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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 March 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Cash Incentives in Offing for Poor Pregnant Women in Bangladesh

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 March 2015

Bangladesh has introduced cash incentives for poor pregnant women and under-5 children in some selected districts to lure them into facilities for health and growth check-ups.



 Kabul Cleric under Fire for Endorsing Murder and Burning Of Woman

 Egyptian Teacher Jailed for Cutting Girl’s Hair for Not Wearing Hijab

 Great Women in Islamic History: 4 Muslim Women Who Ruled Maldives

 Protecting the rights of Muslim women must not be used as a basis for denying their agency

 UN Blames “Israeli Occupation” as Main Obstacle to Advancement of Palestinian Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Cash Incentives in Offing for Poor Pregnant Women in Bangladesh

March 24, 2015

Bangladesh is going to introduce cash incentives for poor pregnant women and under-five children in seven northern districts to improve maternal and child health.

The LGRD ministry and health ministry yesterday signed an agreement in this regard at the latter's office in the capital, said a health ministry statement. 

Under this five-year project titled “Income Support for the Poor”, pregnant women will get Tk 200, up to four times, after having checkups at health facilities.

Up to 24 months of a child, each mother will get Tk 500 per month while Tk 1,000 will be given every three months for the child's growth check-up until the kid turns five.

A pregnant woman and a mother of under-five child will also get Tk 500 each for attending any workshop on child nutrition and development.

Six lakh women of 42 Upazilas of Gaibandha, Kurigram, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Mymensingh, Jamalpur and Sherpur will be benefited from the project starting next month. The beneficiaries, to be selected from poverty database, will get the cash through postal cash cards.

The initiative is taken at a time when at least 194 women per 1,00,000 die during childbirth while under-five mortality rate is 41 per 1,000 live births. Also, over one-third of under-five children suffer from malnutrition in Bangladesh.

With the cash incentives, Bangladesh will progress even more in cutting child and maternal mortality rates, said Health Minister Mohammed Nasim at the agreement signing ceremony. The World Bank is contributing Tk 2,340 crore while the government the rest in the Tk 2,377-crore project.



Kabul cleric under fire for endorsing murder and burning of woman

March 23, 2015

Kabul- An Afghan cleric Maulavi Ayaz Niazi has been under fire for publicly endorsing the brutal murder and burning of a woman over alleged burning of holy Quran.

Maulavi Niazi endorsed the murder of 27-year-old Farkhunda while speaking among the participants, after she was lynched by Kabul mob.

Government officials including deputy information and culture minister Simin Ghazal Hassanzada and Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai, were also harshly criticized for their remarks supporting the brutal murder of Farkhunda.

Niazi had warned of an uprisal and urged the government not to arrest those who lynched and burnt Farkhunda. While, Stanikzai wrote on his Facebook page that Farkhunda “hought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship, but before reaching their target, lost their life.”

Maulavi Niazi and the two government officials came under fire, soon after the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs rejected that Farkhunda had torched the holy Quran. Hajj and Religious Affairs Ministry officials said, no proof was found to prove that such incident had taken place and insisted that some books with Persian transcripts were found torched.

Farkhunda was laid to rest in Kabul with hundreds participating in the funeral ceremony. The coffin of Farkhunda was carried to the burial site by women in what is said to be a historic move by the Afghan women.

The brutal murder of Farkhunda was widely condemned with President Ghani, ordering an immediate probe into the incident.

The United Nations condemns also condemned the brutal murder of the woman in the strongest terms. “We are particularly worried by reports that the woman had suffered from mental illness for many years,” said Elzira Sagynbaeva, the Country Representative for UN Women in Afghanistan. “We are encouraged by initial reports of the arrest of several suspects, but call on the authorities to investigate this incident fully and bring to justice all persons who actively participated in the killing, or aided and abetted it.”



Egyptian teacher jailed for cutting girl’s hair for not wearing hijab

A teacher in Egypt has been sent behind bars for cutting the hair of a girl who was not wearing the headscarf.

The teacher will remain in jail for four days while an investigation into the incident is underway. “It happened in in the province of Al Fayyoum, south of Cairo, where a schoolgirl was ‘punished’ for not wearing the headscarf’,” said officials of the judiciary.

