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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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18-Year-Old Ayesha Aziz Set To Become First Kashmiri Woman Pilot

 New Age Islam News Bureau

21 Oct 2013

 Saudi Ministry Warns Women against Fraudulent Job Offers

 1,000 Women to Work in Saudi Grand Mosque

 Spotlight on Indian Muslim Women’s Activism

 Pakistan's Women Police Fight Criminals, Militants and Scorn

 Malala Inspires School Curriculum

 Girls’ School Receives Threatening Letter from TTP

 ‘Aafia Issue Must Figure In Nawaz-Obama Parleys’

 UK Lawyer Seeks Action against Influential Pakistani Woman

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





18-year-old Ayesha Aziz set to become first Kashmiri woman pilot

October 18, 2013

Mumbai,18 October 2013: Mumbai-based Ayesha Aziz is the youngest girl of Kashmir origin who will soon acquire the Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and is probably set to enter the Limca Book of Records with her feats. Ayesha has completed a two-month advanced space training course at NASA, being among three Indians picked for it. She even holds a student pilot license at the prestigious Bombay Flying Club. But Ayesha is clear that it wouldn’t have all worked without her parents’ support.

Having turned 18 on October 3, she is a member of Indian Women Pilot’s Association, besides holding the Flight Radio Telephone Operator’s License (FRTOL). Her Parents hail from Khawaja Bagh in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir. Ayesha did her schooling from Mumbai and presently resides there along with her parents.

Setting an example of a role model for numerous youngsters, Ayesha’s pursuits have brought in a whiff of fresh air and inspired many girls who are following her to realize their dreams. Her achievements are not only being hailed in Kashmir, but all over the country.

She is immensely inspired by Sunita Williams. “I always used to think if she had ability to do such thing why can’t other girls”. Ayesha said Kashmir played a significant role in her life and she was emotionally attached to it. She also told girls in Kashmir not to be bothered by politics and to follow their heart.




Saudi Ministry Warns Women against Fraudulent Job Offers

21 October 2013

At a time when a number of substitute female teachers are awaiting formal appointments following the processing of their documents by education departments across the Kingdom, in addition to a large number of university graduates also looking for teaching jobs, a Civil Service Ministry official has warned against fraudulent text messages.

The official told the prospective teachers to be wary of responding to the bogus text messages which request for data and promise employment.

Abdul Aziz Al-Khonain, spokesman for the Civil Service Ministry, tweeted that persons claiming to be employees of the ministry send text messages to women graduates, or call them in person to hoodwink them into believing that they will be made a job offer on responding to the message.

He said that his ministry has the data for more than 300,000 Saudi female graduates. But he did not explain whether the ministry is working on regulations to limit fraudulent cases or reveal the identity of the victims.

Al-Khonain’s tweet drew the attention of female teachers awaiting job offers and others, critical of the ministry’s procedures of hiring female teachers.

He said on his Twitter account that the ministry is sifting through the data of college graduates and their applications, numbering 19,006 in total. He also advised that applicants who had fallen foul of the misleading messages should lodge a formal complaint to the authorities.




1,000 Women to Work in Saudi Grand Mosque

21 October 2013

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency of the Holy Mosques Affairs, has instructed officials to hire 1,000 female guides to help out women visitors at the Grand Mosque.

The Director of Women Guides Department, Sheikh Adel Al-Hamdan, said the presidency has given its nod for the recruitment of 1,000 women who have the required qualifications, both on permanent and temporary basis.

He said the presidency would also hold training courses to prepare the guides to give advice and guidance to women visitors on various aspects.

Al-Hamdan said the women guides will be working in shifts around the clock, offering advice and instructions including the need to wear Hijab in compliance with the Shariah and avoid wearing make-up and cosmetics while visiting the Grand Mosque. Besides, they will ensure that women visitors are in the right queues to avoid mixing with men during prayers, and guiding them to their designated places for prayers.




Spotlight on Indian Muslim Women’s Activism

Mohammed Wajihuddin

Oct 21, 2013

Away from the media glare, these women work tirelessly for their "sisters in distress." Battling hostility from conservative, male-dominated clergy within the community and indifference from the government, Muslim woman activists have now reached a milestone.

The story of their struggle, till now largely unrecognized, has finally been documented. From Seclusion and Exclusion to Inclusion: Indian Muslim Women And Their Initiatives, a report prepared by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Mumbai and Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), is arguably the first study on the status of Muslim women's NGOs in India. The 134-page document will be released in the city on October 22.

