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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 16 Jul 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Couple in Love, Slain Over ‘Honour’ In Pakistan

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 Jul 2013 

Though Afghan women have made hard-fought gains in education and work since the collapse of the austere Taliban regime in 2001, fears are growing these could suffer a reversal when most foreign forces leave by the end of next year. (File photo: Reuters)


 Woman Attacked In Jerusalem for Wearing Jeans

 Malala’s diary inspires Pashtun girls yearning for education

 Afghan women, clerics, eye unlikely alliance to improve rights

 Pune’s Sharia court for women, by women to start in a week

 Single Muslim Women on Dating: 'I Don't Want To Be A Submissive Wife'

 Fighting Female Genital Mutilation In Egypt

 Malala Made Pakistan Proud 

 'Wadjda,' Film By Saudi's First Female Director, Tackles Female Empowerment

 Tribal Girls Turn Housewives at 10 in South India

 Iranian Film-Maker Mania Akbari: 'Cinema Threatens The Government'

 NGO Raises Sh63 Million for Girls' Education

 Need to Protect DRC's School Girls from Sexual Assault

 Sahib: A young nurse’s journey in Pakistan

 Surrogate moms get trained to earn a living

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Couple In Love, Slain Over ‘Honour’ In Pakistan

 July 16, 2013 

Karachi: The bodies of a man and a woman with their throats slit were found in a house in Bilawal Jokhia Goth near check-post No 6 of Malir Cantonment early on Monday morning.

 The Malir Cantt police said that the victims were identified as Majid Ali, 30, and Kaneez Sakina, who were apparently killed over honour. A police official said: “Ali, who worked as a cameraman for a private television channel, was in love with Sakina and wanted to marry her.”

 Ali was invited over by Sakina’s father to talk about getting them married, but the father probably killed them with a sharp weapon, added the police official.He said Sakina’s father Ayaz Hussain Shah was a constable in the Larkana police and initial investigations suggested that Ayaz Shah and his brother Amir Ali Shah had killed the Ali and Sakina.On the complaint of Majid Ali’s brother Nazakat Ali, FIR No 111/2013 under Section 302 has been registered by the Malir Cantt police.



Woman attacked in Jerusalem for wearing jeans

 16 July 2013

"The man told me 'you are not passing through here' and spat in my face. I still feel the humiliation," said Daniela, a 22-year-old Jerusalem resident who claimed she was attacked Saturday night by two young ultra-Orthodox men in the capital's Shabbat Square, located near the haredi Mea Shearim and Geula neighborhoods.

 Daniela said she was attacked because she was wearing jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, an outfit the assailants deemed "immodest."

"He spat on me twice. I tried to scare him off with a bottle of water I was holding, but he wouldn't budge," Daniela recounted on Monday. "Then someone else threw two garbage bags at me. After the incident, they continued in the direction of Mea Shearim. It was disgusting. I felt inhuman. I've been called names before, but it never reached this level of violence."

Daniela called the police but decided to leave the scene a few minutes later for fear she would be attacked again. She filed a police complaint later that evening.

 "I'm still in shock," she said. "I've been taking the same route home for years. I've been threatened and insulted in the past, but this time they crossed the lines.",7340,L-4405385,00.html



Malala’s diary inspires Pashtun girls yearning for education

 16 July 2013

For many in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is a symbol of resilience and courage in her fight for the right of young girls to receive an education. For hardline right-wing groups and conspiracy theorists, she is a controversial figure

accused of being a “CIA agent” and having staged the attack on herself.

But for young Pashtun girls in Karachi, Malala’s struggle to get an education in the Swat region amid an insurgency is an inspiration. This part of Malala’s life – documented in a diary published by the BBC – has encouraged many of them to start writing and sharing their own dreams of staying in school.

After the Pakistani Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala last October, a young teacher with the Teach for Pakistan programme started reading Malala’s diary to her pupils at a government-run secondary school in Karachi.

“They had heard other things about her,” recalls Afrah Qureshi, who teaches English to 200 students at the school, in a poor, conservative Pashtun district. “Some said that they had heard she had committed blasphemy, that she had said something about religion. And then I asked them if they had read Malala’s diary.”

Qureshi began reading a page of Malala’s diary to her young pupils every day in her class, and encouraged them to begin writing their own. As they read her diary, their perceptions changed almost entirely. “They loved reading her thoughts,” said Qureshi. “I wanted them to make an informed opinion.”

One 14-year-old girl, Sara*, writes in an elegant, cursive hand and at length about her own aspirations and scenes from everyday life. “I think Malala is a brave and an intelligent girl,” reads the first entry in her own diary, titled A Tribute to Malala.

“The Taliban should not stop her to go to school because every person has their own life. A killer should not attack on her because it is not right … We all should respect our talented people, as we respect Malala.”

Sara said that she had enjoyed reading Malala’s diary and her story in her own words, and she loved writing her own diary. “It improves my English,” she said.

One year on, she says she can’t wait to return to school after the summer holiday is over. “I didn’t like studying so much before, but now I really want to. My younger brothers, my sister and I … we are all reading our books.”