The matter came to the fore when the fifth-grader filed a complaint that her Islamic Studies teacher struck her and used a cutter to chop her hair off. As punitive measures, the teacher as well as the head of his school were suspended.

“My daughter has been in poor psychological condition since the incident, the teacher did this to her inside the classroom amid laughter from other pupils. My daughter is still a child. She will not wear the Hijab unless she is convinced,” said the girl’s mother.

Egypt’s education ministry has not made it mandatory for schoolgirls to wear the headscarf. Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, the Egyptian president has reiterated it continuously that a ‘religious revolution’ is needed to rid the Muslim-dominated country of militancy .

Three years ago, in 2012, an Egyptian court sent a veiled teacher to prison after she was found responsible of resorting to violence against two unveiled schoolgirls by cutting their hair.



Great Women In Islamic History: 4 Muslim Women Who Ruled Maldives

March 23, 2015

by Dr. Milena Rampoldi

All of us know the wonderful archipelago of the Maldives, situated 400 miles to the south-west of Sri Lanka. Here too, female rulers reigned in Muslim history.

In her book, Bahriye Üçok gives us a general overview of the history of the Maldives. Although, according to the historian Zambaur, Muhammed el-Âdil was the first ruler of the islands to embrace Islam (548-1153-4), Ibn Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveller, relates that a widely known legend gives the honor of being the first Muslim sultan to Ahmed Shenurâze.

Because the people of the Maldives had been converted to Islam through the efforts of a Berber, called Abu’1-Barakât, they adopted the rites of the Maliki to which Abu’l Barakât belonged. His tomb is still venerated in the capital of the Maldives, Malé.

The islands, which were divided into thirteen provinces in the Middle Ages, were administered by governors who also acted as cadi. Besides a grand vizier who acted in the name of the sultan, there was also a chief cadi called “fendiyar kalu” who had an absolute authority in the field of legal decisions. As had been traditional since Ahmed Shenurâze’s time, the chief cadi received the revenues of three islands.

In the 19th century, also female rulers governed the Islands. Hatidje binti Djelâlüddîn Ömer (her local name was Rehendîkabadikilâce) did not succeed her father immediately after his death. Her brother Shihabüddîn, though a minor, succeeded to the throne before her, and Abdullah bin Hadramî was appointed as his vizier. When Shihabüddîn grew up he appointed his slave Ali Kelekî in Hadramî’s place; but the new vizier, upon realizing the immoral character of the sultan, had him deposed and beheaded.

All three eligible members for the throne in the dynasty were women, but this was not considered an impediment. First Shihabüddîn’s sister Hatidje succeeded to the throne in 748/1347-8 by popular request. Her husband Djemalüddîn was appointed vizier. Still all proclamations were made in Hatidje’s name.

Sultan Hatidje and her husband the vizier received their visitors in a suite called “Dâr.” The visitor, with at least two costumes as gifts under his arms, first greeted Sultan Hatidje and put one of the costumes before her, and then did the same with her husband. Sultan Hatidje’s royal guard, numbering a thousand native soldiers and foreign mercenaries, came to the Dâr every day to perform obeisance to her.

In commerce on the islands the shells of a sea animal were used, but the queen’s guards were paid in quantities of rice.

Sultan Hatidje received all her visitors, male or female, bare headed. In any case, in the XIV century, Maldivian women were dressed in a sarong that covered only the lower half of their bodies, the upper part was completely naked as was usual under the climatic conditions of the equator. Ibn Battuta, who was cadi of the islands for eighteen months, confesses that, in spite of all his efforts, he could not succeed in making the women wear something to cover the upper part of their bodies, though a few women, probably the sultan among them, wore a light sleeveless blouse.

Sultan Hatidje, who succeeded to the throne in 748/1347-8, died in 781/1379-80 after a reign of 33 years. She was followed by her sister Meryem binti Djelâlüddîn Ömer (native name Melike Radafati Kambadikilace), and her husband Muhammed ibni Muhammed Djemalüddîn became her vizier. Sultan Meryem reigned until 785/1383, when she was succeeded by her daughter Fatma Dâyin Kambadikilace binti Muhammed, who must have got married three or four years after her accession, because Abdullah, her husband, was appointed vizier only in 789. Sultan Fatma’s reign came to an end in 790/1388, and with it 42 years of uninterrupted rule by three woman sovereigns.

