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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 20 Jun 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Egypt’s Al-Azhar Retreats from Fatwa on Beating Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 Jun 2019

Malawi’s Members of Parliament on Wednesday elected fellow legislator, Catherine Gotani Hara, as speaker of Parliament, making her the country’s first female speaker for the August House.



 Pakistan to Create 1,000 Courts to Tackle Violence against Women

 Saudi Arabia Reaffirms Support for Empowerment of Women

 Malawi Parliament Elects First-Ever Female Speaker

 Food Blogger Claims She Was Attacked At Starbucks for Wearing a Hijab

 Coalition of Muslim Women of KW Asks Police to Help In the Fight against Islamophobia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Egypt’s Al-Azhar Retreats from Fatwa on Beating Women

June 20, 2019

CAIRO — The grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar said on his May 10 Ramadan television program that a wife must not leave the house without her husband’s permission, which he deemed a necessity for the household's stability and cohesion. Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb stressed during his program that it is normal for a wife to ask permission to go out, except when visiting her parents. He added that a woman can only go to work if her husband approves. Otherwise she must remain at home.

Tayeb made another controversial statement May 20, when he said that equality between men and women goes against nature.

Tayeb dropped yet another bombshell May 30 with another fatwa allowing husbands to beat their wives as long as no bones are broken, sparking great controversy on social media in Egypt and the Arab world. It was not long before Tayeb retracted it June 5, calling for regulations to criminalize the beating of women.

Some Egyptians supported Tayeb, but others deemed his remarks restrictive to women’s freedom and in direct conflict with the constitution. Mahmoud Mhanna, a member of the Supreme Council of Scholars at Al-Azhar, said that according to Sharia, a woman must obey her husband.

“Tayeb did not say anything strange or new. His statements are in line with the Islamic religion. The majority of old and modern scholars agree that a wife has to ask her husband’s permission before leaving the house. For some scholars, women have to ask permission even to visit their parents. According to Sharia, a man is also allowed to hit his wife but not brutally,” Mhanna told Al-Monitor via phone.

Mhanna explained that under Sharia, if a woman disobeys her husband, he has the right to discipline her, either by “lightly” beating her without causing her major physical harm or by refraining from having sex with her. He added that the prophet used to beat his wives with a "miswak," a tooth-cleaning twig.

Mohammad al-Chahat al-Gunaydi, a member of Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy, concurred with Mhanna’s views. He stressed that a woman should not leave the house to visit her parents without the permission of her husband, noting that women have a duty to obey men in Islam.

“There are several examples in Islam that support this claim. Aisha, the prophet’s wife, used to ask him if she could visit her parents,” Gunaydi told Al-Monitor.

Meanwhile, Islam Barakat, a researcher on religious affairs in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, believes that this fatwa greatly undermines the rights of women, subordinating them to men and disregarding their independence. Barakat told Al-Monitor that these statements are in direct conflict with the Egyptian Constitution, which provides for equality between men and women in civil, political, economic, social and cultural matters.

He also explained that the constitution also provides for personal freedom and freedom of movement, which were also undermined by this fatwa. Barakat questioned the timing of the fatwa, issued while Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been promoting women’s roles in society.

Mona Ezzat, director of the New Woman Foundation's Women and Work program, told Al-Monitor that such fatwas belong to backward times and violate basic human values, the law, human rights, the constitution and the principle of gender equality. Ezzat added that many women working for women’s rights condemned these fatwas and widely denounced them on social media, prompting Al-Azhar to back away from the last fatwa and demand that beating women be criminalized.

She explained that Egyptian society rejects such views as incitement against women, saying she believes that the real problem is that religion supports such backward concepts.



Pakistan to Create 1,000 Courts to Tackle Violence against Women

20 Jun 2019

Pakistan is to set up more than 1,000 courts dedicated to tackling violence against women, the country’s top judge has announced, seeking to tackle a problem activists say the criminal justice system has long neglected.

Chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the special courts would allow victims to speak out without fear of retaliation in the conservative Muslim country, where domestic violence is often seen as taboo.

Pakistan sees thousands of cases of violence against women every year, from rape and acid attacks to sexual assault, kidnappings and so-called honour killings.

“We are going to have 1,016 gender-based violence courts across Pakistan, at least one such court apiece in every district,” Khosa said in an address to fellow judges broadcast on national television. “The atmosphere of these courts will be different from other courts so that complainants can speak their heart without any fear,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent watchdog, reported at least 845 incidents of sexual violence against women in its 2018 report.

There were no comparative figures and the commission had previously said violence against women went largely unreported, particularly in rural areas, where poverty and stigma prevented victims from speaking out.

The country was ranked the sixth most dangerous for women in a Thomson Reuters Foundation a survey of global experts last year.