Sara’s diary is a reflection of the perils in the city she lives in – Karachi – where an average of eight people are killed in assassinations and clashes between rival factions every day. “About 8 pm there were two bomb blasts in Karachi and I’m so sad,” she wrote in November. “Why (do) killers kill the people? Do they feel good after killing the people?”

Afrah Qureshi said Sara’s father was incredulous at first, when she had a conversation with him in English. “You must have rote-learned this,” he told his daughter, according to Qureshi. Now, he’s proud of his daughter’s English skills.

Aliya, a 13-year-old pupil, exuberantly wished Qureshi “Happy Malala Day, teacher!”

Aliya said she had been moved by reading Malala’s diary. “I felt very bad that she wasn’t allowed to study. It was only her parents who did a great service to her and helped her do so,” she said.

She rattled off a list of things she wants to do when she’s older, including going to one of the country’s most prestigious private universities. “I want to take science subjects in class 9 and class 10, and then study computer science at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences), and then I’m going to work for Teach for Pakistan!,” she said, referring to the nationwide movement of graduates who volunteer to teach in under-resourced schools.

At a parent-teacher conference, Qureshi recalled a girl’s father telling her that he was “very worried” about his daughter’s future. “I see that she’s so intelligent and I want to help her, but how?” he said.

Despite the challenges, Teach for Pakistan says these young girls are incredibly eager to learn, and spend their breaks in the classroom so they have an opportunity to closely engage with their teachers. The organisation’s teaching fellows work with the communities and the parents – who they consider the biggest stakeholders – to ensure that they are all on board and involved with the girls’ education. In Aliya and Sara’s school, enrolment has nearly doubled this year as a result. More women are applying to work at Teach for Pakistan, which means that they can place more teachers in girls’ schools.

Another entry by Sara recalls a conversation she had with her sister about what she wanted to do later in life.

“Sometimes I think: what will I become? I like many professions like singer, actor, writer, teacher, poet whatever, but my most favourite is army. If I cannot become something special, I want to become a good person.”

*The names of pupils have been changed to protect their identitiesgns



Afghan women, clerics, eye unlikely alliance to improve rights

 16 July 2013

A group of Afghan female lawmakers and activists are eyeing an unlikely alliance with the country’s religious leaders, hoping to promote and enhance women’s rights through Islam in a joint campaign.

Though Afghan women have made hard-fought gains in education and work since the collapse of the austere Taliban regime in 2001, fears are growing these could suffer a reversal when most foreign forces leave by the end of next year.

In the deeply conservative, male-dominated country where religion often holds more sway than legal authority, religious leaders have often been a major barrier to women obtaining the rights granted to them under the constitution.

“The role of the mullahs is crucial because we’re an Islamic nation and the mosques are being used against women. Why not use them for women?” said member of parliament Fawzia Koofi, anoutspoken campaigner for women’s rights.

Koofi, from the largely rural Badakhshan province, is in talks with the country’s male, religious elite to promote pro-female sermons during important Friday prayers in mosques where the government pays clerics’ salaries.

The hope is that the sermons will help address the problem of violence against women in a country where many men are suspicious of women’s rights and see them as imported from the West.

The campaign will start in Kabul and then be implemented in the provinces but only in 3,500 government-funded mosques. There are 160,000 mosques in the country of 30 million people.

Winning the support of religious leaders for the campaign may seem like a long shot.

In April, conservative lawmakers managed to indefinitely delay debate in turning a decree banning violence against women into law, citing it as un-Islamic.

Efforts to strengthen the elimination of violence against women law were spearheaded by Koofi.

With the deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops looming, some women feel they are left with no choice but to try to gain the support of the men who have traditionally been their fiercest opposition.

“They’ve defamed us. I can’t go into a province and try to fight for women rights if the local mullah is against me,” said rights activist Wazhma Frogh, director and founder of Afghanistan’s Women Peace and Security Research Institute.

“This is the only solution,” she said.

Also under consideration is a plan for textbooks for clerics that teach them women’s rights within the context of Islam.

Abdul Haq Abid, deputy minister for hajj and religious affairs, has been in talks with Koofi for nine months over the campaign to use religion to enhance women’s rights.

“Women have sacred rights granted to them in Islam, so Imams need to preach this to people in underdeveloped provinces, so they become aware,” Abid told Reuters.



Pune’s Sharia court for women, by women to start in a week

Jul 16 2013

Pune : Unhappy with the “biased” judgments and “discriminatory” treatment given out to women by Sharia courts run by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a parallel system of Sharia courts is being set up by women to offer a more “sympathetic” view of the problems faced by them. Of the four courts being set up across the country, one will start functioning in Pune within a week. Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Dindigul are the three other cities where similar courts will be set up by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).

Saeeda Jamadar, who will head the bench in Pune, said their “court” will start functioning within a week.

“There have been several cases where the Mufti sahibs who are on the benches are biased towards men. In divorce cases they give decisions “favouring” the husband, sometimes at the cost of undermining shariat principals as laid down in the Holy Quran. Women are treated very badly at these centres. Many a times muftis hand out talaqs to couples by taking money from the husbands. All of this has forced us to start these courts so that the women will get a sympathetic hearing,” said Jamadar.

