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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 2 Aug 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Abandoned Babies Given Away On Pakistani TV Programme

New Age Islam News Bureau

2 Aug 2013

 Photo: Abandoned Babies Given Away On Pakistani TV Programme


 Twitter used to send bomb threats to several women in UK

 Topless activists enter Russian embassy in Sweden

 Under-14 girls football players humiliated, slapped and forced to sweep floors by panchayat

 Philippines: Unveiling Female Muslim Teachers So Students See Their Lips

 Saudi Female Engineering Student Selected For Training in US

 Split Shifts Aggravate Female Nurses’ Misery In Ramadan

 Ethiopian Housemaid Attacks Saudi Woman Employer, Disabled Girl

 Reading Quran through Kathak

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Abandoned babies given away on Pakistani TV programme

 2 August 2013

Two baby girls who were abandoned in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi have been allocated new parents during a live television broadcast, the BBC's Orla Guerin reports.

At just over a month old Fatima has already lived through a lot.

Her life began, and could have ended, on a rubbish dump in the sprawling megacity of Karachi. Instead, Fatima was rescued by a charity and placed in the loving care of a childless couple.

It looks like a happy ending but it came about in the full glare of television cameras. The sleeping infant was one of two abandoned girls handed over during live broadcasts of "Amaan Ramzan", a blend of Islam and entertainment, which runs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Ratings concern

The dapper host Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain is already famous for giving away cars, motorbikes and household electronics.

Now the controversial showman has added babies to the list, calling it "a noble cause". He insists he is saving abandoned infants, not using them to boost his ratings.

"We were already top of the ratings before we gave away a baby," said Dr Aamir, who describes himself as "truly a legend" on his website.

"These children are not a part of garbage, are not a part of trash, so we took these children from the garbage, from the trash, and delivered them to the needy people, the needy parents."

His show is broadcast from a packed studio, where the audience sits beneath glittering lanterns and a huge chandelier, and fish swim under glass panels in the floor. This is where the sleeping baby Fatima was handed over to her adoptive parents, who embraced her and wept.

Her new father Riaz Ud Din, a bearded civil engineer, told us Fatima was the answer to his mother's prayers. She died the day before the broadcast.

He and his wife Tanzeem waited 14 long years for a child. He refused to divorce her, as many advised, when she could not produce a child.

"When the baby came into my arms on the show," he said, "it felt like another soul had entered my body, like an angel came. She has brought us so much peace. She means more to me than my own soul."

As he spoke, his wife tenderly cradled Fatima in her lap. "I adopted her," said Tanzeem, who wore a black chador, a full-body robe. "But it doesn't feel like an adoption. It feels as if she is my own child, as if I gave birth to her. She is a gift from God."

Seated alongside her was another chador-clad woman now savouring motherhood - Soraya Bilquis. She and her husband waited even longer - 17 years - before getting a child of their own.

"My life is complete now because of her," she said, gazing down at baby Sayeda Zeinab. "I can't describe how happy I am because someone will grow up and call me mother. She is the light of my home."

Both couples said they saw nothing wrong with being given their daughters on live TV. Tanzeem said she hoped it would encourage others to adopt.

But child welfare advocates fear that other TV shows will copy the baby giveaway. They also worry that the lack of confidentiality could expose the children and their families to teasing and stigma in the future.

"The baby was given away the same way as a gift," said Seema Jamali, assistant director of child welfare for the Sindh provincial government.

"Though it was good to find parents for her, the baby was given like a car, laptop, or motorcycle. It's an insult to the baby and the parents. It should have been done quietly."

It was far from quiet, but it was quick. Both couples were vetted by a private charity, the Chhipa Welfare Association, in less than two weeks. That's a typical time frame here. Checks were carried out on their incomes, medical records, and homes, and there were investigations with the police, and in their communities.

'More transparent'

But the babies were handed over in a legal vacuum, with no regulation by the state. Experts say that's how most children are given new homes here. Adoption does not exist under Islamic law, but couples can apply to the courts to become legal guardians of unwanted babies.

It's time for a proper legal framework, according to Sharjeel Memon, information minister for Sindh. "We want to make this process more transparent," he told us, "and there must be some legislation that people should go through."

