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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 23 March 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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First School for Muslim Girls Was Opened In Bhopal

New Age Islam News Bureau

23 March 2016

Women Held Back By 'Old Boys' Network from Getting Into the Boardroom


 First School for Muslim Girls Was Opened In Bhopal

 Assistance for Female Students in Bangladesh Remains Unsatisfactory

 All Temples Must Be Open to Women: Former CM J&K

 How Can The Rights Of Islamic Women Be Improved?

 Women Held Back By 'Old Boys' Network from Getting Into the Boardroom in the UK's Top Companies,' Says Report

Israel Is the Only Country Where Men Pray More Than Women

 Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




First School for Muslim Girls Was Opened In Bhopal

Mar 23, 2016

BHOPAL: The first school for Muslim girls was opened at Bhopal called Sultania School. This was informed at a workshop on Muslim children's right to education inaugurated by minister of State for higher and school education Deepak Joshi here today. The workshop was held jointly by Madhya Pradesh Madrasa Board and National Children's Rights Protection Commission.

Joshi informed that equal education opportunities have been made available for children of all sections of society. He informed that 2880 Madrasas with 2 lakh 80 thousand students are recognized by the Board. Along with theology, teaching as per syllabus approved by the state government is imparted in Madrasas. Upto Rs. one lakh is given for computer lab to Madasas conducted upto class VIII. Mid-day meal is served in recognised Madarsas.

MP Alok Sanjar also spoke on the occasion. Commission's member Priyam Kanoongo said that there should be no compromise with education in any case. He informed that Raja Ram Mohan Rai had also received education in a Madrasa. Kanoongo lauded Madhya Pradesh government for preparing Samagra Cards of students.

Madrasa Board's Chairman Prof. Syed Imamuddin said that online application can be submitted for registration of Madarsas. He informed that skill development programmes will be held in Madarsas in collaboration with IGNOU. Board's former Chairman Haleem Khan also spoke on the occasion.



Assistance for Female Students In Bangladesh Remains Unsatisfactory

March 23, 2016

IT SHOULD be of concern that Bangladesh ranks the lowest among South Asian countries in terms of the percentage of female students in higher education with 41.4 per cent compared with 60.4 per cent in Sri Lanka, 50.10 per cent in Pakistan, 45.9 per cent in India and the global average of 51 per cent. Although the enrolment rate of female students at both the secondary and the higher secondary levels have increased significantly in recent times, the dropout rate for female students, especially compared with their male counterparts, continue to be higher at both the levels which is one of the main reasons behind the current condition. In this regard, the president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad said that poverty, early marriage, social insecurity like sexual harassment on their way to and from educational institutions, along with a patriarchal societal mentality, were all preventing women from participating in higher education.

The chairman of the University Grants Commission admitted that the number of female students was lower in Bangladesh in comparison with other nations and reasoned that in the past, women hardly had any chance to pursue higher education in the country because of the lack of facilities which is now changing. He, however, said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with the increasing demand of female education at higher levels due to less budgetary allocation for higher education. It is important to remember that the incumbents had set the percentage of expenditure to be allocated to the education sector at only 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product the last time around, the lowest since 2009–2010. Meanwhile, rights activists also blamed the absence of facilities such as hostels and halls for girls at universities and colleges and the lack of security on campuses for the lower number of female students. The draft of Bangladesh Education Statistics 2015 shows that the dropout rate at the secondary level for female students were particularly higher at 45.92 compared with the 33.72 per cent among their male counterparts. According to experts, the situation was much worse in rural areas than in urban areas, as many areas of the country do not have enough quality universities and colleges while many families are reluctant to allow girls to go to the cities to pursue higher education because of poverty and lack of security.

Under the circumstances, the government must step up its efforts to increase the percentage of female students participating in higher education. It must put more emphasis on education and increase the amount of budgetary expenditure to be allocated to this sector and provide better facilities for female students in the form of dormitories and others. Furthermore, it must do what is needed to improve all forms of security for female students in order to encourage them to participate in both secondary and higher education.



All Temples Must Be Open To Women: Former CM J&K

 Press Trust of India : March 23, 2016

JAMMU:  Hailing the celebration of Holi by widows in Vrindavan, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday said all temples must be open to women.

