New Age Islam News Bureau
29 Jan 2016
Photo: Attorney Roy Brumer (left) and his client Mahamid Najah, near her home in Jaffa.. (photo credit:Courtesy)
• New Book Explores the Secret Lives of Young Arab Women
• Topless Activist Protest against Iranian President’s Visit to Paris
• Festival Spotlights Arab Women in Film
• Liverpool Muslim Women's Group Criticises Prime Minister's Plans to Ban the Veil
• Are American Muslim Women Brave? How About Those in Europe?
• Birmingham Central Mosque Chairman Told Muslim Women's Group That 'Men More Likely To Be Domestic Violence Victims'
• No Marriage Law for Hindus in Pakistan: This "Legal Vacuum Naturally Creates a Multitude of Issues for Pakistani Hindus, Especially the Women".
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Arab-Israeli Women Increasingly Avoiding Sharia Courts In Favour Of Civil Ones
Jan 29 2016
Lawyer representing Arab women to ‘Post’: The difference now is that they are willing to take the risk; Woman who bypassed Sharia court says has been strong opposition from community.
The trend of Muslim Arab Israeli women circumventing the religious Sharia courts in favour for the state’s civil courts has been gaining momentum, a Jewish lawyer representing some of these women told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Arab society typically places great weight on the needs of the family or clan, rarely taking matters beyond the Sharia court and into the civil Israeli court system, said Roy Brumer, a Tel Aviv based family lawyer.
There can be severe and even lethal consequences for women taking their cases outside of the traditional framework.
Sharia courts in Israel have jurisdiction for Muslims over personal status issues such as marriage, divorce, and conversion just like the Jewish courts have for Jews. The state recognizes the Sharia courts and since 2001 they have been under the rubric of the Justice Ministry.
However, over the past several years, Brumer has noticed an uptick in the number of Arab women seeking his services whether it is about divorce or other family matters.
“The difference now is that they are willing to take the risk,” he said.
“It is very much about the money – ‘What I deserve,’ not only about ‘how my family looks at me.’”
Typical cases he sees are divorce cases where the husband physically or emotionally abused the wife.
Inquired about the kind of women that are pushing this trend, Brumer noted that almost all of them are from Jaffa, and some from Tel Aviv, and they wear the traditional head covering, or Hijab.
The mentality is a different one, more modern compared to the traditional one found in most villages, asserted the Tel Aviv attorney.
Business has been increasing for Brumer and his clients refer him to other women. Asked what is behind the surge, he responded that he attributes part of it to the fact that there are now many more lawyers in Israel compared to five years ago, and they are looking for work. Brumer estimates that there are around 80,000 lawyers in the country today.
Brumer mentions one case he is involved in with a woman named Mahamid Najah, a mother of three from Jaffa who decided to go to civil court after not getting a pleasing result in the Sharia court last summer.
The mahr – similar to the amount of money stipulated for the wife in secular prenuptial agreements or Jewish Ketuba marriage contracts – was 40,000 NIS adjusted to the current price of living. They married in 1994.
The Sharia court ruled that she deserved 40,000 shekels plus the interest due. Najah’s ex-husband refused to pay and so she decided to take matters to a civil court where she would have more rights including child support payments and other assets, explained Brumer.
Today, the amount that the court demands the ex-husband pay is around 85,000 NIS and this is after seven months of failing to do so, said Brumer, adding that in the meantime he filed additional suits for alimony, child support, a portion of his assets, and more.
Brumer estimates that Najah’s ex-husband has around a half million shekels of total net worth and that eventually the court will likely confiscate his home and sell it in order to pay what is due.
“She was left without a shekel,” said Brumer.
Najah confirmed to The Post that her brother and sister are some of her only supporters and that most of her community has criticized her move to go to “a Jewish court,” referring to the state’s civil court.
A woman clerk at the Sharia court expressed her disapproval to her, asking why she went “to the Jews.” Najah told her that “the Jews give rights to women, not like the Arabs.”
On the other hand, she commented, “the Sharia court favors the man.” The Jaffa Sharia court judge also pushed for divorce too quickly, she asserted, adding that there are many divorces of young women in Jaffa.
Furthermore, her car was burned, and previously had the tires slashed, has been cursed and her children have been called names, but she has not backed down.
Brumer referred to the strong opposition by a traditional Muslim society saying, “In the end, the women get what they deserve, the question is the cost.”
Najah says that her former husband probably is the person behind the attacks on her car, partly because he has in the past slashed tires of a neighbor who got into a disagreement with him.
Najah claimed that her ex-husband had hit her in the past, but said “I thought I had to be quiet.”
