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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 Nov 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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For Kurdish Iraq's Women Entrepreneurs, Persistence Pays Off

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 Nov 2019

A late breakthrough. Diman Fatah, the 59-year-old owner of Arbil's first female-run plant nursery, tends to her plants at her nursery in Arbil, Iraq, August 8. (AFP)



 Bernama Housewife, Fadilah Hamid, Charged With Six Counts Of Insulting Islam On FB

 ‘I Will Never Tolerate This’: Malaysia's Minister Syed Saddiq On Terengganu's Plans To Bar Women Gymnasts From Competing

 A New Great Game In The Himalayas, Giving Voice To Muslim Women

 Independent Under Fire for Downplaying China's Sexual Abuse Of Uyghur Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




For Kurdish Iraq's Women Entrepreneurs, Persistence Pays Off


ERBIL - Smiling proudly, Zilan Serwud welcomed hungry customers swarming her newly opened food truck in Kurdish Iraq but starting the venture required more than permits and loans: Serwud also needed family approval.

Lingering societal prejudice, family pressures and an underdeveloped private sector have constrained women from breaking into the Iraqi workforce, including in Kurdistan.

That didn't stop 22-year-old Serwud. She started Zee Burger in Erbil in August, offering no-fuss fare of burgers, fries and onion rings served at small wooden tables although the journey to get there was nowhere near as simple.

The first step to any female-run business, said Serwud, was convincing relatives the venture would not be looked down on by the Muslim-majority, conservative society.

"I heard some people say: 'She has a father and brother. Why should she run the restaurant?'" Serwud said, “but if you have an idea or want to develop yourself, you should not listen to hearsay."

Her family gave its approval and she received funding from the German development agency to purchase mobile kitchen equipment. Serwud's father helped pick out the kitchenware and her brother Bayad flips burgers part-time in the yellow-and-purple food truck.

"I am super happy now that I have my own business. I feel I've obtained my freedom and am showing everyone this is what I am capable of," said Serwud.

In Iraq only 15% of working-age women are in the labour force, one of the lowest rates in the world, a 2018 demographic survey by the regional government stated. Among employed women in Kurdistan, up to 75% work in the public sector, making female entrepreneurs an especially rare breed.

The biggest obstacle is defamation by conservative elements of Iraqi society who see economically autonomous women as too liberal or even promiscuous.

"What actually destroys women in our society is the word 'shameful'," said Diman Fatah, 59, who opened Erbil's first female-run plant nursery and is chairwoman of a botanical club with 450 members, including 25 women.

"Women are afraid to innovate or develop themselves because of what other people might say about them," said Fatah.

Recent comments on the Facebook pages of female-led businesses described the owners as "silly" and insisted that "women are responsible for work at home."

However, through solidarity and persistence, a shift has become noticeable.

Besides caring for literal buds, Fatah's club helps women-led ventures flourish by encouraging owners to "be confident.”

"Don't give up and don't be silent about your rights," she urged peers.

"When a woman starts her own business in our society, she does not only earn money. She raises awareness about equality and paves the way for other women to enter the market and obtain their freedom," she said.

A 2013 UN survey stated that 66% of Iraqi youth support the right of women to work, compared to 42% among the elderly, a marked generational difference.

Avan Jaff, a female Kurdish labour activist who publishes online testimonies of women entrepreneurs, said she noticed a shift, too.

"It is not because society has become open-minded all of a sudden," said Jaff. "Yes, some have become more tolerant but the rest realised that women are resilient and do not give up in pursuing their passion. They think their comments are not effective anymore, so they don't engage."

Still, a host of challenges remain.

In practice, some Iraqi laws prohibit women from working in industries that require physical labour or overnight work.

Women workers who go on maternity leave in Kurdistan are not guaranteed their positions when they want to return and many who start ventures are pressured to cede some decision-making to male relatives.

"It is the family who decides how to spend the profit or where they should invest, not the women," said Jaff.

About 100km east, in the city of Rania, Shawnem Hussein's Sky Fitness health centre boasts 150 female subscribers who dance Zumba and share stories.

"These women are not coming only to work out, but also to mingle, chat with other women and talk about their problems," said Hussein.