"I think this is a great thing that temples are opening up for women. They are a part of this nation and if you want women's empowerment, then it is vitally important that all temples must be opened to women," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function in Jammu today.

More than a thousand widows in Vrindavan broke from tradition to celebrate Holi at an ancient temple in the Uttar Pradesh town.

Describing it as a "wonderful thing", the National Conference leader and former Union minister said, "I think we all should be proud that this is happening. It is a great thing and India is moving forward in a positive manner."





As a Muslim woman, I am empowered by my religious identity. But for many women, religion holds them back. As long as Muslim women suffer social and cultural marginalization, political exclusion, economic discrimination and threats, and acts of violence, we will never reach our full potential.

There have certainly been examples of female achievement in the Muslim world. Many Muslim countries—Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh—have had female heads of government, and many have had ministers, parliamentarians and senior officials in public and private sectors. But these accomplishments do not undo a pernicious legacy of segregation and discrimination.

Even where there is progress, it remains uneven. From Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan and all the way to Somalia and Nigeria, laws on divorce, child custody, inheritance, ownership, early marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), education, health care, job opportunities and wages as well as protection from abuse and violence continue to oppress and discriminate against women, even though Islamic texts and tradition are clear on women’s rights.

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My remit at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) includes addressing challenges faced by women across our 57 member states. In many countries, Islam is not only used to justify misogyny; many Muslims believe Islam actually sanctions such practices, which is why efforts at reform so often fail.

Positive, well intentioned efforts at meaningful social change are transformed into existential threats to a people’s cultural identity and belief about their destiny.

At a time when many Muslims feel themselves under attack, it’s unsurprising to see a hardening of attitudes and a fear of ideas perceived as foreign. But that in turn only entrenches the problem, which the OIC is working to address.

Its flagship women’s empowerment initiative, for example, OIC Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women (OPAAW), has spawned numerous conferences, workshops and reports. Designed to compliment this is the impending ratification of the Statute of the Women’s Development Organisation, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women.

I hope our partners in the U.S, the EU and the U.N. join us in these initiatives, because we share a common goal of protecting women from violence, creating greater opportunities for women’s participation in society and governance and addressing a growing trust deficit between the Muslim world and the West.

But I should also like to see more Muslim women reclaim the language of religion—because religious misogyny is most thoroughly defeated through religious empowerment.

The Islamic language we hear today, justifying misogyny, is not authentic, faithful to the seventh-century text, or somehow purer only because it is narrower and less inclusive. The problem with such religious discourse is that it is extremely selective (and hence can become extremist), pursued in bad faith and consciously overlooks or suppresses the many parts of the Islamic tradition that encouraged gender parity and overturned wildly discriminatory practices in favor of a more egalitarian society.

In the present day, for example, many Muslim voices describe women as secondary to, if not dependent on, men, which justifies second-class citizenship, from the right to travel freely or to pass on citizenship to their children. But when Abraham was ordered to leave Hagar and Ishmael in the wild, Ishmael survived, because Hagar looked after him.

Nor does Islamic tradition honor women simply as caregivers, as supporting actors and never as protagonists themselves. The Prophet Muhammad was employed by a successful businesswoman, Khadija. She proposed marriage to him. She was the first to support him. She stood by him during years of persecution. In her work before and after Islam, she was at the heart of the Meccan economy, not marginal to it.

The daughter of the first Caliph, Aisha, is the source through which a huge proportion of the Prophetic tradition, the basis for Shariah, is derived. Is it not ironic that a legal tradition so much of which is derived through a female scholar is now used to restrict women’s rights, including their right to speak as religious authority figures?

And the first ever institute of higher learning was founded by a Muslim woman —Fatima al-Fihri. Yet, equal access to education in the Islamic world today still falls short.

In early Islamic history, women played critical roles and displayed the strength and sophistication of any man. They were persecuted alongside men, worked alongside them and sacrificed with them.

The great challenge facing Muslim women is the rise and entrenchment of a discourse that denies this history, that erases the important roles played by women in the past and for no other reason than to enable the marginalization and oppression of women in the present. That has to stop.

The good news is that Muslim women across the world through governmental and nongovernmental initiatives and movements are rising up and beginning to make the change.

Maha Akeel is director of information at the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the chief editor of the quarterly OIC Journal.



