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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 22 Feb 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Fifth of UK Women Experience Sexual Assault at School, Study Says

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 Feb 2016 

Photo: More than three in five respondents said they never reported incidents to a teacher Getty Images


 Bad Boy Appeal Entices Militant Brides, Says Muslim Comic

 Where Are All the Middle East’s Female Directors?

 Halifax Heroes: Local Woman Creating Peace and Unity in Her Community

 Sudan: Role of Women in Building Inter-Religious Dialogue and Peace

 Uniqlo USA Launches Fashion Line for Muslim Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Fifth of UK Women Experience Sexual Assault at School, Study Says

February 22, 2016

A fifth of women were exposed to unwanted sexual contact as schoolgirls, a survey suggests.

In a poll, 22 per cent reported having some experience of sexual touching, groping, flashing, sexual assault or rape while they were “in or around” school, the children’s charity Plan UK said.

Ten per cent of those said the contact happened sometimes or frequently, with the rest saying it took place rarely. More than three in five respondents (61 per cent) said they never reported incidents to a teacher or another person in authority.

Tanya Barron, of Plan UK, said: “Our findings show that schoolgirls have been suffering in silence for decades.

“It is extremely worrying to see that girls have been experiencing unwanted sexual contact in or around school since at least the 1940s.”

The findings are based on over 3,700 interviews with Britons aged 18 and over, including more than 2,000 women.

Across both genders almost one in three adults (32 per cent) aged between 18 and 24 and one in 10 who are 65 or over (11 per cent) reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact in or around school, according to the research.

Plan UK are calling for a number of measures including support for teachers to prevent and manage incidents of unwanted sexual contact in schools.

They also call for high-quality, statutory sex and relationships education to help young people understand about healthy relationships and consent; ensuring bullying policies address gender and violence against girls; and providing safe environments for children to report their concerns to staff.

Ms Barron added: “This is a global problem. Girls and boys need clear messages that unwanted sexual contact in or around school is not acceptable.”

A government spokesman said: “No young woman should be made to feel unsafe or suffer harassment in any circumstance.

“Sexual assault is a crime and must always be reported to the police. Sex and relationship education is already compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and we expect academies and free schools to teach it as part of the curriculum.

“We are also working with leading headteachers and practitioners to look at how to raise the quality of personal, social and health education teaching, which includes sex and relationship education.”



Bad boy appeal entices militant brides, says Muslim comic

22 February 2016

Shazia Mirza, who claims to be the world's first devoutly Muslim woman stand-up comic, is used to walking a very thin line.

She made her name in Britain and the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks by starting her shows with the line, "My name is Shazia Mirza -- at least that's what is says on my pilot's license."

But the writer and comedian is touching a still rawer nerve in her new show "The Kardashians Made Me Do It", which asks why so many young Western Muslim girls choose to run away to join ISIS.

At face value, her answer seems as problematic as the phenomenon itself.

"Yes, they (ISIS fighters) may be barbaric... murderous psychopaths," she said. "But they are hairy, macho, they have guns and they're exciting... and that presses a lot of girls' buttons."

The West has got it all wrong on militant brides, she insisted. "This is not about radicalization, it's sexualization," she told AFP ahead of a gig in Paris just down the street from one of the bars targeted by gunmen in November's jihadist attacks that left 130 dead.

But for "the repressed, rebellious horny teenage Muslim girls" that fall for them, she claimed, this reality is lost in the fantasy world built around their longing for romance and adventure.

Mirza argued that for them ISIS fighters are a bad boy fantasy -- "the One Direction of Islam", pin-ups who promise "no-guilt halal sex of which Allah approves".

Mirza, who comes from a devout Pakistani family and was raised in Britain, knows more than most about where these teenagers are coming from.

"Me and my friends were brought up in Birmingham the same way these girls were. If anything, our parents were stricter."

Brad Pitts

Up until now Mirza insisted her comedy was never "political. It was all observational. I just told jokes."

