New Age Islam News Bureau
8 Dec 2015
Photo: Syed Farook (L) and his wife, Tashfeen Malik (R), were hailed as "soldiers" of the Islamic State group after they shot dead 14 people at a social services centre in San Bernardino, California (AFP Photo/)
• Eleven things women in Saudi Arabia can't do
• Housewife charged with murder of two sons
• Nadra records prove Tashfeen Malik's CNIC is not fake
• Saudi teacher rescues five women from burning car
• Once devastated, women share success stories
• Girl students disappear from school, found in mall
• Al-Nahda, Uber link up to offer voters free ride
• American women pursue Saudi dads of their children
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
California shooter attended female madrassa in Multan
December 08, 2015
MULTAN - The woman who along with her husband shot dead 14 people in California last week attended one of Pakistan’s most high-profile religious seminaries for women, the madrassa confirmed to AFP Monday.
Tashfeen Malik, 29, was enrolled in 2013 at the Al-Huda Institute in Multan, which targets middle-class women seeking to come closer to Islam and also has offices in the US, the UAE, India and the UK, said Imran Amir, an administration official at the seminary.
The institute has no known extremist links, though it has come under fire in the past from critics who say its ideology echoes that of the Taliban.
But her attendance offers fresh insight into Malik’s journey towards Islamic extremism.
This likely began with her upbringing in Saudi Arabia, continued during her time as a student in Pakistan and culminated with her swearing allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before embarking on her killing spree.
Malik and her husband Syed Farook, 28, were hailed as “soldiers” of the self-proclaimed caliphate following the massacre on Wednesday at a social services centre in San Bernardino.
Investigators suspect that Malik, who went to the United States on a fiancee’s visa and spent extended periods of time in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, may have radicalised her husband.
The probe is trying to establish if she had contact with Islamic radicals in either country.
Malik was enrolled in classes including translation of the Quran in 2013, said Amir, the administration official.
“But she did not complete her course and was here only for a short time,” he added.
A teacher who gave her name only as Muqadas also confirmed to AFP that Malik did not finish the two-year course.
“She was a good girl.
I don’t know why she left and what happened to her,” Muqadas said.
Malik did not travel to the US with her husband until 2014.
Fellow classmates at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, where Malik studied pharmacology from 2007-2012, said she also went to the madrassa after classes during her final two years at the university, though her attendance at that time may have been informal.
Farrukh Saleem, a Karachi-based spokeswoman for Al-Huda, told AFP the organisation preaches “the peaceful teachings of Islam and the prophet of Islam”, adding that government and law enforcement agencies have “never suspected us of spreading extremism”.
Al-Huda, founded in 1994 by Farhat Hashmi, is one of the best-known female madrassas in the country, where religious seminaries are thought to teach hundreds of thousands of students each year.
Unlike other such seminaries, it mainly targets Pakistan’s influential middle and upper classes, often holding religious study circles inside members’ houses.
One of Malik’s former classmates at the Bahauddin Zakariya University said she drastically changed during her time there.
“Gradually she became more serious and strict,” the student said, requesting anonymity.
Malik became withdrawn and stopped participating in classes, the student said, adding that while she had been religious previously, during her time at Al-Huda she “became hardline and different”.
Arif Rafiq, an analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said her attendance “suggests that she had embraced a more modern yet austere variant of Islam”.
“It may have made her more susceptible to the ideology of a transnational terrorist group like IS,” he added.
But he cautioned that Al-Huda’s graduates rarely become militants.
“Al-Huda attendance alone doesn’t answer the question of how she may have made the leap from being a conservative or even Salafi Muslim into a jihadist.
Badar Alam, editor of the prestigious Herald magazine, said Malik appeared to have become radicalised gradually.
“She was raised in Saudi Arabia so she became a Salafi.
She joined Al-Huda.
She married a US Muslim who was influenced by events in the Middle East — this is the making of an international terrorist in today’s world.
Malik is the latest in a string of high-profile college-educated militants of Pakistani origin, including would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and “Lady Al-Qaeda” — neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in the US for attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has pledged to crack down on religious seminaries suspected of being breeding grounds for intolerance or even fostering extremism, with the country’s information minister Pervez Rashid terming them “universities of illiteracy and ignorance”.
However the government’s efforts to rein in madrassas have prompted anger from many clerics who accuse the authorities of maligning religious leaders in a bid to build an “anti-Islamic narrative”.
Eleven things women in Saudi Arabia can't do
Dec 7, 2015
For the first time in history, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to vote and stand in municipal election this week.
Polls open in the kingdom on Saturday and many are optimistic that women's voices will finally begin to be heard in government – even if only at a local level.
"[It] will bring a female point of view, demanding certain amendments to laws that are unfavourable towards women," Muna Abusulayman, a Saudi commentator, told Al Jazeera.
Human rights campaigners have welcomed the move, but warn there is still a long way to go in the fight for gender equality in a country where discrimination is institutionalised.
They also point out that not all women will be able – or allowed – to access polling stations due to their reliance on their husbands and male relatives for transport.
"Let's not forget that women won't actually be able to drive themselves to the voting booths as they're still completely banned from driving," Amnesty International's Karen Middleton told The Independent.
The polling stations – as with all other public venues in the conservative Muslim nation – will be gender segregated. Out of 1,263 polling stations, just 424 have been reserved for women voters.
Saudi Arabia has an abysmal human rights record, especially with regards to protecting women. Although in recent years the rights of women have been incrementally extended, their actions are still severely restricted.
In a country where a woman cannot even open a bank account without her husband's permission, here are several other things women in the Muslim kingdom are still unable to do:
Go anywhere without a chaperone
Saudi women need to be accompanied by a male guardian known as a 'mahram' whenever they leave the house. The guardian is often a male relative and will accompany women on all of their errands, including shopping trips and visits to the doctor.
Such practices are rooted in "conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins," according to The Guardian.
In one extreme case, a teenager reported that she had been gang-raped, but because she was not with a mahram when it occurred, she was punished by the court. The victim was given more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received, the Washington Post reports.
The Saudi Arabian government recently announced that it was considering lifting restrictions on women that would allow them to travel without the approval of their relatives, but human rights groups warn the move is likely to be vetoed by senior clerics.
Drive a car
There is no official law that bans women from driving but deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, with Saudi clerics arguing that female drivers "undermine social values".
In 2011, a group of Saudi women organised the "Women2Drive" campaign that encouraged women to disregard the laws and post images and videos of themselves driving on social media to raise awareness of the issue in an attempt to force change. It was not a major success.
Saudi journalist Talal Alharbi says women should be allowed to drive but only to take their children to school or a family member to hospital. "Women should accept simple things", he writes for Arab News. "This is a wise thing women could do at this stage. Being stubborn won't support their cause."
Wear clothes or make-up that "show off their beauty"
The dress code for women is governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law and is enforced to varying degrees across the country. The majority of women are forced to wear an abaya – a long black cloak – and a head scarf. The face does not necessarily need to be covered, "much to the chagrin of some hardliners," says The Economist. But this does not stop the religious police from harassing women for exposing too much flesh or wearing too much makeup.
The dress code was extended to all female television presenters earlier this year. The king's advisory body, the Shoura Council, ruled that the women should wear "modest" clothes that do not "show off their beauty", according to Arab News.
Interact with men
Women are required to limit the amount of time spent with men they are not related to. The majority of public buildings including offices, banks and universities have separate entrances for men and women, the Daily Telegraph reports. Public transportation, parks, beaches and amusement parks are also segregated in most parts of the country. Unlawful mixing will lead to criminal charges being brought against both parties, but women typically face harsher punishment.
Go for a swim
Reuters correspondent Arlene Getz describes her experience of trying to use the gym and pool at an upmarket Riyadh hotel: "As a woman, I wasn't even allowed to look at them ('there are men in swimsuits there,' a hotel staffer told me with horror) — let alone use them."
Compete freely in sports
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting an Olympic Games without women. "Our society can be very conservative," said Prince Fahad bin Jalawi al-Saud, a consultant to the Saudi Olympic Committee. "It has a hard time accepting that women can compete in sports."
When Saudi Arabia sent its female athletes to the London games for the first time, hard-line clerics denounced the women as "prostitutes". While they were allowed to compete, they had to be accompanied by a male guardian and wear a "Sharia-compliant" sports kit that covered their hair.
Try on clothes when shopping
"The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle," says Vanity Fair writer Maureen Dowd in 'A Girl's Guide to Saudi Arabia'.
Other more unusual restrictions include:
Entering a cemetery
Reading an uncensored fashion magazine
Buying a Barbie
However, explains Dowd, everything in Saudi Arabia "operates on a sliding scale, depending on who you are, whom you know, whom you ask, whom you're with, and where you are".
But things are slowly beginning to modernise in a country that has historically had some of the most repressive attitudes towards women. "Women in Saudi Arabia are highly educated and qualified," says Rothna Begum from Human Right Watch. "They don’t want to be left in the dark."
Housewife charged with murder of two sons
December 8, 2015
SUNGAI PETANI: A 35-year-old housewife was charged at the Magistrate’s Court here today for killing her two sons last week.
According to the charge sheet, Saw Shok Kian was accused of murdering Tee Cong Ming, 5, and Tee Chong Sern, 2, at between 10pm on November 30 to 3pm on December 1 at a house in Lorong Wira Indah, Taman Wira Indah, Sungai Petani.
Shok Kian was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.
The accused, who was wearing a blue-gray stripped dress, appeared calm and only nodded her head when the charges were read by the court interpreter in Mandarin.
Also present in court were the accused’s husband, Tee Chooi Peng, 36, as well as family members.
Earlier, the accused’s counsel from the National Legal Aid Foundation Farahdina Che Bakar applied to the court to place the accused under psychiatric surveillance.
“The accused has never been referred to any psychiatrists and during the arrest her hands were injured,” she said.
Deputy public prosecutor Nur Anida Nasir supported the application, considering the injuries sustained by the accused were consistent with the injuries on the victims.
Nur Anida said this was in line with Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Magistrate Mohd Hadi Hakimi Harun later ordered the accused to be referred to Hospital Bahagia in Ulu Kinta, Perak for 30 days for observation.
The court set January 12 for case mention while awaiting the toxicology, chemistry and forensic reports.
Nadra records prove Tashfeen Malik's CNIC is not fake
December 08, 2015
KARACHI: The copy of the Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) of Tashfeen Malik, which surfaced in international publications and local social media, has been found to be authentic, according to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) verification service.
The 27-year-old woman and her US-born husband Syed Rizwan Farook are the main suspects in the shooting of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last week. Both were killed.
Read: Suspects Syed Farook, Tashfeen Malik kill 14 in California shooting: authorities
Speculation arose on social media, questioning the authenticity of Tashfeen Malik's CNIC copy and claiming the details were part of a larger conspiracy.
Tweet criticising Tashfeen Malik's CNIC copy
But a quick message to one of Nadra's verification services show that the CNIC mentioned in the international reports was in fact registered in the name of one Tafsheen Malik daughter of Gulzar Ahmed Malik.
US authorities had identified Tashfeen as a Pakistani who arrived there last year on a special visa for fiancés of US citizens as one of the California shooters. Another US official said Malik had pledged allegiance to chief of the militant Islamic State group, al-Baghdadi, in a posting on Facebook under an account that used a different name
Also read: Act of individual does not represent a country or religion, says Nisar
Tashfeen's relatives say she and her father seemed to have abandoned the family's moderate Islam and became more radicalised during years they spent in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi teacher rescues five women from burning car
December 7, 2015
Manama: A Saudi teacher who single-handedly rescued five women out of a blazing car has been feted for his bravery.
Abdul Aziz Al Harbi did not hesitate even for a moment when he saw a car in flames following a horrific crash and rushed to help the five passengers out to safety.
The drivers of the two vehicles were killed in the head-on collision in Al Qaseem on Sunday, the first day of the school week.
The women were teachers being transported to their school and one of the drivers was also a teacher, Saudi reports said.
