New Age Islam News Bureau
22 Apr 2015
Photo: Iranian Women Campaign for Entry to Sporting Events
• Arab Woman Journalist Defiantly Accepts Israeli Honour
• Top Belly Dancer Jailed For 'Insulting' Egyptian Flag
• DAH Celebrates Famous Women in Science and Technology
• Ugandan Muslims in Fresh Drive to Promote Girl Child Education
• Nigeria Court Dismisses Challenge to 'Child Bride' Murder Case
• Isis in Iraq: '2 Yazidi Girls Kill Themselves Every Day' After Being Raped By Insurgents
• Iranian Women Campaign for Entry to Sporting Events
• Women With or Without Headscarves Should Be Accepted and Respected In Egypt
• American-Born Woman of Yemeni Descent Gives ISIS Instructions on Bringing Bloody Jihad to US
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Afghan Woman's Lynching: Thousands Protest Against 'Fake Mullahs'
22 April 2015
The savage lynching of an Afghan woman in Kabul, who openly rejected superstitious practices, ignited revulsion against Kabul's ubiquitous shamans, forcing them to go underground, and stoked public anger over the treatment of women in Afghanistan.
Last month, a furious mob turned on Farkhunda, 27, beating her to death in broad daylight and setting her body ablaze on the banks of the Kabul River after an amulet seller, whom she had castigated, falsely accused her of blasphemy.
Her killing, which triggered protests around Afghanistan and several world cities, drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women, while her funeral procession saw female pallbearers bucking tradition to carry her casket.
But the "Justice for Farkhunda" movement, as it is known, is not about women's rights alone.
"Down with ignorance" has been a familiar chant at protests denouncing her killing, which has prompted public sentiment to turn against Kabul's "healers" peddling amulets, talismans and good luck charms.
"Not every man who wears a turban is a religious scholar," Daiulhaq Abid, Afghanistan's deputy minister for religious affairs, told reporters.
Abid said that his investigation revealed that the amulet seller falsely accused Farkhunda, a graduate in Islamic studies, of burning the Koran as her anti-superstition advocacy had been driving away his customers.
Many of Kabul's divine healers went underground even before Abid's ministry launched an unprecedented crackdown in the wake of Farkhunda's killing, shutting down their shops and evicting them from roadside markets.
Padlocked stores and vacant roadside stalls have become a familiar sight in the meandering and congested lanes of Murad Khani in Kabul's Old City, one of several hubs where spiritual healers have thrived for decades.
The backlash highlights the angst of a post-Taliban generation in Afghanistan, where nearly two-thirds of the population is under 25, that is often torn between conservatism and modernity as the country rebuilds itself after decades of war.
"Farkhunda's death brought a revolution," women's rights activist Belqis Osmani told AFP.
"It shocked everyone, awakened everyone. It warned the traditional-minded people that a new generation is emerging, a generation that is more educated and open-minded. They are more liberal and they don't fall for tricks of fake mullahs," she said.
Ahmad Jawad, a 37-year-old Kabul resident, said that the "Justice for Farkhunda" movement marked a rare battle in Afghanistan against pervasive ignorance.
"I once went to a traditional healer because I was in love with my cousin and wanted to marry her. He gave me some perfume and paper amulets. He instructed me to sprinkle perfume on the amulets and burn them," he told AFP.
"I did that for a week and everyone around me got a headache because of the bad smell. I couldn't marry my cousin in the end, and realised that my ignorance had been exploited for a charlatan's monetary gain."
But the backlash seems to be limited to urban centres such as Kabul. Just a two-hour drive outside the capital, in the village of Shakar Dara, it is business as usual.
Baba Sahib, in his 60s, sat at the edge of a shrine, surrounded by stacks of amulets, charts with Arabic verses and photocopies of what he called "talismans for all problems".
Traditional healers are much-revered in the deeply conservative countryside, where illiteracy remains rampant.
Several decades of war have destroyed infrastructure in Afghanistan, with rural denizens having little or no access to conventional health services.
Many are forced to rely on healers for a variety of problems, from debilitating maladies and infertility to finding stolen items and uniting lost lovers. Frequently, help is sought despite warnings by religious clerics that such practices are at odds with Islamic doctrines.
Since the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government, the United States and other foreign donors have invested millions of dollars in Afghanistan's public health system.
But most government hospitals are still bedevilled by the poor quality of care, scarcity of equipment and pervasive corruption.
