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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 May 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Egyptian Women Use Ancient Indonesian Martial Arts to Fight Abuse

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 May 2019

Munera Yousufuza, who was until recently serving as director of programs coordination on cultural, political and social affairs in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the President, has been appointed as deputy defense minister.



 Pak's Sindh University Cancels Admission of Woman with ISIS Background

 Backlash over the Women’s Mosque of Canada Is Predictable – And Misplaced

 Qatari Women Link Miscarriages to Evil Eye, Jinns

 LHC to Hear Plea of Women Married To Chinese Nationals

 Munera Yousufzada Becomes the First Afghan Woman to Be Appointed As Deputy Defence Minister of Afghanistan

 Turkey's First Lady to Address WHO Event

 Women Bring Light to Remote Villages on Islands of Zanzibar

 Pakistani Girl Commits Suicide Due To Social Media Blackmailing

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Egyptian Women Use Ancient Indonesian Martial Arts to Fight Abuse

May 20, 2019

In the heart of Egypt’s capital, an ancient Indonesian martial arts sport is helping dozens of women stand up to harassment, reports Reuters.

With the help of Indonesian students, over 1,200 women and children are learning the sport at a cultural centre in Cairo.

“Of course there are problems in the street,” Egyptian teenager Rahma Hatem said during a break from training.

“If someone comes near me, I’m able to defend myself well. I have confidence now and no one can harass me because I can face them.”

“Pencak Silat” gained prominence in Egypt in 2003 but started to increase in popularity in 2011, said trainer Roqaya Samaloosi.

The women, mostly teenagers and young adults, gather in the Indonesian Cultural Centre weekly and train to enhance self-defence skills and fitness.

At one recent session, women wearing red uniforms paired with black head covers sat in a circle around two women exchanging kicks and punches. The women clapped when one of the fighters took down her opponent.

Experts surveyed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2017 ranked Cairo as the world’s most dangerous megacity for women, based on lack of protection from sexual violence, harmful cultural practices, and poor access to healthcare and finance.

Women are frequently cat-called in the streets.

Pencak Silat dates back to the sixth century, where it was practised on Sumatra island and the Malay peninsula.

Two kingdoms, the Sriwijaya in Sumatra and the Majapahit on Java island, used the fighting skills and between the 7th and 16th century ruled much of what is now Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Influences of Hindu weapons, Nepalese music, Indian grappling styles, Siamese costumes, Arabian weapons and Chinese fighting methods are found in Pencak Silat due to trade, migration and wars.

Pencak is the performance aspect of the discipline, while Silat is the fighting and self-defence version of the sport.

Silat has many different techniques but players usually focus on strikes, joint manipulation and throws. One point is rewarded for punches, two for kicks and three for takedowns in three two-minute bouts.



Pak's Sindh University Cancels Admission of Woman with ISIS Background

May 20, 2019

KARACHI: The University of Sindh in Pakistan has cancelled the admission of a 22-year-old woman student, who received weapons training from the ISIS in Syria and was part of a failed plot to carry out a suicide attack on a church in Lahore.

Naureen Leghari, a second-year student of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) in Jamshoro, Sindh, went missing in February 2017 from his native town of Hussainabad, a suburb of Hyderabad. She was arrested after two months from Lahore following an encounter in which her associate Ali was killed by security forces.

After her arrest, LUMHS cancelled her admission. She then got admission in the English Department of the University of Sindh in November 2018 but when the varsity got knowledge of her background, it cancelled her admission, the News reported.

Her father Dr Abdul Jabbar Leghari is working at the University as a professor in Dr MA Kazi Institute of Chemistry.

Naureen and her father have approached Sindh High Court filing a joint constitutional petition against the University of Sindh, praying that according to article K-25 of Constitution, the University management could not deny her right of education.

Vice Chancellor Fateh Burfat told the media that University management is verifying the facts that why Naureen was expelled from LUMHS and after getting verification from law enforcement agencies, it will decide about her.

University Spokesman Nadir Ali Mugheri said that she concealed facts about cancellation of her previous admission while applying at Sindh University.

"When the administration of the University came to know about the facts regarding annulment of her admission at LUMHS, it cancelled her admission," he said.

Naureen at the time of her arrest had confessed to her involvement in terrorist activities.