But after three London teenagers made headlines around the world last year when they skipped school to run away to join ISIS in Syria, she realized her comedy might "have something to say".

A former science teacher, she said she taught "hundreds of Bangladeshi girls just like them in a secondary school just down the road from theirs.

"I was with a Bangladeshi friend when the news broke and we were both flabbergasted," she added.

"But when we thought back to our 16-year-old selves we knew exactly why. Almost every Muslim woman I have talked knows this too, and I wondered why no one had just come out and said it.

"If some hot, hairy Muslim Brad Pitt had written to me at 15 and sent me pictures asking me to join him, it might have seemed like an exciting way out. But it would have been nothing to do with religion."

So she wrote "The Kardashians Made Me Do It" -- its title taken from one of the girl's shocked sisters, who told a British parliamentary inquiry that her missing sibling was more into celebrity culture than the Quran.

"I can't understand why she's gone," she told MPs, "she used to watch 'The Kardashians'."

Trying out the show around Britain, Mirza had found "lots of Muslims who never normally go to comedy" staying behind to say, "'You are so right.'"

There have been reports since that ISIS deliberately uses good-looking young men, -- the so-called jihotties -- as part of its social media strategy to "groom" young female recruits.

Lure of unsuitable boys

At their age, these girls would have known "nothing about Islam", Mirza said. "I went to Koran classes every day after school... it takes years to get to the essence."

Far from being radicalized, she is convinced they had sex on their minds rather than religion or to take revenge "on the West... That is such a joke. These girls are totally Western and British," she said, "and were only three when America invaded Iraq.

"What could be more British than driving your parents mad by running away with unsuitable boys?" Mirza added.

"I was never allowed out of the house on my own, I didn't go on school trips, have white friends or was allowed to wear what I wanted," she said.

But Muslim girls soon learn how to lead double lives.

"When we went out we left totally covered and then changed into miniskirts in the toilets. I dyed my hair pink once and kept it hidden from my mum under my headscarf," she added.

Despite the November attack, Mirza is not worried about taking the show to La Java club in Paris on Wednesday. "It is important we talk honestly," she said.

Muslims have to embrace comedy to help explain themselves, she said. "It is like with the Jews, or the Irish when they were seen as terrorists. When things get tough, you have to get funny."



Where are all the Middle East’s female directors?

Feb 22, 2016 

Are you the only female commercials director in Egypt?

“Yes I am.”


“I have no idea,” says Mariam Abou Ouf.

Her bluntness and honesty are refreshing. “Maybe this article will make agencies think about female directors,” adds the woman behind J.Walter Thompson Cairo’s ‘Abla Fahita’ show and Vodafone’s ‘Fakka’ campaign. “Because when it comes to directors from the region, agencies and production houses do not make enough effort to find new talent. They just choose from the pool of directors that are already working. And most of the new directors in the field are ex-agency. Either they give themselves their first directing job or a creative director friend gives it to them.”

Separately, and without encouragement, Lebanese director Caroline Labaki hits on the same theme. “It’s not about men or women,” she says on the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s about agencies not being open to new things. They know a director, they’ll keep pushing work their way. It’s habit. It’s easy. They know how that director works, they’re going to do exactly what they want, there’s not going to be any hassle. This is how they work.

“But I feel there is a bigger problem in advertising. It’s not about women, although it is related. It’s the fact that most of the creatives; all they want is to direct. You feel it. You hear it. A lot of creative directors become directors. I don’t know if it’s out of frustration because other directors do not shoot their vision correctly, or because they’ve always wanted to direct but never got a chance to do so and ended up in agencies, but this is what is happening.”

Whichever way you look at it, the number of women directing commercials in the Middle East and North Africa is ridiculously low. You could probably count them all on one hand. And although there are bigger numbers working in film and television, advertising remains strangely devoid of women. The story is the same across the region. In Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates. The field is dominated by men.

