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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 16 Apr 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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British Muslim Women 71 Percent More Likely To Be Unemployed Due To Workplace Discrimination

 New Age Islam News Bureau

16 Apr 2015

Unemployment rates among Hindu and Christian women were lower than their Muslim counterparts


 Yezidi MP Calls For Rescue of Kidnapped ISIS Sex Slaves

 Pakistan: Freewill Marriage Couple’s Fate hangs in the Balance

 The Custom of Female Circumcision Remains Good Business in Indonesia

 Islamic State’s ‘War Crimes’ Against Yazidi Women Documented

 Meet Afghanistan's First Female Pilot since fall of Taliban

 BBC Muslim Woman Presenter, Mishal Husain, Named Broadcaster of the Year

 Claim Your Heritage, Work for Peace, Women Tell One Another At Meeting in Rome

 How RCMP Officers Tracked Three Canadian Girls in Egypt Before They Could Join ISIL in Syria

 Sydney Woman Praised For Defending Muslim Woman 'Harassed On Train For Wearing a Hijab'

 Ghana Muslim Mission Women’s Fellowship Build Capacity of Women Leaders

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





British Muslim Women 71% More Likely To Be Unemployed Due To Workplace Discrimination

16 April, 2015

Discrimination against Muslim women in the workplace means they are much more likely to be unemployed than white Christian women - even when they have the same qualifications and language skills - research shows.

British Muslim women are around 70 per cent more likely to be looking unsuccessfully for work, according to the University of Bristol’s Dr Nabil Khattab, who spoke at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Glasgow.

The recent national Labour Force survey showed the unemployment rate among Muslim women was 18 per cent, compared with 9 per cent for Hindu women and 4 per cent for white Christian women. This has previously been attributed to Muslim women being less well educated and less fluent in English, but Dr Khattab says his data shows the discrepancy is also likely to be explained by employer discrimination.

Dr Khattab analysed a sample of 2,643 from the national Labour Force survey to compare the rates of those looking for work without success. He adjusted the sample in order to compare women with similar educational level and language abilities and controlled for marital status, children and strength of religious belief.

He found that Muslim women were 71 per cent more likely than white Christian women to be unemployed, even when they had the same educational level and language skills. Hindu women were 57 per cent more likely to be unemployed than white Christian women.

“Economic activity among Muslim women in the UK remains considerably lower and their unemployment rate remains significantly higher than the majority group even after controlling for qualifications and other individual characteristics,” Dr Khattab said.

He added that the conspicuousness of Muslim women’s religious background was likely to be a key factor in explaining their exclusion. “They wear the hijab or other religious symbols which makes them more visible and as such exposed to greater discrimination.”



Yezidi MP calls for rescue of kidnapped ISIS sex slaves

16 April, 2015

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Kurdish Yezidi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil has warned that Iraq’s government is still failing to rescue kidnapped sex slaves from Islamic State (ISIS) fighters and has called for the creation of a safe-zone in northern Iraq for protection in the future.

“Because of many problems Iraqi government is facing: wars and IS and other problems, there is not enough time to take care of problem of kidnapped girls,” Dakhil told an audience at the International Peace Institute, a New York-based think tank, on Tuesday.

“The Iraqi government has a strategy but is not executing it as we expected; and we would like the international community to support the Iraqi government and the other forces that they fight those people.”

Yezidis, whose ancient religion has elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam, suffered grievously after last year’s rapid offensive by ISIS, a Sunni Muslim extremist group that controls Sunni-majority areas on either side of the Iraq-Syria border.

Hundreds were killed and thousands captured, enslaved and raped by the militants, who consider Yezidis devil worshippers. There are reports of girls as young as nine being traded in slave auctions for as little as a packet of cigarettes.

Dakhil said some 4,500 women and girls have been kidnapped and enslaved, including a 13-year-old who bled to death after being raped. She called for a safe-zone in northern Iraq, bordering Kurdish areas, where religious minorities are safe.

“As Yezidis we want to have some kind of borders to protect us from dangers in order not to repeat what happened to us. Basically we are Yezidi and Christian, our border is with Syria and those people from ISIS are coming from Syria,” she told Rudaw.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council will address the suffering of Yezidi sex slaves, IS, the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram and other issues around sex crimes committed during conflict by 45 militant groups on a UN list.