Abdul Aziz was feted on social media as a hero who was not afraid the fuel tank would burst and risked his life in order to save the women trapped in the burning car.
Once devastated, women share success stories
December 08, 2015
Islamabad - Robina Kosar, a 27-year-old widow, is supporting her family in a village of Skardu, Gilgit–Baltistan, by pursuing a profession for livelihood rarely opted by women; she is an electrician.
A mother of two was devastated when her husband died of cancer about four years ago.
She had to look after her children, her ailing parents and younger siblings.
Having an inborn inclination towards electrical work, she got herself enrolled in a project called ‘enhancing capability and leadership for youth’ run by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP).
After undergoing a short training of two months, Kosar started repairing small electrical appliances and electrical wire systems.
She runs a shop of electrical supplies and accessories at home also.
Her average earning is Rs 30,000 per month.
As she chose to travel a path less travelled by, the people in her village were shocked, initially.
“People used to be amazed initially, but now they have become familiar.
My many customers are now women.
And many women aspire to join different non-traditional professions and men don’t object,” she said.
Kosar along with other women entrepreneurs from rural settings was participating a Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum organised yesterday by the High Commission of Canada.
The Forum brought together a wide range of development professionals and partners, rural women, the private sector, government representatives, experts on gender and economic participation, as well as practitioners.
Yasmeen Kareem, gender advisor at AKRSP, said under the said project in Gilgit-Baltistan about 20,000 rural youth were trained with different professional skills and among them 50 percent were women.
She said an assessment revealed that 70 percent of women got involved in decision-making and domestic violence and poverty reduced after women became economically empowered after trainings and starting their businesses.
The Canadian government has been running various projects through local and international non-governmental organisations in various districts to empower disadvantaged rural women as well as for poverty alleviation.
This forum gave a platform to rural women entrepreneurs who benefited from such projects and share their experiences and stories.
Bakhsh Ilahi from Multan, 42, was also left alone with her two daughters when her husband contracted second marriage because she could not give birth to a baby boy.
She mustered up courage and got herself registered with the community infrastructure improvement project (CIIP) run by CARE-International, Pakistan.
She was trained as a road maintenance team member.
“I constructed roads for two years for which I was paid Rs 5600 per month and about Rs 1100 went in my savings per month.
” Later, with the savings she started a small grocery shop at her house.
She expanded the shop with the passage of time and now she also sells cosmetics products for women.
Working on the roads and later running a store was challenging as these are predominantly labelled as male jobs.
But gradually things changed when the money flew in, says Ilahi.
“Now people ask for such opportunities so that they can also get employment,” she said.
Ilahi’s both daughters are studying in schools and she is being consulted in every important matter at home and in the village too.
She is a successful entrepreneur who is looked upon with respect and dignity.
By involving women that constitute over 50 percent of the population, Pakistan can enhance its per capita income, achieve its development and gender equality goals and help stimulate sustainable economic growth, said Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden.
“The ongoing marginalisation of women is a key barrier to sustainable economic growth,” said Cruden.
“It is my hope that more women can become literate and informed wage-earners who can then make better choices for themselves and their children,” she said adding “when women and girls are empowered and have equal access to economic opportunities, poverty decreases, opportunities for development expand, and entire families, communities and countries benefit.
Girl students disappear from school, found in mall
8 December 2015
JEDDAH: Two Grade 6 female students who had disappeared from one of the primary schools in the Bawadi neighborhood of Jeddah at the end of the school day on Sunday were found in a mall on Monday, reported Al-Riyadh daily.
Aiman Momina, uncle of one of the girls, confirmed it. The case was handled by security authorities.
Earlier, the school management said the two attended the last school session, left their bags behind and departed. The management also stressed that the back door of the school was not normally open.
The social media websites were awash with messages of prayer and hope following the news of their disappearance.
Al-Nahda, Uber link up to offer voters free ride
Dec 8, 2015
JEDDAH — People casting votes in the municipal council elections on Dec. 12 will enjoy a free ride as part of a charitable initiative launched by Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women in collaboration with the famous car service app Uber.
Citizens can go to and from election centers using the Uber app, which operates in Jeddah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province.