It is, however, a global issue, even if regional statistics paint the bleakest picture. In 2009, for example, a survey in Sweden revealed that only six out of 130 commercials directors in the country were women. By 2014, not much had changed, leading to the introduction of an initiative designed to provide more equality. That initiative stated that for each pitch between an advertising agency and production companies, at least one in three directors should be a woman.

In the United States and the United Kingdom the situation is similar, even if to a lesser extent. Kim Gehrig, the director of Sport England’s highly acclaimed ‘This Girl Can’, has previously stated that she believes it is only her unisex name that helped her get a foot in the door with agencies who assumed she was a man. “This project was the first time in which I actually admitted to being a female director,” she said last year. Yet it was the Australian director’s barnstorming year – she also helmed John Lewis’ Christmas ad ‘Man on the moon’ – that led Somesuch to be named Campaign UK’s production company of the year.

“I still walk into meetings where people are shocked I am a woman,” Gehrig told Advertising Age. “Agencies are fine but crews can be really intimidating. There is a very blokey culture around the technical side of filmmaking, although that is now changing with younger directors of photography.”

The blokey, geeky nature of production has previously been cited as a reason for the exclusion of women. There is also a lack of female role models, a macho culture among agencies and crews, and a belief that women are only capable of working on certain kinds of advertising.

“There is a lot of geeking out that has to be done when one wants to direct,” says the Dubai-based director Hind Shoufani. “You have to be fascinated by cameras and editing software and observe patterns of light, as well as having some knowledge of lenses, how the mind views objects, the correct pace to tell a story. It’s endless. You must also love dealing with people in intimate ways. Maybe it’s the cold and often stressful nature of advertising that keeps women away. It’s a lot of money for a very short clip that is obsessively fussed over by the agency, the client, the production company and others. It is exhausting. Perhaps that is why many of the talented women in the field prefer the more creative and easy-going world of documentaries, or TV work, or even fiction film.

“And I do have to admit in the end that perhaps there is a certain lack of trust from clients. That they have been so accustomed to dealing with certain men – men with big names, big egos, big showreels of fancy ads – that they won’t take the risk on a relatively unknown woman who might want to steer their concept in a different direction.”

Labaki agrees. “The advertising world is very macho,” says the director of commercials for brands such as Johnnie Walker and Pantene. “It’s business. It’s about doing deals and how well you can sell yourself and I don’t think I ever had the right personality for that. Sometimes talent is not enough. You have to own it, you have to push yourself, you have to be ballsy in advertising.

“It’s also a close-knit community. It’s like a club sometimes. I see a lot of male friends who are directors; they go out with creative directors, they hang out together, they give each other work, they keep things within their group. Even though I never had problems getting a job because I was a woman – it was always about the work, it was always about your talent and how good you were – the work that is available to women is sometimes limited because of this club.”

“I refused to see it for years, but I can see now that there is a truth in the ‘boys club’ stereotype,” adds Shoufani. “I see it in the relationships between my male friends in the industry. I am very grateful to various excellent producers here who have trusted me with their projects, but the reality for many female filmmakers in the commercial realm can be a bit stifling.

“Funnily enough, most producers I know are women. There is no lack of good women producers in the field – sharp, tough, organised women who can budget, manage and hire and fire. For some reason, a lot of them have not crossed over into the director’s seat. But if I were to warrant a guess, I would say it was because directing requires a certain bossy personality – a director needs to be in control of a set usually full of men, answer a lot of technical information, have no problem projecting themselves to be heard, put their foot down when bullied by clients or producers, deal with stress, late nights, no weekends, work long hours, travel for projects and exude an aura of toughness, creativity and sensitivity to the cast and knowledge of software, cameras and lots of heavy hardcore film gear.

“Our societies in the Arab world may have not been developed enough yet to encourage women to be this outspoken or tough, at least in the age range of late 30s onwards. Directing requires fighting for your work, being competitive, asserting yourself, and so on. I am sure the younger generation will have lots of women who will seriously change the face of this game.”



Halifax Heroes: Local woman creating peace and unity in her community

Feb 22, 2016 

Ask Rana Zaman about her community involvement and she begins by naming all the people who have helped her.