“This year’s UN report on sexual violence in conflict documents horrendous crimes like this happening in conflicts around the world,” said Zainab Bangura, the UN envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said in a statement that was emailed to Rudaw.

“It chronicles the disturbing trend of sexual violence against adolescent girls, including rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage. It records the use of sexual violence to persecute ethnic and religious minorities and the targeting of people based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.” 

Meanwhile, Haidar al-Abadi made his first visit to Washington as Iraqi Prime Minister on Tuesday for talks in the White House with US President Barack Obama on efforts on defeating IS and bolstering a central government in Baghdad that struggles to assert its authority.

After frustrations with the previous Iraqi government, Obama expressed confidence that al-Abadi is a tough partner in fighting terrorism and forming a more inclusive government. Iraqi security forces and has recovered about a quarter of the territory IS had captured in the country, he said.

“This is a long process and in our discussions Prime Minister Abadi made clear that this success will not occur overnight. But what is clear is that we will be successful,” Obama said, while pledging $200 million in humanitarian aid to help those displaced by IS extremists.



Pakistan: Freewill Marriage Couple’s Fate hangs in the Balance

16 April, 2015

SUKKUR: A couple seeking the court’s help against alleged threat to their lives for having contracted a freewill marriage were whisked away by a team of policemen.

A taxi carrying Allah Rakhio Momdani and his wife Arabi Chachar was intercepted by a convoy of four police vans while they were on their way to a Hyderabad court for the hearing of their application for protection, sources in Mirpur Mathelo said.

Residents of Mureed Shakh village near Ubauro town of Ghotki district, the couple has been changing places to escape the wrath of the woman’s family since their marriage a few weeks back.

Mr Momdani’s brother, Inam Momdani, appeared before the media to seek the relevant authorities’ help in saving the couple’s life. He apprehended that the couple might be handed over to the Chachars who, according to him, had kidnapped two Momdani women, wives of Punhal Momdani, in a revengeful act a few days ago. Police recovered the women only on Monday, he said.

He told the media that Chachars reportedly handed over the two women to the police on the condition that they would in turn hand over the freewill couple to the Chachars.



The Custom Of Female Circumcision Remains Good Business In Indonesia

16 April, 2015

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Komariah says she’ll show us how female circumcision is done. She grabs a tangerine on the kitchen table, peels it and takes out a segment. She picks up a huge knife from a shelf. Then she bursts out laughing.

“I’m just kidding,” she says, before taking a much smaller pair of scissors. She sits at the table, holds the tangerine segment up, and carefully makes a small incision at the top. “That’s it!” She laughs again. Her daughter watches, shyly smiling. She was “circumcised” three days after she was born, 13 years ago.

At a midwives clinic in Jakarta, Sri Helmi Yuli is very firm. “Things have changed since then,” she says. “We used to cut a bit of the clitoris hood. And yes, there was a lot of blood. That used to be the right way to do it.”

Not anymore, she says. In the past 10 years, she says social campaigning by health workers — as well as government regulations — have forced the practice of female genital mutilation into the fringes. It is no longer an accepted practice in Indonesia. While the worst forms of female circumcision have largely fallen out of custom, the subtler practice still persists in potentially harmful ways.

“Now we only scratch the hood with a needle, drawing no blood,” says Sri Helmi Yuli, who is the head of the clinic. She tries to convince her patients that even this is not necessary, but says traditional beliefs in the benefits of female circumcision are stronger. “They see imams on TV saying they should do it and that influences them. So I just do the scratch.”

Indonesia is home to some 210 million Muslims, the world’s largest population. Researchers believe most Muslim women here are circumcised. The authorities banned the practice in 2006, but backpedaled in 2010 following pressure from some of the country’s powerful religious organizations.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), an influential quasi-government body of Muslim scholars, was one of them.

“The MUI met with the health ministry, and explained that banning female circumcision was against human rights, and sharia law,” says Huzaemah Yanggo, the vice-president of the council’s fatwa commission.

She says female circumcision is not mandatory according to Islamic law. But in some interpretations it is “strongly recommended.”