In a confessional statement which was played during a press conference by Pakistan's Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor here, Naureen said that she was to be used by the Islamic State as a suicide bomber on an attack to be conducted on a church on Easter Sunday.

She said they were given two suicide jackets, four grenade and some bullets by the ISIS to carry out the mission. However, their mission was foiled by the security forces who killed one militant and arrested two others, including Naureen.



Backlash over the Women’s Mosque of Canada Is Predictable – And Misplaced


May 21, 2019

Across the country, makeshift mosques are popping up in various towns and cities. Many Canadian Muslims are observing Ramadan and renting out community centres, or taking up space in each other’s living rooms, basements and local dining halls to join in congregational prayers before breaking fast or to perform extra evening prayers.

There isn’t anything controversial about these gatherings. As meals are set out on tables, patterned prayer rugs, large colourful linens or simple mats are laid out nearby. Men, women and children eventually line up together in prayer.

Yet, one such pop-up gathering has received particular attention – and not all of it positive. A few weeks before Ramadan, a group of women launched the Women’s Mosque of Canada. The inaugural Friday prayers were held inside Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto. Roughly 40 Muslim women and allies from various faith traditions listened to co-founder Farheen Khan give the sermon.

While the prayers proceeded in tranquility, reaction to the event was less calm. The debate that emerged once again symbolizes the divide that continues to exist in our communities when it comes to the place of women in traditional sacred spaces.

Why do we need this, wondered people writing in an online discussion group of more than 300 Toronto Muslim activists, leaders and scholars and posting to the Women’s Mosque’s Facebook page. One community leader admonished the effort, saying there was nothing in Islamic tradition to support the notion of a women-only mosque. Others suggested the effort would only divide people and would reinforce harmful stereotypes about the oppression of women.

Then there were the supporters, including several men who have themselves witnessed the unequal treatment of women and girls. They are sometimes banished to cramped rooms and poorly maintained areas, or made invisible behind barriers – physically and spiritually separated from a wider community in which they expect to belong.

“It’s been 30 years. How long should I tell my daughters to wait before they get taken as equal partners where they worship?” asked Naeem Siddiqui, a long-time community advocate.

Many women have decided they’ve already waited long enough.

Ms. Khan, herself deeply tied to the traditional mosque environment, was hoping to avoid any backlash. She simply aims to provide an opportunity for women and girls to regularly gather for Friday prayers and together reclaim their religious inheritance.

“Like many women, I grew up in a religious family and attended mosque. In fact, my father was one of the founders of the first mosque in Mississauga, so faith is an essential part of my life,” she wrote in a recent essay for NOW Magazine. “But as I got older I felt less connected to the experience. I didn’t see myself reflected in the scholarship, in the language and in the programming offered to women. Women’s Mosque of Canada is an attempt to engage women, like myself, to reconnect with their religion in a space with other women.”

That Muslim women, often facing the brunt of Islamophobia, need a place to heal is not lost on many. “Sadly, the reality today is that many women feel welcome everywhere except in what we believe are the best places on Earth, the mosques,” Ottawa Imam Sikander Hashemi acknowledged in an e-mail.

Indeed, a 2016 Environics survey of Muslims in Canada confirmed that women were much less likely to attend places of worship than their male counterparts.

Canadian filmmaker Zarqa Nawaz chronicled the growing alienation she felt in her own local community in a 2005 National Film Board documentary, Me and the Mosque. Little has changed since then, although many continue to push for better representation of all levels of mosque governance and participation.

Following in-depth studies of American mosques titled Re-Imagining Muslim Spaces, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding launched a toolkit in 2017 to encourage religious leaders to nurture more welcoming spaces. Other American national institutions have similarly called for more inclusion and provided advice on how to achieve it. Last year, the Muslim Council of Britain launched a six-month program to train women to become mosque leaders.

“Muslim women, Muslim male allies and non-Muslim supporters of mosque reform are participating in one of the most significant struggles presently happening in our global Islamic communities,” Canadian researcher Fatimah Jackson-Best wrote in 2014 for the magazine Aquila Style. “Mosque reform is not some fringe movement or a bunch of troublemakers trying to jeopardize the image of Islam. This is about spiritual equality and destroying archaic notions that are based in culture and custom and have little to do with the religion.”