Jamadar said the women who will be part of the bench in Pune have undergone several training sessions in the Sharia law and are competent to counsel the parties and pass judgement. “We are in the process of finalising a venue for the hearings and will soon start taking up cases for couselling,” she said. Currently, an AIMPLB Sharia court run by men is operational at Meethanagar in Kondhwa.

Zubeda Khatoon, state convener of BMMA, said even though the centres are yet to start functioning, detractors are raising doubts about the expertise and competency of the women to run such courts. “Since the day we made the announcement, people have started commenting that we are not competent enough to run such centres. This shows their mindset and attitude. We have trained our counsellors thoroughly and they will be meticulous while passing judgement. Though it’s a court run by women, it will be not biased towards women. Judgements will be delivered only as per merit and nothing else.”

Khatoon said once the courts start functioning properly other issues such as certain changes in the Muslim Personal Law pertaining to custody of kids after divorce, etc., will also be taken up.

Jamila Sheikh, a resident of Sangam Nagar, said such a court is a good idea as many a times women hesitate to approach courts run by men. “My 20-year-old daughter has been abandoned by her husband for over a year now. I tried to approach the Family Court but relatives advised me to go for an out-of-court settlement through counselling. If such a court run by women starts functioning, we will be more comfortable to put up the case for settlement,” she said.



Single Muslim Women on Dating: 'I Don't Want To Be A Submissive Wife'

 Samira Ahmed

 16 July 2013

Muslim dating has come of age with its own Carrie Bradshaw-style chick lit. No Sex In the City by Australian author Randa Abdel-Fattha features Esma, "a modern Muslim woman with an age-old dilemma". She is one of four big-city friends seeking Mr Right but with no sex before marriage and no alcohol. As in Britain, Esma finds herself part of a growing demographic: educated, independent career women, who struggle to find a partner, especially over 30.

British Asians have long been early adopters of the technology to find marriage partners. Even the old aunty network of helpful family matriarchs has gone high tech, I'm told, with handwritten notes replaced, with Excel spreadsheets of available "boys" and "girls" aged 20 to 55. Though originally Hindu-focused, the biggest marriage websites, such, have separate Muslim sections. has a quick checklist on religiosity: Do you conduct Salah (the five-times-a-day prayer ritual)? How often? Eat Halal?

One thirty something City professional, Asma, has spent a decade looking, with mixed results. "If you're devout and fatalistic, it must be easier in some ways. Because there's this weird scale of 'how religious are you?' How do you define that?" As with Bradshaw, Asma has exchanged plenty of dating horror stories with her friends: "There was the man we called 'genetic diseases' because he asked me if I had any on our very first phone conversation."

There was the Muslim dating event at Excel where, seated in a circle, they went round introducing themselves: "We get to one guy who's bearded and mid-30s. He says: 'Hi, My name's Hassan and I'm here because I'd like to find a second wife.'" No he wasn't divorced or widowed. "It got to my friend who said: 'I'm a civil servant and I'm certainly not here to be anyone's second wife.'"

It seems there are reformations and counter-reformations under way in modern Muslim dating: Some websites encourage modern women to embrace the concept of the "submissive" first (or second) wife. Other couples though are quietly using the nikah (Islamic wedding contract) to try out cohabitation before the finality of a civil marriage. Some forward-looking imams want doctrine updated to allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslims, just as Muslim men can.

Asma is struck by "the huge numbers of confident college girls wearing wild and elaborate hijabs, loads of makeup and kissing their boyfriends in public". Many women develop an assertive Muslim identity at university. Some may seem conservative, from their dress and religious practice, but met and chose their own husbands on demonstrations or political events. They haveve married men from different ethnicities, challenging their parents' racism and obsession with family background. After all, in Islam, all are equal. It's a fascinating new combination of values from faith and the secular society in which they grew up.

"I first properly met my partner at a charity fundraiser for Palestine," says Farrah, a 30-year-old journalist in London. "Some may consider me to be in a mixed relationship as my partner is Shia and I am Sunni." Ana is 33. She did at first date non-Muslims, but "it felt too alien being with someone for whom drinking is an integral part of their culture or who didn't understand family ties … I'm not massively practising as a Muslim but it helped me to see that there are some things that I don't want to compromise on."

All three women I spoke to say the biggest challenge has been to find a man on the same Islamic wavelength; not looking for a "submissive" wife nor so "liberal" that they're drinking and sleeping around. It's a bigger problem with men, believes Asma: "They tend to go more nuts at uni … and then come out and become pious and want a good wife to pray five times a day with. Girls tend to find a middle path about their identity."

Names have been changed



Fighting Female Genital Mutilation In Egypt

Zaynab Khojji

16 Jul, 2013

A thirteen-year-old Egyptian girl’s tragic death during a botched genital mutilation operation in the Nile Delta governate of Daqahliya has brought the issue of female circumcision, as it is traditionally known, to the forefront. Despite the practice being illegal under the Child Law of 2008 and punishable by fines ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 Egyptian pounds and custodial sentences between three months and two years, female genital mutilation (FGM) is still widely practiced in Egypt.

