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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 17 Oct 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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For Malala, Anoyara Khatun the Indian Teenager Is a True Hero

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 Oct 2014

Sikh and Muslim Women Overcome Cultural Barriers to Take Part in Great Birmingham Run


 Dubai Court Grants Man Right to Divorce ‘Djinn-Possessed’ Wife

 Right-Wingers in Italy Protest Muslim Women’s Swimming Course

 Great Birmingham Run: Sikh and Muslim Women Overcome Cultural Barriers to Take Part

 British Muslim Women as Likely To Become Jihadists as Men

 Women Allowed on Nour Party’s Electoral List, 'On Condition of Wearing Hijab'

 Malala Yousafzai through the Eyes of Two Women of the Middle East

 ISIS Is Actively Recruiting Female Fighters to Brutalize Other Women

 Facebook, Apple Finance Female Employees’ ‘Egg Freezing’

 Syrian Sisters’ Singing, Poetry on Mideast Crises Goes Viral

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





For Malala, Anoyara Khatun the Indian Teenager Is a True Hero


Oct 17, 2014

As the world celebrates Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala herself is celebrating the courage of a little known young girl from West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali area who has been quietly working against the trafficking of young girls from the region.

Anoyara Khatun, 18, from North 24 Parganas, has, with the support of other children and non-governmental organisations, built a strong network to resist trafficking of young girls and prevent child marriages in the region.

“Malala and the Malala Fund celebrate Anoyara’s exemplary courage and leadership. She has helped reunite more than 180 trafficked children with their families, prevented 35 child marriages, rescued 85 children from the clutches of child labour and registered 200 out-of-schools (drop-outs) into schools,” says a Facebook post by the Malalafund, an initiative by Malala.

The post made on October 13, International Day of the Girl, only a few days after Ms. Malala was awarded the Nobel Prize, has described Anoyara as “a true girl hero.”

When The Hindu met Anoyara at Sandeshkhali on Wednesday, she was aware of the Facebook post and could not stop talking about Malala. The first year student of a local college has also collected a number of vernacular newspapers that published news of Ms. Malala’s award and shared it with her friends.

“Though I have not met Malala, I did meet her father Ziauddin Yousafzai at Brussels in June 2012,” she said. She made the trip to Belgium when she was nominated for The International Children’s Peace Prize.

“Trafficking of young girls and child marriages were rampant in the villages here. Poverty and lack of awareness and education provided the ideal conditions for traffickers to operate here,” Ms. Anoyara said.

In 2008, Save the Children, an international non-governmental organisation working for child rights, helped establish a number of multi activity centres in the Sandeshkhali area. These centres help create awareness among the children of the region about the dangers of trafficking and similar crimes. Anoyara recalls stories of how she and others chased away traffickers who came offering jobs and marriage to young girls in the region.

Jatin Mondar, the State Programme Manager of Save the Children, West Bengal said that through these centres, the organisation had managed to put in place a “committee-based child protection model” in Sandeshkhali since 2004.

“Now, if someone approaches the villagers with the proposal to take a girl to Delhi or anywhere else for work, that person is sure to be handed over to the police by us,” Anoyara said.



Dubai court grants man right to divorce ‘djinn-possessed’ wife

Oct 17, 2014

A UAE court has granted a man the right to divorce his wife after he discovered she was possessed by a djinn, supernatural creatures in Islamic mythology and pre-Islamic Arabian tradition, a local daily said.

The Arab man filed for divorce after his wife repeatedly declined to have sex with him, Gulf News reported.

The woman had apparently declined her husband’s several attempts for some time until she asked him to discuss the matter with her family. The relatives, however, informed him that religious scholars had failed to exorcise the djinn.

The Dubai Sharia Court awarded him the divorce and asked him to pay his wife about $11,000. However, the court’s alimony money decision was later cancelled because she was not honest about the djinn issue.



Right-Wingers in Italy Protest Muslim Women’s Swimming Course

Oct 17, 2014

A swimming pool in northern Italy has supported an initiative by the local Islamic centre and announced courses, specially designed for Muslim women. The effort, planned as way of social integration, is not welcomed by Italian right-wingers.