Though Ibn Battuta talks of them as sisters, according to the historian Zambaur, Fatma is Meryem’s daughter, which sounds convincing when we consider the date of Fatma’s marriage. We regret to state that our research has failed to unearth any more information about these women.

The fourth woman sovereign in the Maldives, actually on Malicut in the north of the Maldives, reigned in the early 17th-century. Unfortunately, Pyrard, who conversed with her, does not give her name. Nevertheless, the book of François Pyrard, who visited the Maldives almost two centuries after Ibn Battuta and stayed there for a long period, reflects the startling changes that have taken place in the Maldives in the meantime. By the early XVII century, Muslim Maldivian women considered bare breasts the greatest shame possible. They went out, preferably in the evening, never without a veil in daytime, and uncovered their heads only in the presence of the queen or the princesses.

Such observations make it clear that the Muslim “purdah,” unobserved during the reign of Sultan Hatidje Binti Ömer, made its influence felt thoroughly later owing to various factors.

Many researchers think that, like in other regions of the Muslim world like Aceh in Indonesia, Bhopal in India and on the Comoro Islands, also on the Maldives there was a strong matriarchal tradition which was maintained during Muslim rule, and that therefore one Muslim female ruler followed the other.

Even now, women play an essential role in the society of the Maldives. Half of the students at the university are women. Women are also well represented in the government of the Maldives.

This entry is based on “Female Sovereigns in Islamic States.” You can find it on Amazon here.

Content posted to MyMPN open blogs is the opinion of the author alone, and should not be attributed to MintPress News.



Protecting the rights of Muslim women must not be used as a basis for denying their agency


When Barack Obama flew with his wife to Saudi Arabia earlier this year to offer his condolences for the death of King Abdullah, and boost a long-standing relationship with the Saudi monarchy, discussions on social media focused less on the purpose of the visit, and the implications of the enthronement of a new king in Saudi Arabia. Instead, a great many social media users appeared more interested in the attire of the first lady.

With the Charlie Hebdo attacks fresh in their minds, along with the anti-Islamic sentiments they provoked, many observers took Michelle Obama’s unveiled hair as a symbol of a revolution against the allegedly oppressive, patriarchal code of dress that Islam and Muslim men enforce on (Muslim) women. A day later, a number of journalists, who were better informed about the Saudi diplomatic protocol, remarked that it was a mistake to think the first lady was willfully staging a revolutionary act, pointing out that first ladies and senior officials from the US and other countries had always visited Saudi royals without a headscarf, and that forced veiling is simply not part of the protocol.

Thanks to the media, Islam, especially after the September 11th attacks of the World Trade Center in New York and the subsequent American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, has been presented to the Western TV viewer and newspaper reader as a violent, intolerant religion. More particularly, Islam has been portrayed as having a systematically oppressive stance towards women.

Indeed, one of the publicly announced justifications for the American intervention in Afghanistan was to defend the rights of Muslim women, who were supposedly oppressed by the Islamic faith. This “crusade” to “save” Muslim women also manifests itself in more subtle, less militaristic ways, ranging from Michelle Obama’s misinterpreted outfit to the “struggle” of many French feminists in 2010 to save Muslim women by campaigning for the banning of the hijab (headscarf) in public spaces, in what became known as thehijab controversy.

In most – if not all – the mainstream feminist debates on Muslim women, the hijab serves as a symbol around which to mobilise efforts to emancipate these women. In Sirma Blige’s words, it became an over-determined cultural signifier that mainstream feminists in the West associate with, among other things, the subordination of women to Islamic patriarchy and their developing of a false consciousness. The “subordination” argument rests on an assumption that women who wear the hijab were forced by men to wear it.

As for women who contend that wearing the hijab was their own choice, they are described as having developed a “false consciousness”. Yet what both of these interpretations have in common is that they dehumanise Muslim women by denying them their agency. This implies that the veiled woman “does not know what is good for her” and that women in the West, by contrast, can teach her how to understand lofty concepts like agency and freedom.

