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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 12 Aug 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Don’t Succumb To Guardians’ Wishes, Shoura Council Member Tells Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

12 Aug 2013

Syrian singer Asala Nasri performs during a concert in the West Bank city of Bethlehem



 Tragic Fate of Afghan Woman MP Who Now Wants To Leave Her Country

 Pragaash band: Girl Band Sufi

 Coptic Christian Girl Shot Dead In Egypt

 France debates extending headscarf ban to universities

 Dowry deaths up over last 12 years in India

 Saudi women-only theater attracts Eid audience

 British Indian dentist commits suicide after being 'bullied and harassed'

 Anti-Al Assad Syrian star performs in West Bank

 Dubai Women Who Feel Good About Going Organic

 Women ‘Own’ 60% Cover-Up (Tasattur) Businesses

 Emirati Artist Amnah Sets Umm Al Quwain’s First World Record

 Jeddah-Based Woman Lyricist Wins Semifinals in UK Songwriting Contest

 Australia Politics: Woman Quits Poll Race, Mistakes Islam For Country

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Don’t Succumb To Guardians’ Wishes, Shoura Council Member Tells Women

August 12, 2013 

RIYADH — Women whose guardians force them to get married should not succumb to their guardians’ wishes, said Issa Al-Gheith, Shoura Council member and a judge at the Ministry of Justice.

Al-Gheith made the statement in response to a news report about a woman in her 30s who wanted to jump off King Fahd Causeway because her father forced her to get married to an old man.

“Islam has granted women their rights and one of these rights is that a guardian should take the consent of his daughter or sister before he marries her to anyone,” Al-Yaum newspaper quoted Al-Gheith a saying.

Similarly, a guardian should not deprive a woman of her right to get married as long as she wishes to do so according to the Shariah, he added.

All civil society institutions as well as legal bodies should put an end to this practice. “My message to all guardians is to fear Allah and not force their daughters and sisters to remain spinsters. They should not abuse them and take their money.”

Psychologist Dr. Tariq Al-Habeeb said women who are forced to marry old men should express their clear refusal to such marriages before they happen. The choice of marriage is left to women in Islam. Al-Habeeb said parents must take their daughters’ consent on marriage.

He noted that if an old man wants to get married to a young woman, he should not be refused straight away by her parents, especially if the old man has all necessary qualities women search for in any man. “By old, I mean someone who is few years older than a girl,” Al-Habeeb explained.

“Sometimes, it is better for an immature girl who acts on her impulses to marry an older man who has a good reputation as a Muslim than to marry a younger one. An older husband can play the role of the husband and the guardian because such a girl always needs a guardian in her life,” he said.

Al-Habeeb went on to say if a girl is mature, her parents should not marry her to an old man as he will destroy her maturity and energy.



Tragic Fate of Afghan Woman MP Who Now Wants To Leave Her Country


August 12, 2013 

One of Afghanistan’s first woman MPs today revealed that she is no longer welcome in her own home, after escaping an abusive husband and a family who disowned her.

Noor Zia Atmar, 40, who was a politician from 2005 to 2010 but now lives in a shelter, added that progress in the country’s gender equality rights is falling apart as Western forces withdraw.

It comes after she served in the country’s first parliament following the Taliban's downfall - and got important legislation pushed through that banned more than 20 acts of violence against women.

But she told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘Women are in a worse condition now. Every day they are being killed, having their ears, noses cut. It is not just women in villages - it is also people like me.’

Elections came in 2005 after the U.S. helped the country draft a new constitution which guaranteed big steps towards and gender equality - and that a quarter of the seats would be for women.

Miss Atmar carried out a strong campaign on a small budget - even selling a gold necklace to help - and was a much-praised member of parliament, making trips to India, France, Turkey and Britain.

Nato’s efforts to secure Afghanistan over the past 12 years have led to more girls entering education and making women more heard in the country - as well as a lowering of maternal mortality rates.

But the conservative society appears to be fighting back. It hopes women’s shelters will be closed, and the electoral law over women having at least a quarter of the seats has already been revised.

And attempts to approve a law drafted by Miss Atmar and others that set penalties for rape and child marriage - but was never ratified by parliament - were called off amid claims it was ‘un-Islamic’.

