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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Al-Azhar Spawns First Female 'Ultras' Group

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 Oct 2013

 The new group, comprised of female students from Egypt's Al-Azhar University, is devoted to protesting against what it calls the 'coup' against Morsi, who was unseated by Egypt's military on July 3.


 Kenyan-Indian Women Aborting Female Fetuses

 UN Messenger of Peace Termed Malala an Incredible Young Lady

 Headscarves in Parliament, Turkey’s Long Debate

 No Excuse for Flabby Arms;’ New Fitness Video Targets Covered Muslim Women

 Indonesian Women Peace Activists Receive 2013 N-Peace Awards

 Yemeni Activist Close To Winning Fight for Quota for Women in Government Posts

 Afghanistan's Only Female Presidential Candidate Demands Right to Run

 Bangladesh Mahila parishad concerned over Jamaat-Shibir violence

 Women Commission Lambastes Islamic Defenders Front Efforts to Oust Christian Ward Chief

 Pakistan Women barred from voting in first All Teachers Union polls in 10 years

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Al-Azhar Spawn’s First Female 'Ultras' Group

World Bulletin / News Desk

29 October 2013

They have been protesting tirelessly for an entire week now, carrying nothing but a trumpet and a yellow sash on their foreheads.

One of them holds a spray can in her hand, which she uses to write phrases critical of the ouster of Mohamed Morsi – Egypt's first freely elected civilian president – and against military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the man widely seen as the architect of Morsi's overthrow.

This is how members of Egypt's first female 'ultras' group spend their day.

The new group, comprised of female students from Egypt's Al-Azhar University, is devoted to protesting against what it calls the "coup" against Morsi, who was unseated by Egypt's powerful military on July 3.

During their marches on the university campus in eastern Cairo, members of the new movement call for the return of "constitutional legitimacy" and Morsi's reinstatement as president.

Recent years have seen the emergence in Egypt of several football fan groups, made up almost entirely of men. This new ultras group, however, is the country's first such political lobby group to be created by the fairer sex.

The emergence of the group took many observers by surprise, given the Islamic university's conservative nature and reputation.

"Most of us are women, but we want to play a serious role," Nadaa Abdel-Rahman, a student at the university's college of Islamic studies and member of the new group, told Anadolu Agency.

"We want our voices to be heard," she added. "This is why we brought the trumpet and thought of forming our own group."

Most group members are hardly new to demonstrating, she stressed, having already taken part in a number of recent pro-democracy protests. 

At this point, Abdel-Rahman was interrupted by one group member who chanted loudly nearby.

"Al-Azhar students are all men," the young lady chanted, comparing herself – and her fellow group members – to men, who in local culture are seen as the stronger sex.

The same woman said she refused to lead a normal life and attend university lectures while some of her colleagues remained in prison.

"Other people are in pain," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We will continue to protest the military coup, regardless of attempts to hinder our movements."

She added: "We still have much to do."


Only a few meters away, Aya Abdel-Razik, another female Azhar student and group member, addressed her colleagues on the importance of keeping their activities entirely peaceful in nature.

"We will not try to clash with anybody," Abdel-Razik, the group's general coordinator, declared. "We have a political idea about which we want to raise public awareness."

Some group members cover their faces, lest they be identified and arrested by police.

Abdel-Razik, however, insists this does not betray any fear on the part of demonstrators.

"We just want to stay on the safe side in order to be able to complete the journey to the end," she said.

One of her colleagues, Maryam, said that group members staged regular protest marches on campus. But this, she noted, made them known to security personnel manning the gates of the university.

"If we show our faces, they can arrest us," Maryam said.

She added that some of her fellow students had begun treating her badly due to her ongoing participation in protest rallies.

"It's hard to accept their injustice in this regard," she said, recalling a recent incident in which she and other group members became the target of scorn by several male students.

"But I'm comforted by the fact that a large number of other students express sympathy with our cause," she added.

Maryam Abdel-Wahab, a female Al-Azhar student who has not joined the ultras group yet despite her support for the ousted president, says the ongoing rallies are simply meant to express the group's political point of view.

"These protests aren't hurting anybody," Abdel-Wahab insisted. "On the contrary, they prove that we're doing our best despite all the pressure we're subject to."