Corollary to this form of Orientalist feminism is that Muslim women’s voices are silenced, and their opinions on what the hijab actually means to them go unheard. What most veiled women have to say about the hijab is actually substantially different from the feminist critique. As anthropologists Saba Mahmood and Lila Abu-Lughod point out, the justifications most often given by Muslim women for taking up the hijab relate to modesty, piety and morality.

A person with the most basic knowledge of Islamic thought would not find these claims far-fetched. There is an agreement in the Islamic legal literature on the importance of dressing modestly, and there are rules on how to achieve that for both men and women. Hence, if feminists are to fully comprehend Muslim women’s motivations for wearing the hijab, religion must be incorporated into the discussion. Whether these motivations stem from “true agency” or qualify as “free choices” are entirely subjective matters. For the headscarf is a neutral object; it only gains meaning through the symbolism that its wearer attaches to it.

So how can feminists in the West (or anyone interested in the issue) understand Muslim women and the hardships they face? The first step, paradoxically, is to stop using the label “Muslim women” in discussions. The label is generic and broad to such an extent that it ceases to be useful or meaningful in any serious, nuanced exploration of the plight of the women it is concerned about.

As Lila Abu-Lughod argues, this term lumps together women from a most diverse set of cultural, social, political and economic backgrounds, effacing the (often radical) differences between them, and assembling them together under one fictitious distant geography. By doing so, the usage of the term leads one to neglect the unique challenges that ‘Muslim women’ living in different conditions experience and may lead to inadequate solutions for problems that do not exist.

The second step in understanding the plight of Muslim women – or more accurately, the plight of any group of women – is to adopt what feminist academics call an intersectional approach. Intersectionality involves understanding that women around the world experience different kinds of oppression, and that their experiences are qualitatively different. To gain insight into their experience, one has to understand how different systems of oppression (such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, political conditions, nationality, disability, etc.) intersect to produce a specific experience of oppression that is unique to certain women.

For example, to understand the experience of Muslim women in the UK, one would have to study the life experiences of groups as diverse as white middle-class British female converts, second-generation working-class Somali women, and first-generation middle-class Pakistani women, to name just a few. The necessity for a multi-layered, intersectional approach arises from the fact that aspects of identity, such as gender and race, do not always act independently, but often overlap and play a role in producing systems of oppression.

Simply put, the alternative approach that is needed is the development of a more accommodative form of mainstream feminism, one in which women in the West understand their non-Western counterparts in the latter’s own terms, and treat them as equal partners, not helpless minors.



UN Blames “Israeli Occupation” as Main Obstacle to Advancement of Palestinian Women

March 24, 2015

Israel was the only country singled out Friday by the UN Commission on the Status of Women in a resolution condemning the Jewish state for “the grave situation of Palestinian women.” The resolution was adopted in a vote of 27-2, with 13 abstentions.

The resolution was submitted by the Palestinians and South Africa. The US and Israel voted against the resolution and European Union countries abstained. The vote came at the end of a two-week meeting to review the 150-page platform on the status of women, drafted in 1995, with a goal towards achieving greater equality. New goals were set at the conference for 2030.

According to Anne Bayefsky at Fox News, the resolution reads, “the Israeli occupation remains the major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development of their society…”

“Not Palestinian men,” she writes. “Not religious edicts and traditions. Not a culture of violence. Not an educational system steeped in rejection of peaceful coexistence and of tolerance.”

Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor denounced the resolution. “Honor killings in the Palestinian Authority are a matter of daily occurrence, and employment of women stands at only 17 percent,” he stated. By contrast, 70 percent of Palestinian men are employed.

“Of the 193 member states in this institution, dozens slaughter innocent civilians and impose discriminatory laws that marginalize women and yet they all get a free pass,” Prosor said. He added, “some of the worst violators of human rights, like Iran and Sudan,” sit on the commission.

Israel’s Counsellor of Human Rights, Nelly Shiloh, ridiculed the decision. “Remember this date, March 20 2015. Today the CSW will probably end its annual most important meeting by singling out Israel, again. What a way to mark 20 years since the Beijing declaration!

“The goal of this forum is to advance the rights and interests of women around the world through productive and professional dialogue. However, it seems that the sponsors of this resolution would sooner score cheap political points than address the important subject at hand,” she said.

“Singling out Israel for condemnation, among all the nations of the Middle East – and the nations of the world, is not only unfair. It is absurd.”