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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 7 Aug 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Bangladesh Women’s Right Activist Hails HC Verdict to Ban Jamaat

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Aug 2013

Two Muslim school girls wearing headscarves and one wearing a wig wait in front of the Marcel Bloch high school in Bischeim, on the outskirts of Strasbourg, France, shortly after the 2004 headscarf ban. Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images


Women Work alongside Men at Checkpoints in Pakistan

 'Burka Avenger' Protects Women's Rights

 Leaked Report Revives Divisive French Debate about Headscarves

 Slowly, Surely Iraqi Women Increase Visibility, Role in Society

 Women of the Wall Barred From Praying At Kotel Again, In Last Minute Decision

 Ultra-Orthodox College Threatens To Revoke Scholarships over 'Immodest' Dress

 Dowry-related Violence in Australia’s Indian Community Calls for Law Reform

 Sheikha Fatima Greets Wives of Arab and Islamic Leaders on Eid ul-Fitr

 Media Campaign Gives Libyan Women a Voice

 Women Engineers to Fight for Rights in Jeddah

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau






Bangladesh Women’s right activist hails HC verdict to ban Jamaat

 Aug. 7, 2013

A Women rights activist of Bangladesh, Shipra Bose applauded the High Court’s verdict to ban Jamaat-e-Islami, the main Islamic party in the country. The court declared Jamaat as illegal and banned it from political activities including taking part in the general elections due early next year. Bose said that this outfit stood for fanatic causes. However, the ruling that the registration of Jamaat as a political party conflicted with the country's secular constitution immediately did trigger violent protests by the party supporters. On this aspect, Bose said that the Jamaat did not honour the nation’s Constitution.



Women Work alongside Men at Checkpoints in Pakistan

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

 Aug. 7, 2013

When arriving in Pakistan, foreigners may be amazed to learn that young women - such as Gulnaz Malik - serve at security checkpoints in a country where women's lives remain largely mysterious to outsiders.

The 26-year-old undergraduate student, who operates security scanners as an intern at an Islamabad hotel, told China Daily it is not unusual for women to disregard the potential threat of terrorism.

"I do not feel any pressure because security is part of our life," said Malik, when asked how she felt when she saw someone who appeared suspicious approaching.

Media reports depict the South Asian country as one wracked by bomb attacks from the Pakistani Taliban as well as local militants.

As a byproduct of the lingering turbulence and intimidating security circumstances in the country, security screening and bodyguards have become a booming business.

With fears of attacks constant, many private businesses, including major shopping malls, hotels, restaurants and government buildings, have hired security personnel and installed their own inspection posts and X-ray scanners.

"Four or five years ago, the situation was worse around the country," said Ishfaq Kiani, 39, a section chief for a security screening team working for hotels in Islamabad.

The security situation in some major cities has improved but some remote areas, especially northern mountainous areas, still experience violent assaults against the army by terrorists and militants, Kiani said.

Plaguing concerns

In Islamabad, the situation has been less troubled over the past two years and it is in general better than in other towns and cities.

Yet bomb attacks have never stopped making headlines in big cities such as the southern port city of Karachi - one of Pakistan's largest cities.

Malik does not try to conceal the fact that she worries for family members in Karachi when she watches TV news reports about bombings on the city's streets.

Such attacks are frequent. In Karachi on the evening of July 20, at least one person was killed and three others were injured when a car bomb exploded in Hassan Square .

"I worry about my family. Every time there is a blast, I call them," Malik said.

Ordinary Pakistani people have become accustomed to frequent security checks in their daily lives. The thriving security checking business also gave helping hands to Malik, who took her current post last year for "some financial problems" of her family.

"Yes, I got my payment", she said

According to Kiani, women such as Malik work equally alongside males in the Islamic country, which has a ministry for women's empowerment.

"The trend has changed," Kiani said, with more than 40 percent of the country's workers now female.

When asked how people treat security staff members, Malik said some people treat them well but others may demonstrate bad manners as a result of poor education, impatience or resentment.