Suhair El-Bata’a died in early June after she was taken by her parents to a doctor to have the procedure. An autopsy on her body confirmed that the cause of her death was a sharp drop in blood pressure resulting from shock trauma. Bata’a is not the first to have died from FGM in Egypt, and other girls who have shared her fate include Karima Rahim Masoud, aged thirteen, and Bedour Shaker, aged twelve, who both died in 2007, and Nermine El-Haddad who died aged thirteen in 2010.

The origins of FGM are not known exactly, but the practice is said to predate both Islam and Christianity. In Egypt, it is practiced by both Muslims and Christians despite the Egyptian Coptic Church and Al-Azhar, the country’s leading Islamic authority, condemning FGM and declaring that the practice has no basis in the teachings of either religion. It is mainly practiced in African countries and Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as some countries in Asia. The highest rates of occurrence are in Somalia, Djibouti, Guinea and Egypt.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Short-term effects of the procedure include urine retention, hemorrhaging and, in cases such as that of Bata’a, death. Long-term effects of FGM include cysts, bladder and urinary tract infections, infertility and complications during childbirth.

According to the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) in 2008, almost 63 percent of FGM procedures were carried out by dayas (traditional birth attendants); trained medical personnel carried out most of the remaining procedures. The fact that prosecution of those who carry out FGM is almost unheard of enables them to continue to mutilate girls and violate the law.

FGM, known as Tahara (purification) in Egypt, affected 91 percent of women aged 15–49 in 2008 according to the EDHS of the same year. Although there is a lack of more recent statistics, women’s rights activists believe that there has been a rise in the number of operations carried out during former president Mohamed Mursi’s rule. Attempts to overturn the ban on FGM in Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, comments made by Azza El-Garf, one of the few female representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) describing FGM as “beautification plastic surgery” and “a personal choice,” and Mursi’s statement that it is “a private issue between mothers and daughters” have all led to the director of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, Nehad Abul Komsan, to conclude that the rise in religious conservatism as a result of FJP rule, along with the portrayal of FGM as a religious obligation, has directly affected the increase in FGM operations taking place.

Abul Komsan provides three motivations for people who advocate FGM: adhering to culture and tradition, attempting to control the sexuality of women, and religion. It is ironic, therefore, that FGM is not endorsed in Islam. The former grand mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, confirmed this in his fatwa against FGM in November 2006, stating that it is a “deplorable, inherited custom, which is practiced in some societies and is copied by some Muslims in several countries.” He also asserted that there were no written grounds for FGM in the Qur’an or the authentic tradition of the Prophet.

Indeed, many advocates of FGM on the basis of religion cite a hadith (tradition of the Prophet) that appears in one of the six authentic books of traditions, Sunan Abu Dawud, and mentions female circumcision. They fail to note, however, that this specific tradition is recorded as ‘weak’—unauthentic, and therefore invalid. Other traditions that mention female circumcision allude to the fact that FGM was practiced before the advent of Islam, but was not instructed by the Prophet to be part of Islamic Law.

Bata’a’s death highlights the need to enforce the law in order to deter practitioners from carrying out these procedures. It also highlights the need to educate the Egyptian people and inform them that FGM is not a religious obligation as it is often portrayed, and in fact is a crime against women. Lastly, those who believe that FGM controls women’s sexuality need to realize that educating women to respect themselves and their bodies is far more effective, and that women are not objects to be controlled.



Malala made Pakistan proud 

Akram Shaheedi

July 16, 2013 

Thank you very much indeed Malala Yusufzai for making Pakistan proud of you by raising the voice against the mindset of hate-mongers who believe in thriving in shedding the blood of those who differ to comply with their diktat. Thank you daughter of this terrorism plagued country for spreading the message of education to the youth of the entire world regardless of their creed, caste, gender and the countries they belong to. Thank you Malala for emboldening the cause of courage and fortitude in the face of ruthless, faceless enemy who is devoid of whatsoever human values, thank you Malala for projecting Islam as the religion of peace and harmony that considers education and research as the highest virtues, thanks Malala for exposing the terrorist and their ideology to the core and thank you very much for delivering the powerful message of books and pens as the most effective weapons against terrorism while wearing the Chadder given by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to you, who became the victim of terrorism during her arduous struggle to empower the poor people and women of Pakistan.

 The ambience of the occasion of “Malala Day” in New York under the auspices of the United Nation was dignified by any measure and indeed seeing was believing. A girl of sixteen years of age had hair-thin escape of her life when terrorist sprayed bullets in her school van about a year ago for upholding the right of education for all boys and girls. She delivered an inspiring message in a most impressive and seamless manner, and backed by her commitment in absolute terms. The contents of message and its delivery ‘books and pens are the most powerful weapons against the terrorists’ were extraordinarily breath taking. She was addressing the delegates of youth to the vicinity of one thousand hailing from 100 countries of the world. The audiences were spell bound when Malala, flanked by the Secretary General United Nations Ban-Ki- Moon and her parents, spoke with full throated ease — education is the fundamental right of all boys and girls of the world. We have to ensure that all children are provided with the opportunities to get education without discrimination. Her composure, scope of the speech and God-gifted communication skill begs all descriptions. Shakespeare in his novel Hamlet may have used the following words in different context but they represent her persona beautifully:

 What a piece of work is a man?