The Post spoke to Iyad Zahalka, the qadi, or Sharia court judge in Jerusalem, but he said he could not comment on the issue because of his position.
New Book Explores the Secret Lives of Young Arab Women
January 28, 2016
We at Women’s Voices are eager to hear, and provide a platform for, the voices of women everywhere in the world. We found Lance Richardson’s review of a new book on young Arab women so engrossing because the lives of Muslim women are often a mystery to Westerners; news stories about them usually focus on the restraints their cultures impose on them. The book, reviewed at nytimeslive.com, seems a useful corrective: “Katherine Zoepf’s ‘Excellent Daughters’ is the result of hundreds of interviews over ten years, that aim to challenge stereotypes in the Western imagination that Arab women are brainwashed, naive, or simply ‘voiceless victims.'”
Zoepf interviewed people in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates, on subjects as diverse as “driving protests and flight attendants, gender relations and lingerie shopping habits. She once dressed as a Saudi teenage boy in order to learn about ‘numbering,’ a nighttime ritual wherein men chase cars filled with girls “hoping for some brief interaction, a smile, or even a phone number.’” READ MORE
Topless activist protest against Iranian President’s visit to Paris
By Khaama Press - Thu Jan 28 2016
The activist from international women’s rights group – Femen staged the demonstration as the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in Paris to sign off new business deals between the two countries.
With an Iranian flag painted on her chest, the activist staged a mock hanging from a bridge in Paris in an execution style.
“We organised this public display as a little reminder of the fact that every year, more than 800 people are sentenced to death in his country,” Sarah Constantin, a spokesperson for Femen France said.
“Among them are women, feminists, homosexuals, and free-thinkers who are rotting on death row, just because they are free-thinkers. And Francois Hollande doesn’t take any of this into account,” Constantin quoted by a local newspaper added.
Criticizing the French President for receiving Rouhani as an official guest, Constantin further added “It shows that Francois Hollande doesn’t care about human rights. The only thing he cares about is business. Shame on Francois Hollande. Shame on Rouhani.”
A sign was also put on display under the bridge from where the activist was hanging, stating “Welcome Rohani, executioner of freedom”.
According to reports, the Iranian President is expected to finalize major deals during his visit to France, including the purchase of around 100 Airbuses and other deals on health, agriculture and the environment.
Festival spotlights Arab women in Film
January 28, 2016
Every so often the Askew Student Life Center hosts a film festival that gives the students an opportunity to embrace a different culture. This time around the ASLC, in conjunction with the Middle East Center’s Arabic Division of Modern Language, celebrates Arab culture and feminism with its Arab Women’s Film Festival.
The festival started out with the animated independent film The Prophet based on the book of the same name by Kahlil Gibran. The film was opened with a speech from Middle East Center director Dr. Zeina Schlenoff who gave an informative speech about the Arab film scene and the rising inclusion of women in that scene.
The film itself boasts the touching story of Almitra, a speechless young rebellious girl, Kamila, her mother, and Mustafa, an artist and revolutionary leader among the people. The film follows Mustafa’s release from seven years of confinement as he meets with the people of his town and shares his wisdom about love and acceptance through poetry and song.
The strength of the film was in its art direction and its willingness to shift to different art styles throughout the film. The art of the movie combined with the beautiful animation really helped to get across all the deep ideas the film had to offer.
“There was a more in depth message to this movie than most other animated movies,” accounting graduate student Jannate Noll said. “The main character represented standing up for what you believe in.”
While this message might seem like your run of the mill animation message the films unique style and emphasis on peace and love gives the message a more unique spin. The film’s beautifully composed visuals and animation along with its touching story and characters makes it a must see for anyone who loves animation.
After the screening, the Arab Division also hosted a reception with traditional Arab cuisine and musical performances. The performances ranged from traditional folk music to belly dance. "The sound is very interesting because of the way the beats of the music and the difference of the instruments differentiates the performance from western music," Ide Messmore, a Sophomore creative writing student said.
The night also featured dance sets from The Belly Dancers at FSU and The Student Dabke Association. The belly dancers proved to be elegant and well versed in their craft and the dabke dancers were high octane and fun to watch.
In summary, the Middle East Center clearly went above and beyond to bring this unique culture to FSU with their presentation of a great film, authentic food and live entertainment. The festival will continue over the next two weeks with a screening of I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced on Monday February 1 at 6pm, followed by a round table discussion, along with two films on Monday February 8 that will be introduced by the FSU faculty. The films are Daughter of Keltoum at 6 p.m. and Where do we go Now? at 8:30 p.m.
