lifestyle of a Muslim woman is more reserved, we were looking for positive things that Muslim women were doing for the community,” said Rehman. She noted that the MP received overwhelming nominations, which resulted in the award. “Our society is male-dominated. Women are everywhere but their achievements are hardly highlighted...,” she said. The 34-year-old Hassan, who was nominated by the Orange Democratic Movement ( ODM) to represent the youth, has been on a mission to make Muslim women’s voices heard. Apart from forming women groups at her Mariakani home in Kwale County, Hassan is currently a crusader for wearing of the hijab by Muslim girls in schools. She at one time raised the issue in Parliament when a school banned hijabs. “I am still following up on that matter; religious matters should not be politicised,” she said.

Though a staunch Muslim, Hassan was raised multi-culturally, something she says has given her an edge to understand the experiences and suffering of women from diverse backgrounds. After attending Aga Khan Primary School in Mombasa and then Coast Academy before studying for O-levels in South Africa, Hassan did her A-levels at Legai high school in Botswana where her dad was an expatriate. After high school, she went to the University of Cape Town in South Africa to study Social Science in Development and Social Transformation and graduated in 2005. “After graduation, I decided to come back home to build my country. I tarmacked for long, forcing me to ask for a job from a family friend, Prof Mohammed Hyder, who was running a Muslim Civic Education Trust. Instead of employing me, he told me to do a research on the problems Muslim women were undergoing,” said the MP. She conducted research on 56 women. When she took her findings to ProfHyder, he told her to do something about the problems. She then formed a women’s group which expanded to 116 women. With a membership fee of Sh20 and a monthly subscription of Sh10, the group expanded to 320, and then to 700 members within a month. When she got a job as a programmes officer at MEWA, an NGO dealing with social issues, the women’s group had already clocked 2,000 members. Her dad advised her to “convert the membership into votes”, but she refused.

“My father told me to vie for the 2007 elections...but I didn’t see myself as a politician,” she said. But her father did not relent. She later became the ODM party delegate and a National Election Council (NEC) member. She was later elected by delegates as the national deputy youth leader, then as national youth coordinator in 2011, a platform she used to lobby for her nomination to the legislature. Back at home in Kwale County, Hassan has been seen as the lone voice commenting on sensitive issues like the shooting of 13-year-old Kwekwe Mwandaza by police and the issue of youth radicalisation and insecurity.



Mother Of Teen To Islamic State: 'Leave Our Children Alone!'

14 Jan, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) — The suburban Chicago mother of a 19-year-old American facing a terrorist charge for trying to join the Islamic State militants accused the group on Tuesday of brainwashing youths into joining their ranks via social media. And she declared, "Leave our children alone!"

Mohammed Hamzah Khan's mother cried softly as she read her statement in a federal courthouse lobby in Chicago. Minutes earlier, her son appeared in orange jail garb in an upstairs courtroom to plead not guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group.

Zarine Khan, flanked by her husband, Shafi, said her family felt compelled to speak out in the wake of "unspeakable acts of horror" in Paris last week that killed 17. One gunman reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, while two others cited al-Qaida.

"The venom spewed by these groups and the violence committed by them ... are completely at odds with our Islamic faith," the 41-year-old said.

About a dozen Americans were believed to be fighting in Syria, while more than 100 have either been arrested on their way to Syria or went and came back, FBI Director James Comey said last fall.

Mohammed Khan, who lived with his parents in a middle-class Bolingbrook neighborhood, was arrested in October as he sought to board an international flight in Chicago on the first leg of a plan to sneak into Syria to join Islamic State militants, court documents allege.

Weeks later, prosecutors revealed that Khan's 17-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother were in on the plot and had been detained at the airport with Khan. According to court documents, the girl once used the Twitter handle @DeathIsTheeNear to send a favorable tweet about a video of beheadings — placing a smiley emoticon in the text. The younger siblings haven't been charged.

Investigators later found a three-page letter in Khan's bedroom in which he apologized to his parents for leaving so abruptly. But Khan, who studied at the Roman Catholic Benedictine University in Illinois for a year, added he felt obliged to go from disgust with Western society and from anger over U.S.-backed bombing of Islamic State fighters, court filings alleged.

"This nation is openly against Islam and Muslims," he wrote.

Adept propagandists managed to woo Mohammed Khan into falsely believing they had established a legitimate Islamic government in parts of Syria and Iraq, Khan's lawyer, Thomas Durkin, told reporters Tuesday.