 How noble in reason and infinite in faculties

 In form and moving how express and admirable

 Sadly, out TV Channels did not accord treatment the speech deserved. I recalled when all TV channels broadcast three hours long speech of MQM chief without any break. Malala also deserved not for her sake but for the sake of her cause.)

 Her message of education is eternal. Learning enjoys the compatibility with human nature. Human being is gifted with unique quality of recollecting the past, plan for the present and future and also communicates in oral and written forms with fellow human beings.

 No other creature has this level of intelligence and communication ability. Depriving the people from educating themselves in fact means fiddling with the nature and those who indulge in this type of activity should be marginalized sooner than later because their presence in social set-up is harmful with insidious effects. Terrorists and extremists belong to this breed and therefore do not qualify to be called as human beings.

 No nation can excel in this world without investing in human capital and investment in education is the highest-divided oriented venture keeping in view the sustainable and desirable socio-economic development of a society. Unfortunately, in developing countries education has not been given the due attention in their development strategy. In Pakistan, the negligence was of criminal proportion because during many decades the budgetary allocations for education sector had been around 1% of the GDP. All the successive governments promised that they would raise it to 4% and 7% but that never materialized and allocations remained as dismal as ever even today. It is because of this reason that we could not meet the target of UN Millennium Goals despite the ratification of the convention by the government of Pakistan. It is embarrassing to mention that Pakistani is at lowest ebb in South Asian countries so far as the ratio of the school going children is concerned. In India 92% children go to school, In Bangladesh 96%, in Sri Lanka 99% and In Pakistan 52%, even Bhuttan is ahead of Pakistan in this count.

 Heart-wrenchingly, the government of Pakistan has abdicated its responsibility and the education sector has been hijacked by the private sector which is solely propelled by the considerations of making money. After 18th Amendment during the PPP previous government, the sector had been devolved to the provinces and hopefully the provincial governments will give due attention to this sector. The provincial governments are now in better position to allocate generous allocations particularly after the 7th National Finance Award that has entitled the provinces of bigger share of the “Divisive Pool”. Already, the governments of KPK and Balochistan have taken quantum leap in this regard which is expected to make visible difference during the next five years. Literacy rate in these two provinces is considerably lower than the other two provinces.

 Pakistan constitution makes it obligatory on the state to provide education to every child because getting education is his fundamental right and the fundamental rights are justiciable as the courts are their guarantors so far as the rights of citizenry are concerned. Despite this, about 40 million children have never gone to school because of erroneous priorities of the successive governments.

 Half a million are adding every year in this tally. It suited to the gluttonous preferences of mandarins and therefore they did not bother to carry out the constitutional obligations knowing they could get away without consequences. Social sector had never figured conspicuously in the planning and development strategy of the governments in Pakistan. It was relegated to a secondary position during the non-representative governments especially when bureaucracy swayed the thinking of the government and it’s disconnect with the people and their aspirations was visible.

 It is important to discuss the importance that Islam attaches to education and quest for knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, ‘Ink of a scholar is precious than the blood of a martyr.’ How beautiful exposition of the importance of education and research is given to the followers. He (SAW) knew its importance for building a society of enlightened Muslims as a valuable asset of Ummah. He (SAW) knew in the absence of scholarship Muslims would be like hordes — an embodiment of ignorance and obscurantiscism— and Muslim Ummah to be built on Islamic injunctions could not afford to bear their burden. Islam’s whole focus is on argument and persuasion in spreading the eternal message of it. Coercion, intimidation or enslavement is alien to Islamic injunctions. Famous English historian Edward Gibbon in his famous book, History of Saracen Empire, wrote, ‘The greatest success of Muhammad’s (PBUH) was affected through sheer moral force without the stroke of a sword.’ But, who will make them understand who are not prone to reason, fair play, justice and Islamic interpretations other than their own which are abundantly mired in prejudices and morbid mentality tendencies. In the same book Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as having paid rich tributes to the Prophet of Islam (SAW) when he stated, ‘I became more convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam — it was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet (SAW) the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in his followers and in his own mission. ‘Who will deny the strength of moral values and its endurable successes during the times of the Prophet of Islam, (SAW) except those extremists who are exploding the bombs in markets, shrines, mosques, seats of learning even on the funeral processions and shedding the blood of Muslims. Muslim Ummah is well advised to disown them.

 Malala Yousafzai has made history and is a beacon light for the youth to stand up in the face of tyranny, but never abandon your worthwhile cause no matter how much you have to suffer. Her message will have profound impact on the government of Pakistan leading to suitably alter their preference and divert resources to invest in the people who deserve a fairer and better deal. She has proved an exceptionally outstanding ambassador of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan paid her handsomely when they ensured unprecedented turn out in the in May, 2013 elections despite the naked threats of terrorists.