As Miss Atmar’s term came to an end she failed to win re-election and married a businessman, who was unimpressed by her campaign for women’s rights and refused to let her leave the house.

She told the newspaper: ‘He would get drunk and demand I remove his shoes. Then he would shout at me to put them back on, over and over. If I refused he would beat me. It was torture.’

Miss Atmar said that he once even banned her from using the phone - and that eventually she asked for a divorce. But, as would be expected in the society, her family severely frowned upon this.

‘They saw my face bruised, and scars from the knife - but they told me it was a traditional society, that I would bring shame on the family,’ she told the Sunday Telegraph.

They eventually abandoned her when she tried to get a lawyer, and she went to a shelter. Miss Atmar contacted the British Embassy, but was told domestic abuse victims were not able to claim asylum.



Pragaash band: Girl Band Sufi

By Sana Altaf

August 12, 2013 

Creaky wooden stairs lead to a shabby room. Against the weak walls rest sitar, Tabla, santoor, dhokra, all in line and covered in dust. The only time these musical instruments come to life is when Shaista* and her four friends come here to rehearse.

While Shaista breathes life into the sitar and the stringed Kashmiri Santoor, Naseema thrums on the tabla as Ayesha creates magic on the dhokra drum. Musical interludes follow touching praises of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the tranquil voices of the young girls. Within no time, the otherwise silent derelict room fills with Sufi music, now facing extinction in Kashmir.

With state government and civil society failing to preserve the heritage of the traditional Sufi music of the valley, this group of five girls is striving to keep the art alive. Besides taking part in local and national events such as the state Sufi music festivals and events of the Sangeet Natak Academy, they have worked for Indian film-maker Muzaffar Ali and theater director MK Raina. The girls are determined to pass on the tradition to the next generation.

“In this century, our youth are turning to western music like the Beatles, the Backstreet Boys [and] Michael Jackson besides being drawn to Bollywood music. But our culture is different from it. We cannot forget our rich heritage and adopt the culture of other countries,” says 24-year-old Shaista, the group leader of the valley’s sole woman Sufi group. A group with no formal name.

Shaista was a mere 11 years old when she started taking lessons in sufi music from the valley’s veteran Sufi artist, Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh. The grandson of one of the most revered names, the late Ghulam Mohammad Qaleenbaaf, Sheikh is one of the few teachers and artists left here. He is reputed for his individual contribution in keeping this art alive by training young talent and is a recipient of many state and national awards.

“My grandmother was a spiritual person and loved Sufi music. Because of her, my family was inclined towards Sufism which is why my parents sent me to learn it,” says Shaista.

With time, Shaista became well versed in the sitar, Santoor and even singing. She invited more girls to join the group. However, she could not continue with her education after grade 12 due to financial constraints.

Sheikh would teach the girls free every day. But despite these efforts, the group did not survive beyond two years. “The girls in my group got married after which they did not continue with singing. Out of six girls, I was the only one left.” The dearth of job opportunities in the field further contributed to the split.

This did not discourage Shaista (then 14). She went out and pitched to other friends and roped them in to form a new group of four more girls. Sheikh started training this new batch and they proved to be more talented and dedicated than the previous one.

“I have learned Sufi music for six years. My soul is in it and I shall continue to learn and teach it as far as I am alive,” says Naseema, 21, who started training at the age of 12.

Hailing from a poor family of Budgam, Naseema could not pursue her studies beyond class 11 either. Her father does manual labour to feed the family of six. Yet she is determined to continue singing. “I am from [a] poor family and cannot do much. I feel it is my duty to pass on this art to [the] next generation. I am training my little cousins how to play the tabla and sing,” she adds.

Twenty-year-old Ayesha dreams of setting up an institute for teaching Sufi music but this won’t be possible without funding. “All those who know Sufi music this time share the responsibility to preserve it,” she says. “We are among them.”

Ayesha says their group works hard and performs well in programmes. “We ensure we participate in events so that people are encouraged to take up this art. At a time when scores of upcoming artists have quit Sufi music, our performance is contributing to keep it alive.”

All the artists of the group are certified or approved by Radio Kashmir; Doordarshan, India’s Sangeet Natak Academy, the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, and Cultural and Languages and have been recognised by several private national art groups.