“It will lead to a much purer and healthier life” for women, avoid infections, preserve their dignity, and help “stabilize” their libido, Yanggo adds. “If it’s not done, women will become oversexed.” The last point is the main argument Komariah gave for circumcising her daughter, like most people who support female circumcision in the country.

Government guidelines released in 2010 detailed how trained medical personnel should perform female circumcision. The instructions infuriated women’s rights activists, who saw it as a clear indication that the government condoned the procedure.

Health ministry officials insisted this wasn’t the case, arguing that it was better to provide guidance for a practice it couldn’t possibly prevent.

“We prefer the circumcision was done by a trained health worker rather than some random shaman or traditional healer, which may not be safe,” said the ministry’s former director of mothers’ health, Ina Hernawati, at the time. The decree allows “scratching the clitoral hood, without injuring the clitoris,” which the government argued was largely symbolic, and couldn’t be equated to female genital mutilation.

Yanggo, from the Ulema Council, claims, “We’re not like Sudan,” or other countries in parts of Africa and the Middle East, where female circumcision consists of removing part of or the entire clitoris. “What they do is not Islam, mutilation is of course forbidden. We don’t touch the clitoris,” she insists. She believes the government regulation helped reduce “bad practices.”

In Bandung, West Java, mass circumcisions are held every year for girls, from new-borns to 12-year-olds, but organizers say they replaced “scissor snipping” with “pin pricking” several years ago.

A 2003 study found that 22 percent of 1,307 female circumcision cases were excisions (meaning part of the clitoris or labia was removed). Almost 50 percent involved incisions, 28 percent were “symbolic.”

There are no recent national statistics but experts believe the situation has improved in the past decade.

Atas Habsjah, vice-chairwoman of the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (PKBI), acknowledges a transition from “scissor snipping” to “needle scratching,” but says it’s not enough. Most Indonesian girls, she says, still undergo some kind of circumcision. She argues that many clinics continue offering female circumcision because it’s “good business.” Female circumcision, like ear piercing, is charged as an optional extra to delivery.

“They shouldn’t do anything at all. There is no medical indication, and it’s not in the Quran. We say don’t touch the genitals, it’s against human rights,” she says.

The World Health Organization defines four types of female genital mutilation, all of which are banned. Type 4 includes “pricking, piercing or incising” the clitoris, and activists argue that’s what needle scratching is.

A 2012 UN resolution banning female genital mutilation seems to have had an impact. GlobalPost visited a dozen clinics and hospitals in Jakarta and its suburbs, and most of them said they systematically recommend against female circumcision since the resolution.

“Older parents insist, but it’s easier to convince young parents that it’s not necessary,” says Reni Sejahtera, the head of a midwives clinic in Depok, in the suburbs of Jakarta.

Riana, 34, says she knows the issue is “controversial.” She didn’t circumcise her first daughter because her doctor told her not to, but she’s now pregnant with a second one and is considering it. “I will Google it, I know it must be a good thing if everyone does it,” her husband says.

Esti’s daughter is 10 months old, and not circumcised. “I can’t do that to her body without her permission,” she says. Still, she won’t tell her neighbours, and says she’s under a lot of family pressure to do it.

“Every time I go visit my family, the subject comes back to the table,” she says. Her husband also wants their daughter to be circumcised, so they made a deal. “He has until she’s 2 years old to find and show me where in the Quran it says that I have to circumcise my daughter.” She laughs. “Until now, he hasn’t found anything.”



Islamic State’s ‘war crimes’ against Yazidi women documented

16 April, 2015

The Yazidi woman watched as her name was drawn out of a hat. Then a man she had never met told her to go into the bathroom and clean herself.

But she knew better. As a Yazidi woman captured by the Islamic State, she knew that a bath was often prelude to rape.

So she swallowed some poison and hoped to die.

Her story, and those of 19 other women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State, were collected by Human Rights Watch. In a report released Wednesday, the group accused the Islamic State of war crimes and, potentially, crimes against humanity for their treatment of Yazidi women.

Islamic State “forces have committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against Yezidi women and girls,” Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Those fortunate enough to have escaped need to be treated for the unimaginable trauma they endured.”

