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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 1 Oct 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Boycott of World Chess Championship 'Would Hurt Women in Iran'

New Age Islam News Bureau

1 Oct 2016

Ms Raassi has opened up about the horrific experience, and how it motivated her to become a fashion designer and campaign for women's freedom of choice


 Tala Raassi Was Almost Shot In the Streets of Iran for Wearing a Mini-Skirt

 France's Burkini Ban Misses Nuanced Aspects of Muslim Women's Adoption of Hijab

 Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to Organize Woman Conferences to Show Muslim Women Are Not Against Sharia

 Donald Trump's Double Standard for Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Boycott of World Chess Championship 'Would Hurt Women in Iran'

 30 September 2016

One of Iran’s most respected chess players has hit back at calls to boycott next year’s women’s world championship in Tehran over rules about the wearing of the hijab.

A number of chess players, including the US women’s champion, Nazí Paikidze, have called for a boycott of the February 2017 games over concerns that they will have to comply with the Islamic republic’s compulsory headscarf law.

But Mitra Hejazipour, a woman grandmaster (WGM) who won the 2015 Asian continental women’s championship, told the Guardian on Friday that a boycott would be wrong and could undermine hard-fought efforts to promote female sport in Iran.

“This is going to be the biggest sporting event women in Iran have ever seen; we haven’t been able to host any world championship in other sporting fields for women in the past,” Hejazipour, 23, said from Tehran. “It’s not right to call for a boycott. These games are important for women in Iran; it’s an opportunity for us to show our strength.”

Her comments were echoed by Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman who spent five months in jail in Iran for campaigning to allow women to watch men’s volleyball games in stadiums.

Ghavami, whose time in jail drew international attention, said from Tehran: “The world must hear the pro-reform voices of people inside Iran and not ignore these pleas by isolating the country.”

Ghavami said millions of people in Iran believed in women’s right to choose whether or not to wear the hijab and had shown their opposition to the policy. She was referring to women risking arrest by defying the morality police and lobbying to obtain social rights such as being able to play more sports.

Calls to boycott the country would only serve to hurt women in Iran, she added. “I am firmly against the international community using the compulsory hijab as a means to put pressure and isolate Iran.

“Day by day, Iranian women are becoming more empowered and are pushing aside traditional, legal and political discrimination … Those who are worried for the situation of human rights in Iran, if they are really serious, have to acknowledge these efforts and see these capacities.”

Wearing the hijab has been an integral policy of the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution. Foreign dignitaries have adhered to the rule while on Iranian territory.

Paikidze, a Georgian-American who holds the titles of international master and WGM, told the Telegraph on Thursday it was “absolutely unacceptable to host one of the most important women’s tournaments in a venue where, to this day, women are forced to cover up with a hijab”.

Nigel Short, a British chess grandmaster, called on the sport’s governing body, Fide, to find a different venue, telling the Times: “The hijab is a symbol of Islamic repression.”

But Hejazipour, an MA student at Tehran University and one of Iran’s five WGMs, pleaded with her compatriots to come to her country despite the rule. “I understand that it may be difficult for them to wear the hijab, but I want to tell them that if they show understanding and patience, and if they come to Iran, there’s also a positive side to look at,” she said.

“Iran is a beautiful place and has an amazing culture. If Iran can host this event, it will be a big step for us; it will help our women chess players and it will boost women in other sporting fields. It will pave the way for them, too.”

Elham Yazdiha, a Turkey-based Iranian sports journalist, said she was confident Hejazipour’s view reflected the voice of sportswomen in Iran. “Calls for a boycott will only disappoint Iranian women and destroy their hopes,” she said.

It was a shame, Yazdiha added, that Iranian sportswomen who were already facing restrictions at home faced additional restrictions from abroad. Iranian female basketball players have been barred by international bodies from playing in world events because of wearing the hijab.