Kenyan-Indian women aborting female fetuses

IANS Oct 28, 2013

NAIROBI: Kenyan-Indian women in Nairobi capital city are opting for mass abortions to avoid giving birth to a girl child, according to a report.

These risky terminations of pregnancy are fuelled by traditional Indian beliefs and preference for boys, according to an investigative report done by The Nairobian newspaper.

According to the report, the tendency of killing fetuses of girls among the Indian-origin community is widespread.

A leading hospital in the Kenyan capital has banned ultra-sound scans to determine the sex of unborn babies for Indian-origin mothers.

A nurse told The Nairobian that the hospital's management has stopped providing scanning facility to Indian-origin women who pay dearly to get rid of baby girls.

"There hasn't been official communication to us, but that's the general position. We don't condone abortions and so we won't scan babies' sex if it will lead to abortion," she added.



UN Messenger of Peace Termed Malala an Incredible Young Lady

Oct 29, 2013

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 28: World renowned Chinese piano player Lang Lang, who was designated United Nations Messenger of Peace, has paid stirring tribute to Pakistan’s education activist Malala Yousafzai.

“She’s an incredible young lady and I would love to help her in her education projects,” he said when asked about his meeting with Malala.

After a ceremony at the UN headquarters held to designate Lang Lang as ‘Messenger of Peace’ by UN Chief Ban Ki moon, the pianist said: “I was honoured to meet Malala recently. He went on to say he was happy to note that Malala’s book was launched recently and said he would help Malala in every way possible.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lang Lang said he would work with the United Nations “on one of my biggest priorities, global education”.

In his remarks, Mr Ban said that his Global Education First Initiative focused on getting every child in the world in school.

“We still have 57 million school-aged out of school. We have to get them in school; improving the quality of learning; and also fostering global citizenship.”



Headscarves In Parliament, Turkey’s Long Debate

World Bulletin / News Desk

29 October 2013

Women in Turkey were banned from wearing headscarves in parliament after a military coup ousted the late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan on 28 February 1997. However, after the present Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed Turkey’s new ‘democratization packet’ two weeks ago, the ban was officially lifted.

This is a big step since Merve Kavakci, a headscarved woman who was elected into parliament in 1999, was expelled following protests against her attire at her oath hearing.14 years on, however, Turkey is now prepared to accept headscarved women into the parliament.

Turkey’s main political parties have all shared their views on this new development, with some supportive of the move, whereas others have signaled to their subtle disapproval.

No opinion has been more anticipated than that of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has traditionally supported the ban. In response to a question regarding the prospect of a headscarved minister, party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was quoted as saying ‘we have no problem with this…however, this state has a constitutional character, and that constitutional character has rules,’ he said, before adding ‘everyone must follow the rules, just as we do already.’ Mentioning that he supports the right of headscarved women to vote and be elected, Kilicdaroglu also voiced his concern over the issue being blown out of proportion above other matters.

The leader of Turkey’s right-wing MHP, Devlet Bahceli, also showed his support saying ‘we already have (headscarved women) in the prime minister’s office, why shouldn’t we have them in the parliament?’

Pervin Buldan, a representative of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish separatist Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said ‘this is important for women. In Turkey thousands of women wear the headscarf…it does not suit Turkey to obstruct them in the 21st century.’ The BDP representative also said ‘everyone should have the right to dress, talk and think as they please.’

As for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), they are expected to lead the way by introducing headscarved ministers in the parliament. It is believed that some women in the party who are expected to return from the holy city of Mecca, where they performed the Hajj pilgrimage, will return to parliament with the headscarf.

Already a female member of the MHP, Meral Aksener, who has also returned from the pilgrimage, has posted pictures of herself on Twitter wearing the headscarf, although it is not clear whether or not she intends to wear it in parliament.



No Excuse for Flabby Arms;’ New Fitness Video Targets Covered Muslim Women


28 October 2013

A new fitness DVD geared towards Muslim women features an instructor wearing a Hijab, long-sleeved top and pants instead of the usual two-piece gym kit.

The video, called Nadoona Extreme, was the brainchild of Nadine Abu Jubara from Orlando, Florida, who states on her website that modesty is no excuse to neglect the body and 'long sleeves and flowing tops shouldn’t mean flabby arms and love handles.'

