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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 Dec 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Canadian Supreme Court Rules Muslim Women Allowed To Wear Veil While Testifying

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 Dec 2012 

 80% of Job Seekers in Makkah Are Women

 Mukhtaran Mai: Rapists Should Get Life Imprisonment

 Afghan Prosecutor Faces Criticism for Her Pursuit of ‘Moral Crimes’

 Chief Imam of Dutse Urge Muslim Women to Study Gynaecology

 'Halal' interfaith unions rise among UK women

 Let's Celebrate Heroines Before They Become Victims

 British girl missing for three years in Pakistan comes home

 Bangladesh Female teacher Accuses Headmaster of Stalking

 Jakarta Hospital Bans Film Shoots after Girl’s Death

 The Scream: Yemeni women make their voices heard

 Special report: Decoding the mind of a rapist

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: 80% of Job Seekers in Makkah Are Women






Canadian Supreme Court Rules Muslim Women Allowed To Wear Veil While Testifying

OTTAWA 29th 2012- The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that women are allowed to wear a religious veil that covers their face while testifying in court, according to a report.

The court announced the ruling in a split decision in a landmark case that pitted religious freedom against an accused person’s right to a fair trial.

The case involved a Muslim woman who sought to wear the veil known as a niqab, which leaves only the eyes exposed, while testifying against her uncle and a cousin whom she claims sexually assaulted her when she was a child, the New York Daily News reports.

According to the report, the two accused claimed that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allowed them to confront their accuser and observe her facial expressions as she testifies.

However, the woman’s lawyers said facial expressions could be misleading. They said Muslim sexual assault victims would hesitate to go to police if they’re barred from wearing a niqab while testifying in court, the report said.

In the rare 4-2-1 split decision, the Canadian Supreme Court referred the matter back to an Ontario trial judge, the report added.

The high court outlined considerations that trial judges must consider: Would requiring the witness to remove the niqab while testifying interfere with her religious freedom; would permitting the witness to wear the niqab while testifying create a serious risk to trial fairness, and if there is a way to accommodate both rights, the report concluded.



80% of Job Seekers in Makkah Are Women


Saturday 29 December 2012

An official of the manpower development sector said yesterday that over 100,000 youths are looking for jobs in Makkah and 80 percent of them are women.

Ayman Beshawari, deputy chairman of the Human Resources Development Committee and Saudisation at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the unemployment figures are based on the records of the Labour Ministry’s Hafiz program.

“But a major hurdle is in finding employment for all as only 30 percent of them hold Bachelor’s degrees while the rest possess secondary school or intermediate school certificates,” he said.

He added that the situation was challenging because the major sources of jobs in the holy city are hotels and tourism. Saudi society has some reservations about women taking up jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector where they will have to mingle with men. It also requires legal support with a special order of the provincial governor for women to work in those sectors, Al-Eqtisadiah daily reported.

Beshawari was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the tourism committee of the MCCI and representatives of the employment committee at the Labor Office and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF).

He said women can work in both fields as receptionists, booking clerks and inquiries desk officials or in restaurants and laundries. Such workplaces will not create inappropriate situations for women, he said.

He also criticized the months-long delay in the HRDF’s distribution of payments to workers in the private sector.

“It would be better if the payment were made directly by the fund to the person concerned as is done in the case of teachers in the private sector,” he said.

He pointed out that some youths trained by the HRDF were not fully qualified for the work and they needed additional training.

He also said the statistics supplied by the Hafiz program was not accurate as they did not logically classify those who desire to work and those who were not serious about working, especially housewives who did not want to go out for work.



Mukhtaran Mai: Rapists Should Get Life Imprisonment

By Farhan Bokhari

December 29, 2012

Islamabad/Dubai: Pakistan’s best known campaigner for women targeted in sexual crimes on Saturday vowed to take her campaign to neighbouring India, just hours after the death of a young Indian woman whose rape on a bus in Delhi provoked an unprecedented outcry from human rights campaigners.

“If I had the opportunity to extend my work to India, I am ready and willing to go across the border for a cause that is central to my life,” Mukhtaran Mai told Gulf News in a telephone interview from her rural village in Muzaffargarh in the southern part of the Punjab.