The project, launched in Sesto San Giovanni in the suburbs of Milan, is in its second year, Italian Corriere della Sera reported. The organizers of the swimming course for Muslim women say it’s designed not only as a sporting activity, but also as a way to socialize.

No full swimming suit (a Burkini) is needed, but the women are required to wear a wetsuit with sleeves and knee-length shorts, as well as a swimming cap. Female instructors are another strict rule.

The course, scheduled to start in January next year, is open to Muslim women of all nationalities, and welcomes non-Muslims too. Hosted by the largest sports association in Sesto, it aims to help locals overcome religious and social prejudices, and is "an important movement of integration."

The idea's opponents argue the swimming course is "a classic example of reverse discrimination," comparing it to "outdated traditions," such as separate bathing areas for men and women, long abandoned in Italy.

When conducted out "of respect for the observance of Islamic rules, everything is permitted," Viviana Beccalossi, head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy National Alliance party said, as quoted by Corriere della Sera. "Otherwise we are accused of racism. After asking us to remove crucifixes from public places, to remove the nativity scene from schools... it is now the pool. Who knows what will come next," she said.

In May, members of another Italian right-wing party had already protested against swimming pools for Muslims. Supporters of the Forza Nuova (New Force) far-right group staged a demonstration in Venice, where a special women-only time slot was organized to allow Muslim women to swim.



Great Birmingham Run: Sikh and Muslim women overcome cultural barriers to take part

Oct 17, 2014

A group of women are out to smash the myths and stereotypes surrounding their cultures and religions when they take part in the Bupa Great Birmingham Run on Sunday.

The 17 women come from a range of cultural backgrounds, including Sikhs and Muslims, as well as having a range of health conditions.

But what the Saheli Women’s Group from Balsall Heath have in common is that none of them have ever run before.

The group started running last November when they all joined Birmingham City Council’s Active Parks/Coca Cola ParkLives beginners’ running session at Handsworth Park every Sunday morning.

The 17 who will line up at the start line for the half marathon include a mother and daughter and women, as well as women with physical issues such as a very high BMI (Body Mass Index), high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.

A spokeswoman for the group said: “Walking to the bus stop was a beyond some of them - in fact one of the ladies was wheelchair-bound before embarking on her journey to the start line.”

Over the weeks they stepped up their training during their weekly runs and progressed from walking one kilometre to running 10k races.

As well as the physical challenge of attempting a half marathon, the Sikhs and Muslims amongst the group had to decide what suitable clothes to wear which fitted with their cultural codes.

The women, led by Naseem Akthar, have also created an Adventure Hub gym facility with funding through Sport England’s Active England.

A spokeswoman said: “The fact these women are attempting the 13.1 mile distance is an amazing story.

"Many of these ladies had not exercised in years, with in some cases the cultural backdrop a barrier to them being seen exercising in public.”

The Saheli group was set up in the late 1980s and gives women physical opportunities not normally available to them.



British Muslim Women As Likely To Become Jihadists As Men

Oct 17, 2014

British Muslim females are just as likely to become radicalised to flee the country and fight jihad as their male counterparts, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London which also found that those whose families had lived in the UK for generations were more vulnerable than migrants. VoR's Tim Walklate reports.

The new study by Kamaldeep Bhui, professor of cultural psychology and epidemiology at Queen Mary University in London, found that gender made no difference when it came to young Britons being radicalised to fight jihad. Professor Bhui interviewed more than 600 Moslems between the ages of 18 to 45 from Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in Bradford and London. He asked them various questions about their lives, upbringing and views on terrorism; in order to find out what drives people from Britain to go out and fight in foreign countries like Syria and Iraq.

Professor Bhui says that women are just as susceptible to radicalisation as their male counterparts: “We found that women were as likely as men to have sympathies for violence and terrorism, and in fact, if you look just the exact point estimates they were slightly more likely to but it wasn’t statistically significant. The main point is that they’re no less likely and the popular view is that it was mostly men who were vulnerable. These are people who are ordinary citizens living in the community and they have sympathies; and they may not go on to commit and act. But in our models of understanding this they are the ones who are vulnerable, should they come into contact with certain radicalising influences.”

