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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Jul 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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CBSE’s New Dress Code: Kerala Nun Denied from Giving AIPMT with Veil, Cross

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Jul 2015

Khadija Ismayilova, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in Azerbaijan. Photograph: Aziz Karimov/AP


 CBSE’s New Dress Code: Kerala Nun Denied from Giving AIPMT with Veil, Cross

 Feminists Are Failing Muslim Women by Supporting Racist French Laws

 Azerbaijan Puts Imprisoned Journalist Khadija Ismayilova On Trial

 Sexist Coverage of Liz Kendall and Female Politicians Is Insidious and Demeaning

 Is It Getting Tougher For Women To Have Babies And Careers?

 Cutest ‘Bride’ In the World! 4-Year-Old Cancer Patient Marries Her Favourite Nurse

 Rajasthan School Girls Protest against ‘Gender Bias’ In Education System

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




CBSE’s New Dress Code: Kerala Nun Denied from Giving AIPMT with Veil, Cross

By: PTI         

Thiruvananthapuram: Jul 25, 2015, As per CBSE guidelines, veil and Holy cross cannot be permitted inside the examination hall.

A Keralite nun was today denied permission to take the All India Pre Medical Entrance Test (AIPMT) here after she refused to remove her veil and Holy cross as required under the CBSE’s new dress code.

Sister Saiba, who was to take the test at the Jawahar central school here this morning, said she sought permission to write the examination with her veil and cross.

However, the school Principal told her about the guidelines issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). She then requested for a separate room to write the examination without the veil and cross, but it was not accepted by the school authorities, she told media persons.

“I requested that I may be given a separate room where I will remove the veil and cross and write the test, but that was not allowed,” she said.

The Principal told her that she was also a Christian and understood her plight, but as per CBSE guidelines, veil and Holy cross cannot be permitted inside the examination hall.

Many students were seen removing head scarfs, ear ringsand all other articles banned before entering the hall at various examination centres in the state. They were allowed inside only after body frisking.

The Supreme Court had yesterday refused to entertain plea of an Islamic organisation that Muslim girl applicants be allowed to wear ‘Hijab’ (scarf), a customary religious dress, while appearing for the AIPMT.

“Faith is something different from wearing some kind of cloth,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu stated, adding the AIPMT was being held again at its direction and some “reasonable restrictions” were needed.

Kerala High Court had earlier granted conditional permission to two Muslim girls to appear for the test wearing Hijab.

In the backdrop of large scale irregularities in the AIPMT held in May this year, the apex court had directed CBSE to conduct a second test following which CBSE imposed a strict dress code, banning jewelleries, hair pins, head scarf or veils, shoes, watches and all electronic devices.

Reacting to the incident, Syro Malabar Church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekkat, said it was “unfortunate” that the nun was not permitted to write the test.

“The Catholic church does not consider veil as the most important religious symbol of the Catholic faith. At the same time, we do not subscribe to the view of the Supreme court Chief Justice that 3-4 hours without veil does not make any difference. It does make and it is up to the citizen to take the decision”, he said here.



Feminists Are Failing Muslim Women by Supporting Racist French Laws

Christine Delphy

Monday 20 July 2015

Is mainstream French feminism racist? I co-founded Nouvelles Questions Feministes (New Feminist Issues) with Simone de Beauvoir in 1977 and have long been involved with Mouvement de Libération des Femmes (MLF) but increasingly, it’s clear to me that French attitudes towards the hijab and Muslim women are not just incomprehensible, but reprehensible.

The first openly anti-Muslim law was passed in 2004, banning schoolgirls from wearing a headscarf, based on the belief that “religious signs” are contrary to laïcité – political secularism. But the ideological campaign against Islam started more than 40 years ago. Journalist Thomas Deltombe established that, between the 1980s and the mid-2000s, not a week passed without one or the other of the two main French weeklies asking “Should we be afraid of Islam?” or “Is Islam incompatible with democracy?”.

Dailies, radio and TV programmes exhibited the same obsession. It became worse over time, as the audience became convinced that western civilisation was being threatened by Islam in general, and that this danger was embodied in France by the 5 million Muslims who are the sons and daughters of North African immigrants living in France.

Now laïcité is used as an argument against Muslims, as this law has undergone a radical reinterpretation by politicians, journalists and lobbyists, and has been falsified. As Saïd Bouamama wrote in 2004, the French version of Islamophobia, trying to pass as political secularism, is just a way of making racism respectable. Even before the 2004 law meant scarf-wearing teenagers would be excluded from schools – thus violating their fundamental right to education – France’s established feminist groups did not accept scarf-wearing women in their meetings.