As the midday sun rose, a trickle of village clients called on Baba Sahib to seek remedies for health ailments, relationship issues and to ward off "evil spirits".
For a turbaned village elder who complained about a severe headache, he offered the same paper amulet he offered to another client worrying about memory loss.
"Wrap it in a white cloth and then in a red cloth, and then tuck it into your turban. Your headache will go away," Baba Sahib said.
The elder kissed the amulet and turned back, looking hopeful.
Arab Woman Journalist Defiantly Accepts Israeli Honour
22 April 2015
JAFFA — When 14 Israelis light torches in recognition of their contributions to the country at Israel’s splashy Independence Day ceremony on Thursday, Arab newscaster Lucy Aharish will stride across the stage in an act of defiance.
The 34-year-old journalist who believes Israel should remain the Jewish state will be challenging some of her Arab compatriots who commemorate Israel’s independence day as “the catastrophe,” when many Arabs were uprooted from their homes in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s founding. She also will be thumbing her nose at some Jews who believe she doesn’t deserve the honour.
But more than anything, when she holds her torch and intones the traditional phrase, “for the glory of the State of Israel,” she says she will be sending a symbolic message to the ceremony’s most prominent guest: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I exist. I am going to light a torch. And I am going to be really proud to tell him, that whether you like it or not, I am not going anywhere,” said Aharish, sitting in a studio at i24news, an Israeli cable news channel where she anchors an English-language program for international audiences. She also hosts a Hebrew-language talk show on Channel 2, the country’s highest-rated TV station.
Netanyahu shocked her and many others when he warned on election day last month that Israel’s Arab citizens were heading to the polls “in droves,” urging his nationalist supporters to balance them out.
The comment drew an angry and tearful reaction from Aharish in a postelection broadcast that quickly went viral, provoking both sympathy from many Jewish Israelis and eye rolling from some Arabs who said Netanyahu’s anti-Arab stance was no shocker.
Israel’s Arabs, who make up a fifth of the population of 8 million, often complain of discrimination. Many identify as Palestinians. They are often viewed with suspicion by many Israeli Jews.
Aharish has built her career by standing out from the pack. Raised in the remote southern desert town of Dimona, where her parents and three sisters were the only Muslim Arabs, she speaks unaccented Hebrew and could easily pass as a Jewish Israeli. In the cable network’s makeup room, she gabbed with staff about Passover traditions, wearing Prada sunglasses and shiny silver flats.
A government committee selected her for the Independence Day ceremony for promoting pluralism. But some Jewish Israelis have publicly opposed her selection, and an extremist Jewish group opposed to Arab-Jewish coexistence says it’s planning a protest demonstration.
Yaron London, a veteran TV journalist, told the Israeli newspaper Globes her selection is “absurd,” saying Aharish is not a “deep social thinker.” “What does she represent exactly? A woman who because of the circumstances of her life doesn’t despise Jews but befriends them? She represents mainly herself and her own private biography,” London said.
Advocates of the choice, however, see in Aharish a representative of a small subset of Israeli Arabs who blend in perfectly with the dominant culture. While some may decry a betrayal of Arab traditions, others hope the increasingly visible trend might herald some sort of post-conflict future.
Aharish moderates frequently stormy television panels debating current events, and her iconoclastic views run against the grain of traditional Arab attitudes. She says she gained her success by refusing to believe her minority status was a handicap. Her crossover appeal has even translated to the entertainment world, where she has appeared as a sidekick on a comedy program.
“I am not the victim of the Jews or the Arabs, I’m not a victim of the society, and I am not a victim of the government. The minute I will stop seeing myself as a victim, this is the minute that I can... fly,” she said. “This is the minute I can break this glass ceiling that everybody’s talking about.”
Many Arab Israelis feel alienated by the country, and some have criticized Aharish for taking part in celebrations on what they consider to be a sad day.
“From my point of view it’s an embarrassment,” said Khalil Gharra, 23, an Arab political activist, and sociology and political science student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “We are Arab Palestinians whose identity is Palestinian. And we cannot identify with the symbols of the occupier in any way.”
But Aharish says Israel should remain a Jewish state in light of the suffering Jews experienced in the Holocaust, arguing that this historical legacy is what should strengthen Israel’s democratic character.
“I cannot continue crying about the past,” she said. “I cannot continue crying about the land that was taken by the Jews who came here.”
Despite her pride for Israel, the torch-lighting honor comes at a moment when Aharish’s confidence in Arabs’ place in society has been shaken.