"It is part of our duty for better security, and when we are not treated with good manners, I explain the issue of safety," she said.

"Sometimes people get angry with us, so I say, 'It is for your own safety', to handle it in a very polite way", she added.

Pakistan estimates that it has suffered more than 40,000 casualties since it joined the efforts to combat terrorism following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.

Despite nationwide alerts regarding attacks by extremists and militants, there have been more than 6,000 fatalities in both 2011 and 2012.

Agha Nadeem, Federal Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said the country is striving to eradicate terrorism and minimize the impact of attacks on local people and foreign visitors.

"Pakistan is striving very hard to be part of the peace process," Nadeem said.

At the moment, "Pakistan definitely welcomes tourists to Pakistan, but it will take some more time for the country to overcome this," he said.



'Burka Avenger' Protects Women's Rights

 Aug. 7, 2013

A masked crusader is taking over Pakistan and she’s not your average superhero. 

An intelligent schoolteacher by day, an enemy of injustice by night, the Burka Avenger fights Taliban-like extremists for women's rights and education.

The superhero’s name is Jiya, who conceals her identity in a burka -- the full-body cloak worn by some Muslim women.

The Burka Avenger was created by Pakistani pop star Haroon Rashid.

"I was reading a lot of press reports about girl's schools being shut down by extremist elements, so I sort of conceived this idea of the main protagonist defending the girl's school," Rashid said, explaining how the character came to be.  "But I didn't want her to be perceived as anti-Islamic, and so if the main heroine is wearing a burka, she is obviously a Muslim."

The Burka Avernger can now only be seen on Pakistani television.



Leaked Report Revives Divisive French Debate about Headscarves

Lara Marlowe

Aug 7, 2013

Wearing of Islamic headscarves, yarmulkes and large crosses banned in public schools in 2004

An official report by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI), leaked to Le Monde, has revived the debate over signs of religious affiliation in French society.

The HCI, founded in 1989, falls under the ambit of the prime minister. Its report concludes that religious sectarianism is on the rise, and advocates banning Islamic headscarves in universities. These findings are contested by the head of the conference of university presidents, and by the successor organisation to the ‘mission’.

France already has two laws on veiling. The wearing of Islamic headscarves, yarmulkes and large crosses was banned in public schools in 2004. Offenders can be expelled. The law proposed by the HCI would extend this rule to institutions of higher learning.

In 2010, France banned face-covering veils in all public places, with a maximum fine of €150. When a policeman demanded that a Muslim woman in the town of Trappes show her face for an identity check last month, several nights of rioting ensued.

‘Principle of secularism’

Other measures advocated by the HCI include mandatory courses on “the principle of secularism” for future civil servants, hospital and healthcare personnel; and controls to prevent the use of student centres for religious purposes.

The report was somewhat discredited by the fact that it was mostly based on a nine-year-old study by the conference of university presidents. It complains of proselytising in some universities, of students and professors opposing mixed gender activities, and of believers who demand provisions for religious dietary restrictions on campus.

The report also singles out evangelical Christians who have criticised the teaching of Darwinism and texts by Voltaire, Pascal and Camus.

Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Paris mosque and the face of official Islam in France, said the report represents a “new stigmatisation” of Muslims. Abdallah Zekri, president of a group that combats Islamophobia, noted the council of state in 1996 deemed illegal a University of Lille ban on young women in headscarves.

President François Hollande told the Tunisian parliament last month that “France knows Islam and democracy are compatible.”

But France’s charter of diversity is contradicted by attempts to ban the wearing of religious symbols, sociologists Hicham Benaissa and Sylvain Crépon argued in Le Monde. It was inconsistent, they wrote, “to want to recruit someone because he is ‘other’, to make him into ‘same’.” North African immigrants used to be identified as “Magrébins” or Arabs, they noted; now they are called “Muslims”.

The debate extends to private sector workplaces. France’s highest court, the court of cassation, ruled in March that a creche employee had the right to wear a headscarf. The conservative UMP then proposed a law that would allow businesses to ban religious symbols at work.