 Akram Shaheedi is former Federal Secretary Information



'Wadjda,' Film By Saudi's First Female Director, Tackles Female Empowerment

By Yasmine Hafiz    

 16 July 2013

Saudi's first feature film is groundbreaking on many levels, featuring the kingdom's first female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, and a female lead. It’s also the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.

"Wadjda" tells the story of a determined young girl who competes in a Quran recitation contest.

She enters in order to win enough money to purchase a green bike so she can beat her friend Abdullah in a race; despite the fact that unchaperoned women aren't allowed to ride bikes in public.

Though Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Wahabbi leadership cites religion as the reason for its restrictive laws, Wadjda uses religion as a means of buying herself a bit more freedom by memorizing verses from the Quran for the competition at her all-girls school in Riyadh.

The director Al Mansour sought to "create a story where people can laugh and cry a little," rather than forcing her film to carry a heavy-handed social and political message. However the film still contains many poignant moments that are a window into the little-seen world of Saudi women.

The film's trailer shows the way in which Wadjda's dreams draw her into conflict with her family and community, as her stepmother scolds her for coming home without a headscarf and jokingly threatens to marry her off. The stepmother faces her own problems as Wadjda's father insults her for not giving him a son, but at the end of the trailer she holds Wadjda tight and tells her, "If you set your mind to something, no one can stop you."

Wadjda is an entrepreneurial young girl whose determination reflects the modernity and resilience of many Saudi women, including the boundary-pushing Al Mansour. She wears blue toenail polish underneath her Converses and risks expulsion for pursuing her goals when she comes into conflict with the headmistress of her school. In an interview with the Financial Times, Al Mansour commented, “It was very important for me to show that even women reinforce traditional values and that it is not only men. The usual refrain is that the men are always the oppressors and the women are always victims, but the situation is more complex than that.”

Director Al Mansour insisted on shooting the film entirely in Saudi Arabia so that it would be entirely authentic, despite the legal and logistical problems it entailed. As women and men are prevented from publicly interacting, she said, “It was a major obstacle to go out in the street and talk to my actors,” and she would often direct by telephone and with walkie-talkies.

Al Mansour triumphs in giving human faces and voices to the burkha-covered ladies showing the joys experienced by those living in Saudi Arabia as well as the inequalities. It’s an intimate window into a world that few get access to, and Al Mansour noted in an interview with Al Jazeera. that, "It's difficult for a male filmmaker to break into this secluded world and have the same opportunities I had."

Despite the legal and cultural gender inequality, empowered Saudi women are still making a difference. Al Mansour is optimistic for what’s to come, saying, “Saudi Arabia is opening up. I’m not saying it’s heaven, but we saw Saudi sending women to the Olympics. There is an opportunity now for women to pursue their dreams.”

"Wajda" will be released in the UK on July 19, 2013, and will be available later this year in the US.



Tribal Girls Turn Housewives at 10 in South India

 16th July 2013

Last month, when the whole state was widely debating the marriage of underage Muslim girls following a controversial government circular, a 10-year-old girl of a tribal colony here was married off to a 24-year-old youth.

Sindhu (name changed), a class III student and member of Kattupaniya tribe, of Vettilakolli colony at Kakkadampoyil, bordering Kozhikode-Malappuram districts, was forced to enter into wedlock with Biju of an adjacent tribal settlement. More seriously, she has been denied her right to continue schooling as well. The little homemaker, who was very active in her studies, now appears frightened, disappointed and confused. She was staying at Manimooli Tribal Hostel, Nilambur.

A visit to the tribal settlements has revealed that so far four child marriages were reported from Vettilakolli, three from Palakkayam and two from Ambumala tribal colonies within a year.

Traditionally known as ‘Chaakkittu Kidathal’,  the bride and groom after the marriage proceed  to a dense forest with a sack.

This practice creates severe health issues as it accelerates the incidents of infant deaths due to malnutrition, said Health Inspector of the colonies Suresh K Kammath. The total population of Kattupaniya tribe in both these colonies is only 150.



Iranian film-maker Mania Akbari: 'Cinema threatens the government'

Tom Seymour

 16 July 2013

Among the laptops and the lattes in the foyer of London's BFI Southbank sits a dissident and exile. Film-maker Mania Akbari fled her native Tehran last summer. She is determined to examine marriage, abortion, infidelity and lesbianism at home in Iran. She has explored what it's like to lose your breasts to cancer. She has made films that have upset and shocked the religious establishment. Now, after 15 years of censorship, "of living in fear and frustration", Akbari is finally seeing her films screened commercially for the first time.

The 39-year-old actor, writer and director is not in the UK by choice. During production of her latest film, From Tehran to London (originally titled Women Do Not Have Breasts), members of her crew were arrested by Iranian authorities for supposedly filming without official permission. Scared she too might be imprisoned, Akbari fled Tehran for London. "I left the country of my birth with grief, fear and frustration," she says in her native Farsi. "But I was alienated and isolated. I could not get permission to make my films, or to get my films seen. I still love Iran. I am still fascinated by it. It gave me my creativity. But I had to leave."