Women held back by 'old boys' network from getting into the boardroom in the UK's top companies,' says report

23 March 2016

"Old boys' networks" are stopping women from getting into the boardroom in the UK's top companies, according to the equalities watchdog.

Nearly a third of the UK's biggest companies largely rely on personal networks to identify new board members, the study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found.

Most roles are not advertised, it said.

"Our top boards still remain blatantly male and white," said EHRC commissioner Laura Carstensen.

The study, which looked at appointment practices in the UK's largest 350 listed firms, which make up the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250, found more than 60% had not met a voluntary target of 25% female board members.

'Masking the reality'

In fact in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the period of the study, fewer than half of companies increased their female board representation.

The EHRC said the problem was particularly acute for executive roles, where nearly three quarters of FTSE 100 companies and 90% of FTSE 250 companies had no female executives at all on their boards during the time covered by the study.

The research comes just months after a report found there were no longer any all male boards in the UK's FTSE 100 companies.

But the EHRC said the "headline progress" of Britain's biggest companies was "masking the reality".

"The good work of a forward thinking minority masks that many top businesses are still only paying lip service to improving the representation of women on boards.

"The recruitment process to the boards of Britain's top companies remains shadowy and opaque and is acting as a barrier to unleashing female talent," added Ms Carstensen.

The EHRC said too few companies were setting targets or encouraging applications from women with job descriptions and were relying on vague terms such as "chemistry" and "fit" rather than clearly defined skills and experience.

Other findings in the report:

Men outnumber women in senior positions in the FTSE 350 by a ratio of around 4:1

Three quarters of FTSE 350 companies have two or fewer women on their boards

Nearly three quarters of FTSE 100 companies have no female executive director and 90% of the FTSE 250 have no female executive directors

Companies with no women on their boards are more than twice as likely to rely on personal networks to fill roles than companies with more women on their boards

Virgin Money chief Jayne-Anne Gadhia is leading a review of women in finance

On Tuesday a government-commissioned review, led by Virgin Money's chief executive, Jayne-Anne Gadhia recommended that financial services companies link parts of executive remuneration packages to gender balance targets.

It also suggested that companies set internal targets for gender diversity in their senior ranks and publish progress reports.



Israel Is the Only Country Where Men Pray More Than Women

JTA Mar 23, 2016

Israel is the only country in the world where a higher percentage of men say they engage in daily prayer than women, according to a new study by the Pew Research Centre.

The study, which draws on data from more than 2,500 censuses and surveys taken over the last few years in 192 countries, found that women generally are more religious than men. An estimated 83.4 percent of women worldwide identify with a faith group, compared to 79.9 percent among men, according to the study released Tuesday and titled “The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World.”

Women in Christian countries report more weekly attendance at religious services than men, but the opposite is true in majority Muslim countries and in Israel. This is due in large part to religious norms that prioritize male worship participation in Muslim and Orthodox Jewish societies, the study found.

In the 84 countries for which data were available, women said they pray daily at a rate 8 percentage points higher than men. Women pray daily more than men in 43 of those countries. With the exception of Israel, the two genders pray daily at roughly equal rates in the remainder of the countries.

Israel is also an outlier in the gender gap when it comes to the question of whether respondents considered religion very important to them personally. In 36 of 84 countries, more women than men said religion was very important to them, and in 46 countries roughly equal proportions of each sex said religion was very important, the study found. Only in Israel and Mozambique did more men than women say religion is very important to them.

Worldwide among Christians, women are 7 percentage points more likely to attend religious services weekly compared to men as well as consider religion important, 10 percent more likely to pray daily, 3 percent more likely to believe in angels, and 1-2 percent more likely to believe in heaven and/or hell.

Among Muslims worldwide, men are 28 percentage points more likely to attend religious services weekly compared to women, but women are 2 percent more likely to engage in daily prayer than men. Among Muslims, the genders rank about equally when it comes to the importance of religion, belief in angels, and belief in heaven and/or hell.

In Israel, men say they attend religious services weekly at a rate 19 percentage points higher than women. Among American Jews, men say they attend religious services weekly at a rate 3 percent higher than women, the study found, but noted that the U.S. Jewish gender gap is insignificant given the study’s sample size.

The Pew study found some other key differences among Israeli and American Jews. In America, women are 8 percentage points more likely than men to say religion is very important to them. In Israel, Jewish men are 9 percent more likely than women to say that.