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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 14 Jul 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Agony of Pakistani Women Enslaved By Dubai Sex Trade

New Age Islam News Bureau

14 Jul 2014

Photo: Baloch Women Set Up Protest Camp


 Baloch Women Set Up Protest Camp

 IAS Coaching Centre for Muslim Girls in Tamil Nadu

 ‘5-Star’ Gang of Women Thieves Held At Haram

 Malala Pledges to Help Free Abducted Girls in Nigeria

 Woman Helps Over 1,000 Belgians Accept Islam

 Football Fandom Stirs Debate on Muslim Women’s Freedom

 Morocco PM's Speech Shows He Does Not See Women As Equals

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Agony of Pakistani Women Enslaved By Dubai Sex Trade

July 14, 2014

FAISALABAD: Shumaila* once dreamed of becoming a computer engineer. Instead, aged 16, the bright-eyed Pakistani girl was tricked into prostitution in UAE, beginning a four-year nightmare of cruelty, violence and rape.

Pakistan has long been an important source of cheap labour for the Gulf state, particularly its booming construction sector.

But campaigners and officials say hundreds of young Pakistani women are also trafficked every year to supply the thriving sex trade in the brothels and nightclubs of Dubai.

Shumaila and her sister Rabia* were two of them.

More than a year after she escaped, Shumaila's pain is still etched into her stumbling, hesitant voice — and also into her body, which bears the marks of countless beatings.

Vivid, angry scars run the length of her legs from ankle to hip, reminders of a botched operation after she was shot three times by the gang who trafficked her.

Shumaila and Rabia managed to escape their tormentors in 2013 but still live, hiding in a two-room house in a slum, fearing revenge attacks.

Their full names and precise whereabouts were withheld for their safety.

Their ordeal began in their hometown in Punjab province, when the family got into money trouble and a neighbour named Ayesha offered the sisters some domestic work.

After a while Ayesha suggested she take the sisters to Dubai to work in her beauty parlour, getting fake papers to help the underage Shumaila to leave Pakistan.

Rabia is so traumatised by her experiences she can barely recount her harrowing ordeal.

Fighting back tears, Shumaila revealed the horror that awaited them in Dubai.

“Ayesha took us to the lavatories at the airport and told us that we will be serving her clients for sex,” Shumaila told.

“We started crying and then she told us that we travelled on fake documents and if we said anything we would be handed over to police right there. “

Faced with no alternative, the sisters went with Ayesha, thinking they could just avoid having sex with clients.

“The first time, she herself was present in the room and made us do what the clients wanted. We were raped in front of her and with her assistance,“ Shumaila said.

After that, Ayesha told the clients to keep their cell phones connected to her number during the intercourse so she could hear what was happening — and if they were refusing to cooperate.

“She used to torture us whenever we refused to perform certain sexual acts, and she told us that she knew whatever had happened inside the bedroom,” Shumaila said.

The women were not allowed to go out or even speak to one another freely. They could speak to their family in Pakistan by phone occasionally, but under duress.

“She used to beat one of us and ask the other sister to talk on phone to our parents, threatening to kill us if we revealed anything about the brothel,“ Shumaila recalled.

From time to time, Ayesha brought the women back to Pakistan to renew their visas, frightening them into silence by telling them she would kill their whole families if they revealed the life they had been tricked into.

Escape, but little freedom

But eventually in March 2013 the sisters plucked up the courage to share their ordeal to their elder sister Qamar, who eventually obtained their freedom — but at a cost.

“The brother of Ayesha and the younger brother of her husband came to our house. They fired three shots which hit me,” Shumaila said.

“In hospital, she sent policemen who harassed me and asked me to start walking despite the fact that my leg had undergone surgery. “

The family fled from the hospital and went into hiding because their neighbours also started abusing them for being “prostitutes”.

Shumaila's family approached a court to try to crack the trafficking ring run by Ayesha and her husband Ashfaq.

The court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to act but the case has since made little progress. Lawyer Zulfiqar Ali Bhutta, who is fighting Shumaila's case, says the trafficking gangs often have influential connections to politicians and the police.