“My reputation in the communities is that if anyone needs anything Rana will help. That is the impression the communities have,” Zaman insisted. “But it’s not a one-person project. It is about communities. I have built up a rapport with all these different communities.”

Zaman moved back to Nova Scotia with her husband and children in 2000. Finding little in the way of cultural diversity, she began volunteering and arranging community events to help give her children a sense of their Pakistani cultural identity.

It didn’t take long before her abilities as an event planner and communicator were put to use. She first volunteered with the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia through the Dartmouth Mosque.

She also began helping the region’s Indian community.

“They (the Indian community) actually one year had me go on television and be their spokeswoman, and a lot of people were wondering ‘How do you have a Pakistani woman promoting an Indian social event?,” Zaman laughed.

“But that shows my diversity and how accepted I am with people. They don’t see me as that. They see me as a human being who can help.”

Last October, Zaman helped found United for One Association, a Muslim group created to help refugees of all religions and races.

The group organized a Nov. 27 Syrian refugee awareness fundraiser at Dalhousie University that raised $200,000 to sponsor Syrian families in Nova Scotia.

“We came about because we noticed the churches were the first ones to start sponsoring families and they had families coming in but they had some needs,” she said.

“We reached out to the churches and said, ‘We realize you are doing this great work and we want to help you.’”

Rana Zaman poses for a portrait in Halifax last week.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Rana Zaman poses for a portrait in Halifax last week.

Her work with United for One led Zaman to join the board of directors for the Immigrant/Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax. She said refugee women often go through sensitive trauma very specific to women. She wanted to learn more about how to help them.

“It’s an all women’s group helping all women and we put on different programs like artwork, painting, gentle programs that will help them with problems they may be going through,” she explained. “It helps them to integrate into the community, reach out to make friends and help them deal with the trauma and sensitive issues they may have gone through.”

Zaman is also a member of welcoming committee for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and serves as president of the recently formed Caring Human Association operating out of Halifax’s Ummah Mosque. That group’s mandate is feeding the homeless freshly cooked homemade meals.

Her most recent endeavour is the newly formed Pakistani Canadian Association of Nova Scotia. That group just held its first meeting last week.

“We formed to help give a voice to the Pakistani community and for them to share their culture with the rest of the community,” Raman explained. “Having all my contacts, I’m thinking about maybe doing some events with other cultures to bring them together.”

Zaman said she donates her time because she’s committed to helping create peace and unity in her community.

“We are all human beings first and we are religions and races secondary,” she said.

Here’s why Rana Zaman’s brother, Tye Ali nominated her for Halifax Heroes.

Ali was keen to highlight in particular Zaman's work with Syrian refugees over the last three months:

"(She dedicates) her time and efforts above and beyond to get these families shelter, clothing and taking them to all the different mosques in Halifax for free potluck dinners. (Recently) with the help of McDonalds on Kempt Road and Peter MacIsaac over a hundred Syrians with their families (were given) free food gift and gift cards and my sister was at the top of the chain helping to organize transportation as well as a mediator even though she does not speak their language. This is only one of the small events that she has done for them, although she asks for nothing in return she gives everything from the heart, with the smiles upon their face as her reward. She truly is an inspiration to myself as well as anyone that knows her!"

Want to nominate someone?

Each week, we will profile an unsung volunteer hero in our community as part of Halifax Heroes. To nominate someone, email, Metro Halifax's managing editor, or Tweet @metrohalifax using the hashtag #Halifaxheroes



Sudan: Role of Women in Building Inter-Religious Dialogue and Peace

Feb 22nd, 2016

Khartoum — The International Muslim Women Union (IMWU) organized here this month an interaction conference in which 67 feminists and woman academics took part to discuss issues relevant to the role of modern women in building inter-religious dialogue and disseminating the culture of peace.

Among the participants was Dr. Amany Lubis of the Faculty of Sharia and Law of the Sharif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, Indonesia, and Chairperson of the IMWU's Union of Muslim Women Scholars. SUDANOW conducted with Dr. Lubis the following interview:-

SUDANOW:-What was your impression after taking part in the conference?