Yazidis are a mostly Kurdish-speaking people who practice a unique, syncretic faith. Globally, the Yazidis, number about 700,000 people, but the vast majority of the community — about half a million to 600,000 — live concentrated in Iraq’s north.

The HRW report is the second to document the suffering of Yazidi women captured by the Islamic State last summer during its sweep through northern Iraq. An Amnesty International study released in December described rampant torture, rape and suicide among the group’s female prisoners.

This latest report, however, includes interviews with women and girls who have managed to escape within the past couple of months. It suggests that despite an international offensive against the Islamists and reports of infighting within their ranks, the Islamic State remains a frightening and formidable force.

When the Islamic State swept through the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in early August, it killed hundreds of men and captured as many as 1,000 Yazidi women. The women were offered a bleak choice: convert to Islam and be married, or face imprisonment and potential death.

According to interviews conducted by HRW, both options often led to rape and brutality. So some women chose death. (HRW gave the women interviewed pseudonyms to protect their identities.)

The report described a second woman who tried to kill herself rather than be raped.

“I went into the bathroom, turned on the water, stood on a chair to take the wire connecting the light to electrocute myself but there was no electricity,” she told HRW. “After they realized what I was doing, they beat me with a long piece of wood and with their fists. My eyes were swollen shut and my arms turned blue. They handcuffed me to the sink, and cut my clothes with a knife and washed me. They took me out of the bathroom, brought in [my friend] and raped her in the room in front of me.”

She was later raped, she told HRW, and showed investigators the scars on her wrists from where she tried to kill herself for a second time.

Human Rights Watch says it interviewed medical workers, Kurdish officials, community leaders and activists in order to corroborate accounts from rape survivors. Of the 20 women interviewed, 10 said they had been raped by Islamic State members, some multiple times. Two of the alleged victims were only 12 years old.

One 12-year-old said that she was abducted on August 3 as she and her family were trying to escape from advancing Islamic State forces. The militants separated the men from the women, and sent her to a house in Mosul where other Yazidi women were being kept.

“The men would come and select us,” she said. “When they came, they would tell us to stand up and then examine our bodies. They would tell us to show our hair and sometimes they beat the girls if they refused. They wore dishdashas [ankle length garments], and had long beards and hair.”

She said her captor beat her into submission. “I was a young girl, and I asked him, ‘What do you want from me?’” she told HRW. “He spent three days having sex with me.”

He wasn’t the only one. According to the report, she was passed from one Islamic State fighter to the next. Seven in total.

“Sometimes I was sold. Sometimes I was given as a gift,” she said. “The last man was the most abusive; he used to tie my hands and legs.”

According to the report, the woman’s experience is an example of the “systematic rape” of Yazidi women by the Islamic State. A doctor in Dahuk told the group that of the 105 women and girls she had examined, 70 showed signs of being raped by the Islamic State. The reports says that 974 Yazidis had escaped the group as of March 15, 2015, including 513 women and 304 children.

“Human Rights Watch documented a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces,” the report says, referring to another name for the Islamic State. “Such acts are war crimes and may be crimes against humanity.”

Islamic State makes no secret about its enslavement of Yazidi women. In October, the group boasted about the practice in its English-language magazine, Dabiq.

“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations,” the magazine said, arguing that unlike Christians and Jews, Yazidis, as polytheists, could be treated as property. “The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers.”

These women escaped and recounted her horror story to HRW. But many of her fellow Yazidis weren’t so lucky.

They remain enslaved by the Islamic State.



Meet Afghanistan's first female pilot since fall of Taliban

16 April, 2015

Afghanistan’s first female pilot to serve the Air Force since the fall of the Taliban has defied many odds.

Despite many threats from the Taliban and even members of her own extended family, Niloofar Rahmani, 23, became the first female fixed-wing Air Force aviator in Afghanistan’s history and also the first female pilot in the Afghan military since the demise of the Taliban in 2001.

In recognition of her services, she has been honoured with the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award, along with nine other inspirational women across the world at a ceremony last week.

Rahmani was only 18-years0old when an the Afghan Air Force announced to recruit pilots.