“The death of this poor girl in India is not just tragic. It has badly exposed the virtual absence of the law in protecting Indian women,” she added.

Mukhtaran Mai’s ordeal began in summer 2002 when she was gang raped after being condemned by a tribal "jirga" or traditional council. The order followed accusations based on flimsy evidence which claimed that one of Ms Mai’s younger brothers had an affair with a woman of a rival tribe.

But instead of quietly accepting her fate as many other victims have done, Mukhtaran Mai chose to fight back, campaigning publicly against the verdict, thereby emerging as a lone voice for an oft-ignored cause.

Mukhtaran’s  campaign brought an unprecedented global spotlight to the plight of women who are targeted in sexual crime across Pakistan.

Mukhtaran  told Gulf News on Saturday her response to her own ordeal had begun giving confidence to other women victimized across Pakistan. “Before I chose to speak out, young women victims were fearful and many kept quiet” she said, adding “while Pakistan’s laws remain weak in protecting women but at least many are now speaking out.”

Mukhtaran said, “I am deeply grieved at the tragic gang rape and death of the Indian bachi (girl). Though Pakistan and India are different and our cultures are different, our institutions are the same. Our legal system, judicial adaras (institutions) are the same. We have the same thana (police station) culture. In Pakistan, we bemoan the tragic fate of this girl. The problems facing our women are the same as in India.  I am very sad about what happened to this girl."

“The women are now raising their voice and speaking up. After what happened to me and my struggle to bring my perpetrators to justice, women are now emboldened and are speaking up against rape and crimes against women. But the judicial system in our country and also in India is the same and has not been able to get women justice.

“What do the rapists get? Ten years they are put in prison and then they are freed. Instead of facing life imprisonment they get a few years in prison.  Unlike previous times women are now coming forward. The problem is our judicial system. Our legal system is like this. For years rape trials take place and justice is not given. Even our police, they do not even register rape cases.”

She asked what the Chief Justice in Pakistan had done so far for rape victims. India also has  a chief justice, Mukhtaran said. “What has been done there against rape? In India, the chief justice can, but nothing is done. The laws are not on the side of women.”

Mukhtaran told Gulf News: “That girl is now no longer in this world. She suffered at the hands of these men who abused her and now she is dead. How is the law on our side? What is this justice? They say here in Pakistan, you need four witnesses for rape. How does a woman get four witnesses for rape? In my case it took place in front of the Panchayat, (village elders gathering) in front of 70 people. How did I get insaaf (justice)? My rapists got bari (free) after nine years and now one is in detention.  If they cant bring one person to justice how they will change society? They need to set an example, to make these men an ibrat (an example) so others get scared and do not commit such crimes against women.”

Speaking about the death penalty for those sentenced on rape charges, Mukhtaran said the legal system has clauses and punishments, but there should at least be life imprisonment for rape if not the death penalty. “If the rapist is alive and imprisoned for life then at least he can live with what he has done and others can learn from them. Such people should be made an example to rid society of such crimes against women.

“I have appealed the sentence handed to the attackers. My legal counsel, Aitezaz Ahsan has been fighting my case for nine years, but now he is barred from the Supreme Court so the appeal is still there.

“I am sorry I got very jazbati (emotional) I have been ill for the past month and have not been watching TV for many days, but since I heard about the Indian girl’s abuse and now her death I have been very upset. I cried a lot. I was also angry and very emotional. I didn’t know who to take out my feelings on, from the morning I have been upset with the children in the house and now I got emotional during the interview. But I grieve for this poor bachi (girl) who suffered. We women should raise our voices and our legal systems must change to bring us justice,” she said.

Controversy surrounding Mukhtaran’s case gathered fresh momentum in 2005 when Pakistan’s former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf placed restrictions on her travel abroad.

The decision was prompted  by concerns among government officials who claimed her overseas travels drew an exaggerated attention to the issue of sexual crimes against women in parts of Pakistan.

While recognised for her work outside Pakistan, human rights campaigners say, Mukhtar Mai lives a life surrounded by the continuous danger of being attacked by members of her rival clan.