Liverpool Muslim women's group criticises Prime Minister's plans to ban the veil
28 Jan 2016
Farida Laeeq says Muslim women should have right to decide if they wear Hijab after David Cameron said he would support veil ban in schools and courts
The president of a Liverpool women’s Muslim group has spoken out over the government’s controversial proposal to ban the veil.
Farida Laeeq, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, has called for Prime Minister David Cameron to spend more time talking to women before introducing measures, she says, would limit personal choice.
Mr Cameron has supported measures to ban women from wearing Hijab veils in schools, courts and other British institutions - in a measure, he claims, would promote integration between faiths.
As part of the new plans, ministers will pledge to outlaw gender segregation during meetings in public buildings amid concerns that some Muslim organisations are forcing women to sit separately.
But Mrs Laeeeq criticised the measure saying how a person dresses in a democratic society should not be dictated.
Mrs Laeeq said: “The UK is a beacon of freedom of choice so we, as Muslim women, strongly feel that men and women should be free to choose where they would like to sit.
“Is that not better than the Government imposing restrictions or limitations on personal choice? The Government should at least consult Muslim women and ask their views.”
The president says women from the association have no objections over showing their faces on matters of security.
She added: “Our experience is that Ahmadiyya Muslim women have excelled in the UK in their education careers and become integrated and active members of society whilst abiding by their faith and wearing the Hijab.
“If the Government seeks to remove the Hijab or creates conditions to make it difficult for Muslim women to continue with their work or education, then it would deny the UK of a talented and loyal workforce.
“Such a motive would stifle opportunities for educated Muslim women and be a loss to the nation.
“Serving the nation and abiding by the teachings of Islam are not mutually exclusive.”
The Ahmadiyya community says while it welcomes support for migrants to learn English, they are concerned about what dress requirements may be imposed following Mr Cameron’s announcement.
Last week, the Government announced a £20m language fund, specifically targeting Muslim women. The Prime Minister reported that one in five, 22%, speak little or no English.
According to Islam the standard of basic Hijab requires a Muslim woman to cover her head, hair and chin.
Are American Muslim Women Brave? How About Those in Europe?
A New York Times foreign correspondent tweets, "2 brave Muslim women ... dissect IS videos 2show just how grounded they r in Islamic scripture."
"Courageous push for [women's] rights in Muslim world," reads a Des Moines Register headline to describe a campaign challenging Iran's religious dress code.
The Boston Globe spotlights, "Four Courageous Women Who Are Making a Difference," in Kenya, Pakistan and Syria.
Muslim women are often celebrated as courageous when pushing back against legal, social and cultural norms within their faith communities. But, Rose Hamid's recent silent protest at (and ejection from) a Trump rally while sporting a hijab and T-shirt that read, "Salam, I come in peace" begs the question: aren't Muslim women pushing back against Islamophobia "courageous," too?
We haven't always viewed them that way. But, perhaps we should.
Consider these examples.
From Dina Tokio to Haute Hijab, from Dolce & Gabbana to DKNY, from models to fashion bloggers, Muslim women have changed fashion norms while remaining true to their faith beliefs. In a world where following the latest trend is everything, these Muslim women have made their mark by ignoring it, with a modest sense of style. Brave.
Muslim schoolgirls sent home from school in Belgium for wearing long skirts. (Credit: Channel 24)
Last year, European Muslim women were denied the right to an education - a human right that everyone should enjoy - for wearing a long skirt to class.
In France, where the hijab and other religious "symbols" have been banned since 2004, more than 130 Muslim schoolgirls (who had already abandoned their headscarf) were sent home because officials disapproved of their modest skirts (e.g. too provocative, conspicuously religious, etc.). Muslim students in Belgium had a similar experience.
These developments triggered a Twitter campaign, #JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux which translates into 'I'll wear my skirt how I like.' As a result of the public pressure, Belgian school officials eventually permitted the brave Muslim schoolgirls to pursue their studies.
Brave Muslim Women Go Online, Take to the Streets to Challenge Status Quo (Islamophobia)
American Muslim women are creating online initiatives, networking sites and blogs to counter negative messaging and views about their faith and religious community.
For example, Amara Majeed is a 17-year-old high school student who created "The Hijab Project" to challenge hostility towards Muslim religious attire. Her desire to remedy misconceptions about Muslims motivates her to also write for CNN and The Huffington Post. Majeed's courage has even inspired her mother, who grew up in Sri Lanka, to reclaim the hijab she had abandoned out of fear post 9/11.