Documenting activities of 30 Muslim women's NGOs in nine states and featuring interviews with 46 experts, the report maps the women's mobilization and their efforts to move from exclusion to inclusion. "Since patriarchy tends to push women behind purdah not just physically but even psychologically, few know that there are women who refuse to be dictated by men. It is this feeling that forced us to undertake this study," says BMMA's co-founder and the report's co-author Noorjehan Safia Niaz. Niaz, along with ORF's senior fellows Sharmeen Contractor and Radha Viswanathan toured the country, learning firsthand how Muslim women's groups function.

The need for such a study, says Niaz, was felt as nobody had attempted this before. "While doing my PhD on women's movement in India, I searched for books on the Muslim women's movement and was disappointed as not much was available except for references to the Shah Bano case. This set me thinking," says Niaz. She shared the idea with the late Asif Khan, an activist, who broached the subject with ORF Mumbai. ORF also conducted a roundtable with Muslim women activists and organizations to understand the issues.

Research revealed three major hurdles Muslim women's NGOs face. "There is almost no cooperation from men, the government is largely indifferent and there is acute paucity of funds," says Viswanathan.

Niaz explains: "Muslim men protest our "audacity" to talk about issues. The government tells us reforms should come from within the Muslim society; they refuse to count women activists as part of it," Niaz says. The government mostly engages with organizations led by male clerics and scholars. Niaz recalls a meeting with a Muslim minister on codification of Muslim Personal Laws.

"If codification is needed, the demand should come from within the community," he told Niaz. Due to vote bank politics, the government listens to Muslim men and formulates programmes which have their mandate; women are rarely consulted.




Pakistan's Women Police Fight Criminals, Militants and Scorn


ABBOTTABAD: When Shazadi Gillani, the highest ranking female police officer in Pakistan's most conservative province, wanted to join the force she had to defy her father, forego marriage and pay for her own basic training.

During the next 19 years, Inspector Gillani and her faithful sidekick Rizwana Zafar, brought up as a boy after becoming her frustrated father's ninth daughter, have battled bandits, earthquakes and militants.

The Taliban are so pervasive in Gillani's northern Khyber Pakhunkhwa province that she wears a Burqa, a head-to-toe robe with a small mesh window for the eyes, when she travels.

Zafar dons a fake moustache to escort her.

But the women's biggest challenge is helping new female police recruits.

Women make up just 560 of the province's 60,000-strong force.

Police chiefs hope to double that within a year, but tough working conditions make recruitment hard.

There have been small victories.

Germany funded female dormitories at three training colleges.

Women recruits no longer wait years for basic training.

This summer, the province opened women's complaint desks in 60 male-run police stations.

Many Pakistani women face horrifying violence and officials hope more abused women will report attacks. Tradition forbids them from speaking to male officers.

The province opened two women-only police stations in 1994.

But they have long been starved of resources and responsibility.

“We are fighting a war in the workplace,” said Zafar, whose uniform sports a karate patch. “We are supporting our juniors. There was no one to support us.”

From schoolgirls to cops

As a schoolgirl, Gillani wanted to join the army like her father. They were not recruiting, so she proposed the police instead. Her father and seven brothers were horrified.

“They said police disrespected women,” she said, auburn hair peeping out from her cap. “I had a lot of opposition.”

After a week of refusing to eat, and lobbying by her college lecturer mother, Gillani's father gave in. He had three conditions: Be brave. Marry your job. Bring a friend.

So Gillani recruited her school friend Zafar.

Zafar cut her hair short and dressed like a boy. She taught herself to ride motorbikes, use computers and fix engines. She is Gillani's bodyguard, assistant and friend.

“I don't cook. I don't have a dress. I'm not scared of anyone except God,” Zafar said. “We protect each other, we guard each other. When one is sleeping, the other is awake.”

When a colleague tried to force his way into their tent after an earthquake levelled their town, Zafar and Gillani fought him off together.

Women police were not respected when Gillani joined, but the military was.

Her army major father shoehorned them into courses and footed the bill.

Gillani's training cost $2,000.

The money was returned eight years later.

Not everyone had a powerful father.

Rozia Altaf joined 16 years ago and waited six years and submitted more than 50 applications to get her basic training.

Now head of the women-only station in the provincial capital of Peshawar, she says things have changed, a little.

“We were neglected,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. “But now I make sure my junior officers get training and promotions on time.”

The Peshawar women-only station gets about 50 complaints a year, far less than a male-run station.

The last crime reported at the Abbottabad women-only station was in 2005.

Station head Samina Zafar sits at a bare desk in an empty room lit by a single naked bulb.

“We are not given good facilities,” she said. “I want this place to be like a man's police station.”

Attackers rarely prosecuted

Women do prefer to confide in female officers, says professor Mangai Natarajan, who studied women police stations.

She says domestic violence accounted for two-thirds of cases reported to women's stations in India's Tamil Nadu state.

Police mediation reduced violence for half the complainants.

No Pakistani data exists.

The women's desks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa receive a complaint every few days, mostly domestic violence.

The attacker is usually simply rebuked. Victims fear a formal case will bring further violence.

But some policemen still say no woman willing to join the police is worth having.

“Women who join the force don't care for their reputations or have nowhere else to go,” said one senior officer.

Gillani and Zafar are infuriated by such talk.

“If people see women police doing their jobs well, they will change their minds,” said Gillani, supervising the fingerprinting of a tearful accused kidnapper.

While she must wear a Burqa to head home, she refuses to do so in the station.

“If we are doing the job of a man, why should we not show our faces?” she asked. “Change is a challenge for all of society, not just police.”




Malala Inspires School Curriculum

October 21 2013

The 16-year-old Pakistani teen targeted for a Taliban assassination because she championed education for girls has inspired the development of a school curriculum encouraging advocacy.

George Washington University announced Monday that faculty members are creating multimedia curriculum tools to accompany a book recently released by the teen, Malala Yousafzai. Several faculty members will pilot the curriculum early next year for both college and high school instruction. Free of charge, it will focus on themes such as the importance of a woman's voice and political extremism, the university said.

The tools won't just look at the teen's story, but also how the same issues get reflected elsewhere, such as when girls face child marriage and pressures to leave school, said Mary Ellsberg, the director of the university's Global Women's Institute.

"It's going to be really interactive and really encourage students to do ... activities outside of school, it will encourage them to get engaged in the communities and as well to help the Malala Fund directly," Ellsberg said.

The university's Global Women's Institute is partnered with the Malala Fund, a non-profit that seeks to ensure girls around the world have access to education.

In 2012 when a Taliban gunman walked up to a bus taking Malala and other children home from school in Pakistan's volatile northern Swat Valley and shot Malala in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded. Malala now resides in Britain, where she was flown for medical care. Her memoir is "I am Malala."




Girls’ school receives threatening letter from TTP


RAWALPINDI: Security was tightened around the Federal Government Girls High School, R.A. Bazaar, after a threatening letter sent by the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) warned that the institution should be closed otherwise it would be blown up.

The one-page handwritten letter was found on the premises of the building by the school staff some time between October 10 and 11.

Sources in the police said the letter contained some sayings about the respect and status of women in Islam and then addressed the administration of the school.

“It is a message from Ameer Sahib Abdul Wali of TTP Mohmand Agency that the girls’ school should be closed. Thank God, we have been successful in every bomb attack and will be successful in future too. And we can carry out bomb attacks anytime...”

The sources said after the threatening letter, police presence had been enhanced around the building during school timings.

The chief executive of the cantonment board was also sent a letter to remove vendors and other encroachments around the school building located at Chungi No 22.

All educational institutions in the city remained closed for about a week till October 20 for the Eidul Azha holidays.

When contacted, a senior police officer confirmed that a letter had been found by the F.G. school staff before Eidul Azha.

“Apparently, the letter written by TTP Mohmand Agency was thrown into the school compound and later found by the school staff,” the police sources said.

The police officer, who requested anonymity, was reluctant to give details about the contents of the letter.

He said the station commander and the chief executive of the cantonment board visited the school to inspect the security measures.

When asked about the authenticity of the letter, the police officer said it was yet to be determined.

However under the present situation, the letter could not be taken lightly. Security around the school has been enhanced for the safety of the students, he added.

It may be recalled that on October 20, 2008, three simultaneous bomb threats to three schools in the garrison city forced the evacuation of hundreds of students.

The first call was made to the administration of Faizul Islam High School at Raja Bazaar and the second to the F.G. High School Sarwar Road. However, both the calls turned out to be a hoax.

The third bomb threat call was received by the management of the Punjab College in Commercial Market, Satellite Town.

No explosive device was found on the premises of the school building by the bomb disposal experts.

On October 17, 2008, the Federal Government High School on Abid Majeed Road was evacuated after a caller threatened the school administration that a bomb had been planted in the building.

The police traced the caller who turned out to be a class- 10 student of a school in Lalazar.

A senior police officer associated with intelligence added: “In the past, there had been no such threat to close any educational institution. However, some boy schools had received telephonic threats.”

Meanwhile, the law enforcement agencies have been directed to beef up security around the residences of American nationals, restaurants and hotels being operated by foreign nationals as the TTP have planned to target them, sources in the law enforcement agencies said.




‘Aafia issue must figure in Nawaz-Obama parleys’

October 21, 2013

KARACHI - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States should be an opportunity to improve people-to-people relations between the two countries, and one of the perquisites should be release and repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the Aafia Movement Pakistan stated in a statement released on Sunday.

Movement chief Dr Fowzia Siddiqui said the people of Pakistan expected that Nawaz Sharif would take up all the issues affecting Pakistan-US bilateral relations, including drone attacks, terrorism, Pakistan’s foreign debt and detention of Aafia Siddiqui.

She recalled the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had already showed a serious commitment toward the cause of Aafia.

She said trafficking of Aafia and her children from Karachi to foreign torture centers and jails was a blemish on human rights record of both Pakistan and the US.

The foreign media broke the story of illegal detention of Aafia in Afghanistan while the champion of democracy and human rights, the US, instead of giving her justice, handed her a ridiculously-long imprisonment which was just an addition of a shameful chapter in the history of justice system of the US.

Fowzia was optimistic that the Aafia issue would be discussed during Sharif’s visit, and said an early release of Aafia would certainly help in easing the strained ties.

She appealed to the administration and people of the US to show a humanitarian gesture by releasing Aafia and ensuring her reunion with her children and family.

JAMAAT WON’T ACCEPT PSM SELL-OFF: Jamaat-e-Islami will not accept the privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills and other state institutions on the diktats of International Monetary Fund, party’s Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said on Sunday.

He questioned why the PML-N government did not make public record about irregularities in the PSM. He was of the view that if the plundered money was brought back, this institution could be made a profitable entity.

Talking to a delegation of Pakistan Steel Labour Union at Idara-e-Noor Haq, the Jamaat leader held out assurances of his party’s full support and cooperation.

Union President Haji Khan Lashari, General Secretary Zafar Khan, Vice President Tariq Mehmood and Joint Secretary Aaqif Naqash informed Naeemur Rehman about the deteriorating situation of the PSM and non-payment of salaries to employees. JI Information Secretary Zahid Askari was also present on the occasion.

Rehman demanded the government to take serious steps towards converting the PSM into a profitable institution and secure the future of thousands of employees and their families.

MUNAWAR HASAN TO PRESIDE CONDOLENCE REFERENCE IN MEMORY OF SHAMIM AHMED: Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan will preside over the condolence reference for Shamim Ahmed, a prominent intellectual and organizer of Idara-e-Tameer-e-Adab, Pakistan. According to a statement issued here on Sunday, the condolence reference will be organised at Idara-e-Noor Haq on Tuesday.

JI Sindh chief Dr Mairajul Huda Siddiqui, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, prominent scholar Dr Moinuddin Aqeel, prominent columnist Azeem Sarwar, President of Idara-e-Tameer-e-Adab Muzaffar Hashmi, General Secretary Hakim Mujahid Mehmood Barkati will address the gathering.




UK Lawyer Seeks Action against Influential Pakistani Woman

October 21, 2013

ISLAMABAD: A British lawyer of Pakistani origin has requested the interior ministry to take legal action against a former employee and daughter-in-law of an influential PPP leader who allegedly swindled money from him.

In a letter received by Pakistan’s High Commission in London, Humayun Akhtar requested the interior ministry to help him recover his Rs5.5 million allegedly swindled by Mehnaz Saeed Durrani, the daughter-in-law of former state minister Ayatullah Durrani.

“I seek your [interior minister’s] order to register the case against Mehnaz Saeed Durrani and former interior secretary Siddique Akbar on grounds of fraud, deception, dishonesty, impersonation, cheating and forgery,” read the letter.

A copy of the letter, also available with The Express Tribune, claimed that Mehnaz had managed to secure a job as deputy manager of the human resources department in Islamabad Safe City Project by faking her documents. Akhtar accused Akbar of exploiting his position to help Mehnaz land the job.

Other documents attached with the application stated that Mehnaz Saeed, wife of Saeed Khan Durrani, defrauded him of Rs5.5 million when she was seeking political asylum in the UK in 2011.

After losing her job with the interior ministry, according to the letter, Mehnaz tried to seek asylum in London. She asked Akhtar for assistance, citing financial problems. Upon receiving the money, which was handed out in instalments, Mehnaz fled the UK taking the Rs5.5 million with her.

Since then, Akhtar has repeatedly filed complaints against the accused but to no avail. He has sent out a number of requests to former interior minister Rehman Malik and the Islamabad police pleading them for assistance but nothing has been done so far.

Last year too, the lawyer came to Pakistan to recover the said amount from Mehnaz but her father-in-law who was then a state minister, former interior secretary Siddique Akbar and former joint secretary Khushdil Khan filed a case against him, accusing Akhtar of harassing the family. However, Akhtar claimed that the FIR had been quashed by a judicial magistrate in Islamabad.

When contacted, Saeed Durrani said that he is all set to sue Humayun in the London court. “He [Humayun] is lying. His allegations against my wife are baseless and bear no grounds. I’m going to file a defamation suit against him in the UK,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2013.