She enlisted the help of longtime personal trainer, Zainab Ismail, to create a workout for people to stay fit while 'fulfilling moral and religious obligations' by keeping their heads and bodies covered.

In a trailer for the video, Zainab is seen demonstrating moves including lunges, push-ups and burpees wearing an array of brightly-colored outfits.

Each step starts with a brief prayer, 'reinforcing a core understanding that a healthy body comes from a healthy soul, and vice versa.'

Nadine and Zainab, who are both Muslim, recently exceeded their fundraising goal of $15,000 on the crowd funding website and now their two-part DVD is set for launch in the U.S. this month.

A mission statement on their website,, reads: 'In today’s mainstream fitness videos, all you see is skin, skin, and more skin.

'Working out while staring at the body of a half-naked fitness professional only leads to unattainable and unhealthy goals.

'Working out while staring at the body of a half-naked fitness professional only leads to unattainable goals'

'The Nadoona woman doesn’t need to show skin as a reason to have toned arms and a formidable six pack.

'The best way to be strong is to feel strong, and that means taking care of your health, inside and out.'

Nadine, who is Muslim and of Palestinian-Arab descent, first got into fitness after losing more than four stone several years ago.

'It was after my 65pound weight loss journey, I realized that there was no resources in the Muslim community for sound health and fitness.'

'We're not saying we're inferior or superior [because of hijab]. It's all about the inner.'

'From an Islamic standpoint we have rules on what you can and can't see.

'Having a woman in booty shorts and a bra? I don't know that's something you want [your husband and children] to see.'

The Nadoona website also features an array of healthy recipes from a goat cheese and avocado salad to the ‘Fit for Allah’ smoothie, which contains a blend of milk, coconut oil, banana and berry.



Indonesian Women Peace Activists Receive 2013 N-Peace Awards

October 28 2013

Two Indonesian women peace activists have won the 2013 N-Peace Awards for their efforts to promote women's equality and protection of women against discrimination.

“The N-Peace Awards for Indonesia this year is awarded to Bapak Suprayoga Hadi and Ibu Valentina Sagala,” United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Communication Associate, Tina Kardjono, in a press statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Suprayoga Hadi is praised for his continuous support for women and women’s civil society organizations in two roles that he now holds: Deputy Minister for the Development of Special Regions at the Ministry for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions and National Project Director for Peace through Development in Disadvantaged Areas.

“Suprayoga Hadi has been working steadily to advance the inclusion of women in peace and security issues,” N-Peace Awards said in its official website.

Meanwhile, Valentina Sagala who founded Yayasan Institute Perempuan (Women’s Institute Foundation) is praised for her efforts to push for reforms to laws that “dehumanize women, and even create and perpetuate violence against women”.

The N-Peace Awards recognizes and profiles leaders for women's rights and peace builders who create change at the grassroots to national levels in Asia.

The Awards are coordinated by the N-Peace Network across Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and the Philippines.

The Awards shines a spotlight on women who demonstrate leadership in building peace and empowering their communities. The Awards’ special categories are presented to the efforts of young women leaders as the next generation for peace champions, and male advocates of women’s equality.

The N-Peace initiative and the Awards campaign are managed by UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Center (APRC). (ebf)


















Ten to fifteen-year-old Yemeni girls at their school in the capital Sanaa, MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images


Yemeni Activist Close To Winning Fight for Quota for Women in Government Posts


SANAA — In a country where many still prevent their daughters from working or going to school, Yemeni activists are close to winning a fight to pass a law requiring a 30% participation quota for women in government decision-making posts in the country.

Activists believe they have the votes to pass the measure at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) despite fierce opposition from Islamist parties and even women.

Thuria Damaj, a women’s rights activist and a delegate to the NDC — where the country’s pressing issues and challenges are being debated — said she was optimistic that a law would be passed requiring the quota in the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

“The quota is the only way we can guarantee a fair representation of women in such an ultra-conservative and tribal community like Yemen,” she said.

It’s pretty sad for women to go out and protest against their own right of living and social participation, and against having a voice in this world

Earlier this month, the Islah party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yemeni branch, organized a rally to protest the quota. Hundreds of veiled women attended and called on President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to reject the measure saying it contradicted Islamic teachings.