“There is no doubt that any successful social cause needs effective and substantial cooperation from all parties whether government entities, private organizations or charitable societies”, says Rasha Al-Turki, CEO of Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society, describing the partnership as “mutually beneficial and that will yield great results”.
“We want to facilitate the voting process on the election day as part of our role in serving the community,” says Sheikha Al-Sudairy, chief projects officer at Al-Nahda. “Transportation is one major obstacle for both men and women since it can be expensive.”
She further said: “We noticed that Uber was actively involved in charitable causes all over the world so we contacted Uber about the idea and they were immediately receptive.”
General Manager of Uber Saudi Arabia Majed Abu Khater stated: “Upon reviewing the municipal elections program and Al-Nahda’s role in the awareness, education, and training of citizens, we concluded that it is our duty as an organization to support Saudi men and women in successfully participating in development of their society.”
Abu Khater said the app users only need to enter a code and a car will pick them up free of charge.
This month, Saudi women will be able to vote or run for office in the municipal elections for the first time in history. So far, more than 900 women are running for the public office.
The initiative comes as part of a series of awareness campaigns throughout the year run by Al-Nahda on the importance of voting in the municipal elections in the Kingdom, now entering its third round.
The non-profit organization has posted information about the voting process online (http://www.wataneea.com) and has been promoting voter participation by posting on social media, including an entertaining video informing citizens how to vote under the slogan: “Your vote counts”.
When asked about Al-Nahda’s organizational goal in empowering women and the relationship in this initiative, Al-Sudairy said, “Al-Nahda usually focuses mainly on women but it’s more effective to raise awareness by reaching out to both genders in society”. Training and educating citizens about the voting process in awareness campaigns and in media outlets has been Al-Nahda’s focus during the election campaigns.
A leading charitable organization in Saudi Arabia, Al-Nahda focuses on developing women economically, socially, financially in addition to promoting jobs. Throughout the years, the 53-year-old charitable organization has aimed to empower women and address various social issues.
American women pursue Saudi dads of their children
Dec 8, 2015
RIYADH — An American website titled “Saudi Children Left Behind” has been launched to help American women find Saudi men who have impregnated them and abandoned them and their children, Al-Hayat reported.
A source said the website was launched after a growing phenomenon of Saudi university students impregnating American women and leaving the children behind.
“American mothers of Saudi children began posting their personal stories on the website with pictures and names of the Saudi fathers. The mothers have tried to contact the fathers several times but to no avail. They were left with no other choice but to launch the website in the hope of reaching out to someone who might know the fathers,” said the source.
The source said Saudis fathering children with American women started as a trend in the 80s.
“The phenomenon calmed down during the 90s but has recently risen. Many Saudi men bailed out of the relationships they had with American women once they found out the women were pregnant. The website has data in Arabic and English and is visited by over 1.5 million viewers,” said the source.
The source also said the mothers also posted they have contacted Awasir, a charity organization for Saudi families abroad, seeking help but experienced prolonged delays.
Umm Sami, a 27-year-old American got into a relationship with a Saudi student.
“I converted to Islam for him and became pregnant with a boy. Sami’s father abruptly left me when I was 7-month pregnant. Sami is three years old now and he will ask me one day about his father. I am not after money or attention. I just want Sami’s father to sign official papers so my son can be considered a citizen of Guatemala,” she said.
She added she is forced to pay taxes for her son because he is not considered a citizen.
“I tried contacting Awasir two years ago but until now no progress has been done. I tried my best and I have no regrets. When my son asks me about his dad in the future I will tell him I tried my best,” said Umm Sami.
Awasir president Tawfiq Al-Suwailim said the number of intermarriage divorces has risen to 50 percent during the past 10 years.
“Difference in cultures and traditions takes its toll in marriages across cultures. Divorces happen everywhere and children are always the victim of the divorce. We regard the children of Saudis as our responsibility. We are open to help them and provide for them as much as possible,” said Al-Suwailim.
He also said the rate of unarranged marriages is decreasing and the organization is working on raising awareness among Saudi students of the consequences of being involved in an unlawful relationship or marrying a foreign woman.