According to a BVA poll published in March, 80 per cent of French people want all signs of religious belonging to be banned from public life, including from private enterprise.



Slowly, Surely Iraqi Women Increase Visibility, Role in Society

By: Wassim Bassem

 Aug. 7, 2013

Iraqi society has witnessed a growth in the role of women, who are joining fields of work that were once limited to men and beginning to wear a more modern form of hijab, distinguished by the way it is worn and by its unique colors. Iraqi women — both Muslims and non-Muslims — were known for decades for wearing traditional black cloaks.

Despite rigorous calls by religious parties and conservative groups, media, social and even economic openness to the world — as well as Iraqi women’s will to live by their own beliefs — have caused women’s activities and projects to flourish. These include beauty salons, women’s massage parlors and gyms, casinos, shops and businesses that are either owned by women or employ them. The steady increase in the number of female university students is one of biggest the signs of the growing role of women in Iraqi society.

Sabrine Hassan, a social researcher from Baghdad, tells Al-Monitor that “When walking around university campuses, you will notice female students wearing the latest fashion trends and keen to look chic. However, most of them are wearing a modern form of hijab.”

In the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Baghdad, Reem Saleh tells Al-Monitor that “20 female students are studying electrical engineering and will graduate from the engineering faculty. This is a good percentage compared to the total number of students, which is 40.”

The university campus is a sort of microcosm for all of Iraq. Yet it differs from the general climate that prevails in the country, as mixed-gender groups of students walk freely in the corridors of the university. In one corner, a male student makes conversation with a girl.

Reem believes that this isn't new, saying, "Iraqi universities have been known for their openness and the role of women, since the first Iraqi university was founded.” She added, “In the 1970s, girls in universities were known for being dressed up and they rarely wore the hijab. However, the exact opposite is true today.” Reem stressed that “The modern form of hijab has become a fashion trend and a social necessity, before being a religious obligation.”

Today, beauty salons, which were a common social nexus of the past, have taken on a modern flair and are widespread in most cities. They have lately gained particular importance since they started resisting “restrictions” and tight official and religious-monitoring procedures.

Wisal Tamimi succeeded in making the beauty salon she owns in the city of Babel unique in terms of its modern décor. Speaking to Al-Monitor, she said that “criticism by hard-liners are not as rife compared to previous years.”

Tamimi recounted that “One morning, bearded men came in and gave me some advice on ethics and social customs,” requesting that she “remove the photos of Western actresses from the storefront and close the shop.”

She added, “Iraqi people view barbershops and beauty salons with an eye of suspicion. Yet they continue to visit them because of their need for beauty.”

Cosmetic surgery among Iraqi women has become very common, and does not cause much debate these days within Iraqi families. This is true despite the conservative mainstream that urges women not to display their beauty and not to take care of it excessively, as this is considered a mark of Western influence.

Plastic surgery has become an obsession to the point that some female beauty salons have been turned into secret beauty clinics.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, cleric Baqir al-Husseini from Karbala (southwest of Baghdad) called for “scrutinizing every suspicious matter that could lead to immorality,” and stressed that “small mishaps pave the way for great sins.” He emphasized the point that “Women are not tools to display beauty and cause excitement.”

He added, “Enriching the community with Islamic appearances is a [religious] duty. However, this does not mean that beauty salons that are not committed to Islamic teachings should be closed.”

Ruqiyya Kamel, who owns a beauty salon in Baghdad, told Al-Monitor that she “cannot distinguish between what is Islamic and non-Islamic when it comes to her beauty salon.” She added, “There is nothing suspicious in my work, which is respected by everyone. I run my business in broad daylight.”

Rajaa Ali, an academic and feminist activist from Babil, told Al-Monitor, “All of these calls for conservatism and the activities of extremist groups will not succeed in preventing society from obtaining its needs, regardless of the position of Sharia on this matter.”

Ali stressed that “Women do whatever they can to please men, and beauty is an innate need.” She added, "Any activities related to women’s body and beauty matters are rumored to be suspicious activities. Women’s necessities stores — especially underwear shops — as well as casinos and slimming and fitness centers are all questionable and dubious in the eyes of conservatives and hard-liners.”

On the other hand, Raad Kama, a conservative teacher from Baghdad, told Al-Monitor that he “refuses to grant full trust to such places,” confirming his belief that “Most of them are dubious due to evidence of their involvement in acts that are in direct conflict with social customs.”

However, speaking to Al-Monitor, Kareem Abbas, the owner of a women’s clothing store, warned against “those who make claims without backing them up." He said, "However, since we live in patriarchal society, people accept these claims because they are in line with their ego and dominance.”

Beauty and fitness centers for both men and women are widespread in some Iraqi cities. Nevertheless, Amal Hussein, who spent about 20 years in Germany, told Al-Monitor that she would rather work out at home because the fitness center she went to in Babil was not very encouraging, as she felt strange and the place felt like it was closing in on her.

Wassim Bassem is an Iraqi journalist specializing in following social phenomena through investigations and reports published in various media outlets.



Women of the Wall barred from praying at Kotel again, in last minute decision

Citing overcrowding at women's section, Israel Police relegate Women of the Wall to the rear of the Western Wall Plaza, despite committing last week to escort them directly to the wall in accordance with court decision.

By Judy Maltz

 Aug. 7, 2013

Women of the Wall and their supporters who came to the Kotel on Monday for the monthly Rosh Chodesh service were relegated to pray in an area away from the wall rather than in the women's section as Israel Police had promised them last week.

The decision was made at the last minute, police said, because by the time the group had arrived "the women's section was full." The service continued otherwise as planned, with no serious confrontations from opponents.

The Jerusalem District Court ruled several months ago that contrary to police interpretations of the law, Women of the Wall are not in violation of “local custom” when they wear prayer shawls and put on tefillin at the Kotel. The ruling was considered a major victory for supporters of the women’s organization, who have been waging a battle to pray as they see fit at the holy site.


8:29 A.M.: Women of the Wall supporters blowing shofar at kotel to conclude prayer service.

8:27 A.M.: A group of Women of the Wall supporters is sitting with a torah scroll at entrance to plaza to protest refusal of Kotel rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz to allow them to bring one inside.

8:21 A.M.: Jerusalem police spokesman says no arrests this month but "several whistles confiscated."

Lesley Sachs, director of Women of the Wall tells Haaretz: "Police are not dealing equally with us and the Haredim. The same law that prevents bringing torah scrolls into the Kotel area also prohibits using musical instruments, which is what whistles are. It also prevents holding up signs."

8:15 A.M.: Gabrielle Tercatin from Needham, Mass, celebrates her Bat Mitzvah with the Women of the Wall in Jerusalem. She had her Bat Mitzvah in the U.S. but wanted to do "something meaningful" in Israel.

7:49 A.M.: Police are confronting ultra-Orthodox men provoking Women of the Wall with whistles, and begin forcibly moving them away.

7:40 A.M.: Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben Rubi tells Haaretz: "Blowing whistles is not against the law or a disturbance of the peace. Therefore, we will not stop it." Spokesman says that although the plan was to allow WOW to pray in women's section today, it was not possible "because by 6:30 A.M. the women's prayer section was full."

Once again this month, responding to calls, thousands of young seminary girls showed up for Rosh Hodesh prayer in order to crowd out Women of the Wall worshippers in response to calls from rabbinic leaders.

7:30 A.M.: Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform movement in Israel: "Police are in cahoots with Haredi thugs. They are watching what's going on and doing absolutely nothing."

7:14 A.M.: Women of the Wall have begun their prayer service. Several hundred women and men holding egalitarian prayer service at far back end of plaza behind police barricades. Ultra-Orthodox men congregating, jeering on other side of the barricades, and using using loud whistles and loudspeakers to drown out the egalitarian service.

7:05 A.M.: Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman says she was just notified by police that the organization's supporters would once again be relegated this month to a place away from women's section for their monthly prayer service, "but closer than last month." She says that because possible clashes were expected this morning between Temple Mount faithful and Muslim worshipers praying at conclusion of Ramadan, the Women of the Wall have decided this month to back down, "but this is the last time."