She said that she had dreamed of becoming a pilot since she was a little girl and spent almost a year studying English in order to be able to attend flight school.

She enlisted in the Afghan Air Force Officer Training Program in 2010 and  graduated as a Second Lieutenant in July 2012.

Captain Rahmani flew her first solo flight in a Cessna 182 and decided she wanted to fly even larger aircraft. She attended advanced flight school and began flying the C-208 military cargo aircraft.

Even though women are traditionally banned from transporting dead or wounded soldiers, Captain Rahmani defied the orders when she discovered injured soldiers during a mission.

She then flew the injured men to a hospital and reported her actions to her superiors who chose not to impose sanctions on her.

When her achievements were made public, Captain Rahmani’s family received threats from the Taliban, as well as family members, who disapproved of her ambition and career choices.

Many have taken to Twitter in support of the pilot.



BBC Muslim Woman Presenter, Mishal Husain, Named Broadcaster Of The Year

16 April, 2015

CAIRO – British Muslim presenter, Mishal Husain, has been named the broadcaster of the year at the London Press Club Awards, setting a role model for Muslim women in UK.

"Many congratulations to the BBC's @MishalHusainBBC named broadcaster of the year" the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) posted on Twitter.

Nominated alongside BBC's global health reporter Tulip Mazumdar and social affairs correspondent Alison Holt, Husain won the prestigious award that is primarily dedicated to print journalists.

Besides being a part of the BBC's Olympics team in 2012, Husain previously presented News at Ten, Newsnight and Breakfast.

Joining BBC's Radio 4's Today in 2013, the winner of the evening's only broadcast award also hosts news programs on BBC One and on location around the world.

The Muslim presenter has also reported from around the world, travelling to several countries including Pakistan after the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Benazir Bhutto. She also reported from Cairo during the Egyptian revolution and from China during the Beijing Olympics, according to the BBC.

Born in February 1973 in Northampton, England, the Muslim presenter moved with her Pakistani family to Saudi Arabia and Emirates where she attended a British school.

In 2009, Husain was named among Britain's 50 most powerful Muslim women who were hailed for defying a prevailing stereotype that being a Muslim and a woman is barrier to success.


Naming Husain the presenter of the year has been met with praise by her BBC colleagues and fans who showered her with messages of support.

"Very well done @MishalHusainBBC - it was richly deserved," Alison Holt, BBC wrote to Husain, who was nominated alongside Husain, congratulating her on Twitter.

Another nominee, Tulip Mazumdar, Global Health Correspondent for BBC News, posted on Twitter: "Congrats to @MishalHusainBBC on @londonpressclub award! Richly deserved. Wonderful to be nominated alongside @mattfrei  @AlisonHolt1,"

A similar praise was shared by the winner's fans on social media.

"Congratulations and well deserved. Great addition to @BBCr4today," one Twitter user wrote."@MishalHusainBBC congratulations from Turkey," another one said.

On her part, Husain expressed gratitude and thanked people for overwhelming support.

"Thank you to all who sent messages about @londonpressclub awards. Proud to be in the company of @mattfrei @AlisonHolt1 @TulipMazumdar," Husain wrote on Twitter.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

In 2011, think tank Demo found that Muslims in the United Kingdom are more patriotic than the rest of population.Responding to the statement “I am proud to be a British citizen”, 83% of Muslims said they are proud of being British.

Reflecting a deep-rooted relationship, a synagogue in the northern British city of Bradford has appointed, this month, its first Muslim member, in a decision passed unanimously by its ruling body.



Claim Your Heritage, Work For Peace, Women Tell One Another At Meeting In Rome

16 April, 2015

ROME — Throughout history and around the globe, Christian, Muslim and Jewish women have been inspired by their faith to boldly and creatively engage in conflict resolution, peacemaking and reconciliation, said speakers at a conference in Rome.

While their faith traditions have been used by some people to subject women and downplay their role, claiming leadership roles in society "does not involve severing their religious legacy," said Irene Kajon, who is Jewish and teaches philosophy at Rome's Sapienza University.