They decided early on these women could not be feminist, indeed must be against everything that feminism stands for, that the Hijab was a symbol of oppression. It has taken the few of us who are opposed to this discriminatory law to start discussing whether high heels, lipstick and multiple signals of femininity might just as well be labelled symbols of oppression.

This contempt is ironic: it is assumed these women wear a scarf as they are forced to do so by their menfolk, and that the solution to that undue influence is to expel them from school and send them back to the same oppressive families. If French feminists saw scarf-wearing Muslims as oppressed women, it should be a reason not to expel them from school or to curtail their movements, but to embrace them. Across the country, Muslim women are not seen as “real” French.

In these conditions, wearing an ostensible religious sign has one of many possible meanings, or all of them: it may mean Muslim women expressing solidarity with people of the same racial group; it may mean an attempt to escape that condition by taking refuge in the spirituality that religion offers them; it may be an unspoken way of showing defiance towards the establishment. Scarf-wearing women share patriarchal oppression, with the added handicap of racial discrimination.

White feminists should accept that these women want to develop their own feminism based on their own situation, and that this feminism will take their Islamic culture into account. Instead, my fellow feminists are colluding in widening one of the worst rifts within French society, when time is running out.



Azerbaijan Puts Imprisoned Journalist Khadija Ismayilova On Trial

Charles Recknagel

Friday 24 July 2015: After almost eight months behind bars, the trial of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on charges of libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power has begun in a Baku court.

Ismailova’s trial started today in the Azerbaijani capital’s Sabayil district court of grave crimes, the semi-official APA news agency reports. The presiding judge rejected two motions brought by Ismailova’s defence attorney, one to dismiss the criminal case and another to provide for audio and video recordings of the proceedings.

International human rights organisations, Ismayilova, and her supporters say the charges against her are politically motivated and are a form of retribution for her extensive reporting on the financial dealings of the president, Ilham Aliyev, and his family.

There have been widespread calls for the release of Ismayilova, a contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The Pen American Center in May awarded her its Barbara Goldsmith Freedom To Write Award, given annually to “an imprisoned writer persecuted for exercising her right to free expression”.

Ismayilova said in a letter from prison published in the New York Times that Azerbaijan is in the “midst of a human rights crisis”. She urged the international community to press Aliyev to release all political prisoners in the country.

The editor of RFE/RL,Nenad Pejic, said Ismayilova’s imprisonment “has nothing to do with any wrongdoing or law, it is about silencing Khadija and RFE/RL, by any means necessary, period.”

Ismayilova was taken into custody in December. Originally she was accused of trying to persuade another journalist to take their own life. Eventually, prosecutors charged her with libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of power. Her arrest followed a series of investigative reports that proved deeply embarrassing to the Aliyev administration.

Ismayilova’s investigations focused on apparent nepotism within the highest levels of Azerbaijan’s ruling establishment. In August 2010, for example, she wrote that the privatisation of many state airline services, including a bank, had completely bypassed procedures to ensure transparency.

Citing official documents, she and co-reporter Ulviyye Asadzade claimed that the bank’s new owners included relatives of highly placed officials; one Arzu Aliyeva, a daughter of President Aliyev; the other Zarifa Hamzayeva, wife of the airline’s head.

In another high-profile investigation, Ismayilova suggested that the first family was personally profiting from the construction of a new $134m concert venue, the Crystal Hall, which was being prepared to host that year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Ismayilova’s investigative reporting played a role in an Azerbaijani government crackdown on RFE/RL. Authorities raided the Baku bureau in December without explanation and sealed it shut. They confiscated company documents and equipment, detained bureau staff without legal representation, and later expelled the bureau’s legal counsel from court proceedings.

RFE/RL closed the bureau in May, but continues to broadcast to Azerbaijan from its headquarters in Prague.



Sexist Coverage of Liz Kendall And Female Politicians Is Insidious And Demeaning

Laura Bates 20 July 2015

How much do you reckon Jeremy Corbyn weighs? How does he measure up if you compare his looks to Prince William’s? How stylish would you say Andy Burnham is? And, if you had to guess, what kind of product would you say he uses in his hair?

The answers to these questions do nothing to help us decide who would make a better leader of the Labour party. But they do influence how voters perceive candidates.