Growing alienation has sparked the UnMosqued movement in which women, young people and converts eschew traditional institutions, including multimillion-dollar mosques, in search for alternatives or third spaces. These are formal and informal gatherings outside of traditional religious centres and homes, where there is often less rigidity and an authentic embrace of diversity.

Those anxious about the Women’s Mosque of Canada should be less concerned with the thought of women reconnecting with their faith and instead commit to addressing the schism that drove them out of the mosques in the first place.



Qatari Women Link Miscarriages to Evil Eye, Jinns

Ayilah Chaudhary

May 20, 2019

Eman al-Hammadi was excited to start a family, but her three consecutive pregnancies ended in miscarriages. She attributes the tragedies to "al-ayn" — the evil eye — which is an Islamic belief that misfortune is transmitted from one person to another out of jealousy or envy.

“Even though I [was not particularly superstitious], I slowly started believing in the evil eye after I had my second miscarriage,” Hammadi, a 24-year-old Qatari student, told Al-Monitor.

Many Qatari women ascribe miscarriages to supernatural forces such as jinns (evil spirits), the evil eye or simply the “will of God.” In 2017, 60 Qatari women, 20 pregnant and 40 who had miscarried in the last six months, and their families were interviewed on how they felt about the miscarriages in light of their religion and culture. The report was published by BMC Public Health, a research platform, and written by researchers from University College London, Hamad Medical Corporation and Weill Cornell Medical College Qatar.

The study showed that 85% of the participants had experienced between one and three miscarriages.

At least one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage around the world. But as women in the Arab Gulf countries are encouraged to have many children, they experience multiple pregnancies, often one right after the other. These women are at risk of multiple losses, which they and their families are more likely to see as the will of God, rather than as a result of health or medical reasons.

“The religious factor is very strong here, so patients deal with any bad news through their beliefs,” Dr. Mona Mohamed, a family planning physician at Gharrafat al-Rayyan Health Center, told Al-Monitor. “When I practiced in the United Kingdom, the mother or father would ask if they could have done anything different. But here they don’t really look for a medical answer — they turn to religion.”

Common causes of miscarriage include age, a weakened immune system and inter-family marriages that result in chromosomal abnormalities. According to a 2009 study published by the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 54% of marriages is between cousins in Qatar, the highest of all Gulf nations.

Only one respondent of the 2017 study named inter-family marriage as a possible explanation for her miscarriage.

With Qatari nationals comprising only about 12% of the country’s 2.6 million population, choices of “socially acceptable” spouses of the same nationality, religion and status, even those unrelated, are limited, the report said. It added that many Arabs consider inter-family marriages religiously acceptable according to interpretations of the Quran and hadiths.

“Many couples do not understand these medical facts,” Dr. Mandy Abushama, who works at Feto Maternal Medical Center, told Al-Monitor. She also said that many of her patients were not aware of how common miscarriages are, especially in the first trimester. “It’s like breastfeeding; nobody speaks about miscarriages although they are so natural.”

The report’s lead author, Susie Kilshaw, a medical anthropologist at University College London, told Al-Monitor, “While miscarriage is incredibly common, the fact that it was taboo meant that I did not know others who had miscarried, which led me to feel isolated and anxious that there was something wrong with me.” Kilshaw herself had a miscarriage before working on the report.

The report found that, among the women interviewed, 33% believed the evil eye had something to do with the miscarriage. Many also believe that the evil eye can be deflected by "ruqyah," a preventive spiritual healing conducted by regular recitations of the Quran.

Many Qatari women will not announce their pregnancies until they feel spiritually secure. “I made sure to announce my pregnancy after three months. I had to make sure my baby was safe before telling family members,” Fatima Ibrahim, a 22-year-old Qatari student who has a 9-month-old daughter, told Al-Monitor.

Abushama also advises couples to refrain from telling their family and friends about a pregnancy until 12 weeks have passed. “It’s for the simple reason that the trauma is multiplied when there is pressure from the family to procreate and your mother-in-law is blaming you,” she said.

Most of the study’s participants cited the Islamic conviction that God’s will ended their pregnancies. “After the shock that there is no longer a fetal heart rate, they make sense of it by saying that it was Allah's will," said Mohamed.

