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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Burqa Not Allowed, Patna College Tells Muslim Students; Imposes Rs 250 Fine for Violation













Students staged a protest against burqa ban in Patna, Bihar on Saturday. (Photo credit: India Today)

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• Muslim Women Occupy Streets in India against Citizenship Law

• Women Rise at Roshan Bagh, Allahabad: Indignant Youth Speak Of Injustice

• 'Will Not Back Out': UP Women Continue Anti-NRC Stir In Lucknow

• 4th FIR against Lucknow Women Protesters

• Nankana Sahib Sikh Girl to Move Apex Court in Pakistan

• Women Lawmakers to Be Inducted Into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cabinet

• Turkey’s ‘Marry Your Rapist’ Law Has Taken Women’s Rights Right Back To The 1950s

• Online Training Launched to Encourage Egyptian Women’s Participation in Local Councils

• GOP Challenger Brands Muslim Congresswoman Omar A 'Jihadi' With Shared Facebook Post

• US-Israeli Woman Jailed In Russia Has Not Yet Sought Pardon: Kremlin

• A Female Entrepreneur Brings Crowd Lending To Saudi Arabia

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/burqa-not-allowed,-patna-college-tells-muslim-students;-imposes-rs-250-fine-for-violation/d/120890

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Burqa Not Allowed, Patna College Tells Muslim Students; Imposes Rs 250 Fine for Violation

Rohit Kumar Singh

January 25, 2020

Acollege in Patna has imposed a dress code under which Muslim students would no longer be allowed to wear burqa inside the college premises. The ban has been imposed in Patna’s JD Women’s College.

In a notice signed by the college proctor and principal, students have been asked to comply with the new dress code.

The college administration has also imposed a fine of Rs 250 in case anyone is found violating the dress code.

Besides this, the college has also prescribed a dress code but the notice does not provide details about it.

The notice reads: "All students have to come to college in the prescribed dress code, every day except on Saturday. Students are prohibited from wearing 'burqa' in college. A fine of Rs 250 will be imposed for violation."

On Saturday, students staged a protest against this ban.

When India Today TV asked college principal Shyama Roy about the rationale of this order, she said she is withdrawing the order banning burqa in college.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/no-burqa-allowed-patna-college-muslim-students-imposes-rs-250-fine-violation-1640039-2020-01-25

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Muslim Women Occupy Streets in India against Citizenship Law

January 24, 2020

NEW DELHI (AP) — In the Indian capital’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood, beside open sewers and dangerously dangling electricity wires, a group of Muslim women in colorful headscarves sit in resistance to a new citizenship law that has unleashed protests across the country.

For more than a month the women have taken turns maintaining an around the clock sit-in on a highway that passes through their neighborhood. They sing songs of protest and chant anti-government slogans, some cradling babies, others laying down rugs to make space for more people to sit.

The movement has slowly spread nationwide, with many women across the country staging their own sit-ins.

Through numerous police barricades, women trickle in from the winding arterial alleys of Shaheen Bagh with children in hand, as poets and singers take the makeshift stage, drawing rapturous applause.

The neighborhood rings with chants of “Inquilab Zindabad,” which means “long live the revolution!”

As night draws closer, women as old as 90 huddle together under warm blankets, falling asleep on cheap mattresses.

The women, like demonstrators elsewhere in the country, have been demanding the revocation of the citizenship law approved last month. The law provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.

Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.

“Someone had to tell the government that their black laws won’t be accepted. So, as mothers, we decided to protest,” said Najma Khatoon, 62.

Khatoon and other protesters in Shaheen Bagh view the citizenship law as part of a bigger plan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government to implement a nationwide register of citizens, which they fear could lead to the deportation and detention of Muslims.

Modi and other leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party have repeatedly said Indian citizens won’t be affected by the new law, and that if a nationwide register is ever conducted, there will be no religion column.

The gathering at Shaheen Bagh started with a handful of women appalled by the violence at a nearby Muslim university during protests against the law on Dec. 15.

A common refrain among the women at Shaheen Bagh is that they are there to ensure that the secular India plotted out by independence-era leaders remains for younger generations.

A makeshift library houses people who read about the constitution. The space is decorated with art and installations — from a mock detention camp to a mini replica of India Gate, Delhi’s famous World War I monument, inscribed not with the names of soldiers but of those killed in the nationwide protests.