“It’s a mere imitation of the West. Those secularists are only trying to blindly copy everything the West does,” said Yasmin Rajeh, 29, a higher-education student, who said she protested because the quota was against Islamic teaching. “Who said women have no rights in Islam? Islam has provided women with all of their rights back when women in Europe were considered to be treated like cheap objects who have no rights whatsoever.

“Women are considered in Islam to be the whole society as they account for half the society and raise the other half. Our religion has elevated our status and made us equal to men in everything, but we have been born to do different tasks. What the so-called women advocates are calling for is not rights, but rather a diversion of women’s God-designated task…The natural job of a woman is to be a housewife, a mother that raises her children and takes care of them.”

Women are considered in Islam to be the whole society as they account for half the society and raise the other half

Mohammed Al-Hazmi, a member of parliament and a representative of the Islah Party at the NDC, said, “The quota goes against everything democracy stands for. It also contradicts the Islamic teachings. They claim they are calling for women’s rights, but what about men’s rights? [The quota] harms men’s rights and contradicts the concept of equal opportunity. If passed, the quota will stipulate that only women can be candidates in some constituencies, which is not fair.”

The women’s protest against the quota provoked a wave of criticism and sarcasm from activists on social networking sites.

Journalist Bushra Al-Maqtari wrote, “It’s pretty sad for women to go out and protest against their own right of living and social participation, and against having a voice in this world. … They say it’s against Sharia [Islamic law] and I don’t know why they involve Islam in such a loathsome way.”



Afghanistan's Only Female Presidential Candidate Demands Right to Run

28 October 2013

Khadija Ghaznawi was one of 17 candidates culled from an initial list of 27 who had registered for Afghanistan's April poll when Hamid Karzai is due to step down.

That leaves 10 nominees for the post of president – and not a single woman.

Women's rights have long been seen as a barometer for reconstruction efforts and campaigners are disappointed that this time around – and for the first time since the Taliban were ousted – there will be no female candidate.

Mrs Ghaznavi, who owns a logistics company and runs a peace campaign group, said she had met all the conditions to run, paying her deposit and handing over sufficient voter cards to prove she had support for a campaign.

"The election commission has never called me since I registered my name as a candidate, and never told me there was a problem with any of my documents," she said.

She had planned to run on a ticket promising better education to stop young men joining the Taliban.

Now she is demanding her right to run be respected and that she be reinstated.

"I was representing women of the country in the election and show the world that Afghan women can do something, we should not be pushed back," she said.

Earlier this week the Independent Election Commission said 17 candidates had been disqualified for a range of issues: failing to collect 100,000 voter cards, for holding a second passport or not amassing cards from the required 20 provinces.

However, officials declined to explain which candidates had failed to meet which conditions.

Analysts fear critics of President Karzai have been deliberately kept off the ballot, leaving many of the usual faces.

The front-runners include Mr Karzai's elder brother, Qayum, a former minister of foreign affairs, Zalmai Rassul, and Abdullah Abdullah, runner-up in 2009. An Islamist warlord who invited Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan is also among the contenders.

A single woman ran for the country's top job in both 2004 and 2009.

Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher with Human Rights Watch, said: I'm afraid we are looking at an election where the role of women, as candidates and voters, will be even more marginalised than in previous elections.

"And if this is the case, the process will send a most unhelpful message to the candidates that women are not important as a constituency, and as a result their rights can be ignored by the next president." In recent months, parliamentarians have angered women's rights groups by reversing or halting progressive legislation.

In May, the country's lower chamber revised the country's electoral law, ditching the guarantee that at least a quarter of seats in each of 34 provincial councils be reserved for women.



Bangladesh Mahila parishad concerned over Jamaat-Shibir violence

29 October 2013

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad has expressed concern over the violence of Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat backed Islami Chhatra Shibir during hartal hours over the last two days.

The organisation, in a statement yesterday, also urged BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to drop Jamaat-Shibir from their alliance.

The parishad lambasted activities of Jamaat-Shibir including vandalising national property, blasting bombs in front media offices and slitting tendons of people.



Women Commission Lambastes Islamic Defenders Front Efforts to Oust Christian Ward Chief

29 October 2013

The National Commission on Violence Against Women said on Monday that the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) should stop using religion to try to force Lenteng Agung ward chief Susan Jasmine Zulkifli to step down.