A gym member, who asked to remain anonymous, said seeing the success of Sky Fitness had fed her own dreams of opening a restaurant in her hometown but, in a sign of the enduring conservatism in some parts of Kurdistan, her husband shattered her hopes.

"He told me, the day you open the restaurant will be the last day you come home," she said.



Bernama Housewife, Fadilah Hamid, Charged With Six Counts Of Insulting Islam On FB

8 Nov 2019

SEPANG (Bernama): A housewife was charged in separate Sessions Courts here with six counts of uploading offensive postings on Islam.

Fadilah Hamid, 42, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges on Friday (Nov 8).

She was alleged to have committed the offences on Facebook using the account name of "Fadhilah Abdulhamid” between February and March this year.

In the court before judge Saifulakmal Mod Said, the woman was charged with three counts of knowingly using the Facebook account to make and initiate the transmission of offensive communication with intent to annoy another person at about 11.05pm on Feb 19,12.39pm the following day, and 3.38pm on March 2.

The other three charges were read out to her before judge Tengku Shahrizam Tuan Lah, where the offences were allegedly committed at 10pm on March 1,8.52pm on Feb 19 and 1.25am on March 4.

Both courts set Dec 18 for mention.

Deputy public prosecutor Norhani Mohamad Adzhar prosecuted, while the woman was unrepresented. - Bernama



‘I Will Never Tolerate This’: Malaysia's Minister Syed Saddiq On Terengganu's Plans To Bar Women Gymnasts From Competing

10 Nov 2019

SINGAPORE: Malaysia's Minister for Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has said that he will not tolerate the Terengganu state government barring women gymnasts from competing.

He also pledged that his ministry will intervene and "take over control" of the Terengganu Sports Council to ensure that the future of gymnasts is safeguarded.

"I will never tolerate this," said the minister on his Twitter account Saturday (Nov 9) afternoon. "If true, (the ministry) will take over control of (Terengganu Sports Council) and absorb their young aspiring athletes who (have been) discriminated (against)."

"I personally will meet up with the athletes affected to ensure that their future in gymnastics will not be compromised."

The minister made the comments in response to a CNA report quoting the secretary-general of the Terengganu Gymnastics Association as saying that the state would scale back on recruitment of women gymnasts.

Mr Ahmad Akramin had also said that Terengganu would not field women gymnasts in next year's national Sukma Games.

Mr Ahmad had said that the move was in line with the Terengganu state government’s guidelines on sports, which includes withdrawing women from competing in all forms of gymnastics as athletes would “display indecent movements” that would expose their bodies.

Responding to media queries, Mr Syed Saddiq issued a statement on Saturday evening saying he would "call for a meeting immediately" to resolve the issue.

He also said the Terengganu government had been inconsistent in its stance, having earlier informed him that it would allow women gymnasts to participate in the 2020 Sukma Games.

“They told me that they’ll allow for the gymnasts to participate in Sukma, that they will be taken care (of). At the same time, (they are) insisting something else when asked by the media. Uncertainty kills talents,” said Mr Syed Saddiq.

The Terengganu state government, led by Islamic party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, drafted the sporting guidelines based on syariah compliance.  Besides attire, the guidelines also address points like coaching, physiotherapy and other areas of sports related to training and competition.

Terengganu's decision to implement the guidelines has drawn flak from the country’s sporting fraternity.

National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Ahmad Shapawi Ismail was quoted in September as saying that the Terengganu state government’s concerns could potentially affect the future of potential women athletes who could make the country proud.

Mr Syed Saddiq had said then that athletes are the country's "heroes and heroines, regardless of what they wear".



A New Great Game In The Himalayas, Giving Voice To Muslim Women

November 9, 2019

New Delhi–Read about the new Great Game afoot in the Himalayas involving India, China and Tibet; a forceful argument for giving Muslim women a chance to reclaim their sacred place; and finally, explore the intricacies of Dalal Street through a desi potboiler.

1. Book: The Great Game in the Buddhist Himalayas – India and China’s Quest for Strategic Dominance; Author: Phunchok Stobdan; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 312; Price: Rs 599.

Noting that Buddhism is unfortunately being used “as yet another front for the rivalry between India and China”, the book laments that there are also “systems operating in India that prefer to employ Buddhism for meeting narrow interests such as using the ‘Tibet card’ to offset China’s influence” terming this “myopic”.