Women can and have found "the models that would emancipate them from passivity, fear or dependence in the traditional sources of their religion, be it Jewish, Islamic or Christian," said Kajon, who along with a Muslim and a Catholic woman, spoke April 14 at a conference organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

During the question-and-answer session of the conference on "Women's Leadership in Conflict Resolution: Faith Perspectives," many comments focused on perceptions of discrimination against women in Islam and in the Catholic Church.

IlhamAllah Chiara Ferrero, secretary general of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, insisted that many current cultural practices in predominantly Islamic countries are the result of "using and manipulating the Islamic sources," particularly the Quran and the sayings of Muhammad, to relegate women to a domestic role.

"The greatest betrayal of Islamic sources," she said, "has been that of covering up the importance of education, when, in fact, already at the time of the Prophet, education was obligatory, even for girls and boys."

Returning to the sources and history of Islam, Ferrero said, Muslims find examples of strong, bold and prayerful women who served their communities and worked for peace.

Although there is more to do, she said, the increased access Muslim women have to university education is already having an impact on distinguishing between Islamic teaching about women and their cultural subjection.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, responded to charges of discrimination against women in the Catholic Church. As long as the question of women's roles in the church is "de-coupled" from the question of priestly ordination -- something the church believes it has no power to change -- he said, much has been done and more can still be done to recognize women's leadership potential and guarantee them a voice in decision-making processes.

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, "we are seeing a springtime for new leadership in the church," he said, citing a private conversation in which the pope told him he saw no reason why the new secretary of justice and peace and the next heads of the pontifical councils for the laity and for the family should not be women or a married couple.

Donna Orsuto, a professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, told the conference "Christian women have taken leadership roles in conflict resolution."

However, she told participants -- including dozens of religious women -- "oftentimes, though, their activities are hidden, especially in the case of women religious, because they simply do not draw attention to themselves."

"This reticence among religious women -- and also among some laywomen -- is coupled with the reality that both the church and society often overlook or underestimate the leadership role of women in conflict situations," Orsuto said. "This is part of a wider problem that has to do with how women are treated in general."

Of course, Orsuto said, stereotyping -- positively and negatively -- is a problem. "Women, just like men, are capable of being protagonists of conflict and war or weavers of peace."

Like Cardinal Turkson and the three women speakers, Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, gave examples of women who were motivated by faith, even at the risk of their lives, to mediate crisis situations and to bring peace in various parts of the world.

"Women and girls are among the most vulnerable victims of war and conflict," he said, but experience also has shown that their participation in conflict resolution "can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the causes of and alternative solutions to conflict."

In addition, he said, where women have been excluded from peace processes often "crimes against women go unaddressed and peace agreements do not ultimately reflect popular needs, making them more difficult to sustain."



How RCMP officers tracked three Canadian girls in Egypt before they could join ISIL in Syria

16 April, 2015

TORONTO — There was no time to waste when three young women went missing last July. The teens had already left Toronto for Cairo, where they would be catching a connecting flight to Istanbul. Their parents feared they were headed for Syria.

The RCMP national security officer assigned to the case worked on it through the night. He reached the RCMP liaison officer in Cairo, who convinced his Egyptian police contacts to track down and intercept the women at the airport.

“Another hour or so, a couple of hours, they would have been gone because the fixer was already there (at Istanbul airport) to meet them,” said RCMP Supt. Doug Best, who heads the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Ontario.

Nine months after those harrowing few days, the RCMP discussed its role in the case for the first time this week after federal prosecutors decided not to lay criminal charges against the teenagers — a 15-year-old and two sisters, aged 18 and 19.

Police don’t know for certain why the teens left for Syria without telling their parents. They told police they were travelling for humanitarian purposes. But investigators said their social-media accounts showed they had an interest in the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“Really, there are many that would say that we probably saved the lives of these three young women,” Supt. Best told the National Post in an exclusive interview. “Now after careful consideration by Crown, it’s been decided that we will not proceed with criminal charges against them.”

The families were notified Monday that no charges would be laid. Hussein Hamdani, who met with the families earlier, said he was pleased with the decision. He said if the young women had intended to marry ISIL fighters, that would not necessarily qualify as providing support to a terrorist group.

“It would have been a tough legal argument,” the Hamilton, Ont. lawyer said Tuesday. “These girls, they’re so young. Clearly we don’t want to destroy their lives, that’s not going to do society any good … I think it’s best for Canada, it’s the right thing to do.”