Kashmir has a long tradition of Sufi music. The 600-year-old spiritual art form came to the valley from Central Asia in the 15th century. It grew as a popular means of entertainment. It is primarily Persian and Kashmiri vocal and choral music performed by an ensemble of four to seven musicians led by one. The work of the great mystics of Persia and Kashmir such as Hafiz, Jalaluddin Rumi, Jami, Omar Khayyam, Amir Khusrau, Rasul Mir and Neame Seab form the corpus, according to the extensive website on the topic,

Despite this long history, not more than five to six Sufi music teachers exist in Kashmir today. And only 20 to 30 people know the art. Kashmir has only one existing master of Sufi music, Ghulam Mohammad Saznawaz. “Out of 180 melodies and ragas which find reference in ancient scriptures, 138 are lost,” Sheikh told The Express Tribune. The remaining 42 melodies are preserved by the legendary Sheikh Abdul Aziz in his musical notation ‘Kashur Sargam’ meaning Kashmiri melody.

“It hurts to see Sufi music dying. Only [a] countable number of Sufi music artists are with us now. Many of them are elderly,” says Sheikh.

One of the major factors is a lack of state patronage, which is why boys tend to be discouraged from taking up this art as a career. “With my own money and efforts I have been training boys and girls so that it [Sufi music] is preserved. But after working hard for seven to eight years, they get no jobs, no career. They struggle for money and finally they quit,” he explains.

It would have certainly helped to have state-sponsored music schools or formal music courses in educational institutions, which could generate employment and interest. “Our youth love[s] music but they either have to leave Kashmir for it or quit,” he laments. He dreads the same will happen with the girls if their work is not recognised.

There is only one precedent for this kind of cultural effort: the Pragaash band, the first all-girl rock band in Kashmir. The three teenage girls got together in 2012 and performed publically for the first time in December 2012 at a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition where they received the award for best performance.

Soon after the event, though, men threatened the girls with rape and death over the phone and social media (Facebook). It did not help that in February this year, the grand mufti of Kashmir issued a fatwa against the group, stating that music was “not good for society” and that all “bad things happening in Indian society were because of music”. Following the fatwa and condemnation from wide sections of society the pressure proved too much to bear and group publically decided to quit. Sheikh just hopes that the young sufi musicians won’t meet the same fate.



Coptic Christian girl shot dead in Egypt

By: Morning Star News

12 August 2013

A Coptic Christian girl walking home from a Bible class at her church was shot and killed this week in Cairo by an unidentified gunman, human rights activists said.

Amid a near-constant din of threats and scattered attacks against the Christian population in Egypt by militant political Islamists, the rights representatives said 10-year-old Jessica Boulous of the Ain Shams section of Cairo was killed early Tuesday evening (Aug. 6) while walking from the Ahmed Esmat Street Evangelical Church through a market to her home with her Sunday school teacher.

The teacher turned to buy an item at a market stall only to turn back and find Jessica lying in the dirt in a puddle of blood, rights activists said. A Muslim shopkeeper who knew Jessica saw her fall to the ground and ran to her side. He took off his shirt, wrapped it around her motionless body and rushed her to a hospital, but she was already dead.

A single bullet had passed through her chest and heart, killing her instantly, witnesses said.

Nasr Allah Zakaria, Jessica’s uncle, said the killing has devastated the girl’s family.

“I just can’t believe she is gone,” Zakaria said. “She was such a sweet little girl. She was like a daughter to me. I can’t believe she is gone.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the killing. Zakaria, pastor of an evangelical church in Egypt, said he didn’t know for sure if the shooting was religiously motivated but quickly added that violence against Christians “seems to be normal” in Egypt now.

Violence or intimidation against Christians has become almost a daily occurrence in most parts of Egypt. In the aftermath of the protests that led to the removal of Mohamed Morsi as president, militant supporters of Morsi have publically scapegoated the Coptic Christian minority for the Islamic Brotherhood-backed president’s fall from power. Many have called for revenge against Christians. Less than 12 hours after the Egyptian military announced that it had expelled Morsi from office, reports of attacks against Christians by Morsi supporters began.