“Several gangs smuggle dozens of young girls from Pakistan to Dubai for prostitution every week. Nobody takes action against them,” Bhutta said.

“The main accused in this case, Ashfaq, fled from the court in front of FIA officials. They did not arrest him despite the court cancelling his bail,” he said.

A recent US State Department report on people smuggling said the UAE government was making significant efforts to tackle sex trafficking, pointing to prosecutions and protection offered to victims.

In 2013, the US report said, the UAE government identified 40 victims and referred them to state-funded shelters.

But if the UAE authorities are keen to confront the problem, in Pakistan indifference reigns.

“It is true that hundreds of girls are being taken to Dubai for work in beauty parlours, in music and dance troupes, but there is no proof that any of them has been smuggled for prostitution,” Syed Shahid Hassan, deputy director FIA Faisalabad, told AFP.

For Shumaila and Rabia, their ordeal has abated but not ended.

Ayesha has surrendered to a court but been freed on bail. The sisters now live in constant fear that a gunman will come back for them.

Names of the two sisters have been changed to protect their identities.



Baloch women set up protest camp

July 14, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Five women from Balochistan are beating the scorching heat in their protest camp outside the National Press Club in Islamabad.

Led by Zar Jan, the camp has been set up to protest the forced disappearance of Zahid Baloch, the chairman of the Baloch Student Organisation (Azad), who was whisked away by plainclothesmen from Satellite Town in Quetta.

The family has blamed the security agencies, including the Frontier Constabulary (FC), for being involved in his disappearance.

Know more: Cover Story: Balochistan’s heart of darkness

Ms Jan, wife of Zahid Baloch, said: “On March 18, 2014, at around 5pm Baloch was kidnapped at gunpoint by plainclothesmen in Quetta. We suspect that they were from the agencies because the FC was standing around and watching.”

When asked how she came to know about these details as she was in Naal in the district of Khuzdar, she said Banuk Karima, the vice chairperson, and other members of BSO-A central committee, had witnessed the kidnapping.

It may be noted that a group of BSO-Azad activists had arrived in Quetta from Khuzdar to attend a meeting when they were kidnapped after passing through an FC checkpoint at Satellite Town.

Despite negligible education and limited exposure to the outside world, the circumstances following the disappearance of her husband have made Zar Jan confident and strong.

Initially, the police refused to register the case of forced disappearance of her husband, but an FIR was registered after Ms Jan obtained directives from the Balochistan High Court, Quetta.

After running from pillar to post in Quetta and Karachi, she headed to the federal capital in the hope that her voice might be heard by someone in the power corridors.

She along with two sons - Dodah, 5, and Qambar, 3, - three cousins and human rights activist Bibi Gul and some male members of the family established the protest camp outside the NPC last week. They plan to stay in Islamabad till Eidul Fitr.

“We have tried everything just to know his whereabouts. And this ambiguity has a much heavier feeling on my heart,” Ms Jan said. “Every day we see families going home happily to end the fast and soon they will all start preparing for Eid. But see why we are here?”

Hailing from a middle class background, Zahid Baloch had been an active member of the student organisation conducting protests and delivering speeches. He was earlier affiliated with BSO (Pajjar).

“Zahid used to be with the old comrade Dr Malik, now the chief minister, as he too was in the BSO-Pajjar,” said Bibi Gul, the chairperson of the Baloch Human Rights Organisation.

“We have tried to get in touch with the authorities concerned, politicians and even the security personnel but nobody claims to have any knowledge of Zahid Baloch,” she said. “And the worst part is that whenever there is a strong pressure people start coming back - but in coffins.”

One of her cousins sitting at the protest camp said: “At least he (Baloch) was not affiliated with Taliban but had he been he might not be caught.”

Various human rights organisations have placed the number of Baloch missing persons between 600 and 5,000 but the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) said more than 19,000 Baloch people had been subjected to forced disappearance.