What would halt the protests — short of a revocation of the law by the Supreme Court, where it has been challenged in nearly 60 petitions — is unclear. But there is no indication the women will up and leave anytime soon.

Leaders from Modi’s party have blamed the protests on provocateurs deliberately misleading poor, uneducated people.

The women braving unusually cold winter nights seem undeterred.

“Modi’s actions have stirred our blood,” said Asma Khatoon, an octogenarian. “We don’t feel cold anymore.”

Reporting by Sheikh Saaliq; Associated Press journalists Rishi Lekhi and Rishabh R. Jain contributed to this report.

https://egyptindependent.com/muslim-women-occupy-streets-in-india-against-citizenship-law/

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Women Rise at Roshan Bagh, Allahabad: Indignant Youth Speak Of Injustice

By SHEIKH SAALIQ

24 January 2020

NEW DELHI -- In the Indian capital’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood, beside open sewers and dangerously dangling electricity wires, a group of Muslim women in colorful headscarves sit in resistance to a new citizenship law that has unleashed protests across the country.

For more than a month the women have taken turns maintaining an around the clock sit-in on a highway that passes through their neighborhood. They sing songs of protest and chant anti-government slogans, some cradling babies, others laying down rugs to make space for more people to sit.

The movement has slowly spread nationwide, with many women across the country staging their own sit-ins.

Through numerous police barricades, women trickle in from the winding arterial alleys of Shaheen Bagh with children in hand, as poets and singers take the makeshift stage, drawing rapturous applause.

The neighborhood rings with chants of “Inquilab Zindabad," which means “long live the revolution!”

As night draws closer, women as old as 90 huddle together under warm blankets, falling asleep on cheap mattresses.

The women, like demonstrators elsewhere in the country, have been demanding the revocation of the citizenship law approved last month. The law provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.

Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.

“Someone had to tell the government that their black laws won’t be accepted. So, as mothers, we decided to protest,” said Najma Khatoon, 62.

Khatoon and other protesters in Shaheen Bagh view the citizenship law as part of a bigger plan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government to implement a nationwide register of citizens, which they fear could lead to the deportation and detention of Muslims.

Modi and other leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party have repeatedly said Indian citizens won’t be affected by the new law, and that if a nationwide register is ever conducted, there will be no religion column.

The gathering at Shaheen Bagh started with a handful of women appalled by the violence at a nearby Muslim university during protests against the law on Dec. 15.

A common refrain among the women at Shaheen Bagh is that they are there to ensure that the secular India plotted out by independence-era leaders remains for younger generations.

A makeshift library houses people who read about the constitution. The space is decorated with art and installations — from a mock detention camp to a mini replica of India Gate, Delhi’s famous World War I monument, inscribed not with the names of soldiers but of those killed in the nationwide protests.

What would halt the protests — short of a revocation of the law by the Supreme Court, where it has been challenged in nearly 60 petitions — is unclear. But there is no indication the women will up and leave anytime soon.

Leaders from Modi’s party have blamed the protests on provocateurs deliberately misleading poor, uneducated people.

The women braving unusually cold winter nights seem undeterred.

“Modi’s actions have stirred our blood,” said Asma Khatoon, an octogenarian. “We don’t feel cold anymore.” ——— Associated Press journalists Rishi Lekhi and Rishabh R. Jain contributed to this report.

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/muslim-women-occupy-streets-india-citizenship-law-68499894

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'Will Not Back Out': UP Women Continue Anti-NRC Stir In Lucknow

January 25, 2020

Lucknow: The all women protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Lucknow's Clock Tower continued on Saturday despite every effort by the administration to end it.

A woman, who has been at the protest site with her four-year-old child, said: "Citizens across the country are on the streets protesting against the new law, which is against the very basic tenets of Indian Constitution."

"The country is in the hands of those who are trying to destroy India. We Muslim women have to take out our veil and come on to the streets to protect India's democracy", she added.

Another woman said: "God has given us the power to protect our country from the fascist forces and we will keep fighting till the very end."

Alok Pandey

@alok_pandey

This is Saiyyada Ume Kulsoom , a post graduate in human genetics , reading out this thought provoking composition of hers at day 4 of continuous #CAA_NRC protests at #Lucknow 's iconic clock tower.  Do watch

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Women and children have been protesting against the CAA and NRC at the iconic venue in the Heritage Circle of the Uttar Pradesh capital for the last many days and have refused to budge despite repeated threats of eviction by the local administration.