The Mail on Sunday’s profile of leadership candidate Liz Kendall describes her as a “slinky brunette” and a “power-dressing Blairite” with a “lithe figure” who “remains New Labour to the tips of her stilettos”. The paper’s political editor, Simon Walters, asked if she wants to “get married and have kids”, quizzed her about her fitness routine and twice compared Kendall to Kate Middleton. At one point, Walters speculates that “she looks the same weight as the Duchess – about 8st”; later, he disingenuously asks her to discuss “the cruel comments about being a ‘childless spinster’”, neither telling readers who made those “cruel comments” in the first place, or where.

It isn’t the first time in the leadership campaign that the media has treated male and female candidates differently. After MP Helen Goodman wrote in the Huffington Post that she was backing Yvette Cooper for leadership because Cooper was a fellow parent, there was even more debate about whether or not a prospective leader needs to be a mother. It goes without saying that the parental status of the male candidates, Burnham and Corbyn, didn’t figure in the discussion. In fact, I’d wager most voters could tell you immediately whether or not Cooper and Kendall are parents, with all the attendant stereotypes on both sides, but probably wouldn’t be able to answer the same question for Burnham and Corbyn. Nor should they, since it is irrelevant to the position for which these politicians are standing.

Sexism in media coverage is nothing new, but it is still alarming that it occurs. In fact, the comparison to the Duchess of Cambridge isn’t new either; last year, in the Mail’s routine take on the cabinet reshuffle, its reporters described the newly promoted female MPs as “Cameron’s cuties” and compared both education secretary Nicky Morgan and junior minister Penny Mordaunt to the duchess in their fashion choices. There is something interesting about the fact that female politicians, particularly as they near positions of power, are so frequently compared to Kate Middleton in the UK press. Could it be an attempt to neutralise them by pushing them into the only territory the media allows Kate to occupy – where she is judged on her looks and femininity without ever allowing us to hear much about what she says or thinks?

In any case, sexist media coverage has a real impact. A 2010 US study, commissioned by a non-partisan coalition of women’s groups, asked 800 likely voters to listen to descriptions of two hypothetical congressional candidates, Dan Jones and Jane Smith. Half of the voters then heard a sample back-and-forth debate about the candidates, which included sexist descriptions such as “mean girl” and “ice queen” and “prostitute” to talk about the female candidate. The other half heard a similar discussion without the labels. The findings of the study were stark; when sexist language was included, Jane Smith lost twice the support compared to the discussion that focused solely on her policies. Her initial support rating was 43%, which fell to 33% after policy based attacks, compared to 21% after sexist slurs.

The study also found that sexist language undermines the public perception of the female politician, prompting voters to see her as less empathetic, effective and trustworthy.

A follow-up study in 2013 by US organisation Name It Change It presented 1,500 likely voters with the media profiles of two fictional political candidates, one male and one female. Voters were divided into four groups: one quarter heard no reference to the female candidate’s appearance, while the other three groups were presented with either neutral, positive or negative descriptions of how she looked. The study itself used real quotes taken from media coverage of female candidates in 2012 elections. The conclusion? “When media coverage focuses on a woman’s appearance, she pays a price in the horse race, in her favourability, in her likelihood to be seen as possessing positive traits, and in how likely voters are to vote for her.” Importantly, all references to appearance, even apparently positive coverage that seems to praise a female politician’s looks, still result in a detrimental impact on her candidacy – a fact especially worth remembering when a journalist comments on the appearance of a woman in power and disguises it as a compliment.

The truth is that sexist media coverage of female politicians really does matter – it is insidious and demeaning. It damages voters’ perceptions and makes women less likely to be elected.



Is It Getting Tougher For Women To Have Babies And Careers?

Olivia Marks

Friday 24 July 2015

Young women are planning their careers around having babies and new mothers are more likely to face workplace discrimination than ten years ago. Plus: Emma Thompson drops the mic; and turn down the AC for women’s sake.

Olivia Marks

Friday 24 July 2015 18.45 BST Last modified on Saturday 25 July 2015 00.03 BST

To-have or to-not-have-it-all? Many women are increasingly wondering if they really can successfully juggle a career and children, and it’s a question without a definitive answer. Until now, perhaps. A recent New York Times article suggests that young women today are managing to keep that whole work/life thing pretty much balanced. How? By planning – and by lowering expectations.

More than ever, young women are reportedly planning their careers, and when to interrupt them, to better accommodate having babies, knowing that the workplace is still rarely a welcoming place for a new mother.

The New York Times reports that a Pew Research Center study found that “58% of working millennial mothers said being a working mother made it harder for them to get ahead in their careers, compared with 38% of older women”. It’s apparently one of the reasons women are “strategising” their lives earlier on, and choosing careers that will allow for a more flexible approach to work. “They’re anticipating that in some way they’re going to have to dial down or integrate their career and their life,” one female CEO told the paper.

