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Amani Saeed, The Afghan Poetess Championing Women and Confronting Islamophobia, One Verse at A Time

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 March 2020

Amani faced microaggressions at work [Gaia Caramazza]


 Amani Saeed, The Afghan Poetess Championing Women and Confronting Islamophobia, One Verse at A Time

 Afghan Women on the US-Taliban Peace Deal: We Refuse to Be Symbols

 Amid Lockdown and Coronavirus Scare, Burqa Sale Sees Boost in Odisha

 2 Arab Women Stand Trial for Forging Certificates with Ministry Logo In UAE

 Why You Need to Be Following Arab Girl with Sign

 Pilibhit Woman's Contact Takes Uttar Pradesh Coronavirus Tally To 38

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Amani Saeed, The Afghan Poetess Championing Women and Confronting Islamophobia, One Verse At A Time


Afghan Women on the US-Taliban Peace Deal: We Refuse to Be SymbolsWe used to live on a river across from New York and the very next day they weren't there anymore. There's so much I don't remember. And yet it was the huge politicisation of Muslims after that, the whole suspicion of Muslims after that, I was at the crossroads of both those things, which was excruciating                

She adds: "On the one hand you think, 'That is my personal trauma, that is something I experienced,' and at the same time people are calling you a terrorist. It is hard."

And it's not only political landscapes that provide a breeding ground for anti-Muslim rhetoric. A viral hashtag, #FlyingWhileMuslim, was created after Ryanair CEO sparked controversy by saying terrorists are "generally Muslims," pushing for more checks on Muslim men.

The rise in far-right rhetoric has bolstered Islamophobia, as seen in the deadly New Zealand Christchurch Mosque massacre, and more recently the deadly Germany shootings which is being investigated as a far-right terror incident – but it's not always overt.

"I have a lot of privilege in terms of I'm light-skinned, I don't wear a hijab, for all intents and purposes a lot of the time people think I'm hispanic. So I don't get racial epithets yelled at me in the streets," Amani says.

"Where I faced more Islamophobia is in the workplace. I remember one time when I was very new at my job, I walked in and someone who was a couple of levels above me found out I was Muslim. In front of everyone in an open-plan office, she said to me, 'If you come in tomorrow wearing a hijab, we know you've been radicalised. Ha ha ha!' She thought she was being funny. I remember standing there, 21-years-old, facing off a 40-plus-year-old woman thinking, 'I'm new to this job, what the hell do I say to you?'

"A year later the Muslim ban was in effect in America and again she thought she was making a joke by saying, 'Oh, it means you can't go back to the States to visit your parents anymore. Ha ha!' I'm a dual national and I'm privileged to have both passports, but I remember at the time, my inner New Jersey came out and I went, 'Damn you can't say that!' It just came out. I didn't even think about it!"

Amani also commented on the situation in China, where millions of Uighur Muslims have been interned, tortured and killed on the basis of "re-education" and the weaponisation of the 9/11 rhetoric.


Afghan Women on the US-Taliban Peace Deal: We Refuse to Be Symbols

March 25, 2020

by Samea Shanori

Afghan women’s inclusion in the current peace negotiations with the Taliban and the United States has become an international cause célèbre. But calls for participation of Afghan women without methodical, sustained and substantive engagement in a peace settlement has the potential to harm them, not help them.

The international community should ensure that Afghan women are not used as window dressing. We’ve seen it happen too often before the Taliban-US deal.

As an Afghan woman and an American woman, both of us having worked on international programs in Afghanistan for several years, we’ve seen firsthand how well-intentioned efforts sometimes promote progress for Afghan women while quietly failing them. So we asked numerous women — in Canada, Britain and Afghanistan, by phone — their thoughts on the peace process.

An Afghan-Canadian woman, Mina Sharif, who has worked in Afghanistan since 2005, shared an example of a multiyear US-funded program to teach computer programming to women in Afghan villages. The program ended with no money or relevant opportunities. Men in the village took it as proof that educating women is pointless, Sharif told PassBlue.

Foreign government agencies regularly claim that such programs benefit Afghan women by providing skills for a future market, or even by increasing their confidence. But Afghan women pay a price for fickle intervention.

“The fact that these programs are not sustainable only serves to justify to the men in these women’s lives that they should have never been in the program in the first place,” Sharif said. “It shows these people that their daughters should not go to school with the reasoning, Don’t you remember that computer class that wasted our time?”