Professor Bhui discovered that people who sympathised with jihadi or terrorist ideologies were sometimes well-educated, middle class and with a household income of more than £75 000. He also suggests that parents who are concerned about their children should look out for any signs of depression or social isolation. And - intriguingly, it’s migrants that are less likely to become radicalised than those whose families had grown up in Britain for generations.

His study comes at a time when stories of young British jihadis fleeing their homeland to fight for Islamic State in the Middle East are filling Fleet Street newspapers. MI5 estimates that as many as 500 British people are fighting in Syria; while academics suggest that as many as sixty of these could be female. There have been numerous high-profile reports of women joining the global jihad. Twin sisters Zahra and Salma Halane, aged 16, left their home in greater Manchester back in July to follow in their brother’s footsteps and fight in Syria. In August, a mother of two from London named Amal El-Wahabi, who was married to another jihadi, became the first Briton to be convicted under terror laws of funding jihadi fighters in Syria.

Moreover, there is a deep history of female fighters joining the global jihad. Samantha Lewthwaite, better known as the White Widow, is the former wife of the 7/7 London terrorist bomber, Germaine Lindsay. For more than three years she has been on the run from the British, American and Kenyan authorities, charged with conspiracy to cause explosions. She is also suspected of masterminding the Nairobi mall attacks in Kenya.

Elizabeth Pearson is a PHD researcher in gender and radicalisation at the department for defence studies, King’s College London. She suggests that although women and girls will support extremist causes, they’re less likely to fight: “They’re looking to recruit men and women, but what they are doing is differentiating in the roles that they’re giving men and women. So if we’re talking about violent, Islamist groups, it’s men that have the fighting role…women do have a role – they have a really important role in supporting, fostering marriages, of propagating those stories…Women want to go off to Iraq and Syria to presumably support those goals – they want to be part of this fledgling state.”

As the number of girls and women heading to the Middle East increases as each month goes by, inevitably media attention on this will also grow; and Britain will need to understand why these people are so attracted to the global jihad.



Women Allowed On Nour Party’s Electoral List, 'On Condition Of Wearing Hijab'

Oct 17, 2014

The head of the Salafist Nour Party said the party's electoral list for the upcoming parliamentary elections will include women on "condition of good morals and wearing hijab (the Muslim head veil)."

Youness Makhioun told Al-Ahram Arabic news website the party will field female candidates for the elections and a priority will be set for competent figures.

"We have put conditions for the candidacy of women on the lists of Al-Nour Party, like having good manners and reputation, wearing hijab, having experience and qualifications," Makhioun said.

The Salafist Nour Party is the only prominent Islamist party that joined other political forces in the roadmap set forth after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Parliamentary elections are expected by the end of the year.

The Nour Party won 20 percent of seats in the 2011 parliamentary elections, when Islamists led the political scene after the 2011 uprising. No women candidates made it to the parliament convened in 2012.

During the election campaign of 2011, the Nour Party put pictures of roses instead of the faces of their female candidates. The election law in force mandated placing a quota of female candidates on party lists, but Nour Party female candidates had only a slight chance of winning, mostly being placed at the end of a proportional list.

The Salafist interpretation of Islamic Sharia Law mandates that the faces of Muslim woman should not be shown or featured.



Malala Yousafzai through the eyes of two women of the Middle East

Oct 17, 2014

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, made two memorable visits to the United States last year. In July 2013, on her 16th birthday,  she addressed the United Nations, calling on world leaders to join her fight for the right of girls to get an education. It was less than a year after she was shot in the head as she sat on a school bus, an attack by the Taliban that was intended to silence her and her efforts.

As the young activist was finding her voice and coming into her own, two She The People contributors who are daughters of the Middle East wrote about the effect of Malala’s rising star on the West and, more importantly, on their home region.