The keynote film in a season of Akbari's work at the BFI, From Tehran to London opens with a politically charged dedication to "all the film-makers in Iran who have served a prison sentence, and the ones who are still in prison". Yet Akbari's films are not calls to arms. Entirely self-taught, she has made five feature-length movies – each made in near secrecy, on tiny budgets – in 10 years, while also working as a photographer and painter. Her films have screened at more than 40 festivals; her debut, 20 Fingers, won best film at Venice film festival's Digital Cinema section. Her documentaries are even more political than her dramas: in 2011, she made what she describes as a "cautious documentary about anger and revenge, violence and law", about a child named Benhood who was put to death by the Iranian state.

But her features are rivetingly human: pitiless, potent studies of domestic strife, and of the fight for happiness – and domination – in sexual relationships. Take off their headscarves and Akbari's women could be social workers in Sheffield or hairdressers in south London, talking wearily about the struggle of working motherhood and love eroded by intimacy.

Akbari first came to prominence in 2002 as the lead in Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's Ten, a film composed entirely of conversations inside a car. "Kiarostami taught me to strip away my inhibitions," she says, "to lose myself in my work, to be totally bare, totally exposed."

In 2007, Akbari was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. In her film 10+4, a sequel of sorts to Kiarostami's Ten, she explores the sensation of living "with both life and death".

"Cancer is not just an illness," she says. "It changes your appearance as much as your inner self. We hide behind our skins. This is one of the concepts of art: to define suffering, or even death, differently. To give it a beautiful meaning."

Her influences are not confined to cinema. She cites Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winning Amour – "a dance between love and death" – but also "the reclining figures of Henry Moore, the dancers of Henri Matisse, the red armchair of Pablo Picasso". A single scene in Akbari's films, shorn of sympathy or pretence, without closeups, montage or stirring music, can unfold, unedited, for between 10 and 20 minutes. It can feel as if you're witnessing a cross between fiction and documentary, yet Akbari plans and rehearses every second of her films "months in advance". If a man stops, mid-sentence, to brush a stray hair from his wife's face, it is no accident. "With cinema, you can take your audience by their hands and guide them through your life," she says. "I carry with me every experience I've ever had."

From a western point of view, it can be difficult to understand why the Iranian state might view Akbari's films as such an existential challenge. But she is matter-of-fact about the issue: "Cinema can make people aware, so it is threatening to government. Governments want to impose their ideology on their people."

With the recent election of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani, however, Akbari is optimistic about progress: "We're witnessing a new energy in the people or Iran. Without hope, human beings become walking corpses, which is a frightening prospect, no? A society devoid of hope reeks of decay. We must all, always, believe and welcome change."

 From Tehran with Love: The Cinema of Mania Akbari runs until 28 July at the BFI Southbank, London.



NGO Raises Sh63 Million for Girls' Education


On Friday during a fund-raising event organised in the money was raised during a fund raising drive held last Friday by Zawadi Africa Foundation Fund. Speakers at the event challenged Kenyans to support programmes aimed at lifting the education of young girls especially those from poor families who excel in school but have no money to pursue higher education.

"Our main goal is to create the best leaders in the continent. We have scaled greater heights, having started as a small initiative with limited funds," said Susan Mboya Kidero the founder and president of Zawadi Africa Foundation.

She said the Fund has evolved over the past 10 years when they begun with 3 students with a sponsorship kitty of Sh40m. Today, the Fund has a Sh3.2 billion taking care of more than 230 girls from all-over the country.

Zawadi Africa Foundation is targeting to have 1000 students from 40 African countries and 400 partner schools by the year 2020.

"We believe this is possible and hence we are calling on members of the public and corporations to partner with us as we seek to raise money to educate these very needy girls and more importantly expand the powerful force of change that is Zawadi Africa," she added.

The programme was inspired by the Kennedy-Mboya airlift that saw over 1000 academically talented Africans from 5 countries educated in the US. They all became the first crop of African scholars. Susan is the daughter of the Kenyan icon who was assassinated in 1969.

Susan said the Fund select girls based on their merit and mainly focus on girls who show traits of leadership other than just academic excellence.

The Friday contributions was the largest ever raised in a single event, with the fundraising targeting to raise Sh85m this year.

Other supporters and donors urged the girls to always consider returning back home to serve their motherland after their studies abroad.



Need to Protect DRC's School Girls from Sexual Assault

July 16, 2013

Kinshasa — In some Democratic Republic of Congo schools, teachers and senior authorities are using their status to abuse girls who do not know their rights, according to the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights.

Both ignorance of the law and victims' fear of exposing their abusers are furthering sexual abuse in the DRC's capital Kinshasa, and Matadi, one of the main cities in the western province of Bas-Congo.

"Many cases still go unreported because of the victims' fear and ignorance of their rights. Ignorance is the main reason for the silence kept by victims, who are often intimidated by teachers and other school authorities. It will be necessary, from this point forward, to monitor and punish these authorities," Dora Zaki, lawyer and vice president of AADHR, a local organisation, told IPS.