After numerous attacks for about a week and a half, there was a relative lull in the violence. But at the end of July, the pace picked up once more. The attacks were inspired, human rights activists said, by a near-constant stream of vitriol from Islamic leaders calling for retribution against the Copts.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Aug. 2 distributed flyer threatening to attack church buildings and police stations in Minya in Upper Egypt, according to local residents. Muslim Brotherhood leaders have stated that the attacks against the Christians will not stop until Morsi has returned to power. The new wave of attacks has included drive-by-shootings, kidnappings, attacks on church buildings and Christian-owned property and now two lethal shootings.

On the same day Jessica was killed, masked gunmen burst into a grocery store in Jazeerat Al Khazendara village in Souhag and attacked a Coptic Christian family according to the rights activists. During the kidnapping attempt, Milad Ebeed was abducted and his father, mother and brother were all shot. His father, Sadek Ebeed, 75, died at the store. The others sustained serious, but not life-threatening wounds.

Milad Ebeed was later released after a ransom was paid, the rights activists said.

Along with the shootings, the towns of Minya and Assuit have been the sites of repeated attacks against Christians, which make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population. For the past two weeks, unidentified vandals have painted graffiti on church buildings and Christian-owned homes and businesses in Assuit declaring, “Egypt is Muslim, not Christian.”

At the same time, Islamists have been roaming Christian areas of Assuit handing out anti-Christian flyers and intimidating any Coptic business owner who keeps his store open, rights activists said.

On Saturday (Aug. 3), roughly 20 people were injured and five Coptic-owned homes were destroyed along with several Coptic-owned businesses in the village of Al-Sharqiya in Minya Governorate when a political dispute at a Coptic-owned café turned ugly. A fight that started over changing the channel from a news program quickly led to Islamist mobs rampaging through the village with clubs, swords and Molotov cocktails, according to human rights activists.

Mina Thabet, spokesman of the Maspero Students Union, said things could get worse in Minya.

“For the past few days, we have had many instances of attacks against Copts,” Thabet said. “Threats are widespread. In the Minya Governorate, I think it will be hard for the next few days.”

In a statement released Wednesday (Aug. 7), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and 15 other human rights organizations condemned Islamist incitement to violence and the government’s lack of will to stop it.

“These organizations strongly condemn the rhetoric employed by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, which includes clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains, regardless of the grave repercussions of such rhetoric for peace in Egypt,” the statement read.

The statement further denounced negligence of the state to protect Christians, to confront sectarian attacks and to hold assailants in several governorates responsible.

“This negligence reveals that the pattern of impunity which spread during the Mubarak era and remained in place throughout the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood continues to this day, even after both of these regimes were overthrown,” the organisations stated.

Zakara said that, strangely, Jessica, an only child, was concerned about the violence and seemed to have a premonition of her death. She watched protests on television and urged her parents to get involved, but at the same time she was afraid enough for her safety that she asked her Sunday school teacher to escort her home from Bible school.

“She said she didn’t feel safe,” Zakaria said. “She asked her mother and father, ‘What if I am at a protest and I got shot in the chest? What would happen to me?’”



France debates extending headscarf ban to universities

August 12, 201

The High Council for Integration, in a confidential report leaked to Le Monde newspaper, said this was needed to counter problems caused by students wearing religious garb and demanding prayer space and special menus at universities.

France's 2004 ban on headscarves in schools and 2010 ban on full face veils in public have alienated many of its five million Muslims. Rioting broke out in a Paris suburb last month after police checked identity papers of a fully veiled woman.

"This is one more step in the legal stigmatization of Muslims," the March 15 Liberty Committee, a Muslim group opposed to the school headscarf ban, said on Tuesday.

"The separation of church and state cannot be reduced, as some want it to be, to an arsenal of laws against Muslims."

Several politicians also weighed in, warning a new ban could fan tensions between the Socialist government, which stands for a strong defense of France's official secularism, and Muslims who feel such laws are aimed at isolating and punishing them.

"We have to find the right balance between the need for neutrality in the public sphere and the personal choice to express a religious conviction," said Herve Mariton, a deputy for the opposition UMP party.

Government ombudsman Dominique Baudis said a new ban "may not be necessary" but Francemust clarify its laws on "laicite", the official secularism that has led to repeated conflicts with minorities challenging it as a violation of religious rights.


Defending secularism is a rallying cry that resonates across the political spectrum, from left-wingers upholding the liberal values of the Enlightenment to far-right voters seeking a bulwark against the growing role of Islam in French society.