IAS Coaching Centre for Muslim Girls in Tamil Nadu


 Jul 14, 2014

Merit will be the sole criterion for selection

Encouraged by one of its students making it to the IAS and several others clearing the examinations conducted by the Tamil Nadu Public Services Commission (TNPSC), the Azhagiya Kadan IAS Academy has decided to launch a coaching centre exclusively for Muslim girls in Chennai.

But the academy will not encourage the girls to opt for the IPS. “We are launching the academy in response to the request from girls from our community. We will train 25 girls in the first batch, for which the entrance test will be held on August 17,” said its administrative officer Arif Ahmed.

Moulana S. Shamsudeen Qasinin, Chief Imam of the Makka Majid on Annasalai, launched the academy in 2012 to help make up for the poor representation of minorities, especially the Muslims, in the administrative services. Mohammad Ashraf, one of its students, cleared the IAS examination, and around 10 students passed the Group-I and Group-II examinations conducted by the TNPSC recently.

Mr. Arif said all 25 girls would get free training, accommodation and food for one year. “Those who clear the preliminary examination will get further coaching. The academy has arranged accommodation at our Majid at Choolaimedu. The entrance examination will be held in Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruchi, Vellore, Tirunelveli, Krishnagiri and Madurai.”

Asked why the academy would not encourage the girls to sit for the IPS examination, Mr. Arif said the uniform in the police service would be irksome for the girls to adjust. “While our aim is to encourage them to enter the civil service, we also need to consider our religious sentiments. We will provide them with a perfect Islamic environment.”

“Merit will be the sole criterion for selection, but the economic background of the students will also be considered,” he added.



‘5-star’ gang of women thieves held at Haram

Jul 14, 2014

A gang of three Arab women was arrested for pickpocketing at the Grand Mosque, local media said quoting a source at the Department of Criminal Investigation, an affiliate of the Holy Mosque Security.

The department had received a series of pickpocketing reports inside the Grand Mosque and its courtyards.

The three women were caught red-handed after a special task force was formed to investigate the case.

The suspects were reportedly living in a luxury five-star hotel near the Grand Mosque, the source said.

Investigators found SR44,000 and other currencies, including 300 euros, $720, 715 Jordanian dinars, 460 UAE dirhams and 720 Moroccan dirhams, in the hotel room.

They were also found to be in possession of eight mobile phones, two SR10 prepaid phone cards, one digital camera, two gold rings and a gold alloy, the source said.



Malala pledges to help free abducted girls in Nigeria

(Reuters) / 14 July 2014

16-year-old Pakistani rights activist meets parents of 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants during Nigeria trip

Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taleban for campaigning for girls’ education, has pledged while on a trip to Nigeria to help free a group of school girls abducted by militants.

On Sunday, 16-year-old Malala met with parents of the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram from a school in the northeastern village of Chibok in April.

Boko Haram, a Taleban-inspired movement, say they are fighting to establish an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria. The group, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, has killed thousands and abducted hundreds since launching an uprising in 2009.

Some of the parents broke down into tears as Malala spoke at a hotel in the capital Abuja on Sunday.

“I can see those girls as my sisters ... and I’m going to speak up for them until they are released,” said Malala, who celebrates her 17th birthday on Monday in Nigeria, where she is scheduled to meet President Goodluck Jonathan.

“I’m going to participate actively in the ‘bring back our girls’ campaign to make sure that they return safely and they continue their education.”

The girls’ abduction drew unprecedented international attention to the war in Nigeria’s northeast and the growing security risk that Boko Haram poses to Nigeria, Africa’s leading energy producer.

A #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign supported by Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie heaped pressure on authorities to act, and President Jonathan pledged to save the girls, drawing promises of Western help to do so.

But several weeks on the hostages have not yet been freed and media interest has waned.

In addition, Boko Haram, now considered as the main security threat to Nigeria, is growing bolder. Police said on Saturday they uncovered a plot to bomb the Abuja transport network using suicide bombers and devices concealed in luggage at major bus stations.

“I can feel ... the circumstances under which you are suffering,” she said. “It’s quite difficult for a parent to know that their daughter is in great danger. My birthday wish this year is.. bring back our girls now and alive.”