Netanyahu issued his videotaped warning about Arab voters a few hours before Aharish anchored i24 News’ evening election coverage.
“I said, ‘Oh my God. I am broadcasting right now from an Israeli international channel to the rest of the world, the Israeli elections. And my prime minister... is basically saying that I’m the enemy,’” Aharish said.
Arab-Israeli identity politics even interfere with her love life. She says her relationships with Jewish men have fizzled because the men struggled to overcome the Arab factor.
She says she wants to leave Israel, at least for a while. In five years, she’d like to be broadcasting for an international cable company, she said, and in a decade, she wants to buy a home and open a café in Tuscany.
“I want to wake up once in the morning and say, ‘I want to go to work,’ and that’s it. With no burden, with no heavy problems — minority, lack of equality, racism, lack of tolerance, patronizing,” Aharish said. “I don’t want to deal with these things for a short while.”
Top belly dancer jailed for 'insulting' Egyptian flag
22 April 2015
CAIRO: An Egyptian court sentenced on Monday a celebrated belly dancer to six months in prison for ‘insulting’ the country’s flag during a performance.
On Monday, 30-year-old Safinaz was also fined 15,000 Egyptian pounds and ordered to pay 10,000 Egyptian pounds in bail by the Cairo Misdemeanour Court.
Before the announcement of the verdict, Safinaz’s counsel argued that his client is an Armenian national and was unaware of the laws prevalent in the country.
He added that she did not mean to offend anyone by performing in an outfit fashioned after the Egyptian flag in July 2014.
“It was a message of love to Egypt and its people,” Safinaz said.
It is an offence in Egypt to insult the national flag or anthem and has a penalty of a maximum 30,000 Egyptian pounds or up to a year imprisonment.
DAH celebrates famous women in science and technology
22 April 2015
JEDDAH — Dar Al-Hekma University in collaboration with the Robert Bosch Foundation organized a six-day poster exhibition on famous women in science and technology at the university premises in Jeddah.
The exhibition, consisting of a series of posters to commemorate important European and Arab Muslim women as well as mock Time magazine covers, will end on Friday.
In her welcome address that discussed the purpose of the event, Dean of Graduate Studies and Scientific Research Dr. Saleha Abdeen said: “It’s a very special and modest exhibition on prominent women in Germany and prominent women in the Islamic world.
“This idea came through a visit to our college by the consul general of Germany.
She later told Saudi Gazette: “The choice of Islamic women was left to students.
“They searched and picked up some amazing personalities that nobody can disagree with in terms of choice.
“These imaginary Time magazine covers are amazing and our school of design is very proud of the students, especially as our alumni continue to receive awards and recognition nationally and internationally.
Miriam Seyffarth, cultural attaché at the German Consulate, said: “It’s a joint exhibition about European and Arab women in science and technology because history tends to forget about the great pioneer women.
“So the original exhibition is from Germany and it was invented 15 years ago to show female role models and it’s very famous in Germany and I always wanted to bring it to Saudi Arabia.
“This joint exhibition idea not only shows the famous European women in science and technology but also Arab and Muslim role model pioneers. We did this exhibition together and the students designed these posters; they are amazing.”
Twenty-five students from the university’s design faculty designed the posters of Arab and Muslim women, who included Maha Ashour-Abdalla, a professor in theoretical astrophysics and space plasmas; Rufaida Al Aslamia, first Muslim nurse; Ibtesam Badhrees, Saudi professor and research scientist; Sutayta Al-Mahamali, Iraqi mathematician; and Fatima Al-Fihri, said to be founder of the oldest university in the world.
Ugandan Muslims in Fresh Drive to Promote Girl Child Education
22 April 2015
Twenty years after the founding of the Young Men’s Muslim Association (YMMA), the number of Muslim youths enrolling in schools that offered secular education had shot up, but they were mainly males.
By 1960, there were only four Muslim girls that had studied up to O-level. The educated young Muslims were seeking educated girls to marry and an unanticipated dash for the four girls ensued, posing another challenge for Prince Badru Kakungulu (RIP), the YMMA founder.
Hajji Mustafa Mutyaba, one of the then competitors, remembers by name only three of the girls; his wife Rukia Namawuba Kigozi, Mastullah Nabakka (taken by Abu Kakyama Mayanja) and Safia Nakabiri (wife to Hajji Ntege Lubwama).