About 18% of the foreigners heading to Syria and Iraq are now women, according to Joana Cook, a PhD candidate at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. “It has been confirmed that a number of women from Canada are among these,” said Cook, who is studying the role of women in extremism for an independent report for Public Safety Canada.

The investigation into the three teenagers offers a rare glimpse of current efforts to deal with young Canadian women drawn to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. On July 14, 2014, the 15-year-old was dropped off at the school where she was taking summer classes. The sisters, meanwhile, said they were going to the library.

When they didn’t come home, their parents began to panic. The younger girls’ parents started snooping and found evidence their daughter had bought airline tickets to Istanbul, with a brief stopover in Cairo. She had also obtained a Turkish travel visa and withdrawn $5,000 from her bank account.

The parents promptly filed missing persons reports with Peel Regional Police. Because the parents shared their concerns about Syria, Peel officers notified the Ontario Provincial Police’s Provincial Anti-Terrorism Section, which got hold of the RCMP INSET in Toronto.

“The big thing is, the parents were wise enough to report that their daughters were missing,” Supt. Best said. “It basically came back to the good sense of the parents to have reported them missing and to have been very candid in describing what they believed to be the case: that they had left for Syria.”

The investigator on the case reached the RCMP liaison officer in Cairo early in the morning local time. The liaison officer immediately began canvassing his contacts in the Egyptian police, who managed to find the girls before their flight to Istanbul departed. The Egyptians held the girls and returned them to Canada on July 17.

“In this particular case, everything that could go right went right,” Supt. Best said. “There was a very good resolution in the sense that we were able to get these young females turned around in Cairo before they were able to carry on with their journey.”

The RCMP and Peel Regional Police conducted a “joint forces investigation,” confirmed Peel’s Acting Staff Sgt. David Kennedy. Since one of the girls had disappeared while on her way to class, the Peel school board also got involved.

“When the board has heard rumours or specific concerns about students leaving to be part of overseas conflicts we have acted immediately,” said spokesman Brian Woodland. “We have connected with Peel Regional Police, received specific advice and direction and worked closely with them.”

The investigation determined that the younger girl had paid the travel costs of the other two, using money she had acquired legitimately. When police examined the young women’s social-media profiles, they found exchanges they said suggested a sympathy for the ISIL cause and an interest in joining.

In particular, one of them had been interacting on the Internet with Musa Cerantonio, a notorious Australian Muslim convert and outspoken ISIL supporter. The International Centre for the Study of Radicalization calls him one of the most influential online radical preachers among extremists in Syria and Iraq.

Several Canadian ISIL members have posted travel advice for women on social media and suggested “sisters” they should follow on Twitter for guidance. ISIL prohibits women from taking part in combat so their roles are largely limited to serving as jihadi brides. In some cases, they have met ISIL fighters online and agreed to join them.

Researchers believe ISIL wives are motivated by extremist ideology that: portrays Muslims as victims of oppression; depicts such Western countries as Canada as sinful; and claims it is their religious duty to populate the Islamic state.

“Female migrants are not just rejecting the culture and foreign policy of the West; they are also embracing a new vision for society. They hope to contribute to this society, governed by a strict interpretation of Shariah law,” according to an Institute for Strategic Dialogue report.

But there is debate about how best to deal with these young women. Should they be treated as missing persons, or supporters of terrorism? Will parents be discouraged from coming forward if they believe their daughters could be prosecuted?

“It may be more challenging to address women through criminal prosecution in the case of ISIL as they are not the ones taking active fighting roles, and it may also be difficult to prove other types of support they are providing the group,” Cook said. “These are not as clear cut as may be the case with men going abroad with the specific intention to carry out terrorist activities.”

She said it would be more effective to look at who is recruiting women, for example “big sister figures,” and what narratives they are using. Sober accounts of the stark reality for jihadi wives and more support for groups focused on strengthening the roles of women in countering violent extremism could also help, she said.

“We’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of females that are expressing an interest, and we’ve seen them as young as age 13 express significant interest in joining the cause,” Supt. Best said. “Most of this, of course, is occurring online.

“And I guess the question I would ask is: How does a 13-year-old wake up one morning and decide, ‘Well these are the sites I’m going to check and I want to support the ISIL cause.’ I don’t have the answer to that, unfortunately.

“I wish I did.”



Sydney woman praised for defending Muslim woman 'harassed on train for wearing a hijab'

16 April, 2015

An Australian woman has been described as a “hero” for challenging a train passenger who was allegedly being abusive towards a Muslim woman sat in the same carriage.

Stacey Eden claimed an older woman was accusing the unidentified Muslim woman and the man sat next to her of being an Isis supporter because she was wearing a hijab.

Ms Eden, from Sydney, said the alleged tirade began "a good ten minutes" before she started filming the woman, later uploading the video onto her Facebook page.

Footage from the alleged incident on Wednesday began as the unnamed passenger asked the woman, who was also sat with a pram on the opposite side of the train, "why do you wear it [a hijab] for a man that marries a six year-old girl?"

The woman and the man remained silent, but Ms Eden responded: "She wears it for herself, OK? She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her."

The woman continued despite her interjection, saying: “Your kids behead people in Syria. […] Read the newspapers, 148 people, Christians murdered in Kenya. They’re killing each other in Syria.

Ms Eden interrupted again at this point, telling her angrily: “Don’t sit there disrespecting someone that has nothing to do with it. Have some respect. If you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything.”

The footage immediately attracted hundreds of likes, shares and comments praising her for stepping in and defending the Muslim woman against harassment.

Mariam Veiszadeh, of the Islamophobia Register Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald she was heartened by Ms Eden’s stand. “We hope that her actions inspire others to stand up against racial or religious vilification," she said.

"We're not in the midst of an imaginary backlash, Islamophobia is very much real and you can see from the video it has devastating consequences for Muslim women."

Ms Eden said she was “overwhelmed” by the positive response to the video. "I didn't realise how something so small would end up becoming so important,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

“I genuinely have tears in my eyes at the messages people have sent me.”



Ghana Muslim Mission Women’s Fellowship Build Capacity Of Women Leaders

16 April, 2015

The Ghana Muslim Mission Women’s Fellowship (GMMWF), is organizing a three-day leadership workshop

to enhance the capacity of women leaders in the organization.

The workshop with “Enhancing the Leadership Qualities of the Muslim Woman,” as its theme, aims at equipping the regional and district organizers of the Fellowship with the necessary skills to enhance the performance of their duties.

Hajia Mariama Obeng, National Chairman, GMMWF said the participants would be taken through skills training, including bead work which has become very lucrative in recent time, and soap making, to help create job opportunities to help reduce the high unemployment rate among members.

Hajia Obeng said although the GMMWF has come a long way by transforming the lives of its members through weekly preaching sections and conferences, it is still faced with a lot of challenges in areas of organization and job creation.

She noted that at the end of the workshop, participants would be provided with some materials and tools to enable them carry on the skills acquired to other members in their various regions and districts.

Hajia Fatima Suleiman, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, said a leader in Islam is someone who sees beyond assumed boundaries, and being a leader is a call from Allah which one must take very seriously, as it will be accounted for in the hereafter..

Hajia Suleiman pointed out that a leader in Islam must be righteous, just, knowledgeable, honest, trustworthy and competent, and it is important for every leader to posses one or more of such attributes to be able to perform to task.

Dr Mrs Rabiatu Armah Konney, Senior Lecturer of the University of Ghana, said the issue about leadership in Islam is something that has been neglected for a very long time, and added that that is why the workshop has been organized at the right time.

She said leadership is the ability for a person to have a vision and to carry the rest of the people along, saying leadership is a two-way affair.

Dr Konney said a Muslim leader is always governing a people of faith, and must be someone who is religiously upright and works on the basis of consultation and consensus-building.

She noted that a Muslim leader must always be ready to accept criticisms in good faith, by recognizing the fact that members will criticize when things do not go on well.

Dr Amin Bonsu, National Chairman of the Ghana Muslim Mission, advised the women to take education of their children both Islamic and secular very serious, in order to breed an upcoming generation of Muslims who would help lift up the Image of Islam.