Women can vote and drive in Iran but discriminatory laws persist. In court their testimony is worth only half that of a man and they also face inequality over inheritance rights. But they have a strong presence in civil society. Women in Iran have held senior government jobs; the country currently has a number of female vice-presidents and one female ambassador.

Despite the restrictions, many people in Iran are proud of representing their country. In 2013, Shirin Gerami became the first female triathlete to compete for Iran in the sport’s world championship. In August this year, Kimia Alizadeh made history in Rio as she became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal.

“Women’s sport in Iran has expanded in recent years in various fields – you can realise that by seeing the growing number of medals sportswomen are bringing to Iran,” Hejazipour said.




Tala Raassi Was Almost Shot In the Streets Of Iran For Wearing A Mini-Skirt

1st October, 2016

The Iranian-American woman managed to escape death that night, but endured five torturous nights in prison, and 40 court ordered lashings for her crime.

Years later, Ms Raassi has opened up about the horrific experience, and how it motivated her to become a fashion designer and campaign for women's freedom of choice.

Although she was now a successful business woman, designing clothes for women across the world, Ms Raassi said she was unable to forget the sheer terror she felt in Tehran, the capital of Iran.

Ms Raassi said it was 1998 when her birthday party was stormed by The Basijis, a militant group who considered itself a defender of Islam.

When the militant group busted their way in to the house, Ms Raassi said her and two friends knew their lives were in danger, and decided to run.

Fuelled by fear, Ms Raassi said the girls bolted down the street only steps ahead of the gun wielding Basij men.

But Ms Raassi and her friends were unable to outrun them, and soon found themselves face to face with the group, staring down the barrel of rifles aimed directly at them.

Ms Raassi had no choice but to surrender, she told The Australian.

That night, the 16-year-old was told she was a disgrace and taken to one of the most notoriously dangerous prisons in the country, Vozara Prison.

Together with friends from the party, Ms Raassi spent five torturous days and nights in the prison, locked in a 'bleak pit'.

After days with no clue what was in store for them, Ms Raassi said they were lead from the prison to a courthouse for sentencing.

The fashion designer said she was reprimanded for her 'wrongdoings' before hearing the word 'shalagh', which meant lashes.

The boys were sentenced to 50 lashes, and the girls to 40.

'Some of the girls were in a state of shock, some of them bawled. We were all petrified,' she said.

Rendered silent from the pain, Ms Raassi said the punishment she endured was 'excruciating'.

Now 18 years later, Ms Raassi said she wanted to use her experience for good.

And with the message 'Fashion is Freedom', the American based designer wanted to empower women.

The designer said her clothing line represented much more than just fashion, it celebrated a woman's choice to dress herself in whatever she wanted, without fear.



France's Burkini Ban Misses Nuanced Aspects of Muslim Women's Adoption of Hijab

Afroz Alam Oct 1, 2016

The Hijab and modernity have been considered antagonistic ever since the West began to view Islam and its components in a negative light. The bizarre doublespeak is evident — while it objects to the use of Hijab, it is silent about other such accouter worn by members of other religious communities such as orthodox Jews, nuns etc.

More Muslim women, across social classes, are donning the Hijab and Burqa. File photoMore Muslim women, across social classes, are donning the Hijab and Burqa. File photo

With France’s iron-handed approach towards the burkini, the discourse has turned turbulent. Interestingly, the inventor of the burkini Aheda Zanetti, mentioned in an interview: “When I invented the burkini in early 2004 it was to give women freedom and not take it away”. In an ‘advanced’ society such as France, women would certainly like to wear what they feel comfortable in and not what they were forced to wear. In a contrasting and equally interesting development in the conservative Iran, there is a growing trend of Muslim men wearing Hijab (ie a head and neck wrap worn without covering the face) or Burqa (ie the loose black coat with a face veil) in the public domain to protest against compulsory Hijab for women, adopted in 1983 following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. This is the outcome of the noted journalist Masih Alinejad’s campaign on social media asking women to exercise their ‘choice’ in wearing Hijab.

France banned such clothing including Hijab in public schools in 2006 as it was observed to be a conspicuous sign of religious affiliation. Hijab and Burqa, however, have since then been linked to the argument of ‘choice’ by the protesters in Iran than compulsion by State. For some, it was the case of assault on the religious difference and diversity which is located in the Hijab as the Islamic symbol of modesty. What confirms the ‘choice’ factor of modest clothing is a noticeable trend of ‘voluntary rise’ in the wearing of Hijab or Burqa by the Muslim women in certain countries like Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, India and many more Middle East and European countries where there is no law declaring the veil as compulsory for women.

There can be various aspects of the discourse revolving around the Hijab. One, there are people who link Hijab and Burqa with public display of religious signs and symbols by Muslim women, and uphold the point of Joan Wallace Scott raised in her book, Politics of the Veil, that “individualism and gender equality are both threatened by a population of seemingly subordinate girls wearing at the seeming insistence of religious orthodoxy what appear to be uniform modesty garments”. Second, it is argued that the reason for public display of Hijab and Burqa is rooted in the cultural logic of a society often dominated by the belief that Muslim women are forced by the males at home to wear these garments which translates to the denial of freedom to women in deciding what to wear in public spaces by cultural patriarchs. Third, Hijab or Burqa is often stereotyped as deeply embarrassing; often linked with middle class backwardness, indecency, poverty, retrograde mindset and illiteracy.

In my empirical study at Hyderabad while interviewing hundreds of Burqa/Hijab led girl students, I noted an interesting pattern which is quite in opposition with the earlier propositions. I found that many Muslim women appeared obsessed with Hijab and Burqa and the obsession was becoming popular even in highly educated, urban and higher class Muslim girls. Many said that Hijab provides a sense of security to them. However, this argument does not hold ground as there is a rising incidence of sexual harassment against veiled women too.

Similarly, very few female students gave excuses of family pressure, religion, patriarchy or societal force as a cause for their Hijab or Burqa. Interestingly, there were many who argued that “wearing of Hijab or Burqa for them is an exercise of ‘choice’ made by them, that too without being affected by the religious orthodoxy and cultural patriarchy”. There were girls who also argued the benefit of the veil in terms of its ability to hide their economic status. It was surprising for me to note that wearing of Hijab as a reflection of religious orthodoxy or patriarchal collectivity or middle class mentality was rejected by the majority of the girls as an ‘intellectual misconception’.

There were some girls who completely rejected ‘parda’ and argued that it’s a reflection of mental instability and a tool of male domination, subjugation and an instrument of exclusion. One recited the poetry of Akbar Allahabadi: “Beparda Kal Jo Aayin Nazar Chand Bibiyan, Akbar Zameen Mein Ghairat-e-Qaumi Se Gad Gaya; Poochha Jo Unse Aapka Parda Wo Kya Hua, Kahne Lageen Ke Aql Pe Mardon Ke Pad Gaya”. It was also argued by those who do not like Hijab or Burqa that “it is not against the Quran to wear the contemporary style of theses attires. Parda is all about controlling your senses and especially your eyes, as described in Sura Noor of the Quran. The ignorance of many women is perpetrated in the name of religion.” Another girl argued that Hijab is ‘misogynist’ in the very first instance.

The veil has emerged as liberating attire in those societies where there is no legal ban. In this image, American fencer Ibthihaj Muhammad competed in the Olympics while wearing a Hijab. Image courtesy TwitterThe veil has emerged as liberating attire in certain societies. In this image, American fencer Ibthihaj Muhammad competed in the Olympics while wearing a Hijab. Photo courtesy Twitter

Be that as it may, the pattern of Burqa and Hijab is altogether transposed now with Middle Eastern flair and new Islamic modernity taking over the last decade or so. What one wears and how one chooses to express oneself has become a matter of personal choice, and one that’s guaranteed to all as part of the constitutional claims. A significant shift is also noted in India among the younger generation Muslim women as compared to earlier times. Today, it is not unusual to find veiled Muslim women in voguish spaces like the coffee shops, shopping centres, movie theatres, educational institutions, corporates and so on. These veiled women announce their conspicuous presence more suavely and with a strong sense of consciousness. It has to be recognised as a new modernity carved out within the boundaries of Islam and without losing Islamic identity as quite vividly the rising tendencies are no longer confined to the low-income and poorly educated Muslim women, rather it is gaining wider acceptability among educated middle class Muslim women.