Afghan Prosecutor Faces Criticism for Her Pursuit of ‘Moral Crimes’


December 28, 2012

MARIA BASHIR, the only woman serving as chief prosecutor in any of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, does more than just walk the line between the progressive and the conservative — she has, uncomfortably, come to personify it.

Ms. Bashir, 42, is used to personal and even physical attacks from traditionalists because of her role as one of the country’s most senior female public officials and her work promoting women’s rights.

The outside world recognizes the ideal she represents as well as the dangers. Last year, in Washington, Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lauded her with a State Department International Women of Courage award.

“For uneducated men, but also even educated men, it is still very difficult to accept that a woman should be in a position of making decisions,” Ms. Bashir said, talking in her office tucked behind a gantlet of metal detectors and glowering security guards at the government compound in the western province of Herat.

But recently, Ms. Bashir has had to endure criticism of a less-familiar kind — that she has hurt women with her own conservatism.

Ms. Bashir’s office is jailing women for so-called moral crimes — like adultery, or even attempted adultery, an accusation that opens the door to being jailed merely for being alone with a man who is not in the family — at nearly the highest pace in Afghanistan, according to government records.

The country’s laws, though they have been changing over the past decade, are still criticized by human rights groups as being particularly harsh for women. And many women are languishing in jail on adultery convictions even though they were the victims of rape, forced into prostitution, or simply ran away from abusive homes.

Ms. Bashir insists that she must uphold the law of the land, even as she works to improve opportunities for Afghan women. But concern over her prosecution statistics this fall sent ripples through the human rights community in Afghanistan.

Most rights advocates express respect for her. Still, she has become the focus of a whole body of disquieting questions for international officials working here: How far should you support a woman who personally represents change but also consistently enforces customs that the West sees as discriminatory? How far and how long can you push another society to change, and when do you accept it and compromise?

In its way, too, her case restates the questions dogging the entire American involvement in Afghanistan: Is the United States here merely to fight the Taliban or rebuild the country along Western lines? And now that the United States has said it is leaving, what progress has really been won, and what will endure when it is gone?

Ms. Bashir knows how discrimination feels personally. She was a prosecutor in Herat, her husband’s home province, but had to give up her job when the Taliban came to power in the 1990s.

She went underground, furtively teaching women and girls from her neighborhood in her home.

AFTER the Taliban fell, she got her job back and has been the chief prosecutor in Herat for the past five years, and a focus of attention for the international community.

She has worked with the United Nations, giving lectures at high schools and universities titled, “If I Did It, You Can Do It, Too.” In those speeches, and in other settings both public and private, she urges Afghan girls and young women to expand their ambitions and strive for jobs outside the home as lawyers or doctors.

For many in this country, hers is an unwelcome message.

During a recent interview in her office, Ms. Bashir was methodical, even understated, as she discussed much of her work. But when the talk turned to the patriarchal society that dominates here, her eyes showed the fire that distinguishes her — and has helped her survive — in a place where women in powerful posts are rare.

“We have the mullahs, we have the former jihadis,” she said. “They don’t spare any effort to weaken or defame you. They talk about your clothes; they talk about the fact you have been talking to foreigners and talking to men.”

Her enemies do more than just talk. The son of one of her prosecutors was mistaken for hers, kidnapped and later killed. Constant threats, and sporadic attacks, have led her to home-school one of her three children and to send her oldest son to safety in Germany, where her sisters live.

The United States pays for her two armored vehicles and eight security guards, she said.

Nevertheless, there has been progress here. About half of the students in schools and universities in Herat are female. The fact that more women are coming forward to seek protection under a new law, the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, shows that women possess growing confidence in the legal system. Her province is one of the top ones for registering cases under the new law.

“They know about their rights,” she said, “and they are slowly believing in their abilities.”

Even so, it is not enough, she warned. When she gives talks in Kabul and the men in the audience nod their heads, she tells them that they may approve of giving women freedoms in principle, but that they do not do it for their own wives.

THE fracas about her prosecutions began in earnest in October after The Times of London published an article noting that her province was at the top of the list for jailing women on adultery charges. (Precise data in Afghanistan is notoriously hard to come by, however; reporting by The New York Times suggests that by December, Herat was actually second to Kabul.) According to Afghan and Western officials, about 76 of the 136 women jailed in Herat had been convicted of adultery, or the intent to commit it. The United Nations says the number could be closer to 100 women.