The new courts will operate in existing courthouses, but will hold domestic violence hearings separately from other cases to enable victims to testify in confidence.

A pilot court of this kind was opened in 2017 in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.

Local high court chief justice Mansoor Ali Shah said at the time that women were the most vulnerable members of society and that one in every three had been a victim of physical or psychological violence.

Human rights campaigners said the Lahore court had been a success and welcomed the move to expand the programme.

Romana Bashir, who heads the Peace and Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working on women’s rights, said it was “a wonderful safeguarding measure”.

“Certainly women will be encouraged and feel strengthened to speak up against gender based violence. Consequently, women will be able to get justice,” she said.

Fauzia Viqar, a women’s rights campaigner who advised the Punjab government until last month, said studies had shown the performance of such dedicated courts to be “many times better than other courts”.



Saudi Arabia Reaffirms Support for Empowerment of Women

June 20, 2019

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has re-emphasized its commitment to the empowerment of women during a high-profile meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

The Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, told a session of the UN Women Executive Board that 2018 had been “the year of transformation” for the country.

Thanking UN Women for its work in achieving most of the first-year goals of its 2018-2021 strategic plan, he said: “It (2018) saw the adoption of a number of decisions that contributed to the support and empowerment of Saudi women and their access to many new fields.

“The Kingdom values UN Women’s contributions to supporting women’s political rights, empowering them economically and supporting the development of government bodies, corporations, international organizations and policies to provide women with better opportunities and help them benefit from financial services and productive resources.”

Al-Mouallimi told delegates: “This year, Saudi Arabia’s experience was highlighted in two of UN Women’s performance results, ‘women’s leading role in governance systems and their ability to equally benefit from them.’

“The Kingdom’s leadership released many orders to eradicate discriminatory practices against women, such as the decision of April 17, 2017, requiring government bodies not to ask women for consent (from male guardians) when providing them with services.

“A royal decree appointed Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan as the Kingdom’s ambassador to the US, making her the first woman to ever be appointed as an ambassador,” he added.

Al-Mouallimi highlighted the Kingdom’s decision to allow women to drive.

“The Kingdom also launched the ‘Wusool’ program to transport working women, and established a center to help women find daycare to boost their participation in the labor market and support their professional and private stability.”

He pointed to a number of decisions taken by the Saudi judiciary to promote women’s rights, including a 120 percent increase in the number of female attorneys, the establishment of a center dedicated to the implementation of custody provisions to provide an ideal environment, and the setting up of a fund to support divorced women and their children.

Al-Mouallimi commended UN Women for helping member states through capacity building and promoting dialogue, and he stressed the Kingdom’s keenness to boost cooperation with the organization.

In a separate UN session, Saudi Arabia emphasized its central role in preserving world harmony and peace and its international clout as leader of the Islamic world.

Speaking during an informal briefing of member states on the UN strategy and plan of action on hate discourse, which was held at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting, also at the UN headquarters, Al-Mouallimi told attendees that the world was facing many challenges.

He said tolerance, understanding and discussion were key factors in resolving those challenges, and he referred to a Muslim World League conference held last May at the UN’s New York offices, which saw senior religious leaders from various faiths, prominent intellectuals, politicians, civil and government officials from around the world, gathering with the single aim of overcoming the discourse of hatred.



Malawi Parliament Elects First-Ever Female Speaker

Moses Michael Phiri  


Lawmakers in Malawi on Wednesday elected a female member of parliament as speaker for the first time in history of the Southeast African nation.

Catherine Gotani Hara from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) amassed 97 votes against 93 of Esther Mcheka Chilenje of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The 193-seat parliament was dissolved in March this year ahead of fresh elections on May 21.

“The victory of Hara as first-ever female speaker of parliament is what every Malawian hoped for. Her election should encourage women that if you invest in girls, they can also become leaders,” Eisenhower Mkaka, MCP lawmaker and party spokesperson, told a local station Zodiak after announcement of the voting results.

Viwemi Chavula, team leader of the 50-50 campaign, a consortium of civil rights group which campaigns for 50% representation of women in public offices, has described the election of Hara as a milestone for Malawi.

“It has been our aim to increase women’s representation in leadership and decision making positions. The election of the first female speaker of parliament is a huge achievement for Malawi,” Chavula told Anadolu Agency.

Hara served on several ministerial positions including that of health and gender under Malawi’s first women president Joyce Banda.



Food Blogger Claims She Was Attacked At Starbucks for Wearing a Hijab

June 20, 2019

A popular food blogger alleges that she was recently attacked for wearing a hijab, claiming that neither bystanders nor employees at the Starbucks where the incident occurred did anything to help her.