The study highlights the extent of people's faith, and the role Islam plays in Qatari society dealing with miscarriages. In fact, the authors wrote that miscarriages are considered shameful and taboo, and that the experience causes psychological distress for women.

“The psychological aspect here is ignored. You learn to cope mentally by yourself, and you don’t know if it is better or worse if you cope with the sadness alone,” Fatima Hamad, a 26-year-old Qatari student, told Al-Monitor in tears.

Clinical experts referenced in the study emphasize that religious coping mechanisms and cultural frameworks are imperative for improving health-care practices. “Medical institutions are very agnostic,” said Abdulaziz Sachedina, an Islamic studies and biomedical ethics professor at George Mason University in the United States. “They [medical personnel] don’t have any religious or cultural training even though that is a large part of understanding patients.”

Abushama agrees saying that fertility clinics in Qatar could be more sensitive by providing parent grieving rooms. “The best coping mechanism for a grieving couple is understanding that miscarriages are natural,” she said. “All societies find comfort in superstitions, but there is more consolation in factual knowledge.”



LHC to Hear Plea of Women Married To Chinese Nationals

May 21, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday accepted a petition against the harassment of Pakistani women married to Chinese men by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the retention of their identity documents by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

“The FIA is keeping the MoFA from verifying the nikahnamas. The court should order the ministry to verify the nikahnamas of women married to Chinese men,” the lawyers for the petitioner told the court.

The petition sought that FIA be stopped from harassing women and their Chinese husbands, and that the petitioners’ passports and other documents be returned to them.

Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem decided on the maintainability of the petition, which was filed by Komal Shehzadi, a woman married to a Chinese man. Shehzadi was represented by Mian Waheed and Advocate Junaid Ghafoor.

The FIA and MoFA, made respondents to the petition, were ordered to submit their replies to the petition in the next hearing.

Last week, two women married to Chinese men had sought action against the FIA for illegally keeping them from travelling to China with their husbands.

The FIA has over the past three weeks arrested scores of Chinese nationals and their suspected local abettors from various parts of the country in connection with its investigation into a transnational gang allegedly involved in contracting fake marriages between Chinese men and Pakistani women, who are later forced into prostitution and the illegal organ trade.

The FO has backed the Chinese government’s stance on the matter and said that Beijing has offered Islamabad “all possible cooperation” in the matter.

“The relevant authorities from both the governments are in close contact on this issue,” the spokesperson had said in a press release. “The government of China had offered all possible cooperation on the issue, which was highly appreciated. Both sides are closely coordinating their efforts.”

The FO spokesperson also said that “it is essential to avoid sensationalism” and that “sensitive matters should be reported only on the basis of established facts.”



Munera Yousufzada Becomes the First Afghan Woman to Be Appointed As Deputy Defence Minister of Afghanistan

19 May 2019

Munera Yousufuza, who was until recently serving as director of programs coordination on cultural, political and social affairs in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the President, has been appointed as deputy defence minister.

Sources in the Ministry of Defense have confirmed that Ms. Yousufzada has been appointed as deputy defense minister for training affairs.

She has previously served as deputy governor of Kabul, spokesperson of the Independent Directorate of the Local Governance and some other senior governmental positions.

News regarding the appointment of Ms. Yousufzada as deputy defense minister emerged late on Saturday which attracted mixed reactions among the people, mainly in social media.

Reacting to criticisms regarding the appointment of the first woman as deputy defense minister, presidential spokesperson Shah Hussain Murtazwi said similar criticisms were also raised when Husan Jalil was appointed as deputy interior minister.

In a statement posted in his Facebook, Murazawi has said the judgement of certain men in social media is similar to the judgement of the furious men who had lynched Farkhunda.

Murtazawi further added that women are serving in senior security and defense positions in other parts of the world and similarly Afghan women have a successful management in different institutions.



Turkey's First Lady to Address WHO Event

Bayram Altug  



Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan will deliver a speech at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva on Tuesday, according to her press office.

As the guest honor of the World Health Organization (WHO), Erdogan is set to speak about women's and children's health in a panel discussion to be held at the World Intellectual Property Organization's headquarters in the Swedish capital.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, also is expected to attend the event.

Among the attendees of the panel discussion are officials from the UN, World Bank Group and representatives of other international organizations.