Ms. Bashir’s expression changes, and her eyes dim, when the criticism is mentioned.

She says the reason Herat has so many cases may be that it is a big province, and has growing problems of drug addiction and prostitution, which fuel moral crimes.

She points out that she has jailed men as well as women on adultery charges, and after investigating the evidence has dismissed more false accusations against women than she has prosecuted. She insists, too, that she does not prosecute rape victims.

But she is bound to deal with all the cases that Herat’s relatively diligent police force brings to her, she says. And most of all, she has to uphold the law.

“I want to be an enforcer of the law rather than human rights,” she said adamantly.

She suspects the publication of the statistics may be another attack by critics who want her gone.

“It is very difficult for a woman to work in Afghanistan, especially if you have an important position,” she said, her eyes flashing once again. “You have to deal with thousands of political conspiracies and problems.”

Despite the controversy, support among her Afghan admirers has not ebbed. “If she didn’t do this, she would be thrown out of office,” said Manizha Naderi, executive director of Women for Afghan Women, which runs shelters for abused women. “The law is the problem, and not Maria Bashir.”

The United States has reiterated its support. “She has fought courageously for the future of her country on many fronts and is a woman to be admired for those achievements,” David Snepp, a spokesman at the United States Embassy in Kabul, said in a statement.

Some human rights campaigners are disappointed that Ms. Bashir is not going further to change a justice system they regard as still deeply flawed.

“The fact that you see so many of these cases coming out of a particular province tells you more about the police, the prosecutor and the judiciary than it tells you about the women,” said Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, who published a report on moral crimes in March. “She is brave and she is a pioneer, but nobody is above scrutiny.”

Habib Zahori and Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.



Chief Imam of Dutse Urge Muslim Women to Study Gynaecology

28 DECEMBER 2012

CHIEF Imam of Dutse, Dr. Abubakar Sani, has reiterated the need for young Muslim women to study obstetrics and gynaecology, a branch of medicine that deals on the health of women, to preserve the dignity of motherhood.

Jigawa State, which currently battles with inadequate manpower in the health sector, is in dare need of specialist doctors in various fields of medicine, especially women in gynaecology due to the culture and religious sensibilities of the people.

Sani, who spoke at a reception organised in honour of Dr. Yamuna Aminu Kani for becoming a Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons and the first female obstetrician and gynaecologist from Jigawa State, said it was mandatory for the society to encourage and sponsor women to seek for further studies in medicine.

Full report at:



'Halal' interfaith unions rise among UK women

Some religious leaders are coming to terms with rising numbers of Muslim-Christian couples in the UK.

Rudabah Abbass 29 Dec 2012 08:29

Islam is the United Kingdom's fastest-growing religion, and the country's Muslim population has nearly doubled in the past decade.

As the number of British Muslims increases, some are deviating from the faith's traditional norms. Many Muslim women in the UK now walk a tightrope between their Islamic culture and British identity.

Britain's diversity has spawned independent Muslim women who appear to be challenging their cultural and religious boundaries. Being raised in a country that promotes tolerance and acceptance of others, increasing numbers are choosing to reject arranged marriages, and radically opting to marry out of their faith.

In the UK, 21,000 interfaith marriages were recorded in 2001. Although no new statistics on the issue have been released since then, imams in the UK told Al Jazeera that these figures have surged in recent years.

Full report at:



Let's Celebrate Heroines Before They Become Victims

Jenny Kleeman

28 December 2012

The BBC has released its annual Faces of the Year list, a roll call of those, according to the BBC, "whose fame is really something of the last 12 months". Sweetie the Panda was one of the women honoured by the BBC in 2011 but thankfully there are no animals in the female category this time round. The selections are: boxer Nicola Adams; Marie Colvin, the war correspondent killed in a Syrian rocket attack; and Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani activist shot in the head by the Taliban.

For Colvin and Yousafzai, it's the latest in a long list of accolades in 2012. Yousafzai was runner up as Time magazine's person of the year and was named as one of Foreign Policy magazine's top 10 global thinkers. Colvin's final dispatch from Homs was widely read, and she posthumously won more awards this year, both inside and beyond the world of journalism, than any other in her lifetime.