“Some of us had just returned from oversees; we could not take uneducated girls in marriage, but at the same time did not want non-Muslim girls,” Mutyaba said.
This called for an added impetus in the activities of YMMA, taking on the promotion of the education of the Muslim girl child. Mutyaba was appointed by Kakungulu to deputise Hajji Musa Gava in the supervision of Muslim schools in the country, but later, the schools were taken over by the central government thus limiting the YMMA influence.
As the organization celebrated 75 years of its existence on April 18, it launched a drive for the construction of Nabisunsa Girls primary school, expected to be a feeder school for Nabisunsa Girls’ School.
The school will sit on a six-acre piece of land adjacent to Nabisunsa Girls’ School at Banda. The first phase of the project will cost about Shs 2bn and will comprise boarding and sports facilities.
“We want to create a learning environment under which a Muslim girl will be able to get quality secular education but also learn their religion,” said Uthman Mayanja, the YMMA president.
Currently, the number of non-Muslim students has surpassed that of Muslims enrolling at Nabisunsa, which is blamed on the lack of a feeder primary school. Kibuli SS, for example, has a vibrant Kibuli Muslim primary school next door.
“It is not that we are tired of non-Muslim students enrolling at Nabisunsa, but we want to live the dream for which the school was founded, that is the promotion of the Muslim girl education,” Mayanja said.
Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who was chief guest at the weekend function held at Nabisunsa Girls’ School, said government is ready to work and support the project.
“This decision is noble and welcome; it is a shining example that should be emulated by others,” Rugunda said.
Prince Kassim Nakibinge, the YMMA patron, said the new project is based on the “proud past” but the challenge that YMMA is facing is how to push it to the future.
The organization is looking at becoming more self-reliant, away from the foreign partnerships currently financing the expansion of projects such as Kibuli hospital to become the teaching hospital of Islamic University In Uganda’s Habib Medical School, among others.
Nigeria court dismisses challenge to 'child bride' murder case
22 April 2015
Gezawa (Nigeria) (AFP) - A Nigerian court on Tuesday rejected a motion to have murder charges against a child bride accused of killing her husband dismissed, saying there was enough evidence for the case to proceed.
Wasila Tasi'u was 14 when she married Umar Sani, 35, in Nigeria's deeply conservative, mainly Muslim north last year, and could face the death penalty if convicted of using rat poison to kill him.
"I am of the opinion that there is a case against the accused," High Court Judge Mohammed Yahaya said. "As such, I overrule the submission of no-case from the defence counsel."
Tasi'u's lawyers had argued that the state failed to establish her intent to kill Sani and questioned the reliability of a key prosecution witness.
The witness, a seven-year-old girl named Hamziyya who was identified as the sister of Sani's other wife, testified that Tasi'u gave her money to buy the poison on April 5 last year, the day Sani died.
The defence said that relying on testimony from a minor contravened Nigeria's Evidence Act and that the state's case should therefore be thrown out.
The murder trial has highlighted the range of attitudes towards child marriage in Nigeria, especially in the impoverished north.
The families of both the deceased and the accused have rejected claims that she was forced to marry a man more than twice her age, noting that 14 was an appropriate age to marry and that Tasi'u chose Sani from a range of suitors.
Some locals have called for Tasi'u to face stiff punishment to discourage other girls from taking similar action if they become unhappy in their marriage.
But rights activists have demanded that Tasi'u be rehabilitated as a victim of a forced marriage, which likely included incidents of rape.
Laws regarding both sexual and marital consent are complex in northern Nigeria, given the coexistence of both secular and Islamic law, creating contradictions in the justice system.
Tasi'u has remained largely stoic through her appearances in court so far, crying when charges were first read against her, but otherwise sitting silently, often with her head bowed.
On Tuesday she stood quietly in the dock, with her head fully covered in a sky-blue hijab.
Sani died after eating food that Tasi'u allegedly prepared for a meal to celebrate their marriage. Three others who reportedly ate the food also died, but prosecutors have combined the three deaths into a single murder charge.
The state has concluded its case and following Tuesday's ruling the defence was instructed to move forward with its own evidence when the trial resumes on April 29.
Isis in Iraq: '2 Yazidi girls kill themselves every day' after being raped by insurgents
22 April 2015
Two girls captured by terror group Islamic State (Isis) kill themselves every day after being abused by the insurgents, it has been claimed.