“They can’t use that claim in this country,” Masruchah, deputy chairwoman of the Commission, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday. “The constitution gives no room for discrimination.”

The FPI said it planned to begin conducting a Koran study in the ward, in an attempt to influence more people to get behind their efforts to force out the Christian ward chief.

“We will do it once a week, or at least once a month,” FPI Jakarta chapter secretary Novel Ba’mumin told Indonesian news portal on Sunday. “We were invited by residents from every neighborhood unit, to make them realize this.”

Some residents have been staging protests against Susan’s appointment, hopping to have her replaced by a Muslim chief. One protestor, named Ruslan, said that Susan had violated Islamic teachings by greeting her constituents with the words  “good morning, selamat pagi, bonjour,” rather than with an Arabic greeting.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi echoed the protestors, suggesting that Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo should transfer her to a non-Muslim area because of the dissent.

Joko said that he would only replace an urban ward chief if he or she performed poorly, and Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said that Gamawan “needs to learn the constitution.”

“I am still learning the constitution,” Gamawan conceded.

Some Lenteng Agung residents, however, have expressed confidence in their ward chief.

“There’s no need for people outside to demonstrate against Susan,” Halim Mahfudz, who lives in the ward, told Tempo on Monday. “She works well. So let it be like this, no more demonstrations.”

Masruchah said that the Jakarta administration should be strict and steadfast in its decision.

“They considered Susan to have the appropriate capacity to be the urban ward chief and they should not replace her because of pressure from the FPI,” Masruchah said.



Pakistan Women barred from voting in first All Teachers Union polls in 10 years

 October 29, 2013

JAMRUD: For the first time in 10 years, the All Teachers Union elections were held in Jamrud tehsil, Khyber Agency, however, in the absence of women teachers.

During Ziaul Haq’s regime, such organisations were banned across primary and secondary schools while teachers could form unions in colleges and universities. The ban was lifted later, but the precarious security situation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) prevented polls from being held for this purpose.

Khalid Afridi, a member of the Gulabddin teachers panel, said Sunday’s election was held under tight security and under the supervision and support of the Election Commission Pakistan and the political administration of Khyber Agency. Polling started at 8am and ended at 3pm.

Unions have existed in the agency, Khalid explained, but had been appointing members without any elections.

Universal suffrage

Although the polls took place peacefully on Sunday, not a single woman was allowed to participate, not a single one came to vote. According to Sarwar Khan Afridi, the information secretary of the union, there are at least 250 women teachers in the agency.

Out of 1,200 male teachers from Bara, Landikotal and Jamrud, 1,100 participated in the polls and elected Naseer Shah as the president of the All Teachers Union (ATU).

Women were unable to participate in these elections because both Gulabddin and Naseer Shah teachers panels decided against it, shared Sarwar. The inclusion of women teachers could considerably increase security risks as militants who were against women participation in the May 11 general elections could easily target teachers union polls for similar reasons, elaborated Sarwar.

Maintaining continuity

While appreciating the ballot, former teachers union president Taj Mehmood Afridi explained he was the last ATU president, elected in 2003. The two before him were Khana Gul and Feroz Afridi.

Instead of suspending the ATU in the absence of elections, Information Secretary Sarwar explained members and office bearers would be elected by the union itself for the sake of continuity.

“Unity in the agency and amongst the teachers helped,” explained Sarwar, “But this time it was decided that elections would be held and the president and cabinet will be appointed through the proper channel.”

‘Ray of hope’

The fresh formation of the ATU through peaceful ballots is a “ray of hope” in an area where people still do not prioritise education, said Khalil Afridi, an activist who works to promote education. The newly-elected union could attempt to solve problems faced by the educators of the agency, he added.

Shuhuda package

After a clean sweep, Naseer Shah promised he would struggle to facilitate teachers in the agency. Shah maintained he would work hard to get Khyber Agency teachers a martyr’s package equivalent to the one allocated for teachers in Balochistan. “No one offers a Shuhada package to teachers. No one provides any facilities to women teachers in Fata,” argued Shah.

“Previously teachers were arrested under the collective responsibility clause of the FCR, but we will not let this happen now.”