The popular perceptions of Muslim women on their preferred choice of attire are fast changing. They are rising to the situations when they are faced with an arbitrary ban on modes of dress called for by a religion, culture, society or state. With this articulation, Hijab and Burqa got a dual meaning in relation of ‘freedom of attire’ both as liberating and dis-empowering. First, the veil has emerged as liberating attire in those societies where there is no legal ban but a cultural, religious and patriarchal pressure to wear it. There are Muslim girls in such societies who opted for Hijab and Burqa deliberately to defeat the designs of patriarchy and religious limitations and came out from the clutches of their household not only to enjoy the luxuries of liberty but to educate and employ themselves. At the same time, the veil is treated as dis-empowering in those societies where the ban is exercised through legal means. In both situations, ‘choice’ is the ultimate value as well as a great casualty.

In a word, no country is justified in banning the symbols of ‘choice’ in relation with Hijab or Burqa or categorically declaring it as compulsory attire in the name of social/political/religious morality and modesty. Coercion in any sense is unjustified, logically and religiously. Let the emerging subjectivities of veiled/unveiled Muslim women defy the classical logic of modernity by their conspicuous invention of an alternative modernity through their exercise of sexual freedom in socio-economic and cultural spheres. Seen in the light of developments in the West which are fast percolating across its countries now, passing laws on “What to Wear and What Not” is bound to take it back to the Dark Ages from which it emerged not more than a few centuries ago.



Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to Organize Woman Conferences to Show Muslim Women Are Not Against Sharia

1 October 2016

New Delhi: In its national executive meeting, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind decided to organize woman conferences in various cities across the country to impress upon that Muslim women are not against the Sharia Law.

The decision was taken after the working members of the committee expressed concern over the growing misrepresentation and misunderstanding about the Muslim family law in the society that has triggered wide public and media discussions.

Patna Muslim women on qouta in WRB

Initially, the conferences will be held in Kolkata, Kanpur and Hyderabad. In addition to this, Jamiat also decided to fight cases in the Supreme Court pertaining to the Muslim personal laws.

The National executive meeting chaired by Maulana Usman Mansoopuri, National President, Jamiat also expressed their deep concern over prevailing anarchy, violation of human rights, killing of civilians and blinding of youth by pellet guns.

The national executive demanded to constitute an inquiry committee to punish the guilty officials and ban the uses of pellet guns with immediate effect. The national executive exhorted the central government to repeal AFSPA and institute a broad-based inquiry into extrajudicial killings in Kashmir, and open a result-oriented dialogue with the Valley’s stakeholders to discuss the larger political questions. If the Indian state could strike a peace deal with the Naga insurgents, why not Kashmir, which is even more central to India’s national security? The resolution reads.

The 33rd general session of Jamiat is going to be held on November 11, 12 at Ajmer, Rajasthan. The much talked about general session is expected to cover issues such as protection of Muslim personal laws, introduction of Communal Violence Bill, new education policy of the central government and imposing of particular religious practices in the schools and mechanism for promoting national harmony and condemnation of growing impact of terrorism, reservation for the Muslims and social reforms in the light Islamic teachings.



Donald Trump's Double Standard for Women


01 October 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has bragged about "being out four or five nights a week, usually with a different woman each time" during his youth and described avoiding sexually transmitted infections back then as "my personal Vietnam." But it was the sexual history of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado that he derided early Friday morning as "disgusting" and urged people to "check out sex tape and past."