An Iraq-based aid worker only known as Yousif told the Express that up to 60 girls commit suicide every month. He added that the rape victims end their life due to "honour and shame", fearing that their families will not accept them back should the terrorists release them.
"There are different methods they use inside there, whether they hang themselves, cut themselves, different ways they do it," Yousif said. "They don't have hope that their people will accept them, at the same time they don't want their babies."
He added that girls who became pregnant as a result of rape by IS were encouraged to abort or abandon the newborns in orphanages.
Referring to a nine-year-old girl who allegedly became pregnant after being sexually abused by 10 different men, Yousif said: "Isis was the father, she had been raped by more than nine or 10 men. She is very tiny. If she delivers naturally or by caesarean, she will die."
Yousif's claims come after an exclusive IBTimes UK report revealed that some girls from the Yazidi community – which mostly bears the brunt of IS insurgence in Iraq and Syria – were snatched from their mothers, sold to IS fighters, tortured and even raped in public by more than two or three fighters at a time before being freed.
Ziyad Shammo Khalaf, who works with the local NGO Yazda to offer assistance and first aid to the persecuted Yazidis, told IBTimes UK: "The girls were dragged away from their mothers. If the mothers pleaded them not to give away their daughters, they were beaten and tortured."
Earlier in April, a UN report warned that IS as well as other terror groups such as Nigeria-based Boko Haram use rape as a weapon of war.
The report said that there has been an increase in cases of sexual violence since mid-2014, following the insurgence of IS last summer, and this spate of attacks resulted in the abduction, rape and sexual enslavement of thousands of Yazidi girls.
Iranian women campaign for entry to sporting events
22 April 2015
After the two-week break for the Iranian New Year (March-April 2015), the first piece of news that exploded like a bomb in the Iranian media was the passing of a law allowing women to enter sport arenas by the Security Council. This created a wave of bewilderment among critics of the administration and hard-core religious conservatives. The news was, however, quickly mitigated; President Hassan Rouhani’s vice president for women and family affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, said, “It’s not as if women are supposed to go see swimming or wrestling competitions." Molaverdi was essentially saying that while Iran was considering a law to allow women to enter sporting arenas, it would not be applied to all sporting events.
The view of the traditionalist clerics on women even watching sporting events on TV is quite varied. At one point, the leader of Iran said: “Watching wrestling and other sports by ladies, if not meant as a way of seeking pleasure, is not a problem.” There are, however, certain strict religious authorities who hold that even watching a soccer game on TV, because of the shorts worn by the players, might be a problem.
It is a fact that after the 1979 Revolution, the Islamization wave that spread through the country created a gap between women and sports. Women’s sports greatly declined and women were left out of sporting arenas as spectators as well. For years, women could only watch soccer matches through the 14-inch windows of 1980s black-and-white television sets.
Conservative religious authorities in various Islamic countries hold, more or less, similar views toward women’s sports and the presence of women athletes in the arenas. How much their views manage to become a reality is commonly proportional to their position in power, however.
The same limitations for the presence of women spectators in sporting stadiums is the reason why Iran’s chances for hosting the Asian Cup always disappear. Since the time of the Shah, when Iran hosted the Asian Games once, the country has never acted as a host for a serious soccer cup or Asian Olympics. Considering Iran’s Olympic-grade facilities and a 100,000-person soccer stadium, this is the main problem affecting its chances of hosting events. The regulations of the IOC and FIFA have always limited Iran’s chances because of its discriminatory sporting laws. Since the 1990s, Iranian authorities have allowed foreign women to enter Iranian stadiums in order to support their favorite teams. The main reason given for creating such discriminatory regulations is that the sporting arenas lack a suitable atmosphere for women and families to protect them against vandalism and hooliganism. Supposedly, hooliganism and the use of offensive, sexual language by male spectators during games create an unsafe atmosphere for women, and this is the reason why foreign women, unfamiliar with Persian, are then allowed to attend the stadiums.
The post-2000 generation, however, did not tolerate these limitations, and a few girls, wearing boy’s clothing, actually attended matches of their favorite teams in different stadiums around the country. The first instance of the presence of women in the stadiums goes back to the Iran-Bahrain game during preliminary stages for the 2006 World Cup. Mohammad Khatami, the president of Iran at the time, attended the match, which resulted in Iran’s advancement to the World Cup. "Offside," a film by Jafar Panahi on women’s struggle to be present in sporting arenas, was also filmed during the same game. It also was during this game that four Iranian girls, assisted secretly by Korean women, managed to enter Azadi Stadium.