It’s a savvy, if perhaps depressing, move – especially when you take into account the findings of a new Equality and Human Rights Commission report, published today, into the discrimination faced by women returning to work. It reveals that approximately 54,000 new mothers are losing their jobs across Britain every year. A number that has doubled in a decade.

Maybe there’s no clear-cut answer to that question after all.

Sticking to thinking about the workplace, summer in an office is miserable for two reasons. One, you’re not outside enjoying the sunshine, and two, you’re inside and freezing because the air conditioning is ramped up so high you are swaddled in a scarf and your teeth are chattering louder than your colleagues’ complaints about the lack of semi-skimmed milk. To add insult to injury, if you’re a women, you may well notice that your male colleagues aren’t fazed by the icy temperatures. It’s this realisation that led Washington Post writer Petula Dvorak to the conclusion that air con is another vehicle by which the patriarchy can exert power.

There’s already evidence that suggests women feel the cold more keenly, so the fact that men aren’t wrapped in blankets at their desks , Dvorak believes, must mean that those in charge of the thermostat are male. After leading a straw poll of workers in other offices (no one’s pretending that this is a scientific investigation), Dvorak concluded that yes, the women were all freezing while the men barely noticed the temperature. Sure, women could swap their perfectly weather-appropriate clothes for something, say, woollen but the men, as Dvorak points out, could also wear less. Plus, Dvorak includes research that shows the warmer an office, the higher the productivity. So, men, take off the suit jacket, and turn down the air con. Please.

When it comes to choosing the right birth control, there are a couple of things that will help you make the right decision: information, and an expert’s advice. One thing you probably don’t need, or didn’t think you needed, is a website that creates something called a “shemoji”. And yet, pharmaceutical brand Allergan seems to think differently. The company has launched a new website and campaign that targets millennial women in need of contraception by talking to them in “their language”.

Using the hashtag #ActuallySheCan, celebrity endorsements from the likes of Glee’s Lea Michele and TV personality Lo Bosworth, as well as with live events, Allergan hopes to “help women get more informed” and “more educated, because those are real needs”.

There’s no doubting that Allergan’s aim to open up a conversation around reproductive health is an important one and that it makes sense to target millenials with an online campaign. But isn’t this all a bit patronising – to think that the only way women can engage in a discussion surrounding their health is in internet speak?

As Forbes writer, and Allergan customer, Sarah Hedgecock wrote:

[The campaign feels] like something devised by a person who learned everything he knows about millennial women from Buzzfeed.”

And despite trying to empower, the campaign appears to reduce millennial women to nothing more than selfies and spin bikes, suggesting that users add the hashtag #ActuallySheCan to posts such as “Selfie like no-one’s watching” and “Getting back on the spin bike”. Which makes you think Allergan should spend less time on Instagram, and more time finding out what it would really take to open up a serious discussion around birth control.

Sophie Walker, who has been named as the first leader of the Women’s Equality party.

After Sandi Toksvig announced she was co-founding the UK’s first feminist political party – the Women’s Equality party – back in March, everything went a bit quiet. But now, four months later, it looks like things are swinging into action. This week, the WEP finally gained a leader – 44-year-old journalist Sophie Walker. And an agenda, along with 58 branches across the country.

With 1,300 people becoming paid-up members of the party on the first day that membership went public earlier this month, the WEP is reportedly the fastest growing party in the UK. Of course, having only just been founded (it will launch officially in September), that’s not necessarily surprising. But if the WEP can keep a steady rate of sign-ups coming in, then it’s membership could easily rival that of some other not-so-minor parties in the near future.

“Looking at the tidal wave of support, I’d be very surprised if we hadn’t managed to take this mainstream,” Walker told the Telegraph, adding that she expects the WEP to have won seats in elections in the next five years.

But what will people be signing up for? So far, the party’s goals include equal pay, equal representation in the media, equal parenting rights and an end to violence against women. But the details of actual policies will come, in part, from the WEP’s members. As Walker told the Independent:

We’re starting from scratch, why should we do things the old way? We are opening politics up to real people. We’ll get policy suggestions from our members.”

Who exactly makes up the membership is hard to tell, although Walker is clear that it’s not just middle-aged white women. “The committee has got disabled people, men, women of black and ethnic minority race and gay people. And that spread really goes through our branches, too.”

While Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and their various cohorts have been busy getting into a very public spat with each other on Twitter this week, Emma Thompson has been having a go at the matter of sexism in Hollywood.