The organisation released a report on Jul. 6 detailing approximately 100 cases of rape, which occurred between April and June, in 45 schools in Kinshasa and Matadi. The local police provided statistics for Matadi, while AADHR conducted the survey in Kinshasa.

"Young girls are regularly raped in schools with authorities and the justice system remaining silent," stated the AADHR report entitled, "School and sexual abuse in DRC: knowledge is power".

Mado Mpezo, National Police Chief Commissioner in charge of child and women protection and sexual abuse in DRC, warned about the "increasingly frequent cases of sexual abuse in the town of Matadi."

She reported that "on the nights of Jun. 27-28, a 50-year-old man raped a 14-year-old girl" and that "in the month of June alone, 40 cases of rape were reported in that town."

Zaki said: "In order to effectively fight against sexual abuse in schools, students need to be urgently made aware of their rights by the publicising of the two laws on sexual abuse."

According to two DRC laws passed in 2006, sentences for those who sexually assault children are now much harsher. These laws define rape and include classifying sexual relations with a minor under the age of 16 as rape. They also outline procedures for judging these crimes.

But Romain Mindomba, national vice president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice, told IPS that these laws alone were not enough.

"The government must put in place a mechanism to make school children and even school authorities aware of all sexual offences punishable by law, and the heavy penalties faced by the perpetrators of these crimes.

"It is important to compel students to expose any person who tries to compel them to have sexual relations. Educating potential victims will strengthen their capacity to speak out and lodge their complaints," Mindomba said.

Dieudonne Baderha, head of Nakiyinga private secondary school in Kinshasa, told IPS that it was difficult when a teacher was accused of sexual assault as in many cases "there is never any proof or actual witnesses."

"After dismissing a mathematics teacher last year, the school's management realised that it had been misled by a student claiming to be a victim, who wanted to take revenge on a teacher she believed didn't like her because she was not doing well in that subject," he said.

However, according to Thiery Sabi, deputy state prosecutor in the Gombe High Court in Kinshasa, "increasingly, there are cases of sexual abuse of young students being brought to the Public Prosecutor's Office."

"On average, the Public Prosecutor's Office here receives 10 to 15 complaints per week," he said, adding that among the victims was a 10-year-old girl who had been allegedly raped by a lawyer.

Congolese Minister of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education Maker Mwangu told IPS: "The government is aware of the urgency with which it must act to put an end to these crimes."

He added that meetings were organised in May with members of the legislature's Socio-cultural Commission, to chart the way forward on "improving protection of children from sexual abuse."



Sahib: A young nurse’s journey in Pakistan

 July 16, 2013

Sahib, a young DIL graduate from Khairpur, Sindh, is the first girl to venture out of her village and complete a nurse’s training program.

Having completed her education at a DIL school, Sahib received a scholarship to complete her Nurses training.

“I am the only girl to come forward and pursue this path from my family and my town,” Sahib says.

“Nursing is a well-respected profession in society. They are able to benefit and improve the loves around them,” she said.

DIL Trust UK is a registered charity dedicated to providing quality education to disadvantaged children in Pakistan, with a strong focus on community participation and gender equality.

DIL Trust establishes, adopts and manages primary and secondary schools for underprivileged children in partnership with non-governmental organizations in all four provinces of Pakistan. In addition, DIL Trust directly operates community schools in Punjab and Sindh.

Dil prepares its students for success in the global market place. Graduates are offered scholarships for higher education and vocational training opportunites.



Surrogate moms get trained to earn a living

By D. P. Bhattacharya in Gandhinagar

 16 July 2013

THEY rent their wombs. But, generally, they can do it only two to three times in their lifetime.

What after that? How will they sustain themselves or their families once the money earned as a surrogate mother is exhausted? Dr Naina Patel, a pioneer of surrogacy in Gujarat, has initiated a project in Anand to address the issue.

Patel, who converted Anand into a favourite destination for the childless couples, especially the NRIs, for surrogate children, has started the project called Mamma’s Products to help ensure a sustainable income to the women who rent their wombs.

Akansha Infertility Trust, set up by her, is implementing the project.

The trust is training women on making bakery products and for beauty parlour skills. Patel says as many as 30 women are currently undergoing training for bakery, while seven have already found engagement in beauty parlours across the state.

Patel, who has been responsible for more than 500 surrogate deliveries in Anand since 2004, maintains that while a woman with two children of her own can at best go for surrogacy thrice, the one with three kids can do two. “ Maximum one can have is five children,” she told M AIL T ODAY . While one time surrogacy yields about ` 5 lakh for a woman, the sum is hardly enough to sustain a lifetime.

Manisha Makwana, a surrogate mother from Anand itself, who has been taking care of newborn children of the NRIs and foreigners, has also done a beautician course. “ As it is, my job is always in demand and I do get offers to move abroad as a nanny. But with my family to take care of here, I have chosen to stay back,” she says, adding that festive seasons bring her a lot of work as a beautician, supplementing her income considerably.

Rukmani Vartaria, who is nursing a child of an NRI couple in her womb, is learning to make chocolate and cakes.

Women given vocational training under new project

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