Trump, who told Howard Stern he had watched Paris Hilton's sex tape despite having known Hilton since she was 12, also said that Hillary Clinton had falsely portrayed Machado as an "angel" and "paragon of virtue" after she referred to the former pageant winner in Monday's debate.

Clinton, in fact, had focused on Trump's behavior, which included ambushing the then-19-year-old Machado with television cameras during her workout.

Related: Analysis: Trump's Alicia Machado Tweet Storm Points to Deeper Problems

But for feminists, by putting Machado's character on trial, evoking her later and entirely irrelevant sexual history, Trump is engaging in classic slut-shaming. That would be holding women to a higher standard of chastity and assuming any unsanctioned display of sexuality is self-evidently damning.

"It's a total double standard," said feminist author Erika Sanchez. "It's the whole virgin/whore dichotomy."

Trump's terminology also suggested only two categories for women: "angel" or "disgusting," the latter being a word he also used for a female lawyer who pulled out a breast pump and for comedian Rosie O'Donnell.

"In these tweets is this assumption that in order to wrong a woman, that woman must be a saint, otherwise what you've done to her doesn't count," said Emily Lindin, founder of the UnSlut Project, which raises awareness about sexual bullying.

In addition to Trump's dozens of conversations with Howard Stern about his own sexual adventures and preferences, the hypocrisy of Trump using Machado's public sexuality against her is that he himself owned multiple companies that profited off female beauty and sexuality — including a modeling agency and the pageant Machado won. He also tellingly referred to Machado as one of "my" Miss Universes.

Related: Alicia Machado Responds to Trump: 'I Will Continue Standing'

"Every woman needs to be sexual on his terms," said feminist writer Veronica Arreola. "If it benefits him, they can be as free and liberated as possible. And if it doesn't, hey, you need to button up there …. And it makes him angry to see women who fall outside that assert themselves."

On Monday night, Clinton also repeated Machado's charge that Trump "called her 'Miss Housekeeping,' because she was Latina," pouring ethnic stereotyping into the misogyny cocktail.

"I think for many Latinas, being called a housekeeper is not a personal offense as much as a reflection of the person calling them that," said Arreola. "If Trump thinks that calling someone a housekeeper is an insult, how does he treat his hotel staff, the people who clean up after him and his home?"

She added, "He has continued to frame his campaign as one of the working class, but he uses working class positions as derogatory words."

None of this is likely to help Trump with Latino voters, with whom he had trouble long before his tweet-storm about the Venezuelan-born Machado. Trump famously launched his presidential campaign claiming that "when Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best …. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Related: Video of Trump Deposition in D.C. Hotel Feud Ordered to be Released

"It's all related to how he sees us as solely sexual, primitive people, as uncivilized and dangerous," said Sanchez. "He talks about my community in such a disgusting way, but he definitely benefits from our labour."

Trump has refused to back down from his comments about Mexican immigrants. In his pushback to Clinton saying he had berated Machado in a racist and sexist way, Trump has not denied any of the account, nor has he apologized.

He has, however, previously insisted that he is not a misogynist.

"I cherish women," Trump said last year, during his attacks on Megyn Kelly. "I want to help women."

But Arreola said that attitude, too, is reductive and stereotypes women. "That's not the way to love and honor women, to put them on a pedestal," she said. "That chivalrous view of women, as opposed to loving and honoring them as people, leads to what Trump is doing now."

The Machado incident also highlights yet another example of Trump holding women's bodies to a standard to which he does not hold himself. Hours after the debate, Trump indignantly went on television to protest that Machado had indeed gained weight, as if it refuted Clinton's charge.

According to Trump's own medical report, as analyzed by the Washington Post, he is five pounds short of obese. He famously subsists on fast food and told Dr. Oz recently that his campaign trail exercise regimen is "using a lot of motion" as he speaks during his rallies. But one thing is clear, by Trump's own account: When he deems it necessary, women's bodies are to be used against them.





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