Reps for the coffee chain have since told Fox News they are investigating the incident.

Nur Ashour, a Dallas, Texas-based food blogger and mom of two, took to social media on June 16 to share the harrowing allegations.

“Today I got harassed by a woman for wearing a hijab. The sad part was it was Starbucks and not a single employee or bystander said a word to her,” Ashour tweeted, in a post that has since been liked over 194,000 times. “She threw things in my face and said horrific things. Had the roles been reversed, I guarantee the reactions would have differed.”

“I had my 8 month old daughter with me and my three year old nearby. I was so shook up I had to leave immediately because I feared for the safety of my family,” she continued. “Had I not approached a security officer outside, not a single person at Starbucks thought to even check on me.”

“It’s really sad that I have to explain to my 3 year old that people can hate someone so much because of their religion or the way they dress. This is such a small thing compared to the hatred other Muslims experience on a daily basis,” Ashour went on. “America, do better.”

The Instagram-popular foodie elaborated that the female aggressor bumped her from behind and threw coffee sleeves at her, while yelling at her, demanding that she leave the store and even following her out of the establishment.

Though the 25-year-old blogger did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment on the story, Yahoo Lifestyle was offered the following statement on Ashour’s behalf from the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Dallas/Fort Worth.

"American Muslims, and particularly Muslim women, face an increased threat from Islamophobes," CAIR-DFW legal director Dontrey Tatum told the outlet. "We urge law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime."

"Hate crimes are on the rise throughout the United States, including here in Dallas," the organization’s interim executive director Ekram Haque added. "Earlier this year at the Dallas Reunion Tower, another American Muslim woman was verbally and physically attacked apparently based on her identity as a Muslim woman."

Moving forward, reps for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Dallas/Fort Worth are urging witnesses with any information on the alleged attack to contact law enforcement officials.

When contacted for comment, reps for Starbucks offered Fox News the following statement:

“We are taking this claim very seriously, have connected with the customer, and are working with her directly to understand what took place. There is absolutely no tolerance for any type of discrimination in our stores,” a spokesperson said on June 19.

“Customers who exhibit discriminatory behavior are not welcome in our stores,” the rep continued. “We know our customers visit Starbucks to engage in a warm and welcoming environment.”

“When customers do not have the experience they come to expect at Starbucks, we work quickly to address it,” they concluded.



Coalition of Muslim Women of KW Asks Police to Help In the Fight against Islamophobia

JUNE 20, 2019

WATERLOO REGION — The Coalition of Muslim Women of KW came to the police services board Wednesday asking for help in the fight against Islamophobia.

In a presentation to the board meeting, Sarah Shafiq asked police to use the term Islamophobia rather than the safer word, racism.

The coalition would also like to see police set up a mechanism to document and track hate incidents, and more training for officers.

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin told the board that more fulsome training on Islamophobia will occur in the fall.

He said the recommendations offered by the coalition are already being considered by the service's equity and inclusion unit.

"When there is national incident where Muslims are targeted, we can predict the next day the challenges faced across our community," Larkin said.

He said police track hate crime, but not hate incidents. "There is some work we need to do in the record management system," he said.

The coalition presented a report from a forum on Islamophobia that it held in Kitchener last November.

The report, done in partnership with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, indicates local Muslims feel targeted because of their faith. Many of those who have slurs and hateful comments directed at them are women.

And they are fearful of reporting the hate incidents to others, especially police.

"The Muslim community feels misunderstood by the mischaracterization of Islam and is hurt by the widespread fear and suspicions they face from the wider community," the report said.

The report said Muslims often feel a "collective guilt" when someone of the same faith commits terrorism around the world.

Fauzia Mazhar, executive director of the coalition, said the task of educating the community about Islam and Muslims shouldn't be solely the responsibility of the Muslim community.

"We want people to recognize that Islamophobia exists in our community and it impacts your quality of life and well-being," she said.

"We want people to understand the scope of the challenge," she said. Often she hears people deny that there is a problem. "There is nothing like that here" they say to her.

Mazhar said most Muslims facing discrimination don't want to talk about the hate directed at them.

"I don't want to talk about it," said Mazhar, who added that she was targeted during last fall's municipal election when she ran for a seat on Kitchener council.

Mazhar noted a situation in which a Muslim mother called police when her teenage daughter had her head scarf pulled from her head. But soon after she called police back and asked that they not come to the house in a cruiser and in uniform because neighbours would assume it was a domestic incident.

Mazhar said education is key, but she asked: "Who's responsibility is it to know better?"

Larkin said he would like help from the coalition to assist police with people who want to report hate incidents but need assurance that they will be heard.

"This is safe place. We can remind people that they can come to police and report," he said.




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