Full report at:



British girl missing for three years in Pakistan comes home

Saturday 29 December 2012

LONDON: A six-year-old girl flew back to Britain for an emotional reunion with her mother on Friday more than three years after she was abducted by her father and taken to Pakistan.

Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson disappeared in November 2009 after going to stay with her father, Razwan Ali Anjum.

The former insurance salesman told the girl’s mother, Gemma Wilkinson, that he was taking Atiya to Southport in northwest England but instead took her to the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

He told his former partner that she was “never going to see Atiya again”.

The girl flew back to Manchester Airport in northwest England on Friday after Pakistani authorities found her following an appeal by a British member of the European parliament.

Speaking shortly after her arrival her mother broke down in tears and told reporters she was “overwhelmed” to see her daughter again after three years.

Full report at:



Bangladesh Female teacher Accuses Headmaster Of Stalking

December 29, 2012

A female assistant teacher of Belpukur High School in Shajahanpur upazila of Bogra has accused its headmaster of stalking.

The teacher submitted a written allegation in this regard to the upazila administration on Monday.

She alleged that ever since she joined Belpukur High School in 2004, its headmaster Abdul Wadud has been stalking her and giving her illicit proposals.

Getting denied his wishes, he also threatened to terminate her from her job on December 11, she alleged.

Full report at:



Jakarta Hospital Bans Film Shoots After Girl’s Death

December 28, 2012

West Jakarta’s Harapan Kita Hospital promised on Friday that it would ban the use of its wards for TV or movie shoots following the death of a 9-year-old patient as its intensive care unit was being used for filming.

Ayu Tria Desiani, a leukemia patient, was allegedly unable to receive immediate treatment at the ICU as a film crew shot a scene for the Indonesian soap opera “Love in Paris” in the ward. Ayu died early on Thursday morning.

Harapan Kita spokeswoman Ida earlier admitted a delay in treatment, but attributed it to the lack of a bed, saying the girl’s death had nothing to do with the shooting, which was done in a separate room in the ward.

Full report at:



The Scream: Yemeni women make their voices heard

December 28, 2012

Dubai: At the peak of the uprising against now ousted Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, Khadija Al Salami left her diplomatic post in Paris to film the mass participation by long-marginalised women in the revolt.

In her documentary “The Scream,” screened at the Dubai International Film Festival, Salami — who was forced to marry aged just 11 — focuses on the role women played during the year-long uprising in the impoverished Arab state.

“Traditionally, a woman’s voice must not be heard, just as her hair must remain covered,” said Salami, who herself does not cover her long dark hair.

“I chose this title for my film because women have shouted out through their uprising and movement that they exist” in Yemen’s male-dominated society, she said.

“They screamed out their suffering, announcing that their revolt is not only against the government but also against all of Yemeni society, including their husbands and fathers.”

Filming in the vast sit-in camp that sprang up outside the gates of Sana’a University, Salami followed the daily lives of black-clad women who demonstrated alongside men until Saleh finally quit under a power transfer deal signed in November 2011.

Full report at:



Special report: Decoding the mind of a rapist

By Nasheet Jaffer Khan

December 28, 2012

Dubai: It is never about the sex. It’s all about power and control.

It didn’t matter whether she was two or 13 or 50 years old. It didn’t matter that he was a teacher, her father or a complete stranger.

It does matter, however, that in every single case – rape won.

Dr Lavina Ahuja, a Counselling Psychologist at Lifeworks’ Counselling and Development in Dubai, says some rapists see rape as justified revenge or their right as men to control women.

“A few other rapists blame the victims,” Dr Ahuja said. “The rapists consider themselves as justified as they believe the victim was 'asking for it' or that the victim actually enjoyed it.”

The victim never asks for it. The rapist just believes she does. That, of course is a "rape myth".

Let’s break another myth – there is no such thing as a typical rapist. He could be the person you are about to marry, the one sitting next to you in class or at a cinema theatre. He could be the waiter serving you at a restaurant or the man quietly mopping the floor in your workplace corridor. He could even be your favourite uncle or your husband.

It could be any, or all, or none of the above.

Full report at: