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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 Apr 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Boston Accused wife Not 'brainwashed': American women who converted to Islam speak out

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 Apr 2013 

Photo: Women-only bus trialled in Egypt to curb sexual harassment


 Saudi anti-domestic violence campaign sparks media buzz

' Sisters' directed to back of theatre for lecture, 'brothers' to the front, University VC conceded error

 Are Islamic Women Allowed to Have Piercings?

 Women-Only Bus Trialled in Egypt to Curb Sexual Harassment

 Shabnam Hashmi’s Struggle to Battle Hate through NGO, ANHAD

 Five Years Each For Men Who Forced UAE Maid into Prostitution

 Beauty Business Owners in Saudi Arabia Call For Urgent Relief

 Ignorance of Law Leads To Losses, Businesswomen In Jeddah Told

 We Have Helpers, Not Maids

 Smoking in Pregnancy Triples Baby’s Risk of Meningitis: Researchers

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Boston Accused wife Not 'brainwashed': American women who converted to Islam speak out

By JoNel Aleccia, Senior Writer, NBC News

27April 2013

When an American convert to Islam was revealed as the wife of the dead Boston bombing suspect, Lauren Schreiber wasn’t surprised at what came next.

Comments from former acquaintances and complete strangers immediately suggested that 24-year-old Katherine Russell, a New England doctor’s daughter, must have been coerced and controlled by her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died last week in a firefight with police.

“She was a very sweet woman, but I think kind of brainwashed by him,” reported the Associated Press, quoting Anne Kilzer, a Belmont, Mass., woman who said she knew Russell and her 3-year-old daughter.

That kind of assumption isn’t new to Schreiber, 26, a Greenbelt, Md., woman who became a Muslim in 2010.

“The moment you put on a hijab, people assume that you’ve forfeited your free will,” says Schreiber, who favors traditional Islamic dress. 

The Boston terror attack and the questions about whether Russell knew about her husband’s deadly plans have renewed stereotypes and misconceptions that U.S. women who have chosen that faith say they want to dispel.

“It’s not because somebody made me do this,” explains Schreiber, who converted after a college study-abroad trip to West Africa. “It’s what I choose to do and I’m happy.”

Her view is echoed by Rebecca Minor, 28, of West Hartford, Conn., a special education teacher who converted to Islam five years ago. When her students, ages 5 to 8, ask why she wears a headscarf, she always says the same thing: "It's something that's important to me and it reminds me to be a good person," says Minor, who is secretary for the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut.

Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to studies by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In 2011, about 1.8 million U.S. adults were Muslim, and about 20 percent had converted to the faith, Pew researchers say. Of those converts, about 54 percent were men and 46 percent were women. About 1 in 5 converts mentioned family factors, including marrying a Muslim, as a reason for adopting the faith.

Accusations are 'harsh'

Women convert for a wide range of reasons -- spiritual, intellectual and romantic -- says Yvonne Haddad, a professor of the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University.

“Islam is attractive to women that the feminist movement left behind,” says Haddad, who co-authored a 2006 book, “Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today.”

Women like Lindsey Faraj, 26, of Charlotte, N.C., say that wearing a headscarf and other traditional Islamic garb in public often leads people to assume she sacrificed her American life to please a man.

“'You must have converted in order to marry him,' I hear it all the time,” says Faraj, who actually converted simultaneously with her husband, Wathek Faraj, who is from Damascus, about four years ago.

She’s also heard people say that her husband is allowed to beat her, that she’s not free to get a divorce, that she and her two children, ages 4 months and 2, are subservient to the man. Such concepts are untrue, of course, she says.

“In the beginning, it did offend me a lot,” says Faraj, who grew up in a Christian family in Florida. “But now as my sense of my new self has grown, I don’t feel offended.”

She’s able to joke, for instance, about the woman who screamed insults from a passing car.

“They screamed: ‘Go back to your own country’ and I thought, ‘It doesn’t get more white than this, girl,’” says Faraj, indicating her fair features.

Like all stereotypes, such views are steeped in fear, says Haddad.

“Accusations of brainwashing are harsh,” she says. “They cover up the fact that we don’t comprehend why people like ‘us’ want to change and be like ‘them.’”

All three women say they came to Islam after much thought and spiritual searching.

Islam 'entered my heart'

Schreiber, who is a community outreach and events coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says she was drawn to the religion after meeting other Muslims on her trip abroad before graduating from St. Mary's College of Maryland in 2009.

She grew up in an agnostic family where she was encouraged to discover her own faith.

"It was, whatever you decide to do -- temple, church, mosque -- I support you finding yourself," says Schreiber. She's now married to a Muslim man, Muhammad Oda, 27, whose parents were both converts to Islam. She said came to the faith before the relationship. 

Faraj, a stay-at-home mom, says she never saw herself "as a religious person, in the least," but became enthralled after trying to learn more about Islam before a visit to see her husband's family.

“The concept of Islam hit me,” Faraj recalls. “It was just something that entered my heart.”

Minor, who is single, says she was intrigued by Islam in college, when she was close friends with a deployed American Marine but had Muslim friends at school.

"I saw a huge discrepancy in the negative things I heard coming from my (friend) and the actions I could see in my co-workers," she recalls. After spending 18 months learning about Islam, she decided to convert.

The response from family and friends has been overwhelmingly supportive, Minor says.

"The more you can do to educate people about Islam, not by preaching, but by actions, the better," she says.

Reports that Katherine Russell might have been embroiled in an abusive relationship, or that her husband intimidated her aren’t an indictment of Islam, Haddad says.

"Abusive men come in all colors, nationalities, ethnicities and from all religions," she says. "No one says that Christianity teaches abuse of women because some Christian men are abusive."

Schreiber says she frequently gets comments from people surprised to see her fair skin and hear her American accent from beneath a scarf. She says she appreciates it when people actually ask questions instead of making assumptions.

“I just want people to know that there are American Muslim women who wear hijab by choice because they believe in it and it feels right to them, not because anyone tells them to.”



Saudi anti-domestic violence campaign sparks media buzz

28 April 2013

“Some things can’t be covered,” reads the slogan of Saudi Arabia’s anti-domestic violence advert.

An image of a burqa-clad woman with a blackened and bloodshot eye, part of a campaign backed by the King Khalid Charitable Foundation, has sparked international media attention.

The campaign will to provide “legal protection for women and children from abuse in Saudi Arabia,” says behind the campaign.

“The phenomenon of battered women in Saudi Arabia is much greater than apparent,” the foundation wrote in literature for its campaign.

The King Khalid Foundation was established in 2001 by the family of the late King Khalid, who ruled from 1975 in Saudi Arabia until his death in 1982.

Saudis are being encouraged by the campaign to report cases of violence at locations around the Kingdom including Madinah, Najran, Makkah and Riyadh, reported The Huffington Post.

One in every six women is abused verbally, physically or emotionally every day, and 90 percent of the abusers are usually husbands or fathers, said Saudi columnist Samar Fatany, citing studies.

“According to research conducted by the National Family Safety Program, most women are not aware of their rights and some men violate religious teachings and follow aberrant customs and traditions,” Fatany added.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in recent years has pursued a reformist agenda in terms of women’s rights.

In 2011, women were given the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015. Earlier this year, members of country’s legislative Shura Council included 30 women.

It was also recently announced that women would be allowed to practice law in a professional environment.

But women in Saudi Arabia still encounter restrictions.

Saudi women are not allowed to drive, take up employment or leave the country without a male guardian’s permission.

In 2011, an SMS system to track women was reported, allowing Saudi authorities to inform male guardians of their whereabouts.



'Sisters' directed to back of theatre for lecture, 'brothers' to the front, University VC conceded error


April 29, 2013

VICE-CHANCELLOR Glyn Davis has conceded Melbourne University made an error when it allowed a gender-segregated event on campus grounds.

Professor Davis apologised yesterday after The Australian revealed last week that female attendees at an external Islamic studies event had been directed to sit at the back of a lecture theatre.

"The university poorly communicated its expectations when providing space on campus," he said on a university website.

The university originally declined to condemn the segregation at public events held by Islamic organisations at its Parkville campus, in Melbourne's inner north, saying it would not intervene to prevent the practice.

On April 13, a lecture entitled "Islamic rulings on Jihad in Syria & why great scholars' silence" (sic) was held in the Copland Theatre by Islamic education organisation Hikmah Way.

At the entrance to the lecture, attended by The Australian, signs directed "sisters" to the back of the theatre and "brothers" to the front.

Explaining the original decision yesterday, Professor Davis said the university had taken "for granted, rather than spelled out, requirements for equality when people use a university location".

He said the group did not claim any association with the university when it first booked.

"I acknowledge the error, and do not support gender segregation at a public event on campus," he wrote in online commentary site The Conversation.

"Had university rules been communicated more effectively, the Islamic group may have taken their meeting elsewhere."

Labor and the Coalition have condemned the university for the decision to allow gender segregation, which was first reported in The Australian last Friday.

Tony Abbott branded the practice "a leap back into the dark ages".

The Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins, described the decision as disappointing.

"The Australian government is working hard to remove all barriers to women's full and equal participation in the workplace, in the community and in civic and political life," she said on Friday.

Professor Davis's apology, however, was not without qualification. He went on to say that the event was "lawful" and attended voluntarily and the criticism had ignored "other liberal values such as tolerance and freedom of assembly".

He said such segregation was a religious obligation only for some Muslims. Muslims deserved "the same respect and consideration our society extends to other religious practices".

"If an activity is expressly protected under Australian law, the rationale for any ban must be articulated with care," he said.

"Democratic liberalism accepts that others see the world differently, and are entitled to act on their beliefs provided no harm follows.'

"The controversy at the University of Melbourne is a clash of principles, not just a case of discrimination."



Are Islamic Women Allowed to Have Piercings?

John Green, Demand Media

 April 27, 2013

In Islamic teaching, bodily piercings have raised questions in regard to modesty, ritual purity and respect for God's creation. Although these basic principles are widely accepted elements of the Muslim faith, their application in practice can vary in significant ways. Many Islamic scholars have concluded that piercing is a permissible practice that goes back to the time of Muhammad, but this is not a unanimous opinion, and there are also differences of interpretation in regard to what can be pierced.


According to the "Encyclopaedia of Women and Islamic Cultures," Islamic teaching in regard to women's piercings can vary across cultures and schools of interpretation. For example, the Encyclopaedia notes that some religious scholars have regarded piercing to be a forbidden imitation of non-Muslim practice, while others consider pierced ears to be allowed so long as the woman does not indulge in extravagant adornment. Piercings are also been part of coming of age ceremonies in certain areas, such as Malaysia and northern Africa. In Malaysia, for instance, the ear piercing ceremony actually perpetuates a pre-Muslim tradition, but it is now accompanied with a religious ritual that includes children reciting chapters from the Quran.


Although some Islamic scholars have prohibited all forms of piercing as a forbidden imitation of pagan practice, a number of contemporary interpreters of Islamic allow women to obtain piercings, at least in certain parts of the body. For instance, Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, director of the UK Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence, asserts in "The Fiqh of Body Piercing" that piercing is generally forbidden, since it is involves mutilating the body created and given by God. However, al-Kawthari argues that piercing the ears or nose is permissible, since women are allowed to have adornments and these have been traditionally allowed in Muslim communities. One often cited proof in this regard is an incident from the life of Muhammad recounted in the Hadith, in which he tells women to make a charitable donation and they give their earrings.


One issue on which opinions differ is whether adornment worn by women in connection with permissible piercings can be displayed publicly. According to progressive Muslim scholar Asghar Ali Engineer, Islamic teaching on this question is not always consistent. While one authoritative commentator allows public display of such adornment, a companion of the Prophet named Hazrat Abd Allah bin Mas'ud asserts that earrings fall into the category of a woman's charms that would be immodest to reveal to people outside the family.


An issue related to piercing is its potential for obstructing the proper performance of the ritual known as ghusl, which involves bathing one's entire body. A piercing not only creates additional surface area, but wearing earrings arguably prevents purification from being complete. According to "Taleemul Haq," a survey of Islamic jurisprudence, the rules for the ghusl rite require a woman to remove any rings or earrings, since they could cause an area of the body to remain dry and thus impure. Some jurists, though, consider the surface area created by a piercing to be part of the body's interior, which makes the removal of earrings unnecessary.



Women-only bus trialled in Egypt to curb sexual harassment

By Ayman Shara

 April 27, 2013

Cairo: To curb sexual harassment, which is rampant in Egyptian megacities, a moderate Islamist party launched an initiative called “Transportation that respects women”.

While the party’s idea is still in the experimental phase, the system has started on a small scale in two places.

In front of Cairo University, where hundreds of students spill out into the streets after finishing their lectures, and on the corner of Abbas Al Aqqad Street, in the upper-middle class neighbourhood of Nasr City, driver’s assistants call out loudly “Women only”, while expertly hanging out the door of a microbus.

Full report at:



Shabnam Hashmi’s Struggle to Battle Hate through NGO, ANHAD

DNA | Apr 28, 2013

Ahmedabad: Until the Godhra carnage of 2002, no one in the state had heard of Shabnam Hashmi. They would not have known about her even now, had she not formed Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), an organisation that has taken up the cause of riot victims. Since then Hashmi and Anhad have faced numerous humiliating attacks by mobs, high-handedness of the ruling state BJP and detention by the police. The journey of Anhad is now cantered on countering the ideology of hate in the state and protecting the pluralistic, democratic and secular ethos of the country.

 Full report at:



Five Years Each For Men Who Forced UAE Maid into Prostitution

Salam Al Amir

Apr 28, 2013

DUBAI // Five men who forced a maid into prostitution have been sentenced to five years in prison each.

The woman, 30, from Bangladesh, broke her back when she fell while trying to escape from the brothel by climbing down a drain pipe.

She came to the UAE to work as a maid for an Emirati family in Fujairah before absconding. A second maid in that house gave her the telephone number of a man who she said could help her find another job.

Full report at:



Beauty Business Owners in Saudi Arabia Call For Urgent Relief

28 April 2013

Businesswomen have urged the Ministry of Labour to speed up regulations for the beauty industry, in particular those businesses providing physical therapy, massage, hairdressing, makeup and dressmaking.

The Labour Ministry is planning to implement rigorous monitoring of all work visas regarding the industry through coordinating with the ministries of commerce and industry, and municipal and rural affairs. It also seeks to classify businesses in the industry to clarify the rights and obligations of owners, employees and government.

Madawi Hassoun, an investor and member of the Council of Saudi Chambers, said that the beauty industry is not benefitting from the grace period offered to individuals and companies to ensure all workers are under their sponsorship. This prevents foreign women under the sponsorship of their spouses to work in the beauty industry.

Full report at:



Ignorance Of Law Leads To Losses, Businesswomen In Jeddah Told

 April 27, 2013

JEDDAH — A municipality official has called on businesswomen to use the maiden gathering of female employees at municipal departments to fast track their efforts in obtaining business licenses.

Speaking at a press conference, Arwa Al-Ama’a, assistant to Jeddah Mayor for Information Technology and Women’s Section, said:

“They seek through this gathering to have an electronic based interaction between all government departments to help ease the process in issuing licenses for women’s businesses. Some licenses need approval from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs and the Civil Defence, among other government departments.”

“If the woman gets a go-ahead from the concerned bodies she can get her license done within one week,” said Al-Ama’a.

Full report at:



We Have Helpers, Not Maids

Assya Moussaid

  April 27, 2013

“I have a secret to tell you, Fadma,” I whispered while walking out to run an errand together. “What is it, Assya?” she asked. “I love you more than I love mom,” I said.

“Don’t say that! Your mom will be upset, maybe with both of us,” she replied and smiled.

She smiled because she knew that while that might have upset or hurt my mother’s feelings, it still wouldn’t have made her angry with us, had she found out.

I was 8 at that point in time, and I was actually a little worried about mom, after seeing how Fadma reacted. But now that I am an adult, and I have bounced back to loving my mother more, I think it is okay to let it out.

Full report at:



Smoking in Pregnancy Triples Baby’s Risk of Meningitis: Researchers

 April 27, 2013

Smoking during pregnancy can triple the baby`s chance of developing meningitis, researchers warn. Children exposed to smoke from a parent`s cigarettes at home are also twice as likely to have the deadly illness.

Researchers believe that passive smoking gradually weakens children`s immune system making them more susceptible to the illness, the `Daily Mail` reported. Researchers from the University of Nottingham analysed 18 studies which looked at the link between passive smoking and meningitis.

Meningitis is caused by an infection of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and if not treated quickly it can cause brain and nerve damage.

Symptoms include severe headache, a rash, vomiting, high temperature and a dislike of bright lights.

Full report at:\04\28\story_28-4-2013_pg13_6