Undermining Afghan women is too high a price for governments and organizations to burnish their reputations for “helping” them. The relatively late inclusion of a delegation of women activists in the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha last summer, for example, drew international headlines of approval. But the sloppy gesture from those in power did not impress all Afghan women.

Afghan women are already doing the hard work of political negotiation. The journalist Farahnaz Forotan launched the #MyRedLine campaign in March 2019 with support from UN Women to tell Afghan decision-makers that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Afghan women.

Other efforts have been underway even longer. “Since the negotiations started in 2018, women have been advocating and campaigning,” said Mariam Atahi, a journalist and student in peace-building and reconciliation from Kabul.

“There have been a lot of conferences across Afghanistan to see what women wanted in both the rural and urban areas to see how we could find common ground. Women have written lots of pieces and worked to form the narrative on women’s rights in Afghanistan. This includes efforts to change the interpretation of Islamic law that the Taliban implements in the rural areas they control.”

But, Atahi added, these activists were sidelined from the peace negotiations, which are being led by the American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

“The biggest mistake the internationals have made is to introduce Afghan women to the world and to themselves as victims, and therefore as deserving less,” said an Afghan artist and human-rights activist, Rada Akbar. At the Abarzanan exhibition opening in Kabul, celebrating International Women’s Day, on March 8, Akbar spoke about the need to counter the predominantly Western narrative of Afghan women as victims and how it undermines their efforts.

“We’ll not adhere to a racist standard that because we are from Afghanistan we should be O.K. with just the basics, with just lack of bombs going off in our neighborhoods, with just schools for girls, with just right to work for women who dress a certain way or live a certain way,” Akbar said. “We want equal rights for every single person, and we’ll fight for those rights even as we are betrayed by those who patted themselves on the back for ‘saving’ us.”

All Afghan women we spoke with agreed that their lives are better than they were under Taliban rule and express gratitude for international support. But all of them fear what the future may hold for them, particularly if Afghan women are not substantively engaged in peace negotiations and in determining the fate of their country.

“A majority of Afghan women, especially women in big cities, are really grateful for the changes the US supported in women’s empowerment in Afghanistan over the past 20 years,” Rahbin, the activist from Kabul, said. She was recently accepted to study public policy at the University of Cambridge. “But we thought we would be taken seriously when it came to negotiations and the peace process itself. We were surprised that we were overlooked from the beginning.”

At a heavily attended March 10 panel discussion in New York at the United Nations, sponsored by Afghanistan, Britain and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and featuring Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nargis Nehan, a former Afghan minister of mines, petroleum and industries, said the peace process is “oversimplified by many people.”

The stakes for Afghan women are more than just an end of Taliban attacks, Nehan said. When women participate at the negotiation table, they’re “not thinking short-term.” The problem is that international assistance often thinks that way.

Last month, Molly Phee, the US deputy special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said the US would “support whatever consensus the Afghans are able to reach about their future political and governing arrangements.”

But as NBC News reported, “The United States once vowed to liberate Afghan women from the draconian repression of the Taliban, but a planned deal between the US and the insurgents offers no protections for the country’s women, who fear that their hard-won rights could be lost.”

The international community should not underestimate the political sophistication of Afghan women. Photo ops of women at a symbolic negotiating table may appease some people in certain spheres, but that will not satisfy Afghan women. They are accustomed to being told the wrong thing is better than nothing. While their opinions may not always be considered with the weight they should be, they will help determine Afghanistan’s fate.

“We need to acknowledge the fact that Afghanistan has a history of the West making promises to help and then disappearing,” Sharif, the Canadian-Afghan, said. Afghan women feel a “justified urgency” to take what they can and not complain.

“If you were really hungry and someone gave you a fifty-dollar donut, you would probably say thank you, rather than explain that some bags of rice would make more sense for that price,” Sharif said. “Especially if you weren’t asked until after you got the donut. Yes, they said the program was great, and it was, compared to what they had. But you’re failing because it wasn’t smart.”

“Giving” Afghan women a seat they have actually earned, without giving them a chance to substantively participate in the peace process, will only harm them, many women say. Ironically, excluding women also undoes what Atahi called the international community’s “investment” in Afghan women.

“I’m educated and I’m here to serve the country,” Atahi told PassBlue. Indeed, there are many Afghan women who feel this way, but they keep asking, will the international community support them?