"This law is 100 per cent wrong. Those sitting in power presently should understand that this law has been negated by the people, so they should withdraw it", a woman protester said.

"But the government is trying every possible trick to discredit the peotesters by levelling baseless charges that we have taken money to protest. This is ridiculous", she added.

The protesters are also raising slogans and are holding placards with 'No to NRC', 'Will not show papers' written on them.

Shabana, another protester, said: "We have been a thorn in the eyes of the government since the day we began the protest. Some NGOs handed out blankets, biscuits and water but the policemen took them away."

"The Police also doused the bonfires, lit to help keep the women warm and cope with the cold wave. Not only this, the police even put pressure on those running the nearby toilet to extort money from us", she said.

"But we will not back out even against all odds, and will continue protesting", she added.

https://www.ummid.com/news/2020/january/25.01.2020/lucknow-clock-tower-protest-news-today.html

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4th FIR against Lucknow Women Protesters

January 25, 2020

The Lucknow Police on Friday lodged the fourth FIR against around 125-130 women for criminal conspiracy after they allegedly violated prohibitory orders and staged a dharna against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The fourth FIR lodged at the Gomti Nagar Police station is against around 120 women peacefully gathered since January 20 at a shrine near a graveyard in Ujariyaon village, Gomti Nagar, holding banners against the CAA and NRC.

The larger protest is taking place at Clock Tower in Hussainabad in old Lucknow since January 17 where thousands of women are on an indefinite dharna. Three FIRs has been lodged against the Clock Tower protesters.

The fourth FIR lodged today names five persons, while the remaining 125 are unidentified.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/4th-fir-against-lucknow-women-protesters-31042

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Nankana Sahib Sikh Girl to Move Apex Court in Pakistan

Jan 25, 2020

AMRITSAR: Following delay in the beginning of her married life, Nankana Sahib Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur alias Ayesha Bibi has decided to move the Supreme Court there, urging it to record her statement and allow her to live with her Muslim husband Mohammad Hassan.

Speaking to TOI over phone from Lahore on Friday, Jagjit’s counsel Muhammad Sultan Sheikh said he had held meeting with his client, who was unhappy over the inordinate delay in letting her lead a married life. “She wants the Supreme Court to record her statement about wilfully embracing Islam and marrying Hassan and wanting to begin her married life.” Sultan said he would be filing the writ in SC soon.

Sultan informed that the court had fixed February 10 for next hearing of the case.

Regarding the protests by a group of Sikhs comprising Jagjit’s family members, Sultan said that they were trying to mislead the media. “They were objecting to not letting them meet Jagjit, but it is not true. The court had specifically asked them whether they had held a meeting with Jagjit, and they had replied in the affirmative. However, outside the court they are doing so (protesting) to attract media attention,” he said.

Jagjit’s relatives along with their supporters had reached the Lahore high court on Thursday and held a protest, claiming they were not allowed to meet her.

Meanwhile, Pakistan-based Foundation for Acceptance In The Humanity (Faith) has launched an online campaign, demanding impartial judicial inquiry in case of forced conversion of Jacobabad’s minor Hindu girl Mehak Kumari. Faith founder Chaman Lal said they had also demanded to get the ossification test of Mehak to be conducted from Agha Khan hospital and not from Chandika medical college to rule out possibility of a biased report.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/amritsar/to-begin-her-married-life-nankana-sahib-sikh-to-move-pak-sc/articleshow/73596748.cms

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Women Lawmakers to Be Inducted Into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cabinet

January 25, 2020

PESHAWAR: In a significant development, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet is expected to have its first female member after a year and a half into the government.

According to reports emerged on Friday, the provincial government has decided to induct at least three female lawmakers into the cabinet upon special directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who, according to his aides, has always envisioned gender equality.

Sources familiar to the development further said that the female members will be given portfolios of adviser and full minister.

A female legislator from the erstwhile tribal areas is also among the members, likely to be make their way to the provincial cabinet. Reportedly, MPAs including Maliha Akbar, Ayesha Bano, Ayesha Naeem, Momina Basit and Neta Mehsud have been nominated for the abovementioned purpose.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) central leadership is making efforts for the inclusion of the women members, however, the number of lawmakers is yet to be announced.

It had emerged last year as well that the PTI government is eyeing its first female cabinet member during the second tenure in the province.

Confirming that deliberations have been held, KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai had said that the final decision on the extension of the provincial cabinet will be made by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/24/women-lawmakers-to-be-inducted-into-kp-cabinet-report/

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Turkey’s ‘Marry Your Rapist’ Law Has Taken Women’s Rights Right Back To The 1950s

Sara Tor

January 25, 2020

I’ve always been appalled at the fact my Turkish father’s aunt was forced to marry the man who raped her when she was a teenager. I try to console myself with the fact this was a Turkish village in the 1950s and that a lot has changed since then, but with a "marry-your-rapist" bill set to be introduced in Turkey in a matter of days, I’m having difficulty.

This bill will release scores of men who have been sentenced for committing statutory rape – Turkish newspaper Hürriyet estimates this currently stands at around 4000 – on the condition they marry their victim. Whether there will be a limit as to the age difference between the two parties is still undecided. If there is to be one, it will be set at either 10 or 15 years – a small, yet still utterly detestable, concession.

This whole bill is detestable. In fact, even that word fails to convey the absolute anger, horror and disgust felt towards the bill by many women – and men – of Turkish heritage. In an age where sexual harassment against women is finally becoming taboo, where countries who have a more conservative culture, such as Palestine or Egypt, are finally repealing easy escapes for rapists, why would you bring in such a law? Why would you take such a step back? And it is a huge step back for Turkey. In 2004, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party actually doubled the sentence for child abusers and removed the very law they are now bringing back.

Looking at Erdoğan’s political views as a whole, I believe there can only be one reason: the notion that marriage and children will put Turkey on course to become a major player in the world. He states that "strong nations come from strong families". It’s also why, time after time, he has advocated for Turkish families to have three children, and why, two weeks ago, he declared that having children or living together outside marriage is not in the Islamic – and therefore Turkish – culture. Yet forcing a girl to marry her rapist is not accepted in today’s Turkish culture either; it is seen by the majority as sexual abuse.

Erdoğan, who claimed last week that he will never allow a reduction in sentencing for crimes such as terror or sexual abuse but who is allowing this "marry-your-rapist" bill through, clearly doesn’t see it as such. Instead, he considers it a way for his aims to be met, a way for the population to rise. A rapist marrying his young victim not only means that any child borne from the incident will be legitimised but, with the girl still possessing many fertile years ahead of her, she will also be able to produce more children.

To say this is extremely alarming is an understatement. The main implication of this law is that women in Turkey are not to be valued; they are simply baby-makers and nothing more. With the president and the law conveying this message, it will only be a matter of time before society believes it, which will consequently have a devastating impact on women’s rights across the country.

Men will feel far more dominant over women and the female body than they already do, which will lead to a growth in rape as well as domestic violence or abuse. The rate of femicide will rise despite it already being very high – according to one Turkish women’s platform, around 474 women were killed in 2019, nearly four times the number of women killed in the UK in 2018 – and self-harm and suicide amongst women will increase as a result of them being stuck in unhappy homes with a man, and possibly children, they didn’t ask for.

That the president and parliament thought not to consider the repercussions of this "marry-your-rapist" bill is shameful. They should realise that forcing families, once again, to push their young daughters into lives of misery because they are seen as "damaged goods", is reprehensible.

Turkey used to be progressive on the topic of women’s rights. In the past 20 years, the ban on headscarves in state institutions or in the army has been lifted and mothers have found a work-life balance through the introduction of “milk leave” – 1.5 hours out of every working day to feed their new baby. But this new law will actively erode nearly all of that progress.

The "marry-your-rapist" bill is taking Turkey back to the 1950s. Regardless of what Erdoğan might think about the value of such a law, it’s actually ruining any chance Turkey has of being a truly modern player in the world. So, solidarity to all those women who will be affected by this and a great big thank you to those that have taken to the streets in protest. This is a huge fight for women for so many reasons – we won't give up now.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/turkey-marry-your-rapist-bill-law-statutory-rape-a9298906.html

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Online Training Launched to Encourage Egyptian Women’s Participation in Local Councils

JANUARY 23, 2020

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR) launched the first lecture of the online training course under the title “Local Councils: Definition and Role”, which comes as part of a series of online training by ECWR to enhance the capabilities of women and young female leaders to participate effectively in local councils.

This lecture addresses the definition of local councils and its role, the role of the parliament as well as the differences between each one in responsibilities and legal framework.

It includes interviews with experts in political work, election laws and local administration to discuss local councils and the legal framework governing them. It also presents the relevant articles in the constitution for work in local councils as well as an explanation of each article with its analysis.

The course “Political Participation and Local Councils” includes seven lectures to complete the training course, which will be concluded with a certificate from ECWR. To obtain the certificate, participants are required to communicate with ECWR via email and submit their details in the form to receive the training material and fill out the training and evaluation forms.

The series of online training comes within the framework of the project “Enhancing Women’s Capabilities for Effective Participation in Local Councils in Egypt” which is implemented by ECWR in partnership with the United Nations Democracy Fund.

The project seeks to create a network between the female leaders and civil society organizations in eight governorates targeted by the project.

EGYPTIAN WOMEN IN LOCAL COUNCILS

For a long time, women’s representation in local government never exceeded more than ten percent, with only four percent of local seats won by women in the 2008 elections. The 2014 constitution established a 25 per cent quota for women in local councils, which provides space for at least 13,500 women across Egypt to partake in local development decision-making.

In 2017, Nadia Ahmed Abdou became the first woman to ever hold a governor post in Egypt as the governor of Beheira, followed by Manal Awad Mikhail in 2018 as the governor of Damietta.

However, according to a 2018 report by OECD and the National Council for Women, women continue to face challenges in understanding the political and the legal process.

Most citizens are also less aware of the political system operating at the local level, and lack understanding of how they can work with local councils.

Essentially, women’s political empowerment is significant in enhancing democratic governance, which ensures that women’s basic human rights are granted through allowing them to vote and express their opinion, and run for elected office.

Greater political participation by all representatives of society, as well as better understanding of political processes, is an important requirement in achieving better distribution of resources, enhancing equality and countering discrimination.

https://egyptianstreets.com/2020/01/23/online-training-launched-to-encourage-egyptian-womens-political-participation-in-local-councils/

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GOP Challenger Brands Muslim Congresswoman Omar A 'Jihadi' With Shared Facebook Post

January 24, 2020

Danielle Stella, a congressional candidate attempting to unseat Rep. Ilhan Omar, repeatedly shared a social media post Thursday referring to her incumbent opponent as a “jihadi.”

Ms. Stella, who is running as a Republican for the House seat currently held by Ms. Omar, Minnesota Democrat, shared the smear on both her personal and campaign Facebook accounts.

Originally published on the anti-Muslim “Islam Awareness Digest” page on Facebook, the post encouraged social media users to support Ms. Stella rather than “jihadi Ilhan Omar.”

Ms. Omar, a former Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, has been the target of similar attacks from the far-right since taking office in 2019.

Indeed, Ms. Stella was banned from Twitter late last year after tweeting about wanting to put Ms. Omar on trial for treason and having her hanged by the neck until dead if found guilty, The Washington Times first reported.

In addition to sharing the post twice on social media, Ms. Stella repeated the part calling Ms. Omar a “jihadi” in the comments of her official campaign page.

Messages requesting comment from Ms. Omar’s congressional office and re-election campaign were not immediately answered Friday.

The “Islam Awareness Digest” page on Facebook describes itself as being dedicated to discussing the “meaning, intent and impact of Islam as it confronts modern civilization.”

“Islam simply takes over, by any means available,” the same Facebook page posted days earlier. “The active jihadis like Omar pave the path for the *moderate* members of the same cult, on a temporary basis, as they build strength in the Islamic Movement of conquest.”

Ms. Omar and Rep. Rashida Talib, Michigan Democrat, became the country’s first two Muslim congresswomen upon being sworn into office in January 2019.

President Trump came under fire months later when he said that the congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Supporters of Mr. Trump subsequently erupted into chants of “Send her back” when he mentioned Ms. Omar during a campaign event held later that week.

More recently, Ms. Omar referenced the chant while launching her re-election campaign at an event Thursday in downtown Minneapolis.

“I know that there are people who are chanting, ‘Send her back.’ But I believe collectively that you are going to send me back to Congress,” said Ms. Omar.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/24/ilhan-omar-muslim-congresswoman-branded-jihadi-in-/

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US-Israeli Woman Jailed In Russia Has Not Yet Sought Pardon: Kremlin

24 January 2020

The Kremlin said on Friday that the possible release of Naama Issachar, a US-Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges, was being held up because she had not yet formally asked to be granted a pardon.

Israel has called on Russia to release Issachar, who was sentenced by a Russian court to seven-and-a-half years in jail for drug offenses in October.

During a trip to Israel on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin told Issachar's mother that "everything will be okay" for her daughter.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it was impossible for Issachar to be granted a presidential pardon without her first formally requesting one.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/24/US-Israeli-woman-jailed-in-Russia-has-not-yet-sought-pardon-Kremlin.html

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A Female Entrepreneur Brings Crowd Lending To Saudi Arabia

January 25, 2020

RIYADH: It is no secret that small businesses struggle with obtaining funds to expand, with one avenue being particularly tricky in the region: Trying to rely on a national bank for help.

While things are improving, they are not doing so quickly enough. These longstanding problems have inspired Nosaibah Alrajhi, a former investment banker, to launch Forus, a Shariah-compliant peer-to-peer lending platform that she hopes can help bolster Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and enrich both business owners and small investors.

“It’s very straightforward: We bring together investors and SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Crowdlending will provide a steadier and safer return than say, investing in stocks or investment funds,” said Alrajhi, who serves as co-founder and chief executive.

“If you compare it to real estate, for example, you need a lot of cash upfront to invest in property, but with P2P (peer-to-peer) lending it provides almost everyone with the opportunity to invest and get a return.”

Having received a special license in July 2019, Forus will launch its platform in early 2020. For investors, it is quick and easy to register: You just need to complete a standard know-your-customer (KYC) process, and you will then be able to lend SR500 ($133) to SR10,000 to whichever companies you choose.

For would-be borrowers, Forus will undertake a credit and risk analysis that usually takes about 10 days.

“We do all the due diligence, and once companies meet our benchmarks, they’re listed on the platform, giving investors — individual and institutional — the opportunity to lend them money,” said Alrajhi. “We call it income investments — investors get their money back, plus fees.”

Companies listed on the online platform are rated according to risk — the bigger the risk, the larger the return for lenders. Companies can borrow up to a maximum of SR2 million.

“Investors can look at the companies’ financial reports, their strategy, their team, their products, as well as specific financial ratios that will help them make their decision,” said Alrajhi.

A company will request to borrow a certain amount, and once this is fully pledged by investors, it will receive the loan. Forus, in turn, earns a small commission. Loans are for six to 48 months.

“Our marketplace is providing investors with diversified alternative options (for) investing, while businesses are empowered with an opportunity to grow and scale,” said Alrajhi.

“We achieve this by minimizing friction, streamlining the customer experience and providing a seamless, secure and transparent platform.”

Alrajhi holds an MBA from Madrid’s IE Business School, where her research led her to spot a gap in the market for a fintech-based, P2P lender in Saudi Arabia.

“If you look at the market today, there’s only a few banks who are willing to lend to SMEs, which banks see as quite high risk,” said Alrajhi. “In Saudi, there are roughly 16,000 SMEs looking for loans.”

Forus uses a murabaha — cost plus financing — structure for its loans, which are not interest-bearing and so are Shariah-compliant.

In English, Shariah-compliant lending will refer to a profit rate rather than an interest rate, although in Arabic there is no such linguistic distinction.

Nevertheless, Forus’s loans are Islamic. “In Saudi, the biggest market is for Shariah-compliant financial services,” said Alrajhi.

She hopes her platform will provide a win-win for investors and SMEs — investors can earn a bigger return on their money, while SMEs can obtain the funds needed to expand their operations and increase profits.

In the longer term, Forus plans to expand to Egypt and Pakistan, but for now Alrajhi’s focus is firmly on her native Saudi Arabia.

“One of the main impacts we aim to have is transparency, which will then enable financial inclusion and help increase GDP (gross domestic product),” she said.

“We’ve talked to so many SMEs, and we found that almost all are facing challenges when it comes to borrowing.”

She leads a team of 10 staff at Forus, and is a female trailblazer in the Kingdom’s male-dominated financial services sector and more broadly in Saudi Arabia, where women constitute less than 25 percent of the workforce.

“Within the next five years, Saudi’s financial sector will look completely different,” said Alrajhi.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1617951/business-economy

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