Umema Aimen, a native of Pakistan who last year was a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, wrote about how Malala’s courage and activism were not appreciated in her home country.

You’d think that being shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the right of all girls to go to school would make her as celebrated here as in New York, where on her 16th birthday last week, she spoke at the U.N. Youth Assembly. “Malala Day,” they called it.

But there are no such days here, and it is so disheartening to see this girl who has so much passion for Pakistan being treated so harshly in the country she loves. Over and over, we hear speeches that begin, “I support Malala and the right to education for all, but…”

This but disgusts me.

Malala was thought to have been a favorite to win the Nobel Prize last year. When she didn’t win the prize last October, there was an outpouring of disappointment from commentators to activists to regular people who admired her story. At the time, the young activist happened to be back in the United States for a publicity tour that included a visit to the White House for a photo op with President Obama and his family and numerous other media appearances. She the People contributor Nora Boustany took note of one of those interviews:  “Comedy Central’s ‘Daily Show’ host, Jon Stewart, blurted out that he wanted to adopt her.”

Boustany, a former Washington Post staff writer who now lives in Lebanon, wrote about her hope that Malala would continue to remain “true to herself.”

The swirl of attention and multiple agendas risk alienating Malala from her beloved home in the Swat Valley, a place of lush green fields, gurgling streams and Urdu songs.

Her survival has been a gift. Her use of the global stage to declare the imperative of education for girls will ring across the Muslim world from Casablanca to Kabul. To be most effective and to remain relevant, she has to stay close to her Pakistani experience. She has to be able to find her way back to her own cultural frames of reference and not get too detached from them. She might find a model in Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian judge and Nobel peace laureate who was able to wrestle the freedom of human rights activists in her country by using the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, outfoxing the mullahs at their own game.



ISIS Is Actively Recruiting Female Fighters To Brutalize Other Women

Oct 17, 2014

Kurdish forces and the US-backed coalition aren't the only forces with female soldiers fighting in Syria and Iraq. The militant group The Islamic State (ISIS) is recruiting women, too.

Since February, ISIS has controlled at least two all-female battalions, recruiting single women between 18 and 25 and paying a monthly salary of roughly $150.

Al Arabiya reports the groups were initially formed to "expose male activists who disguise in women's clothing to avoid detention when stopping at the ISIS checkpoints."

The battalions are also used to enforce ISIS's strict laws of individual conduct on women - sometimes violently. Abu Ahmad, an ISIS official in Syria, told Syria Deeply, "We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law."

Thomas Hegghammer, an expert on violent Islamism, told The Atlantic that it appeared the female battalions were restricted to the ISIS-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa.

"There is a process of female emancipation taking place in the jihadi movement, albeit a very limited and morbid one," Hegghammer said. "Many of them are eager to portray themselves as strong women and often make fun of the Western stereotype of 'the oppressed Muslim woman.'"

But the battalions aren't evidence that ISIS is embracing female empowerment. It's the just the opposite.

"ISIS created it to terrorize women," Raqqa-based activist Abu al-Hamza told Syria Deeply, telling of a raid the group conducted at a girls school. "After arresting those women and girls they took them to ISIS prisons and locked them in for six hours and punished some of them with 30 whips each."

The girls and women were accused or wearing veils which were two thin, or exposed too much of their faces.

Un Muayad, a Ramadi woman, joins tribal forces in a firefight against ISIS. It seems all sides are using women to fight for their cause.

Zainab, a teenager in Raqqa, told Syria Deeply she was arrested by the group.

"I was walking down the street when a car suddenly stopped and a group of armed women got out," she reportedly said. "They insulted me and yelled at me. They took me to one of their centers and kept me locked in a room. Nobody talked to me or told me the reason for my detention. One of the women in the brigade came over, pointing her firearm at me. She then tested my knowledge of prayer, fasting and hijab."

According to Syria Deeply, the fighter told Zainab she was arrested because she had been in public without an escort and her hijab was not being worn properly.

"You should be punished for taking your religion lightly," the female fighter said, threatening Zainab with a harsher punishment if she was caught again, according to Syria Deeply.