Taleban militants shot Malala for her outspoken views on women’s right to education. She survived after being airlifted to Britain for treatment and has since become a symbol of defiance against militants operating in the tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

She has won the European Union’s prestigious human rights award and was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Peace Prize last year, although the award ended up going to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.



Woman Helps Over 1,000 Belgians Accept Islam

World Bulletin / News Desk

July 14, 2014

Veronique Cools, a 25-year-old Belgian convert to Islam, has helped over 1,000 people accept Islam in the past 8 years.

Cools, who accepted Islam herself at a very young age after being influenced by her Muslim friends and researching into the religion, turned her home into an Islamic centre for Belgian Muslims seeking to learn more about their religion.

Saying that she herself had to overcome many prejudices when looking into Islam, Cools then successfully helped her family overcome them too. Now her close family are also Muslims.

'Prejudices stem from not being introduced to real Islam properly,' she said as she was preparing Iftar food packets for visiting Muslims to break their Ramadan fasts. 'As Muslims we need to explain ourselves to society a lot better.'

The centre now has more than 1,000 members, most of them Belgian women, and is open for all of Belgium's 50,000 Muslims.



Football fandom stirs debate on Muslim women’s freedom

 Jul 14, 2014

Women’s passion for football is not simply a love of the beautiful game. It fulfils a need to release pent-up energy and imitate others and endangers their role in a conservative Muslim society that severely restricts women’s freedom, including the right to play football.

That is Saudi psychiatrist Imad al-Dowsari’s analysis of heightened football passions among Saudi women during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Saudis, including many women, avidly discuss matches, teams’ strategies and referees’ decisions on social media even though their national team did not make it to the Brazil finals.

The fact that Saudi Arabia is not represented is, however, less of a problem for Saudi women, Dr. al-Dowsari suggests. He estimates 60 percent of Saudi women support a team because of its elegance and good-looking players.

Dr. al-Dowsari noted large numbers of predominantly young Saudi women, decked out in abayas, the all-covering cloak they are obliged to wear, designed in the colors and logo of their preferred team, under which they sport T-shirts with the same colors and matching nail polish, congregate in coffee shops to watch World Cup.

“It is not a psychological condition, but a kind of imitating people around them in highly emotional situations. It is also an outlet for women to release their pent-up energy,” Dr. al-Dowsari told the Saudi-owned, pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper, noting women had fewer opportunities to release energy in the kingdom.

Dr. al-Dowsari said women’s enthusiasm threatened affecting their social role in a country where women are banned from driving or attending sporting events, largely dependent on a male relative and in which women’s football exists at best in a legal and social nether land.

Public opinion

Dr. al-Dowsari’s comments appear to be at odds with a significant segment of Saudi public opinion. A Saudi sociologist concluded on the basis of a survey that the vast majority of Saudis favor granting women the right to engage in sports. The survey conducted by Mariam Dujain al-Kaabi as part of her Master’s thesis showed that 73.5 percent of the respondents unambiguously endorsed women’s right to engage in sports, while 21.6 percent felt it should be conditional.

Saudi Arabia has no official facilities for female athletes or physical education programs for girls in public schools. Spanish consultants hired to draft Saudi Arabia’s first-ever national sports plan were instructed by the government to do so for men only.

Saudi Arabia, alongside Yemen, was moreover the only Middle Eastern country that refused to sign on to a campaign by the region’s football associations grouped in the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) to put women’s football on par with men’s football.

Human Rights Watch last year accused Saudi Arabia of kowtowing to assertions by the country’s powerful conservative Muslim clerics that female sports constitute “steps of the devil,” as well as a corrupting and satanic influence that would spread decadence. The clerics warned that running and jumping could damage a woman’s hymen and ruin her chances of getting married.

Concern that the World Cup could lead to violations of Saudi Arabia’s strict gender rules prompted authorities in the province of Mecca, home to Islam’s holiest city, to remove public television screens to prevent men and women from mixing.

The move sparked online protests. “Those who removed the screens showing the World Cup in the gardens didn’t do it because of mixing, but to kill peoples’ pleasure,” said an angry fan on Twitter. “If a person is sitting with his family, and he is in charge, what kind of mixing are they talking about?” asked another.