Ultra-Orthodox College Threatens To Revoke Scholarships over 'Immodest' Dress

By Yarden Skop

 Aug. 7, 2013

A controversial sign was posted last month at the Ono Academic College’s Jerusalem branch, which serves the Haredi community - it threatened to revoke the scholarships of female students who come to campus wearing “immodest clothing” that does not meet the college’s dress code.

“We would like to announce that starting Monday, Sivan 24, 5773 (June 3, 2013), the Haredi Scholarship will be revoked without any prior notification, for [female] students who come to the college (including during the period of exams) not according to the dress code of the Ono Academic College, the Jerusalem Haredi Campus,” stated the sign. “In addition, disciplinary action will be taken according to the college’s regulations.

“To come in inappropriate clothing that does not meet the modesty regulations during the exam period means the forfeiture of the right to be tested,” said the sign.

Two months ago a number of complaints were received from female students who complained about two other students at the branch, saying they were not honoring the dress code as defined by the school’s regulations, an employee involved in the matter told Haaretz. After examining the complaint, the college management asked the two female students to come discuss whether they were suited to study at the campus or would be better off transferring to the college’s main Kiryat Ono site, which serves the general population.

At the end of the meeting, the two students chose to continue at the Haredi campus while committing to “honor the basic rules that enable to preserve the character of the place.” No one has ever had a scholarship revoked at the Jerusalem branch, and it did not happen in this case either, said the employee.

The Jerusalem Haredi Campus of the college serves hundreds of ultra-Orthodox students, many of whom receive scholarships from various sources. The college is a private institution that is not funded by the state.

The Ono Academic College said: “We are proud that our Haredi Campus of the Ono Academic College blazed the trail for higher education for Haredim in Israel and serves as an academic home for half the Haredi students in the country.

This campus is responsible for 2,000 graduates who finished their studies and as a result integrated into the workforce. The atmosphere for learning on the Haredi Campus has been adapted for the lifestyles of the students who come to study there.

Strictly keeping to an appropriate dress code, for men and for women, is an essential condition that is intended to respect the community of students there. It should be noted that in any case of violation of regulations, the student is invited for a clarification before any action is taken in the matter.

"Without strictly keeping the suitability required for the Haredi sector, students from this community will not come [to study] and will not receive a higher education that contributes to their integration into society and the workforce. Every student who is bothered by the dress code of the Haredi Campus has the possibility of studying at the main campus of the Ono Academic College, where there is no demand for a special dress code,” said the school.



Dowry-related Violence in Australia’s Indian Community Parks Calls For Law Reform

5 AUG 2013

Fears that dowry-related violence in Australia’s Indian community is on the rise have prompted calls to change laws to protect women.

Fears that dowry-related violence in Australia’s Indian community is on the rise have prompted calls to change laws to protect women.

Psychiatrist Dr Mandula O'Connor and lawyer Molina Asthana are lobbying to change dowry regulations in Australia to better reflect Indian laws and act as a disincentive for men.

The ancient dowry custom is outlawed in India, but remains a widespread practice. There are fears that marriages are falling apart with husbands retaining the valuable offerings, leaving women broke and vulnerable.

Jatinda claims domestic violence from dowry disputes contributed to the breakdown of her first marriage.

“All he cared about was dowry. He didn't notice anything else, love, care, compassion, nothing. I think it was all about dowry."

Dr Mandula O'Connor says this is a familiar narrative.

She says 75-percent of domestic violence referrals from the Indian community are dowry related.

One of her patients, “Kumla” said she contemplated suicide after suffering violence at the hands of her husband because he and his family considered the dowry offer to be insufficient.

“For acts of cruelty done any time after marriage or before marriage in relation to dowry could lead to imprisonment up to 5-years and a fine,” said Molina Asthana.

This is a contentious issue as the dowry is still engrained in Indian culture and the practice still takes place, often passed off as a gift.



Sheikha Fatima greets wives of Arab and Islamic leaders on Eid al-Fitr

 Aug. 7, 2013

H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of General Women's Union, and of the Family Development Foundation and Chairwoman of Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood has sent congratulatory cables to the wives of Their Highnesses Presidents, Kings and Princes of the Arab and Islamic world on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

Sheikha Fatima wished them good health and happiness and for their people peace and prosperity.

© Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2013.



Media campaign gives Libyan women a voice

 Aug. 7, 2013

A Libyan non-governmental organization has launched a media campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence, using religious passages that point to the proper treatment of women, Your Middle East reported on Sunday.

The Voice of Libyan Women, founded during the 2011 revolution, has launched Project Noor (meaning ‘light’ in Arabic), a public awareness campaign which uses billboards, radio, TV and social media to disseminate messages about women’s security.

The project follows two years of research by the VLW throughout Libya, which documented women’s opinions and ideas about abuse and how to prevent it.

Previously, there were “no clear statistics” on the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in Libya, said Nadia el-Fallah, manager of Project Noor.

“Starting in November 2012, the VLW led Libya’s first security assessment focusing on the impact of security on women’s political participation,” Fallah told Your Middle East.

“It was an opportunity to gauge women’s national security concerns but also their security concerns that affect them on a daily basis.”

Project Noor aims to raise awareness and provoke discussion about these issues through a national media campaign.

One of the project’s central objectives is to reconstruct ideas about women using religious language.

The campaign uses passages on the treatment of women from the Quran and the Sunna (teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) in order to legitimize its message.

More than 30 graphic designs addressing domestic violence are now on billboards in major Libyan cities, in addition to radio and TV campaigns.

Social media is also being used, with the hashtag #NoorLibya.

Project Noor “will be the tool for sparking conversations in people’s homes, mosques, (and) coffee shops,” said Fallah.

Surveys conducted among Libyan women revealed that the “most common justification for discrimination against women was the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islamic teachings,” according to the project press release.

Islamic justification is central to Project Noor’s success in making people think twice about the position of women in Libyan society, said Fallah.

“The reason why (the project) has been well received thus far is because we paired issues of women’s security to proper treatment of women in Islam.”



Women Engineers to Fight for Rights in Jeddah

 Aug. 7, 2013

JEDDAH — A female engineering student plans to sue the Ministry of Labor (MOL) for sexual discrimination.

Sara Alharthy, an engineering student at Effat University, says her internship application to the Saudi Electric Company was refused because she is a woman. “There is no written law or religious verdict that states females are not allowed to work as engineers.”

Alharthy has applied to a number of companies hoping to do more than simple office work or theoretical research.

She has completed her internship in Schneider Electric Company in Riyadh. “When I started my internship they had me sit in the female section of the company and engage in online self-training curricula. This did not fulfill my requirements as an engineer as I must lead projects, solve critical problems, and work in the field.”

After negotiations with the Human Resources Department of the company, Alharthy was able to change her status from a passive intern in the company to having the right to see the plans of the company twice a week and being trained by professional engineers thrice a week.

Many companies are afraid of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said Dr. Mohamed Shehata, the chair of the electrical engineering department at Effat University.

The Ministry of Labor should apply regulations allowing female engineers to work in the field. They should also encourage all companies to open a female sector in the engineering departments. “We are obliged to sit with the companies and explain the validity and credibility of our students.

Although we have successful agreements with companies such as Zahid Group, still many companies feel apprehensive about allowing female engineers in their workplace.”

The situation is even more complicated with non-Saudi female students. “If the company agreed to take a female intern, they usually make it a condition for her to be Saudi. Because I’m not Saudi, I had to send my application to companies outside Saudi Arabia,” said Israa Al-Qassas, a Palestinian engineering student at Effat University.

King Abdulaziz University will be graduating their first group of female engineers in the near future. “The lack of work opportunities for females in electrical engineering fields such as power supply is the reason why we are not planning to open electrical engineering as a major in our department anytime,” said Sabah Linjawi, the engineering department supervisor for the female section in the university.