Like Majeed, Rana Abdelhamid also created a social media campaign - "Hijabis of New York" -- to raise awareness about the experience, perspectives and identities of American Muslim women. A graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Abdelhamid's project represents her courageous, peaceful response to a prevailing climate of Islamophobia.
Others, like Mona Haydar, have taken to the street to challenge stereotypes. Last year, together with her husband, Haydar set up a "Ask a Muslim," stand outside a public library in Cambridge, Mass. The allure of free coffee and doughnuts drew folks into conversation.
Haydar later shared her reflections -- hopeful, inspiring and optimistic -- on Facebook.
Brave Muslim Women Succeed in their Careers (Despite Alarmingly High Rates of Religious Discrimination in Employment)
Research evidence tells us that Muslim women face formidable challenges overcoming employment discrimination because of their faith identities. A recent British study found, for instance, that Muslim women are 70% more likely to be unemployed than their white Christian counterparts with identical credentials and language skills.
And, anecdotal evidence suggests that anti-Muslim animus isn't just directed to those who have embraced the hijab.
Still, some British Muslim women are pushing back against Islamophobia and succeeding anyway. Last year, the UK saw a historic 13 Muslim women become Members of Parliament. The BBC's Mishal Husain, a Muslim of Pakistani heritage, was also named Broadcaster of the Year. And, Nadiya Hussain - of Great British Bake Off fame - won her nation's heart.
Each of these Muslim women were courageous enough to believe in themselves, and in the possibility of change.
As a guest on a European radio station observed last year, "It takes courage to wear a scarf." In the past decade or so, Muslim women here and in Western European have been increasingly targeted by anti-Muslim hate violence. More than 80% of hate crimes in France are experienced by Muslim women; similar rates prevail in the U.K. as well. American Muslim women are also vulnerable.
But, they are speaking up and fighting back. Literally, at times. After she was physically assaulted in an anti-Muslim hate crime, Rana Abdelhamid - the Harvard grad student referenced above - developed self- defense classes to protect other women. She's not alone.
After Australian Muslim Nasrin Amin experienced two separate hate attacks in Melbourne, she organized a community wide forum to raise awareness about Islamophobia, and Muslim women's experiences. Interestingly, her message is one of friendship. "There's nothing to be scared of," she shared at the forum, "we can be friends."
While some have overcome violent hate crimes, other Muslim women's experiences haven't involved physical injuries but are perhaps just as traumatic.
Representative is Darlene Hider's encounter with Islamophobia during her Delta Air Lines flight last year. While traveling with her family, Hider was moved to the back of the plan after another passenger began complaining about her kids. She apparently told Hider, who wears the hijab, "This is America!"
Still, Hider's message was one of forgiveness. "This made me stronger," Hider told HuffPost. "Our faith teaches us to forgive, and I do."
And, that too takes courage.
Engy Abdelkader serves as Assistant Director and Adjunct Professor at The Bridge Initiative, a research project at Georgetown University.
Birmingham Central Mosque Chairman Told Muslim Women's Group That 'Men More Likely To Be Domestic Violence Victims'
28 Jan 2016
Complaints made after under-fire Lord Mayor elect also allegedly said forced marriages were no longer a problem
Lord Mayor elect Muhammad Afzal faces a new political storm after allegedly telling a leading Muslim women’s group that men were more often domestic violence victims - and that forced marriages were no longer a problem.
The under-fire Central Mosque Chairman is said to have made the controversial comments at a meeting with Shaista Gohir, MBE, and her organisation, the Muslim Women’s Network UK.
The nationally-respected group had arranged a meeting at the mosque in December with trustees to discuss the possibility of holding a joint event to raise awareness about the often hidden problem of forced marriages.
But in a letter of complaint to the mosque, Ms Gohir claims they were left angered at the ‘dismissive’ attitude of Mr Afzal - who has been under huge political pressure after being caught on tape calling David Cameron an Islamophobe.
The group had met Mr Afzal and a number of other trustees at the meeting held at the mosque, a registered charity.
“We were made to feel that our claims about forced marriage being a problem were dishonest.”
In her complaint letter, Ms Gohir said: “We provided examples of case studies from our helpline and explained that other women’s helplines across the country were regularly receiving calls on forced marriages and that a high percentage of these concerned Muslim women and girls, particularly from Pakistani background.
“Mr Afzal responded by saying forced marriage was no longer a problem.
“When we pointed out that UK Government Force Marriage Unit statistics indicated that significant numbers of victims were from the West Midlands, Mr Afzal responded that the government figures were exaggerated.