The all-female battalions may be just another way that ISIS inflicts rampant gender-based violence on its captive population. The Islamic State has been disastrous for women living under its control, who are reportedly subject to rape, beatings, and arbitrary arrest and are ordered to wear coverings more extreme than the vast majority of Islamic societies. Women must also be accompanied by male guardians in public.



Facebook, Apple finance female employees’ ‘egg freezing’

Oct 17, 2014

Silicon Valley tech giants Facebook and Apple will start paying for their female employees’ egg freezing in 2015, U.S. network NBC News reported.

Should the female employees in one of the companies wish to freeze their eggs, the new policy will cover the costs, which can reach as high as $10,000 per round in addition to an annual $500 for storage.

Egg freezing puts a woman’s fertility on hiatus until she makes the decision to bear children.

“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do,” Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum told NBC News.

Adams said the policy is an effort to invest in female talent, allowing women to plan the lives they seek.

The coverage will offer a “payback” to the women who have put off childbearing during their careers, a commitment the policy would reward, Philip Chenette, a fertility specialist in San Francisco, said.

Facebook, where the benefit falls under their surrogacy coverage, had already started paying for its employees’ egg freezing.

Apple is scheduled to begin in January and the scheme will fall under its fertility benefit. Both companies are allocating up to $20,000 for the procedure.

Before a fairly short procedure, women who plan on freezing their eggs undergo 10 days of fertility drug injections.

Following the outpatient procedure, the patient is good to go and can “get back to work the next day,” Lynn Westphal, associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University Medical Center, was quoted by NBC News  as saying.

The eggs are then frozen and used whenever their owners wish.

Women who know they want children can “go on with their lives and know that they've done everything that they can,” Chenette said.

While the technique does not guarantee a pregnancy, a survey has shown that many women who have frozen their eggs reported feeling “empowered.”

“The attitude toward egg freezing is very different,” Christy Jones, founder of Extend Fertility, said, explaining that attitudes are now more positive than a few years ago.

Women are freezing their eggs a form of empowerment rather than a last resort to have children, Jones said, whose company offers and promotes egg freezing in the United States.



Syrian sisters’ singing, poetry on Mideast crises goes viral

Oct 17, 2014

A cherub-like, powerful voice emanating from Syrian Faiayo coupled with poetry recited by her sister Rihan about the conflict in the Middle East has become a hit on social media.

“Syria…three years and more, of crazy, selfish and illogical war. Three years in which souls, hearts and minds have been destroyed,” read the English subtitles of a YouTube video uploaded on Oct. 11, which garnered 10,140 views as of Wednesday.

Sweden-based Rihan’s lyrics then remind viewers of children and women who “were sold in the slave markets.”

Then, the singing sister performs a song by the famous Lebanese diva Fairuz, titled “Damascus, you are the glory,” seemingly in nostalgia for the past.

After Syria, Rihan tackles neighboring Iraq, addressing “oppression” and “tyranny” in the country.

Once Rihan’s relentless reproach of Iraqi politics ends, Faiayo sings yet another pan-Arab song by Fairuz for Baghdad and its celebrated past.

While the singing continues for Lebanon and Palestine, Faiayo ends the video by singing the famous “Mawtini” or “My country.”

Mawtini was composed by a Lebanese musician and written by a Palestinian in 1934. The song is currently Iraq’s national anthem.

The video has proved popular on Facebook with a post on the “Iraqis in Sweden” page being viewed 18,703 times and being shared 654 times as of Wednesday.

“So touching. I wish there were more than one like to hit. A smooth message by gorgeous faces, voices and more important patriotism. By the way the two sisters are from Syria living in Sweden,” said one Iraqi Facebook user.

Other commentators also relished the video: “Long lives freedom... if we can still remember what does it mean... Love to our brothers and sisters in the Arab world!”

One YouTube user said: “Every word is true very sad.” Meanwhile one Twitter user expressed: “An influential video for two Syrian women who are expressing artistically what politics have failed to do.”