After this point, the presence of women became a serious challenge between the Iranian sporting federations and their international counterparts. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conservative president of Iran from 2005-2013, allowed women’s presence in the stadiums in June 2006, but backed off from his decision after facing direct opposition by the clergy in Qom.
In August 2008, Mohamed bin Hammam, the head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said the ban on presence of women in stadiums amounts to discrimination and declared that if AFC matches were to take place in Iran, women must be allowed to enter the arenas. In the past few years too, a lot of women have protested the ban. Some have also paid with prison sentences for this demand, such as the case of Ghoncheh Ghavami, the British-Iranian woman who was jailed last year. Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, also once entered the debate between the government and the Iranian women and in a trip to Tehran, asked President Hassan Rouhani to allow women to enter the sporting arenas.
Saba Sherdoost, a journalist and civil activist and a member of the Society for the Civil Rights of Iranian Women, talked to Al-Monitor about the June 2014 protests organized against the ban on women spectators. She said, “I think the most important cause of the protests was the strong gender bias in these regulations, making it yet another discriminatory regulation against the Iranian women. Of course, the discrimination is only against Iranian women, as despite the presence of Brazilian women in the Azadi Volleyball Stadium, police stopped women from entering the stadium. So, the protests had the general message that women are trying to remove all discriminatory laws, and are not going to stand against any new ones. The other matter was the fact that the Iranian Volleyball Federation was actually going back on its deal with the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). The FIVB had struck a deal with the Islamic Republic that women would be allowed to attend the games, but the Iranian administrators, based on a bogus law, still prevented women from entering the stadium.”
Sherdoost added that officials had even attempted to deceive the FIVB by bringing “a group of women employees of the Federation posed as spectators.”
With regard to Rouhani, Sherdoost said, “Considering the order of the president now, we are staying positive on the matter. Surely, the removal of the limitations on women’s access to the stadiums would help solve the cultural problems in the stadiums as well, and their absence will not be useful in any way. In fact, it will allow the established culture of shouting insults at the players and the referees to continue.”
On the future of both volleyball and soccer games, Sherdoost said, “The issue of the admittance of women to the football [soccer] stadiums will be more complicated than the volleyball stadiums. As far as I know, the banning of women’s presence is actually part of the internal regulations of the Iranian Football Federation, and changing this part of the internal regulation will require more time than the issue of the volleyball arenas. However, with the energy and persistence that I know Iranian women have, I think this discrimination will soon be removed as well.”
Women with or without headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt
22 April 2015
A call by Egyptian journalist Cherif Choubachy for veiled Muslim women to take off their headscarves (Hijab) has stirred widespread controversy in Egypt.
Choubachy has also proposed a “take off the veil” rally to be held at Cairo’s Tahrir Square. While some have welcomed Choubachy’s proposal, others vehemently oppose the idea. A senior official at Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni Islamic institution rejected the call, stressing that the head-cover is a religious must for female Muslims once they reach puberty.
Heated discussions spread to talk shows, and social media, with pro- and anti-veil trading accusations and counter-accusations.
The responses to Choubachy’s proposal have exposed the shallow, mediocre approach to contentious, sensitive topics, and the inability of society to tackle different viewpoints in a constructive manner.
The debate about Islamic dress code for women is not new. On a personal level, as for any Egyptian female, this issue has been a regular facet of my life since childhood. Family friends, neighbours, and even complete strangers preached about the “mandatory” headscarf, even before I reached puberty.
At university, I was one of a small group of females who did not wear a veil. Dressing modestly in a non-revealing garment, avoiding tight jeans and make-up was not enough to protect me from the avalanche of criticism. Almost daily, I heard comments like, “Go and cover that hair,” “That wild hair will put you in hell.” Islamists used to offer non-veiled students books about the “right” dress code that were filled with threats of punishment in the afterlife for staying un-veiled.
I decided, however, that a dress code should not be allowed to shape my identity or the depth of my religiosity, and opted not to wear a headscarf. Social coercion is not pretty, but it is still manageable in Egypt; if the woman is willing to persevere and ignore the noise.
The wearing of an Islamic veil has fluctuated in popularity throughout the last few decades. In the seventies and eighties a strict Islamic dress code started to sweep society, with some popular female celebrities joining the wave and declaring their “repentance” for their past without the veil. Moreover, covering the face as well as the head (Niqab) and long headscarves covering the chest (Jilbab), mostly in dark plain colours started to also make a strong appearance in Egypt.