President Francois Hollande launched a new Observatory of Laicite in April and asked it for new ideas on how to apply a landmark 1905 law that aims to shield the public sphere from religious pressures while respecting freedom of religion.

The High Council's report was submitted to the Observatory for its consideration and does not have to be part of the proposals submitted to Hollande, an Observatory official said.

Under French law, religious wear is banned in schools to protect youths from faith-related pressures but tolerated in universities because students are adults with free choice.

Extending the headscarf ban to universities would contradict this basic principle and could lead to further protests from Europe's largest Muslim minority.

Le Monde said the High Council report cited "numerous complaints from all sectors of university life" about religious activity including proselytism and students refusing to work with members of the opposite sex.

While most complaints clearly referred to Muslims, it said there were also evangelical Christian students who rejected the teaching of evolution or reading such famous free-thinking French philosophers as Voltaire.

Le Monde called the report alarmist and polemical and said it gave neither precise figures for the total of such complaints nor the names of the universities said to be involved.

The High Council declined to comment on the confidential text, saying only that it would be published in its annual report at the end of the year.



Dowry deaths up over last 12 years in India

August 12, 201

Figures show that 91,202 dowry deaths were reported in the country from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2012.

In spite of stringent laws against dowry and related offences, complemented by sustained campaigns against the menace, deaths related to the evil have increased over the past 12 years, according to statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau.

The figures show that 91,202 dowry deaths were reported in the country from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2012. Of these, as many as 84,013 offences were charge-sheeted and sent for trial. The rest were either withdrawn by the government during or prior to investigation. Cases numbering 5,081 were reported to be false after investigation.

While 6,851 deaths were reported in 2001, the figure reached 7,618 in 2006. In 2012, it was 8,233. While 6,539 cases were charge-sheeted and 6,060 sent for trial in 2001, the figures for 2012 were 8,022 and 7,537 respectively. At the start of 2001, the number of cases pending trial from the previous year was 21,922 and in 2012, the number was 29,669.

In 2001, the total number of cases on trial was 27,969 which, by the end of that year, fell to 22,697. The corresponding figures for 2012 were 37,206 and 31,888 respectively. A total of 1,389 cases were withdrawn for various reasons, in the 12-year period, after coming up for trial. As many as 44,668 convictions were effected during the period.

A State-wise break-up shows that the highest incidence of dowry deaths was in Uttar Pradesh (23,824; 19,702 sent for trial) and Bihar (13,548; 9,984 sent for trial).The conviction rate was always around about 50 per cent in U.P. and around 30 per cent in Bihar. In all States, the number of acquittals was regularly much greater than the convictions. In Maharashtra, as many as 3,066 of 3,485 trials ended in acquittals.

In U.P., the deaths tally was above 2,000 in most years. In Bihar, it was above 1,000. In Madhya Pradesh, the tally hovered around 600 in the early years of the study and later it climbed to 800 plus. In Delhi, the death toll was 1,582in the 12-year period. Nagaland is the only State and Lakshadweep the only Union Territory where no dowry deaths were reported during the period.



Saudi women-only theater attracts Eid audience

August 12, 201

Women-only theatrical productions have recently become an outstanding feature of Muslim Eid celebrations in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.

When it comes to Saudi theater, the culture lacks the financial support and suitable infrastructure.

But four years ago, Riyadh’s theater gave space to women-only productions to shed light on Saudi women issues during plays.

However, more support is needed, a Saudi actress tells Al Arabiya.

“Here in Riyadh we need support. We are given opportunities during Ramadan and Eid, but we still need more throughout the year. We don’t have enough advertising, although many audiences attend our plays.”

The plays, which are performed in front of an all-female audience, tackle social issues such as marriage, raising children and ways of helping those with special needs.



British Indian dentist commits suicide after being 'bullied and harassed'

August 12, 201

London : A British Indian dentist from Yorkshire committed suicide after allegedly being “bullied and harassed” by the National Health Service (NHS) which threatened disciplinary action against him over keeping of records at his clinic.

Dr Anand Kamath, 42, was under investigation by NHS over record-keeping at Rothwell Dental Surgery, which he ran with his wife and fellow dentist Dr Rajni Prasad in the city of Leeds.

An inquest heard last week that the father of three felt "bullied and harassed" and took his own life after receiving a letter from the NHS warning him that he could be reported to the General Dental Council.

"They behaved like bullies and drove a loyal NHS servant over the edge. He just couldn't take the anxiety", his 42-year-old wife told the inquest.

"When the letter came, that was the final straw. He gave everything to NHS. His reward for caring for thousands of patients no other practice would take was to be threatened with the most severe disciplinary action over administrative matters which we agreed straightaway needed improvement", she added.

According to the Sunday Mirror, Dr Kamath and his wife had for 10 years treated only NHS patients in an area of Leeds where there were no other NHS government-backed dentists.

The couple had taken on 10,000 patients, four times that of the average practice, to help out patients who could not afford the high costs of private dentistry.

Their record-keeping suffered in the process and Rajni Prasad found her husband with his wrists cut at their home in Pudsey, near Leeds, in December last year.

The British Dental Association has called for an inquiry into the circumstances behind the suicide of Dr Kamath.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Wakefield coroner David Hinchliff said: "There had been a complaint and an investigation, not about his ability as a dentist, but in relation to record-keeping which had put him and his wife under an intolerable strain. It seems he was in grave danger of being removed from the list of practitioners which would have ended his career. It appears all of this just became too much and he had taken action to end his own life", he said.

Hinchliff added that unreasonable pressure exerted on Dr Kamath by the trust "pushed a good man over the edge".

"We are happy that the investigation into Dr Kamath being undertaken was following National Clinical Assessment service advice. Safety and quality of service is our priority and so we will always investigate when complaints are received. This can be stressful for some but we try to work with providers to ensure the process runs smoothly", an NHS England spokesperson said.



Anti-Al Assad Syrian star performs in West Bank

August 12, 201

Bethlehem, West Bank: A West Bank visit by Syrian singer Asala Nasri, a prominent supporter of her country’s uprising, marked a rare appearance by a Syrian citizen in the Palestinian territories

Israel and Syria are longtime enemies who are still officially in a state of war with each other. Travel between the two countries is all but impossible, though some members of Israel’s Druze minority are allowed to cross into Syria to study or visit family.

Asala, who holds a Bahraini passport along with her Syrian one, performed in the West Bank on Saturday as part of a festival promoting tourism in the biblical city of Bethlehem. It was her first trip to the Palestinian territories, and Asala was enthusiastic about the experience at a Sunday press conference.

“Visiting Palestine has been always a dream that finally has come true,” she said.

Asala’s concert drew thousands of Palestinians and Arab Israelis, who were rewarded with traditional nationalist Palestinian and Syrian songs. The singer grew emotional as she sang the wistful lyrics to a Syrian tune: “God bring back the old days.”

The crowd seemed pleased to have the Syrian star in the West Bank. “We used to go to Jordan to see Arab singers like Asala, but now we can see them here. It’s great,” attendee Bisharah Hayek said.

Asala is an outspoken supporter of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

“From the beginning, I stood alongside the Syrian revolution, alongside the educated Syrians, nationalist, civilised and moderate youths and their goal of having a civil and democratic state,” Asala said on Sunday.

A group of Al Assad supporters staged a protest in Bethlehem against Asala’s visit, but police kept them away from the concert. The concert also drew criticism on social media websites.

Nasri received extensive honours from the Palestinian National Authority. President Mahmoud Abbas greeted her in Ramallah on Friday afternoon, and presidential guards have accompanied her on her tour. Asala also laid a wreath at the grave of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

The singer also toured Hebron and Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank during her trip. She is expected to visit Jerusalem on Monday before departing.



Dubai Women Who Feel Good About Going Organic

Melanie Swan

August 12, 2013 

DUBAI // Four women in Dubai took up a week-long organic food challenge requiring that 80 to 85 per cent of their daily diet contain organic produce to determine if turning organic could indeed have health benefits.

The results were surprising to some.

Adriana Mebarr, a mind coach and yoga teacher, was sceptical before the challenge, as she already has a very “clean” diet. But she is now convinced, even though the challenge only lasted a short period of time.

“I actually feel I have much more energy and don’t have the afternoon slumps. I have a much clearer mind already, too, as well as more stamina,” she said, which she noticed when doing her triathlon training.

“We always look too much at losing weight. For me, I have never had a problem with my weight but today there is so much focus on weight rather than health, having a better way of eating.”

Ola Fadda is a pharmacist by trade and said the experiment was interesting.

“Being organic doesn’t automatically mean being healthy so I’ve had to do a lot of research. It’s also about making the right choices,” she said.

However, she has noticed a difference in the short timeframe.

“I’ve already noticed I have higher energy levels, my digestion is working better, I have a better mood and I’m sleeping better.”

In addition, she said the organic food tastes better and more like the food she is used to back home in Jordan where everything comes from small, local farms.

“Because of my scientific background I’m really won over and it’s a big step to change my life,” she added.

Kelly Montoya, 28, a health coach, already eats around 75 per cent organic so has had a different experience to the other women.

“I haven’t experienced any of the things the others have been going through like the headaches from the caffeine or sugar withdrawal,” she said.

“Sometimes I can’t relate to very common problems that people have. I’m never tired and don’t have the things most people do and I can only attribute that to having a healthy diet.

“It doesn’t matter how much broccoli you eat if it’s not good. It’s going to have a repercussion whether in the body or mind.”

Her philosophy is to think of food as nutrition, not in terms of a diet.

“You don’t hear people saying they’ve been on a diet for 30 years. A diet is the food you eat every day. People just don’t really understand what they’re putting in their body and connect that to how they feel; for example, a stomachache that’s caused by all the sugar they maybe consumed.”

While back in New Zealand, Aimee-Rose Kennaugh would also eat locally grown produce and it was normal for families to keep animals.

She has found going organic has been more costly in Dubai. However, since doing the “Organic On Your Plate” challenge, where participants were provided with fruit and vegetables, flour, oats and quinoa, she can see the value in it.

“There’s certainly a benefit with dairy for it to be purer and I can see it as being an investment to buy organic. It’s actually not as big a price difference as I’d thought either,” Ms Kennaugh said.

Ms Montoya sees a healthy diet as being a better prevention than curing disease: “What you don’t pay at the front, you pay at the back. It’s better to live healthily now than pay for being sick later.”

Organised by Down to Earth Dubai, an independent, organic family-run grocery store, it was the brainchild of one of its employees, Heena Aswani. She herself went organic for a month, from the food she ate to the products she used on her hair and skin. And she agrees with Ms Montoya.

“Pay the farmer now and not the doctor later,” she said.

Each day participants were sent support e-mails with facts about the foods included in their bundles, such as coconut oil, and given recipe ideas. They were offered healthier alternatives, such as switching from regular flour to multi-grain flour or from sugar to agave nectar.

Tips such as healthy snack choices and vitamin and mineral contents of food are also given to help educate the pioneer participants.

“In just one month of doing everything organic back in March, I noticed such a difference and I wanted to take this to more people,” Ms Aswani said. “I had so much more energy than I’ve ever had before. It’s really about making better choices and this is what we are trying to show people through the challenge.”



Women ‘Own’ 60% Cover-Up (Tasattur) Businesses

August 12, 2013  

JEDDAH — A recent report by the ministries of commerce and labour has revealed that 60 percent of commercial registrations that are now subject to rectification are owned by women who are not actually practicing trade, but their businesses are run under what is known as Tasattur (cover-up) by male relatives, Al-Watan newspaper reported.

Most of these men are government employees who are not eligible to obtain commercial registrations. Sometimes they are run by expatriate workers in violation of residency and labor regulations.

According to Al-Watan, the data in the report was derived from the Hafiz program, which drops the name of every woman who possesses a commercial registration, apart from the current rectification programs that are being implemented by the labor offices in the Kingdom’s regions and governorates. The sources expect the number of these commercial registrations to decrease greatly after the amnesty period expires on Nov. 3.

In a statement to Al-Watan, Abdullah Basahel, member of the General Offices Committee in Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said the majority of commercial registrations, whose status is being rectified at present through procedures for transfer of sponsorship and change of profession, belong to women and are run by their male relatives.

This is through selling or renting the commercial registration in what is known as “Tasattur”, especially in the case of government employees who are not allowed to practice trade.

He said, “Not everything that is being rectified at present are commercial registrations practicing cover-up (Tasattur), but the majority of these commercial registrations which are run through Tasattur belong to women, especially in professions that are known to be managed through men. It is difficult for women to run businesses in areas like contracting, building materials, other construction activities and retail trade, so male relatives are given documented authorization to run them on their behalf”

Basahel said the response to the status rectification drive was still great, enven though it was less compared to the first grace period that was announced in April and ended on July 3.



Emirati Artist Amnah Sets Umm Al Quwain’s First World Record

August 12, 2013 

Dubai: An Emirati artist has set Umm Al Quwain’s first Guinness World Record with her largest display of handmade paper dolls at a single venue.

Paper artist Amnah Al Fard, a resident of Umm Al Quwain, succeeded in setting a new record for her 1,145 dolls made entirely of paper.

“This record is for the largest display of handmade paper dolls at a single venue. For the purpose of this record, a doll is described as a model of a human being, often used as a toy for children made only from paper. Each doll is three-dimensional, made from paper as part of a display,” Talal Omar, Guinness World Records country manager for the Mena region, told Gulf News.

The 1,145 different dolls, which measured between two to three inches in height, were displayed at the Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah on July 7. They were made using the quilling technique, otherwise known as paper-rolling or filigree. Quilling is an ancient art form that could be traced back to the 16th century when artists rolled pieces of thin strips of paper on a feather, or quill.

Amnah, who is currently abroad for a quilling competition, said she is happy to have set a new world record. “It is now official that this is a new Guinness World Record, the first of its kind around the world, the first in the field of paper quilling and the first from an Umm Al Quwain citizen,” Amnah said in an e-mail.

The army of three-dimensional dolls is the result of Amnah’s two years of hard work. One doll approximately took three hours to complete and one whole day to dry. Amnah said she spent a total of 3,435 hours on the project and used about 30,000 inches of paper and 4.5 kilograms of glue.



Jeddah-Based Woman Lyricist Wins Semifinals in UK Songwriting Contest

11 August 2013

Afra Naushad, a writer based in Jeddah, has won the semifinals in the lyrics category of the UK Songwriting Contest (UKSC).

The UK Songwriting Contest has a reputation as one of the world’s best songwriting events and is well known in the music business as an important launching pad for new talent. It was launched in 2002 in association with The BRIT Trust (the charity body of the BRIT Awards, Britain’s music industry’s awards) with the aim of discovering and encouraging new songwriting talent and promoting the craft of songwriting.

Naushad’s song ‘Run into the Wild’ was written for an alternative/psychedelic rock and rhythm and blues audience.

The lyrical composition of her song deliberated on themes of personal freedom, chasing one’s dreams and finding a place in this world.

Afra Naushad, 27, writes for various publications — including Arab News — about music, arts and culture. After winning the semifinals, she said: “It’s a great recognition for someone who is not from either the UK or the US. It’s tough if you’re from an Eastern country trying to break into the Western music industry. The contest was a good indicator of how it’s not entirely impossible. Perhaps because my song was not written with a generic/pop perspective it couldn’t win the finals. But a popular record label has expressed an interest for future collaboration, so I’m quite optimistic.”

Contestants in the UKSC are watched closely by the music industry’s leading producers and publishers, and many finalists and semi-finalists are ‘spotted’ and go on to enjoy thriving music careers.

This contest is often described in the media as “prestigious” because it is the only songwriting contest in the world that has had winning writers, finalists and semi-finalists signed by top producers such as Simon Cowell and others, and the only one established in association with respected bodies such as The BRIT Trust and Music Aid International.



Australia politics: Woman quits poll race, mistakes Islam for country

August 12, 2013 

CANBERRA: Stephanie Banister, a candidate from an anti-immigration party in Australia, apologised and quit the election race after she was widely mocked for mistaking Islam for a country.

Banister, 27, of One Nation Party was contesting a seat in Queensland. She had only been in politics for 48 hours.

Banister also confused the term ‘haram’  with the Holy Quran and suggested Jews worshipped Jesus Christ.

The interview, which aired early on Wednesday, went viral on social media.

“I don’t oppose Islam as a country, but I do feel that their laws should not be welcome here in Australia,” Banister told Seven News.

She also announced her withdrawal from the September 7 national election.

“With the way Channel Seven edited my interview, I was left quite the fool,” Banister said in a brief statement.

“I’d like to apologise to One Nation, to my friends and family, for any embarrassment this has brought to them”.