"He's a very devout, committed, thoughtful kid who bought into some very slick advertising," Durkin said. He has said there is no evidence Khan aspired to do anything other but live in territory controlled by Islamic State.

Another suburban Chicago youth, Abdella Tounisi, then 18, pleaded not guilty in 2013 to a seeking to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group — in his case, al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. He also allegedly searched online for information about joining up.

"We condemn the brainwashing and recruiting of children through the use of social media and the Internet," Zarine Khan said Tuesday.

Khan's mother and father, originally from India, are both naturalized U.S. citizens. Khan was born in the Chicago area. His parents did not know of the plans to journey to Syria until their son's arrest, Durkin has said.

Khan's mother ended her statement Tuesday before a dozen reporters and TV cameras by directly addressing the Islamic State group, which she referred to as ISIS, and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"We have a message for ISIS, Mr. Baghdadi and his fellow social media recruiters," she said, raising her voice. "Leave our children alone!"



Italian woman among Isis fighters

14 Jan, 2015

A woman is among the four Italians to have joined the ranks of the Isis militant group, according to Italian media reports.

Maria Giulia Sergio, a 27-year-old who now goes by the name of Fatima Az Zahra, is thought to have left Italy for Syria last September with her Albanian husband, Corriere reported.

Her husband reportedly had ties to Bilal Bosnic, the Salafi movement leader in Bosnia Herzegovina who was last year arrested for funding terrorist activities as well as recruiting and fighting for Isis, the newspaper said.

Sergio is the only woman among the four Italian citizens to have joined the extremists.

Another was Genoese Delnevo, a 23-year-old from Genoa who died in Syria in June 2013.

A further 49 people have transited through Italy on the way to joining Islamic extremists, Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said last week.

Born in Torre del Greco, near Naples, Sergio later moved with her family to Inzago, a town near Milan.

She converted to Islam after her first marriage to a Moroccan citizen. After meeting her second husband, she moved to Grosseto, in Tuscany, where at the end of 2012 she underwent the rituals of Islamic radicalization, Il Tempo reported.

There she “changed her name to Fatima Az Zahra, visited mosques and wore a niqab”, the website said.

Sergio also reportedly used her Facebook page to defend Islamic traditions and ask for "victory" over "infidels".

Her parents and sister, who still live in Inzago, also converted to Islam, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

Her mother, Assunta Bonfiglio, was on Tuesday quoted by La Repubblica as saying that she hasn’t had any contact with her daughter and doesn’t know where she is but that “Allah is protecting her”.

“She is not a terrorist hiding behind a veil,” she added.

“My daughter Fatima is good, and those who know her can attest to that.”

The couple are thought to have flown from Rome to Istanbul in September, before making their way over the Turkish border into Syria.

Hundreds of women have joined the ranks of Isis.

About 60 British women are thought to have joined, while others are known to have travelled from Sweden, France, Belgium, Canada and the US.

In December, Spanish police arrested four women and three men in Spain and Morocco who were part of a network recruiting women to send over to Isis.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Alfano said fresh legislation would target "foreign fighters" seeking to travel from or through Italy en route to joining Islamic militants.

The intention is to "restrict their ability to go into the field", he said, with the new law enabling the Italian government to take away suspects' passports.



Judge frees Austrian teens seized on way to marry fighters

14 Jan, 2015

Two Austrian teenage girls intercepted on their way to marry fighters of the insurgent group ISIL walked free from custody on Tuesday when a judge issued a preliminary ruling that they had committed no crime.

Prosecutors had asked a Salzburg court to place the girls, aged 16 and 17, in investigative custody pending an investigation into whether they were members of a terrorist organisation.

The teens had returned to Austria from Romania, where they were picked up by authorities on a train on Dec. 30 as they tried to make their way to Syria to marry ISIL fighters there.

But the Salzburg judge decided to release the girls.

"In her opinion the girls' behaviour is not criminal, not yet, because they were stopped inRomania and did not really get to join a terrorist organisation," a court spokeswoman said.

Prosecutors, who had wanted the suspects jailed to prevent them from fleeing, have 14 days to appeal against the ruling while the investigation continues.

Around 170 people, many from Islamic immigrant backgrounds, have travelled to the Middle Eastfrom Austria to join militant groups, the government says.

Around 60 have returned, raising fears they could launch attacks akin to the slayings in Paris last week.

The girls were detained in their homes in Salzburg and Upper Austria province after their return. They had Bosnian and Chechen family backgrounds, according to the APA news agency.