“The international community made a huge mistake. They failed,” Akbar, the artist and human-rights activist, said. “Now they don’t want to accept that they failed, and that is why they just want to blame the Afghans, and say it is our duty now to build up our country with a group of terrorists. It’s not all the US’s fault. Everyone who came and joined are responsible today.”


Amid Lockdown And Coronavirus Scare, Burqa Sale Sees Boost In Odisha

26th March 2020

KENDRAPARA: The coronavirus outbreak may be wreaking havoc across the country but for burqa makers, it has come as a blessing in disguise.

The sale of the burqa is booming in the district with a large number of Muslim women and girls purchasing the outfit to cover their body and face in a bid to prevent contracting the virus.

At least 10 tailors of Kendrapara town and nearby areas are busy stitching burqas in their respective homes to meet the huge demand. Sk Akbar, a tailor of Tendakuda, said, “There has been a manifold increase in the demand for burqas due to coronavirus scare. Due to the lockdown imposed by the Government, we are making the burqas at our homes.”

Tailors are working overtime since the last two weeks to cash in on the situation. Mohammad Sahid, another tailor of Kendrapara, said the dressmakers have their hands full as each has received an order of stitching over hundreds of burqas.

“We usually stitch different sizes of burqas for women and girls. But these outfits were sold at dismally low prices. Besides, the sales have not been encouraging except during the Id festival and marriage season. However, the coronavirus outbreak has given a major boost to our trade,” he said.

Stitching burqa is a seasonal business due to which not many tailors are into this trade. But for those in it, this has come as a boom time. A burqa is now sold at prices ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 1,500.

Sabina Bibi of Pattamundai said though going out has been prohibited, burqa is giving us protection when we have to go out to buy vegetables and essential commodities, said.

Dr Ananda Gopal Mohanty, a doctor at the district headquarters hospital, said Kendrapara and nearby areas are experiencing an acute shortage of three-layered anti-bacterial face masks.

“It’s crucial for people to have proper protective gear to lower the risk of contracting the virus. In the absence of masks, burqas serve as a better protective gear. Besides, the outfit also helps women to maintain social distance with others,” he added.


2 Arab women stand trial for forging certificates with ministry logo in UAE

March 25, 2020

Two Arab women are on trial at the Sharjah Criminal Court for allegedly forging certificates carrying Ministry of Health (MoH) logo.

According to public prosecution investigation, the complainant said that she received a certificate with the MoH logo on it after she paid fees for undergoing a training programme. She presented it to the ministry for making some amendments.

According to the statement of the first witness, who works at the Internal Inspection Department with the MoH, they received a certificate purportedly issued by the ministry and signed by the first accused, apart from a receipt in the name of the MoH, as fees for the document. After examining the certificate, it was found that the signature on the certificate was of the first accused who was not associated with the MoH.

When the woman who presented the certificate to the ministry was called by the ministry, she stated that she had paid the fees to a training center owned by the two accused who worked as the coordinator and secretary there. She pointed out that she was made to belief that the center had been "assigned a contract by MoH to run the course". She said she paid Dh150 to register for the course, and Dh650 for issuance of the certificate.

The witness told the court that he was part of an investigation committee, consisting of five persons, formed to crack the case. It was found that the first accused issued forged certificates from the training center, with the help of the second suspect. The case was referred to the Preventive Security Department for further probe and later to the court.


Why you need to be following Arab Girl With Sign

Mar 25, 2020

By Layla K. Saleh

This Arab girl is unlike anyone else you follow on the 'Gram. A beautiful blend of Lebanese and Palestinian, she has blessed us with one of the best pages and content we've seen in quite some time: @ArabGirlWithSign. The page features hilarious home-truths of the Arab world, and she has quickly amassed 10,000 followers in just the short three months of being online.

Not only are her signs relatable, but they are absolutely hilarious. It is refreshing to see an Arab girl take on the world with such a fun and youthful approach. Her posts are here to brighten your day and make you feel some type of way! We stan.

We sat down with the woman behind the sign to talk cancel culture, creating a community, and why she never shows her face on social media...

Cosmo ME: What’s the first sign you ever made?

AGWS: It’s the first one I ever posted. The Zaatar one!

Cosmo ME: Tell us about your handle – “Arab” girl. Why was it important for you to stipulate that you’re Arab?