Later in the nineties, creativity dominated the scene with a flurry of various headscarves that started to appeal to younger generations.
During and after the January 2011 revolution, Egyptian women have displayed a wide variety of dress codes during protests, from no veil at all, to the full Niqab.
This plurality in display was a healthy sign of a society embracing freedom and change.
In fact, the last few years of upheaval in Egypt have exposed the flawed line of demarcation between religion and politics in Egypt. Not all religiously conservative women have backed the Muslim Brotherhood and president Morsi.
In 2013, many women in strict Islamic dress joined anti-Morsi protests to the shock and dismay of the Islamists. On the other hand, the pro-Morsi camp was keen to demonstrate that some non-veiled women, albeit only a few, were among their supporters.
Nearly two years later, Egypt is still tense and polarised. The Muslim Brotherhood may have vanished from the political scene, but ordinary Egyptians are still feeling uneasy about their faith, which they care about dearly, and its place in public life. This is precisely why the bickering about headscarves is not helpful.
In Egypt, headscarves are not imposed by the state, therefore, the call for a rally to remove the scarves, even if it is well intentioned and with valid reasons, is misguided. President El-Sisi’s wife and daughters (who have only appeared in public during his inauguration) are religiously conservative and wear headscarves. Calls to remove the headscarves will only trigger resentment and elicit a stubborn response. In fact, it will provide Islamists with the victimhood environment that they desperately need to re-kindle their social popularity among conservative Egyptians.
With this said, it is also time for Egypt’s Muslim clerics to stop treating the way a woman dresses as if it is a fulcrum of the faith. It is not. This misplaced priority is rather alarming. Moreover, Islam has always been a faith with diverse views and interpretations of sacred text. The current totalitarian approach to any religious controversy needs to stop. Diversity and tolerance are the two essential ingredients for a healthy society.
In sum, it is about time to respect the basic right of a woman to choose her own manner of dress without angry bickering and petty debates. Women with or without headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt.
American-Born Woman of Yemeni Descent Gives ISIS Instructions on Bringing Bloody Jihad to US
22 April 2015
A 20-year-old American-born woman of Yemeni descent who ran away from her Alabama home to join the Islamic State is trying to use social media to incite other young American Muslims to join her – or bring bloody jihad to the American homeland.
In lengthy profile by BuzzFeed News that could serve as a wakeup call to Muslim American families and Americans in general, the woman talked about how she was radicalized over the Internet, how she fooled her parents and cashed in her college tuition money for airfare to Turkey and then travelled to Syria.
In the BuzzFeed profile she was identified only as Hoda, but the Birmingham News on Monday revealed her full identity, Hoda Muthana, a 2013 graduate of Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala.
After arriving in Syria, Muthana married an Islamic State terrorists from Australia who was killed in a Jordanian airstrike launched after the Islamists burned a caged Jordanian pilot to death in a video that horrified the world.
But none of that slaughter seemed to have diminished the American Hoda’s ardor for Islamic jihad. While the Twitter account she was using, @ZumarulJannah ,has since been suspended, her messages to the young Muslims she left behind in America were uncompromising.
“Soooo many Aussies and Brits here,” she wrote in one Twitter posting. “But where are the Americans, wake up u cowards.”
Muslims who couldn’t make it to Islamic State territory, she tweeted using a derogatory term for non-Muslims, should, “Terrorize the kuffar at home.”
“Americans wake up!” she wrote in a Twitter posting March 19. “Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriot, Memorial etc Day parades..go on drive by’s + spill all of their blood or rent a big truck n drive all over them. Kill them.”
Hoda’s father is a naturalized American citizen who fled bloodshed in Yemen to become a refugee in the United States 20 years ago. He’s done well enough here to raise five children, including a daughter who decided to use her college money to fly to some Islamist State hellhole in Syria to post invective and incite violence against the country that took her parents in.
Despite his daughter’s actions, Mohammed Muthana, remains grateful to the United States.
“I don’t know how to say it, but honestly, it could happen anywhere,” he said. “In America or outside of America. But there’s really no safe place and positive place to raise your family as here in this country. We have full freedom to participate our religion, go to mosque, do our prayers and listen to scholars and read books and come back to our homes and live a free life. This is the best place for family. It’s a dream for everybody, and it’s still a dream, it’s going to be a dream for all of us.”