China’s “Buddhist diplomacy” has focused on Nepal and Bhutan, and the Indian Himalayan regions of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, which have sizeable Buddhist populations and are vulnerable to this influence.

This, at a time “when the Western romance with Tibetan Buddhism is gradually fading even as India is forced to watch the ensuing developments askance. More seriously, India’s ability to deal with the Buddhist Himalayas vis-vis China only through the prism of military power, is unlikely to be sufficient”, writes Stobdan, a distinguished academician, diplomat and author, and an expert on foreign policy and national security.

The book notes that India seems to have failed to grasp the dynamic interplay between sectarian affiliation and power politics and power politics – between the Tibetan plateau and the political landscape in the Indian Himalayas.

Then, “one shouldn’t lose sight of the strategic dimension of Buddhism. China sees a great advantage in employing Buddhism alongside its hard-power pursuits, especially to seek political and economic leverage” in the context of its OBOR (One Belt One Road) initiative,” contends Stobdan, a former Ambassador to the Kyrghiz Republic and who has also served in the National Security Council Secretariat.

Is anyone listening?

2. Book: Women in Masjid – A Quest For Justice; Author: Ziya Us Salaam; Publisher: Bloomsbury; Pages: 190; Price: Rs 499.

The book asks a fundamental question: Prophet Muhammed clearly permitted women to enter mosques – the norm in mosques across West Asia, Europe and the US. Yet, women are virtually barred from entry in a majority of mosques across India. There’s no explicit ban, just a tacit one.

What, then, is the way forward?

Pointing to Kerala, which is emerging as the “flag bearer” of Muslim women’s rights in respect to mosques, the author says: “It is time for each mosque to declare that it is un-Islamic to prevent women from coming to the mosques.”

Then, more women need to be appointed to mosque committees as there is hardly any female representation, with men deciding issues for both men and women, while, if logistics demanded it, there can be separate entry and exit gates for women.

“Ultimately, women’s prayer space has to be restored, just as the Prophet had visualised it: behind men in the last row, in a position where they can see the imam and not an obscure cornerfrom where they can neither see the imam, nor hear the recitation clearly,” says the author, a noted literary and social commentator who is the Associate Editor of the “Frontline” news magazine.

Clearly, it’s time for a new beginning for Muslim women in India.

3. Book: Dalal’s Street; Author: Anurag Tripathi; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 212; Price: Rs 350.

Anurag Tripathi’s second book, loosely translated as “Street of Fixers”, is about the roller coaster ride that the stock market takes you on, an account of the best and the worst it has to offer.

It is a narrative beyond what the financial pages captured via numbers; the story of four business grads Varun, Pooja, Anil and Devika, drawn to high-paying trading jobs but eventually realizing that nothing is what it appears to be.

Tripathi holds his readers by revealing the different colours of Dalal Street and how people flip-flop between their greed and fear that are known to have taken the world forward and also caused some of the biggest economic crises.

The book is a desi potboiler which may work as it’s timing is just right. The Indian stock markets have for the past 3-4 months seen massive volatility, especially after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented, post the general elections that returned the NDA government to power, the full budget in July.

However, most books on the stock markets are in the non-fiction genre. Tripathi’s book is a brave attempt to break the shackles. (IANS)



Independent Under Fire for Downplaying China's Sexual Abuse Of Uyghur Women


The British newspaper Independent was criticized on social media for downplaying the sexual harassment of Uyghur Muslim women in the Xinjiang region by Chinese government officials.

The report published by the Independent on Tuesday said that Uyghur women, whose husbands are being kept in Chinese concentration camps, are being forced to share beds with male state officials for monitoring purposes.

Chinese government sources claim that officials are not sexually abusing the women but rather Muslim Uyghur women and the Chinese men with whom they are forced to sleep in the same bed "develop feelings for one another."

The widely-shared Independent report quickly came under fire for downplaying the sexual harassment the Uighur women are subjected to and refraining from describing it as "rape."

Talking to Radio Free Asia, one Chinese Communist Party official said that Chinese government officials are staying at the homes of Uyghur families for days under a doctrinal program named "Pair Up and Become Family."

China's Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang's population, has long accused China's authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to U.S. officials and U.N. experts.

According to a 117-page report by Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government conducted "mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment" of Uyghur Turks in the region.




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