AGWS: I think as “Arab girl”, it gave me the edge that I wanted. It’s what I wanted to focus on. I do believe that the Arab girl deserves to be heard more in our society. There are so many things that we as Arab women can all relate to. Because at the end of the day, we’re all going through the same thing. That’s why I wanted to say Arab girl. Not just a girl, not just Arab; but Arab girl.

Cosmo ME: Who would you most like to read one of your signs?

AGWS: Honestly, with my page, it’s all about the community. I’m not really targeting any specific person or anything like that. Whatever comes my way, I just go with it. I just want to reach as many Arabs as I can. That’s all that matters.

Cosmo ME: Which post of yours has made the most noise? And why do you think that is?

AGWS: Definitely the sign that says “It doesn’t count as gossip if we say beini o beinik first”. It’s such a hit because Arabs talk and everyone talks! In our society, word just travels around so fast. So we say “beini o beinik”, as in "between you and me", to make ourselves feel better but we’re gonna say it anyway!

Cosmo ME: What was the most rewarding or fulling moment you’ve experienced with your page?

AGWS: The United Nations have a page that’s called “Girl Power” and I was still pretty new to Instagram, but they reached out, asking me to post about them on my story. When I saw that, it reassured me that I’m doing something positive. It made me feel like I could actually make a difference; that I was allowed to voice my opinion.

Cosmo ME: Are your parents supportive of your page?

AGWS: Absolutely. My mama is my biggest fan!

Cosmo ME: What is your biggest fear?

AGWS: Failure… It genuinely scares me. I started this page for fun and to make people feel good. That’s what I want to continue to do. This whole cancel culture does scare me. What if I post something, accidentally offend someone and everyone turns against me? I think of that sometimes.

Cosmo ME: Have you experienced a negative side to your page?

AGWS: Just some people when they comment this isn’t funny or stop copying whoever. Why tear each other down? Why attack someone that’s just doing their own thing? When I’m scrolling through Instagram, I never have the urge to attack someone or leave a negative comment. I just don’t understand the need for it.

Cosmo ME: Do you ever have moments of doubt?

AGWS: When I get too in my head and overthink things, I start to doubt myself. My most successful posts are the ones that I didn’t overthink. It doesn’t pay off… and that says a lot.

Cosmo ME: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

AGWS: Nancy Ajram or Haifa Wehbe. I think it would be hilarious. I have so many ideas.

Cosmo ME: Why don’t you show your face?

AGWS: It was actually an accident! When I decided to start the page and made my first sign, we took a bunch of pictures. The only one I happened to like, was the one where my face was hidden! So I just went with it and here we are.


Pilibhit woman's contact takes Uttar Pradesh coronavirus tally to 38

Mar 26, 2020

LUCKNOW: A woman who came in contact of the coronavirus positive patient in UP's Pilibhit also tested positive for the infection on Friday morning.

The new case took UP's tally to 38 even as the number of suspected cases continued to swell. According to officials, as many as 73 suspected patients have been admitted to different hospitals in the state.

Sharing details about the case, state surveillance officer, UP, Dr Vikasendu Agarwal said: "The new patient was already under suspicion and admitted to hospital."

As per the official coronavirus bulletin, the positive cases have been found in 11 districts. Noida leads the state tally with 11 cases, followed by Agra and Lucknow, where eight cases each have been recorded.

Ghaziabad with three cases and Pilibhit with two cases are the next two. Lakhimpur Kheri, Moradabad, Varanasi, Kanpur, Jaunpur and Shamli have recorded one case each.

Meanwhile, testing of coronavirus suspected cases has picked up in the state. The total number of samples sent for coronavirus testing in the state on Wednesday was 85.

Health officials also said that over 3,445 travellers from listed countries and 1707 contacts of positive cases were being tracked by surveillance teams as on date. They claimed that all these patients were stable.

Principal Secretary, health and family welfare, Amit Mohan Prasad said that 11 of the 38 patients in UP have been discharged. "As many as four patients, who have recovered from the infection, may be discharged in a day or two. We are waiting for confirmatory tests," he said.

The health secretary also said that a three level management plan is being rollowed out to treat patients of coronavirus. The others would be sent to state medical colleges and district hospitals at level two. Critical cases will be sent to level three centres like SGPGI and KGMU Lucknow and LLRM Meerut.




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