“We felt that Mr Afzal was dismissive as he went on to say that many marriages took place at the mosque, that the couples who got married were happy and that the mosque would know if forced marriages were taking place.
“We were made to feel that our claims about forced marriage being a problem were dishonest.”
Before leaving Ms Gohir and her colleague, who had taken notes, had asked the mosque trustees about another possible joint project to highlight domestic violence.
“He then went on to state that ‘domestic violence was happening mainly in the Christian community because they get drunk’.
Ms Gohir wrote in her letter: “Mr Afzal responded by saying more men than women suffered domestic violence these days.
“We argued that although men did suffer from domestic violence, by far the larger number was made up of women.
“He then went on to state that ‘domestic violence was happening mainly in the Christian community because they get drunk’.
“I explained that the problem was also significant in Muslim communities and that women have been murdered as a result. However, Mr Afzal questioned why he had not heard about these murders in the media if they had taken place.
“We explained that cases had been reported in the media and that, in fact, there had been several murders in the West Midlands alone.
“By the end of the conversation it was clear that the trustees, and especially Mr Afzal, were not interested in women’s issues and had little, if any, intention of working with us on any women’s rights and issues.”
As well as making the complaint to the Central Mosque about Mr Afzal, the group is complaining to the Charities Commission pointing out the mosque has 39 male trustees - and not a single woman.
Ms Gohir said in her letter: “This emphasises the blatant nature of the discrimination against women. Are you suggesting that not a single woman had the skills, knowledge and ability to fill one of the trustee roles?”
The group is also making a complaint to the Labour Party about Mr Afzal.
Ms Gohir said: “Although he made his comments in his capacity as chair of the mosque, as a councillor of 30 years he should have been very aware of these issues.”
The long-serving Labour councillor is currently fighting for his political future.
We previously told how he had attended an anti-Prevent meeting last week where he labelled the Prime Minister an Islamophobe - a claim he denied but we published an audio tape confirming the comments.
Birmingham Council Leader John Clancy has asked the councillor to consider his position as Lord Mayor elect, a move which sources say has made his position ‘untenable’.
Neither Mr Afzal nor anyone from the Central Mosque was available for comment.
*If you are suffering from any issues connected with forced marriage or domestic violence, you can call Muslim Women’s Network UK on 0800 999 5786.
No Marriage Law for Hindus in Pakistan: This "Legal Vacuum Naturally Creates a Multitude of Issues for Pakistani Hindus, Especially the Women".
IANS | Jan 29, 2016
ISLAMABAD: There is no marriage law for the millions of Hindus living in Pakistan, a leading daily said on Friday, noting that this "legal vacuum naturally creates a multitude of issues for Pakistani Hindus, especially the women".
An editorial "Hindu marriage bill" in Dawn on Friday said that while many politicians are quick to issue public statements about the rights of minorities in Pakistan, when it comes to taking practical steps to secure these rights, there is very little to show.
"A prime example of this strange paradox is the decades-old issue of legislation related to Hindu marriage.
"At the current time, there is no marriage law for the millions of Hindus living in Pakistan. This legal vacuum naturally creates a multitude of issues for Pakistani Hindus, especially the women of the community," said the daily.
It said that Hindu women have to face problems in proving their relationships when dealing with officialdom, while widows are particularly disadvantaged.
"Without official proof of relationships, getting government documents issued or moving forward on any other activity which involves documentation - from opening bank accounts to applying for visas - becomes next to impossible for any citizen."
The daily wondered how the Hindu community is supposed to cope?
Some experts point out that forced conversions are also facilitated by the lack of documentation of Hindu marriages.
Despite the fact that many of these points were raised at a seminar in Islamabad on Wednesday by the chairman of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Law and Justice - which is supposed to approve the Hindu marriage bill to be tabled in the house - he was unable to convince the committee to give the green signal at a meeting on the same day.
"...even the Supreme Court has ordered the state to enact the law, (but) lawmakers have failed to do the needful."
The editorial went on to say that while family law is now a provincial subject, the federating units can ask the centre, through resolutions passed by their respective assemblies, to legislate on the matter.
Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have passed the requisite resolutions, but the Sindh and Punjab assemblies have not yet done so.
"This tardiness and lack of political will are inexcusable. If the parties leading the Sindh and Punjab governments are serious about their commitment to minority rights, they should pass the resolutions without further delay in order to do away with the hurdles in the way of a Hindu marriage law.
"Sindh should show particular alacrity, as most of Pakistan's Hindus reside in this province. Failure to take timely action and pass the law will only compound this decades-old injustice and expose our leaders' claims of respecting minority rights as hollow," it added.
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