Lubis:-The conference reviewed very important issues related to the role of the woman and her contribution to peace and peaceful co-existence among individuals of the society and to the dialogue between religions. However, some participants declined to discuss the inter-religion dialogue perhaps due to the sensibility arising from conversion from Christianity to Islam and vice versa. I indicated in my paper the importance of discussing such issues and finding legitimate mechanisms for addressing them. There are numerous instances of conversion all over the globe, something which is natural as a person may change in time and therefore some peaceful means must be sought for avoiding the occurrence of violent reactions that are sometimes leads to murder, something which must not occur in our age of enlightenment and rich human experience.

Q:-Will you give us an idea about the Indonesian experience in this connection?

A:-The population of Indonesia is 260 people famed for good manners and adherence to their faith. Indonesia includes the biggest ethnic and cultural groups with six legally recognized religions, diverse cultures and 750 local languages. Although the majority of the people are Muslims (88%), other religions flourish due to the tolerance and to respect by all people for the plurality and the different sects and they pursue a moderate Islamic way for finding solutions to the problems of the society. The Muslim preachers of Indonesia have succeeded in assimilating the Islamic teachings, not characterized by fanaticism but, rather, respect the local cultures; they adhere to the Arab and Muslim traditions on the one hand, and they do not necessarily wear the Arab costume and turban, on the other, and, instead, they permitted the Muslims to don the traditional Indonesian costume. Also in designing the worshiping houses, like mosques, they retained the old Hindu and Buddhist styles due to their perfect design, in the presence of the big drum to signal the time for prayers, unlike the Middle East mosques of high domes. The government institutions, each in its specialty, impose order and rule of law through their administrative and judicial bodies, on the one hand, and through the social enlightenment and the civil society responsibility for maintenance of the social peace, on the other.

Q: And in spite of this, some extremists perpetrated explosions in the capital Jakarta last January. How do you explain this?

A:-The government of Indonesia at first adopts a soft force instead of a fierce one in dealing with the religious extremists and ideological fundamentalists, deterring the saboteurs for realizing justice. The Islamic feminist and religious organizations work for eradication of extremism, effectively assisting the government for dissemination of the Islamic moderation and confronting the contemporary challenges and underlining the importance of the cultural change. Those organizations and societies dispatch their members to the international forums for participation in keeping a lasting peace at the national and international levels. In this connection the woman's role is to protect the family in a way that none of its members would join unlawful, subversive and religiously pervert groups. Moreover, the woman effectively cooperates with the bodies of the state in disconnecting ties by members of the family and community with the fundamentalist movements. This duty makes it imperative upon the woman to be adequately aware of the local and international developments.

Q:- What do you think of sticking the image of terrorism on Islam by some Western circles?

A:- As an academic and researchers in this field I can say that "terrorism has no religion." It is a mere erroneous allegation against Islam and self-defense and defending property cannot be called "terrorism". The correct concept of terrorism, according to the entire humanity, is "subversive actions and killing innocent civilians."

Q:-What role do you think the woman can play for achieving peaceful coexistence in the society?

A:-Women, in general, have a tremendous ability for overcoming disparities within communities affected by conflicts. Besides being feminine, they are also mothers and sisters and, therefore, they have a strong passion for reconciliation. They have proved that their role is a basic one in many instances and, therefore, the society must offer them an opportunity of listening to their view. The women must also be enabled to arrange dialogue between religions and to consolidate peace within Muslim communities. Another basic and pivotal role for women is to bring up Muslim generations on Islamic principles and values of tolerance and love for the human-kind and cooperation in virtue and philanthropy, rather than evil and hostility, among all human-beings, irrespective of the diverse faiths, ethnicities and countries, beside making clear the relationship between the religion and the state.

Q:-In this connection, Indonesia have an experience on maintenance of a perfect family?