In the neighboring Qatar, the only other state that adheres to Wahhabism, the puritan Islamic interpretation of Islam that predominates in Saudi Arabia, and that has made sports in general and football in particular a cornerstone of its policy, clerics warned that the broadcasting of World Cup matches during the night because of time differences meant that youth might skimp on their religious obligations during the holy month of Ramadan. Observance of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Sheikh Mohamed al-Mahmoud said the faithful should be worshipping and studying the Quran during Ramadan, rather than watching football. He said there was no excuse for skipping obligatory visits to the mosque in order to watch a World Cup match.

His words were echoed by Sheikh Ahmed al-Buainain who said the matches conflict with times of prayers.

“When it is time for late evening and Ramadan-specific nightly prayers, people must go to the mosque for prayers. There is absolutely no excuse for a Muslim to skip these prayers,” Sheikh al-Mahmoud said.

The tug of war between football and Islam at a time that both institutions are experiencing a key moment in their calendars – football with the World Cup and Islam with Ramadan – is part of a larger debate among the faithful that ranges from whether World Cup participants should fast during Ramadan to some jihadist factions targeting fans in Iraq, Nigeria and Kenya because they see the game as an infidel, Zionist conspiracy aimed at distracting believers.

For Ali Hussein el-Zoghbi, vice president of the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil (FAMBRAS) that has published a guide for Muslims visiting Brazil the resolution of the debate is simple.

“The federation has been working consistently for people to find out more about Islam through the correct angle, that of peace and its participation in Brazilian society. And this event provides great visibility [to Muslim countries]. We’re making the most to publicize Islam through this project,” Mr el-Zoghbi said.



Morocco PM's speech shows he does not see women as equals

Jul 14, 2014

The problem with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's recent statements before parliament is not so much that he compared our fellow female compatriots to chandeliers and stars. We should not criticize him for comparing women to ornaments that men would die to get their hands on, or to celestial objects whose purity blinds us. It doesn’t matter if he sounded vulgar while trying to appear down-to-earth, or if he looked prudish while trying to sound spiritual. Simply put, women are neither chandeliers nor stars; they are our equals, whether Benkirane likes it or not. We may wish for them to light up our homes or our consciences, but this thinking tells us more about our own fantasies, rather than the desires of our other half. Above all, we will never assign women a role they haven’t chosen themselves.

The road to the emancipation of women everywhere is long and hard. In some societies, namely Western societies, most feminist demands have been met, from the simplest demands to the ones that we find today strange, such as the right to vote, work, divorce, contraception, abortion, inheritance and free choice of sexuality. In the West, the issues of voting, working and sexuality were seen as tools necessary to achieve a wide-scale female liberation. In that part of the world, a free woman does not hide but instead faces the suggestive and brazen looks people give her. She is not guilty for other people’s thoughts and she accepts the fact that she is sometimes seen as an object of lust. There, the word is out, but isn’t an object defined as the opposite of a man? Does freedom mean to stop being a woman and become an object?

Because [Benkirane] did not raise this question, the Muslim world did not feel envious of the fate of Western women. We often think that our women have no reason to envy them and that virtue might be lost with the constant references to the decadence and degeneration of Western habits.

From our point of view, the Western woman is mostly no longer alienated. Work is often considered in our part of the world as enslavement; sexuality is not seen as empowerment but rather an addiction. This line of thinking has its setbacks, as it is based on a utopia and an ideal world that men deem a paradise that should be imposed on earth. You be the judge: consider a society delivered from the worries of subsistence, where a woman only works for her home and where she can only suffer and enjoy while procreating, a society inhabited by virgins and mothers where the original sin of being born a woman is gone.

This picture is a dangerous mirage. It is an image of a utopian and monstrous society where the individual can only exist through the function he assumes in this group. This normative and more than ideal world ignores the laws of evolution in societies. It does not realize that the roads to freedom may be imperfect and endless. This is why, especially during this period of the World Cup and the month of Ramadan, I would prefer to see a voluntary bikini over an imposed veil, and vice versa.