The 72nd World Health Assembly will be held on May 20-28 in Geneva.



Women Bring Light to Remote Villages on Islands of Zanzibar

May 21, 2019

KINYASINI, Tanzania: A s a single mother, Salama Husein Hajja was low in the pecking order in her village in Tanzania and struggling to eke out a living for her family as a farmer.

But now she hopes to gain status and a stable income after being trained as a community solar engineer for a project bringing light to scores of rural villages where no homes are connected to electricity on the islands of Zanzibar.

Grandmothers and single mothers — many of whom have never learned to read or write — are among those being trained under the program which they say could transform lives in their poor fishing and farming communities.

“We struggle a lot to get lighting,” said Hajja, 36, a vegetable farmer and mother of three children from a village on Unguja, the largest and most populated island in the Zanzibar archipelago.

“When you don’t have electricity, you can’t do many things like teaching children. It forces you to use a lamp. The smoke is harmful, the eyes and the chest are affected.

“When the electricity is there, it’s better.”

Life is challenging for women in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania made up of numerous islands where half the population lives below the poverty line.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016.

Many poorer and rural families also lack access to electricity, compounding the challenges they face.

The island region’s entire energy grid depends on an underground cable connecting it to the mainland which was damaged in 2009, plunging it into darkness for three months.

Furthermore, only about half of houses in Zanzibar are connected to mains power, with many of the remainder forced to rely on polluting fuel lamps for light.


“We only use a lamp inside,” said Aisha Ali Khatib, a mother of nine, training as a solar engineer alongside Hajja at the Barefoot College in Kinyasini village on Unguja.

“The lamp uses paraffin ... Buying one spoon of paraffin is 200 shillings ($0.09) but I can go for two days without making 200 shillings.”

Solar power offers solutions to connect rural villages with little prospect of getting mains power and increase resilience and sustainability.

Millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa are getting access to electricity through off-grid renewables, the International Energy Agency said last year, which forecasted strong demand to boost growth in the sector up to 2022.

The solar training scheme offered by Barefoot College, a social enterprise that began in India and is now working in East Africa, also focuses specifically on training women.

The project was designed to address the fact that women are much less able to leave their villages due to poverty and family links while also empowering women in Tanzania’s male-dominated society by offering them decently paid work.

Communities in participating villages are asked to nominate two women aged between 35 and 55 to leave their families and travel to the college to train as engineers.

Many of those chosen lack formal education, but they are recognized as people who can command authority and who are deeply embedded in the life of their villages.

“When you educate a woman, you educate a whole community,” said Fatima Juma Hajji, a solar engineer trainer at Barefoot college in Zanzibar.

“When you educate a man, he will not stay in the village, he will go away but when you educate a woman, she goes back to her village and helps improve.”

Women on the project spend five months living and training at the college, after which they return to their villages and set up solar lighting systems for their family and neighbors.

Households pay a few dollars a month for power – a cheaper option than buying paraffin or electricity from the grid.

Some of the money is used to pay the engineers a salary in return for maintaining the village’s equipment and funds raised can also be plowed back into community projects.

Women on the scheme said they had benefitted by gaining a stable income stream, and a new sense of independence and respect within their villages.

“We have been given a better life because after we leave here, we will be engineers and will go back to teach others,” said Hajja.

“When I go back I will have status. I will be knowledgeable and I will be proud.” ($1 = 2,300.0000 Tanzanian shillings) (Writing by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.



Pakistani Girl Commits Suicide Due To Social Media Blackmailing

May 20, 2019

Dubai: A Pakistani girl has committed suicide by consuming poison due to social-media blackmailing.

A letter found by the deceased’s family revealed that she was being blackmailed by a boy and his friends over edited pictures, Geo TV reported.

The group also received Rs50, 000 (Dh1275) from the girl through blackmailing.

Police said that the suspects are on the run and search is underway to catch them.

The suspects had earlier sent an edited picture to the girl’s fiancé, following which her engagement was called off, according to police.

Women face frequent abuse on social media in Pakistan. According to a report by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) in May 2017, 40 per cent women in the country face various forms of harassment on the internet.

Pakistan has experienced a surge in social media usage with more than 40 million Facebook users. The rapid growth has sparked an online debate about misogyny, with some women highlighting daily hate and pornographic messaging.




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