A:- Yes. We have an institution that has been founded since 1960 named the Organization for Advice, Guidance and Family Up-keeping under the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs with branches in all provinces of Indonesia. It is entrusted with the tasks of holding marriages together, ironing out familial problems which lead to divorces, qualification of persons about to marry and offering advice and guidance to the spouses and the families. The intermediary, a male or a female, offers services for putting an end to family problems in collaboration with the clinics and centers tasked with providing services to women and children in addition to law offices and crisis centers for women. Those facilities are also tasked with resolving family disputes beside a strategic role for combating violence against women and children and rehabilitation and reintegration of the delinquents into the society.

Q:- How successful was this institution in light of any survey you might have conducted on its activities?

A:- A field survey was carried out in 2013 in six provinces in Jakarta and Java which showed that there were very active provinces in organizing courses for enlightenment of persons planning to marry where 2245 weddings were held each year, i.e., an average of 187 weddings a month. The specialized centers affiliated to the institution conduct precise studies to find out the causes of divorces and to find solutions to them. The rate of divorce is 3% to 5% in those provinces, a rate which is not bad compared with the other provinces of Indonesia or with other Muslim countries.



Uniqlo USA Launches Fashion Line for Muslim Women

Feb 22nd, 2016

Hana Tajima’s collection for Muslim women is all over the map, and in a good way.

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 1 percent of the estimated 322 million Americans practice Islam. That translates to about 3.3 million Muslim Americans in total, and slightly less than 2 million American adults. (That number could be off, as the U.S. Census does not ask questions about religion in its decennial population count.) Despite its relatively rapid growth the past decade, this demographic — or market — will still be small in 2050, when estimates suggest Muslims will comprise about 2 percent of the population.

Nevertheless, it is still a market. And Muslims can be found in high concentrations in all corners of America. Witness the cities with the five largest percentages of Muslims: Detroit; Washington, D.C.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Philadelphia; and New York City.

So, despite all the disjointed political chatter, Muslims are part of American life and culture, and businesses have taken notice. So have some designers, who are conscious of the fact that Muslim Americans are hardly a monolithic group, from the Arab-American capitol of Dearborn, Michigan, to the Bosnian-Americans who live in and around St. Louis.

To that end, Hana Tajima, a Japanese-British fashion designer from the United Kingdom, has launched a so-called “Modest Wear Collection” with Japan-based fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo. The looks run across the map. Some of the stylish outerwear and tops are perfect for a night out in the trendy Gemmayzeh district of Beirut; the kebayas would be more comfortable for Muslim women from Southeast Asia. Tajima has also introduced a range of hijabs, which are commonplace across Northern Africa and the Levant. The collection also includes Malaysian-inspired baju kurungs and tunics, as well as blouses that Tajima says invoke modesty but would easily fit in within any women’s fashion collection. Tajima also designed a couple of hair accessories made from Uniqlo’s moisture-wicking material, which has long been part of the reason for the company’s enduring popularity in east Asia.

For now, Tajima’s collection is available online and at Uniqlo USA’s 5th Avenue flagship store in Manhattan. Uniqlo’s decision to carry such a line follows a slow but steady trend by leading fashion brands to design collections for Muslim women. Last year Tommy Hilfiger and Barcelona-based retailer Mango released Ramadan-inspired lines in the Middle East. H&M is not quite there yet, but generated buzz by featuring a 23-year-old Muslim woman from London in last fall’s ad campaign. Most Muslim Americans, however, still have to shop for their favorite designs online. Nevertheless, more clothing companies are realizing that there is opportunity worldwide: Forbes estimated that Muslims spent $266 billion on fashion in 2013.

The decision to promote Tajima’s collection is a bold one for Uniqlo, which has struggled recently with its U.S. stores. Warm weather and the consumers’ unfamiliarity with the Uniqlo brand contributed to its U.S. stores operating at a financial loss, but the company hopes a new strategy of focusing on major cities and expanded online stores can turn its American sales around. In addition to shops in Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the company has also opened a new store in Chicago and two new locations in New York.




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