The actor, who (with the help of some expertly applied prosthetics) is soon to appear on screen as a 77-year-old sex worker, had some choice things to say about the state of feminism in the film industry today, telling the Radio Times:

I think it’s still completely shit actually. I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement and I think that for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So, no, I am not impressed at all.

When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world and when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women and I find that very disturbing and sad.”

Of course, Thompson isn’t the only actor keen to point out the prejudices levelled against her gender. Recently, Thompson’s BFF Meryl Streep sent a letter to every member of Congress lobbying for the Women’s Equality Act to be made part of the constitution, and her other pal Helen Mirren didn’t mince her words when asked her thoughts on ageism in the film industry. And with every one of these articulate outbursts or actions, we can’t help but feel that it’s Thompson’s gang we really want to be part of, not Taylor’s.


The Nicki Minaj debate is bigger than Taylor Swift’s ego

Feminists are failing Muslim women by supporting racist French laws

Mother and daughter lose appeal to allow abortions on the NHS in Northern Ireland

I’ve been viciously attacked for daring to start a women’s tech site



Cutest ‘Bride’ In the World! 4-Year-Old Cancer Patient Marries Her Favourite Nurse

JULY 24, 2015

Cutest ‘bride’ in the world! 4-year-old cancer patient marries her favourite nurse - See more at:

Four-year-old Abby Sayles suffers from pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and life has not been easy for the toddler. The process of chemotherapy is pretty hard for the young Abby when everyday is a battle to survive. But thanks to Nurse Matt Hickling, Abby doesn’t seem to mind the lengthy procedures.

Abby and Matt with their funky rings Abby and Matt with their funky rings

In one of the sessions, thanks to the hospital staff at the Albany Medical Center, she “married” Hickling in an impromptu wedding ceremony. The event was arranged in a quintessential Christian wedding; flowers were scattered on the floor, a wedding cake was specially designed for the event and tiny fuchsia pink car had a just married logo on it.

Abby left the hospital with a huge grin on her face, an expression her parents had been longing to see.



Rajasthan School Girls Protest against ‘Gender Bias’ In Education System

Written by Sweta Dutta

Jaipur: Jul 24, 2015, On Thursday morning, students at three government girls’ schools in Bhim, Barar and Diver in Rajsamand district arrived even before the staff could, locked up the school gates and sat on demonstration against what they called ‘gender bias’ in the public education system. ‘Ladkon ka school adarsh bana, hamara kyun nahin?’ (Boys’ schools were made Model Schools, why not ours?), they asked and raised slogans against the dismal state of their science and computer labs, lack of teachers, no sports coaching and overall crumbling education system.

Neha Kumari, a class X student of the secondary school in Diver in Rajsamand, pointed out, “The schools do not have teacher, so we perform poorly in our exams and fail. So our parents make us stay at home and get us married off at an early age. For us it is a double whammy.” Neha’s school until last year had just one teacher for more than 300 students, for Classes I to X but got three more this year which too stands at a teacher-student ratio of 1:100. All the three schools have been holding protests but received little support from the government so far. In October last year students at Bhim Girls’ Higher Secondary School staged a similar protest and were back to the same demand of more teachers on Thursday. But the protests met with threats of stern action from the local police.

 The students complained that pass percentage at this school for 2014-15 batch stood at 53 percent for Class X and 44 percent for Class XII. “We have no professors for political science over the past 17 years and none for home science over the last 13 years. There are also no professors for history and geography. In stark contrast, the government boys’ higher secondary school in Bhim, has a strong teaching staff of seventeen while our school has a staff of just four teachers for 700 students,” the agitating girls said.

 In neighbouring Barar girls’ school no appointments of teachers have been made for major subjects of Science and Maths for Classes IX and X. “The pass percentage of Class X students (2014-15) batch was 50 percent. We have held protests twice in 2013 and 2011 but no action was taken,” students at Barar maintained. All the three schools have been functioning in the absence of 70 per cent of the teaching staff, no water connections in the toilets and no developed playground. As the girls continued agitating, the sub-divisional magistrate and the block education officer agreed to hold a meeting with the girls. A delegation of five students from each of the three schools met the officials and demanded written orders on appointments of teachers.

The block primary education officer issued an order on Thursday announcing appointments of new teachers for Hindi, History, Political Science, Geography and Science/Maths at the Bhim girls’ school. Assurance was given that teachers would be appointed on a temporary basis for vacant posts at the girls’ schools at Barar and Diver by Monday.