But here in Pakistan there has been no public outcry about the fact that babies were given away on a TV show. Many are glad that they have a new start in life.

Their stories could have ended very differently. More than 300 dead babies are found every year in Karachi alone by Pakistan's largest welfare organisation, the Delhi Foundation. In a 10-day period in July they found 23 tiny bodies. Some had been suffocated.

At their spotless and welcoming home, Fatima's parents keep watch over their precious gift. They take turns to kiss her forehead and arrange her blanket.

"I have hardly had more than two hours' sleep a night since she came," said Riaz, smiling broadly. "We hope she will grow up to be a religious scholar, or maybe an engineer like me." As he spoke Fatima yawned, stirred, and clenched a little fist.



Twitter used to send bomb threats to several women in UK

 August 01, 2013

Several women in the UK, including three prominent journalists, have received bomb threats on micro-blogging site Twitter, prompting the Scotland Yard to launch a probe. "We can confirm that the Metropolitan police has received allegations relating to bomb threats sent to a number of

females on Twitter," a Metropolitan police spokesperson said here today.

There have been no arrests and no bombs actually went off, the spokesman said.

Columnists Hadley Freeman at 'The Guardian', Grace Dent at 'The Independent' and Catharine Mayer, Europe editor of 'Time' magazine, were among those who received the Twitter threats from anonymous user @98JU98U989 yesterday.

Freeman had written a column a day earlier headlined 'How to use the internet without being a total loser', responding to a series of violent messages on the social network aimed at women.

The anonymous account has been suspended by Twitter last night, however, a screen grab was posted on the site by one of the journalists.


After receiving the threat, Hadley Freeman wrote on Twitter that she was calling the police, adding: "If it's illegal to threaten to bomb an airport, it's illegal to threaten to bomb me".

Grace Dent described the threat as a "new low".

The latest incident comes just days after rape threats to Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and women's campaigner Caroline Criado Perez on Twitter successfully lobbying for famous British author Jane Austen to appear on British banknotes.

Television historian Professor Mary Beard was also targeted by a Twitter user, who she named and shamed.

He apologised after Beard threatened to send a copy of his comments to his mother.

Meanwhile, over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Twitter to beef up its procedures for dealing with abuse.

The social media site has announced plans to include a button for reporting abuse within every tweet -- something which is already available on its iPhone app.



Topless activists enter Russian embassy in Sweden

AP | Aug 1, 2013

STOCKHOLM: Two topless activists climbed over a fence into the Russian embassy in Stockholm to protest against the country's anti-gay bill and stigmatization of homosexuals.

Police were called to the embassy Thursday morning to remove the activists, who are now suspected of trespassing. They were released after confessing to trespassing.

The two women, linked to the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, waved a rainbow flag at the embassy's grounds and carried a sign saying "homosexual propaganda on Russian ground."

They were supported by two other activists outside the embassy, who shouted "Gay Rights are Human Rights."

One of the activists, Jenny Wenhammar, said the group was protesting against a recently enacted Russian law which imposes hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors.



Under-14 girls football players humiliated, slapped and forced to sweep floors by panchayat

 Aug 02 2013

New Delhi : The All India Football Federation (AIFF) today asked its women's committee to find out what had happened in the reported humiliation of young tribal players of Jharkhand before they left for a tournament in Spain last month.

Eighteen girls from a village on the outskirts of Ranchi had on July 13 finished third in Gasteiz Cup, an Under-14 tournament, in Victoria Gasteiz in Spain. The tribal girls were representing Yuwa India, an NGO founded by a 30-year-old American Franz Gastler.

They were reportedly humiliated, slapped and forced to sweep floors when they went to the Panchayat office to get birth certificates for their passport. Patel said that the AIFF should not be drawn into the matter as the girls were preparing to take part in an tournament not approved by it but nonetheless has asked the women's committee to find out the facts.

"It was a malicious campaign against the AIFF and it's totally baseless to bring the AIFF into this. The tournament the girls participated was not approved by us nor we knew about their participation," Patel, who chaired the Executive Committee Meeting of the AIFF today, said.

"It's good that the girls were taking part in an international tournament but how would the AIFF be in the scene if something happens to the girls on something related to the preparation for taking part in a tournament which we don't know," he added.

"Nonetheless, I have asked the AIFF Women's Committee to find out what happened to the girls."



Philippines: Unveiling Female Muslim Teachers So Students See Their Lips

 2 August 2013

 Richard S. Ehrlich

The Philippines, Asia's only Catholic-majority country, has ordered Muslim women to remove their facial veils when teaching the government's experimental curriculum of Arabic language and Islamic values, because students benefit by "seeing the teacher's lips."

"Teachers handling Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) are requested to remove the veil covering the face -- 'Niqab' -- when teaching in the classroom," said Education Department Secretary Armin Luistro in an Official Gazette announcement dated July 24.

"This is to promote better teacher-pupil relationship, and to support effective language teaching since seeing the teacher's lips helps in the correct production of letter sounds," Luistro said.

"Inside the classroom, she [the teacher] is requested to remove" any veil covering her entire face, "for proper identification of the teacher by the pupils," the Education Department had said in the Gazette one day earlier on July 23.

The Education Department expressed concern that its ban may be misunderstood as also including the Islamic female head scarf, known as a "Hijab," while teachers are inside their classrooms.

The public should not have the wrong "impression that the DepEd (Department of Education) is ordering female Muslim teachers to remove their head covering, Hijab," Luistro said in the Gazette.

They can wear a head scarf while teaching, if their face, including their lips, is exposed.

As soon as a teacher exits her classroom, she can cover her entire face as well.

"Covering of the whole face is allowed outside the classroom," among female Muslim teachers in the ALIVE program, the Education Department said in the Gazette on July 23.

Several years ago, the education department began training Muslim instructors to teach Arabic language and Islamic values through its ALIVE program in public elementary schools which have a significant Muslim population.

The program is "an Islamic-friendly and culturally-sensitive curriculum for Muslim learners," the government's Philippine Information Agency said in May 2012.

Schools in the capital, Manila, and "in the heartland of Muslim society" on the southern island of Mindanao, were benefitting from the program, Luistro said last year.

Madrasa students could use the ALIVE curriculum so "they have an equal chance of being employed as their counterparts who graduated in sectarian and non-sectarian schools, because they have been properly prepared," Luistro said.

Madrasa classes emphasize Islamic subjects such as Arabic, memorization of the Koran, Shariah law, and how to behave according to the Koran and other religious texts and traditions, but often do not teach other subjects at the same level as the Philippines public education system.

In August 2012, Catholic-run Pilar College in the south sparked an uproar when it became the first campus in the Philippines to ban Muslim female students from wearing either a hijab headscarf or niqab face veil on its property.

The National Commission of Muslim Filipinos wrote to Pilar College in Zamboanga, a port city on Mindanao island, and requested its ban be lifted.

The Mindanao Examiner newspaper reported that the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, which operated the school, replied: "Our origin is Roman Catholic, and we cannot deviate from that origin."

"It is true we cater to students of different religions, but before they are officially enrolled, during interviews of student applicant, rules and regulations are explained to them particularly the non-wearing of the Hijab or veil."

Last month, the college reluctantly lifted its ban on the head scarf after human rights activists -- supported by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates -- started an online campaign demanding the school be boycotted.

The National Commission of Muslim Filipinos also pointed to the education department's ruling that stated: "Female Muslim school children should be allowed to use their veil or head dress inside the school campus."

One Muslim lawyer, Yasser Apion, a Muslim, said the hijab is "not about fashion or trend for is obligatory, and girls reaching puberty have to wear the hijab," according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

After lifting its ban on the head scarf, however, Pilar College kept its ban on niqab face veils, the paper said.

About 80 percent of the Philippines population is Roman Catholic, and an additional 10 percent belong to other Christian denominations.

Muslims, who live mostly in the south, comprise about 5 percent of the country's total 105 million people.

Islam arrived in the Philippines during the 13th century.

The Spanish Empire brought Christianity to the islands after European explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521.

Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.



Saudi Female Engineering Student Selected For Training In US

 2 August 2013

The first Saudi female engineering student, Al Anoud Musaad Al-Turki, has been chosen by Lockheed Martin (LM) for its High-Tech Training program at its facilities in the United States.

“The performance of Al Anoud will encourage more cooperation with Lockheed Martin and open more doors for our students as well as our graduates,” said Gilles Cormier, acting dean of College of Engineering at Al Faisal University.

He said this collaboration will increase the visibility of Al Faisal on the international map, adding that the selection of Al Faisal for this program was made possible through the effort of the electrical and software engineering head, Nidal Nasser, and assistant professor of electrical engineering, Abd-Elhamid Taha.

“Al Faisal aims to support talented Saudi students in engineering to improve the lives of people in the Kingdom and around the globe,” he said.

In 2010, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, Adel Al-Jubair, requested US companies to hire Saudi students for three-month internships. In response, Lockheed Martin developed a visitation program whereby Saudi engineering students can gain experience in a high-tech US environment at one of its facilities.

The program extends over a period of twelve weeks from June 7 to August 30, 2013, beginning with an orientation in Washington, D.C. and the formal training continuing at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Orlando, Florida.

High-Tech Training would get the students to apply and sharpen their software engineering skills as well as gain new skills within LM’s Prepar3D software environment.

It mainly includes mission design and simulation. The program also aims at providing a better understanding of American society and culture.

Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests. It operates in five business segments. These comprise aeronautics, information systems and global solutions, missile and fire control, mission systems and training, and space systems.



Split shifts aggravate female nurses’ misery in Ramadan

Wafa Badawood

 2 August 2013

JEDDAH – In the holy month of Ramadan, nurses work seeking to increase the reward from Allah Almighty, and adhering to their duty. The profession of nursing is considered to be among the humanitarian professions that depend on integrity, being God fearing, dealing with the patient in a kind way and raising the patient’s morale.

Okaz/Saudi Gazette toured a number of hospitals to see the condition of female nurses during the holy month of Ramadan.

Nawal Muwallad said, “A year has passed since I was appointed. As I’m not married, I don’t face any problem. Also, the single session duty from 7.00 a.m. until 1.00 p.m. or from 9.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. does not disturb our day. It enables us to carry out our work and our family commitments. As to the laziness that people complain about during Ramadan, I don’t feel it. I go to bed at 11.00 p.m. and wake up at 3.00 a.m. to take my Suhoor meal. I sleep once again and I come to work fresh and active.”

Wisam Ali, an unmarried female nursing technician, said her work schedule rotates according to a shifts system and there are days when she has to break fast or have Suhoor in the hospital. She said these shifts affect family relations, as there are times when she cannot attend family gatherings or visit relatives in Ramadan.

“I’m deprived of the opportunity to have Iftar or Suhoor with my family. We, a team of female nurses, compensate this by having Iftar and Suhoor together. Each one of us brings a dish and we share this in a family-like atmosphere," she said.

"What is beautiful is that some female patients who are able to move leave their beds and join us for Iftar and  Suhoor. They bring some food with them. This compensates us for being away from our families.

"There are times when we have to interrupt our meal and attend to a case that has arrived. We provide care to the patient and then return to finish our meal. When we serve a patient it makes us very happy.”

Maryam Al-Muwallad, a female nurse, said, “I don’t face any problems during Ramadan whether regarding Iftar or Suhoor due to several reasons. I’m unmarried and I work a single shift — either from 7.00 a.m. until 12.00 noon or 8.00 a.m. until 1.00 p.m. As my mother and sisters take care of all kitchen chores, I have no problem. I go home and have a nap. After Taraweeh prayer I go with my family to visit relatives. The month passes easily without problems.”



Ethiopian Housemaid Attacks Saudi Woman Employer, Disabled Girl

 2 August 2013

QATIF — An Ethiopian domestic worker would have almost killed her employer and her 16-year-old disabled niece had it not been for Civil Defense rescuers who arrived just in time, Al-Hayat daily reported on Thursday quoting the police.

The Ethiopian woman allegedly tried to gouge out the eyes of her employer, a 36-year-old Saudi woman, on Wednesday in the city of Al-Awamiya, said police spokesman Lt. Col. Ziyad Al-Ruqaiti.

She inflicted severe injuries on the disabled girl and then locked the girl and her employer in a room.

The employer called the police from her cell phone.

The girl was rushed to the Safawi General Hospital where she is lying in critical condition while the employer was treated for her injuries and is listed in good condition. Her alleged attacker was arrested.

Al-Ruqaiti said the Ethiopian woman also beat up the disabled girl and her aunt.

Investigations are ongoing to find out why she tried to kill the girl and gouge out her aunt’s eyes.

The employer’s sister, who locked herself up in another room for fear that the housemaid would attack her, broke down and collapsed when she saw the woman beating up her sibling and niece, he said.

This attack comes after an Ethiopian house helper allegedly stabbed a Syrian girl in the head, killing her, while another one slit the throat of a little girl. The suspect in the Syrian girl’s murder told police during investigations that she stabbed the victim because she did not like her and she would bother her a lot.

She stabbed her with a knife in the head several times and watched her bleed to death.

The Ministry of Labor has recently imposed a moratorium on recruitment from Ethiopia after a spate reports about crimes involving workers from the country.

The ministry will conduct a study on the crimes committed by Ethiopian domestic workers before making a final decision about recruitment from Ethiopia.

In response to the Saudi move, the Ethiopian authorities halted the processing of 40,000 visas that had been approved earlier.



Reading Quran through Kathak

Baishali Adak, August 1, 2013

 Islam and the position that it accords to women have been a subject of much discussion and debate. Different schools of thought have come up with different interpretations of the Quran and it is not uncommon for even a Muslim woman to be unsure about her rights in major personal events.

So it was hardly a surprise when Delhi’s educated and intellectual elite turned out in full force for dancer Rani Khanam’s show ‘Black and white’ recently. Designed for NGO Kri Foundation’s 10th anniversary celebration, it deftly combined the knowledge of women’s rights in Quran with Kathak. A brave example of art meeting activism, it won a standing ovation from the audience at Stein auditorium, India Habitat Centre.

Kri Foundation’s chairperson Arshiya Sethi expressed on the occasion, “Women’s rights is one of the most important issues our NGO has been working on for years now. The entitlements of a Muslim woman is an especially contentious subject thanks to its religious and political implications. However, it is extremely important that we revisit our holy texts and reacquaint ourselves with the original religious instructions. And what better time to do it than Ramzan – the month of introspection.”

Chief guest Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, also contextualised the work well in a special address, “It is highly unfortunate that Islam is today looked upon as the most gender-biased religion of all. This is when Islam actually gave women a position of respect in a medieval Arabic world where they were buried alive on birth. Men took as many women as they wanted and the prophet in fact limited this number to four. Quran has given women equal rights in both marriage and divorce. Today’s sms talaq, telephone talaq and email talaq are a big sham in the name of Islam.”

The production indeed reflected a lot of research in terms of the topics picked up, music and dance choreography. Talented writer Ameeta Parsuram ‘Meeta’ provided a poetic script and various thoughtful ghazals were merged into the narrative.

The controversial subject of Khula (when a woman initiates divorce) was their first target. Rani portrayed the angst of a woman cheated and ignored by her husband perfectly through abhinay. She simmers with disappointment and grief till she decides to take matters in her hands and starts the process of khula. Ameeta’s poetry Jo maine kaha dil se nikli, jo tumne kaha duniyadari provoked thought and scorn.

Then came Iddat – the time period for which a woman has to wait for remarriage after divorce or her husband’s death. Here the Quran’s instructions for a woman to not meet any man and not even step out of the house for such time came in for critical appreciation. Rani depicted how such an order, even if suitable for that time’s Arabic society, is detrimental for today’s woman. If she does not step out of her house, how does she raise her children in the event of her husband’s death?

Lastly, the production examined talaq (divorce). Here they highlighted that quran mandates the lapse of at least a month before the pronouncement of each talaq – an edict ignored by both teachers and practitioners in the religion. Prophet Mohammad is also believed to have said: “On this earth, of all sanctioned behaviours, the one liked least by Allah is talaq.”

Rani Khanam spoke to Metrolife, “Taking up a subject like rights of Muslim women was like touching a live wire. We were afraid of ruffling a few sentiments but are now glad that this production is receiving appreciation. It is the right of every woman to know her true position in her religion and no force must stop her from doing that. We are happy that we are aiding this process and will now take Black and White to as many small towns and villages as possible.”