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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Nov 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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For Muslim women, respect cuts both ways

Mosques and burqas stir opposition in Europe

Malaysian woman tries to reverse Muslim conversion

Malaysian ‘Muslim’ woman battles to be declared Hindu

French foreign minister praises courage of Sudan’s trouser journalist

Muslim woman faces hate in US over Fort Hood shooting

Plea over Saudi 'witchcraft' case

Hindu woman fights claim that she converted to Islam

SAAYA holds program to create awareness among Muslim women about govt. welfare schemes

Philippine 'monsters' murdered pregnant women: relative

Fair share of women at Afghan pavilion

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this Page:,-respect-cuts/d/2143


For Muslim women, respect cuts both ways

Monday, November 23, 2009

For Muslim women, respect cuts both ways

When you think of Buenos Aires you're more likely to envision Catholic churches and Virgin Marys, not so much minarets and Muslims. But, much to my surprise, South America's largest mosque can be found in Palermo, one of Buenos Aires's most fashionable districts.

The King Fahd Islamic Cultural Centre is an enormous structure surrounded by sweet smelling jasmine flowers and heavy-duty security.

I hadn't come to Argentina to go to mosque but out of a mixture of journalistic curiosity and tribal obligation I decided to pay a visit. Catholics aren't the only ones ridden with guilt.

But unlike the Catholic churches all around the city, you can't just enter King Fahd's mosque whenever you feel like it.

You have to answer a series of questions posed by the guards at the security barrier. And you can only visit two days a week, at noon, for a brief, guided tour.When I arrived at the King Fahd, the tour group had already entered the mosque. The security guard asked me a few questions and, upon realizing that I was a Muslim, said that I would have to cover up with a Saudi-issued cloth.

Out of respect for the institution, I took the black, polyester garb he gave me and proceeded to drape myself.

Then another man, maybe an imam, maybe an overzealous congregant, came over and pointed at my feet. I was wearing sandals and my feet were exposed despite my new black tent.

He told me first in Spanish and then again in English for effect, "I shouldn't see your feet." I told him, if I cover my feet then I can't walk.

We had a bit of a Mexican standoff but in the end I relented and pulled the curtain down so my feet were covered. He proceeded to walk me and my friends to the rest of the tour group.

It was then that I realized just how special my treatment had been.

There were between 50 or 60 people on the tour, men and women of all ages, some English speakers, some Germans and a few curious local residents. Not a single other person — including the women — had been asked to cover their hair, arms, legs or, you guessed it, feet.

I wasn't wearing anything tight or revealing. In fact, there were other women in shorts, dresses and short sleeves but they had not been asked to cover up.

I was likely the only obvious Muslim in the whole crowd. I say obvious because of my name and country of origin. Converts aren't always obvious in either respect. And that's probably why I was the only person asked to cover up.

some sisterhood

When my Argentinean friend Juan saw that no other person had been asked to cloak themselves like this he urged me to remove the burka, saying "Don't worry about it Natasha, you're in Argentina now."

I tried to explain to Juan that it didn't matter if I was in Argentina or Algeria, I would receive the same treatment in any mosque.

Sometimes, and I'm only speaking for myself here, but sometimes when you're a Muslim woman, membership does not have its privileges.

In Indonesia, a colleague and I attended an event at a police academy in the Sharia-law-abiding city of Banda Aceh.

My colleague, whose blond hair was visible through her loose headscarf, was left alone. But when the officers found out that I was a Muslim they wanted my scarf so tightly wrapped around my head you'd think I was being prepared for mummification.

The same kind of thing happened earlier this year in India when I was shopping in a small store along with some non-Indian tourists.

The owner of the store was a Muslim, and was pleasant enough initially. But when he found out I was a Muslim, his tone and manner completely changed and he asked me loudly in front of the other patrons "What are you wearing?" I was wearing an orange long sleeve blouse and blue jeans.

Even in my own city, Toronto, I've seen Muslim men shake the hands of my friends and colleagues but refuse to shake mine because I'm a "sister."

Respect runs both ways

Here's my guess at what some of these men are thinking: You're a Muslim woman. That means you have a direct line to God and to heaven, provided you behave properly.

Non-Muslims are bound for hell anyway and not really our problem, and unless they convert we won't bother with them. But since you're one of us, we better teach you how to behave and dress like a proper Muslim woman.

These men may think they are doing the right thing, but they are not helping.

In fact, this attitude poses a huge problem for someone like me who identifies as a Muslim and who wants to be part of the community, but who is and sees herself as an independent person who makes her own decisions.

I realize that I when I go to a mosque or a government office, like a police academy, in a Muslim country I am there as a guest. So I try to accommodate myself as much as possible to the community standards. That is only being respectful.

Other women journalists at the CBC, non-Muslims who visit mosques or Muslim countries, will often wear head scarves as a symbol of respect. But they are never asked to dress in a full, body-covering burka.

Why should I face this double standard?

In the case of the storeowner in Mumbai, I left his store.

I'm willing to be respectful to men like this, but I would like a little in return.

Don't make an example out of me in front non-Muslims just because you think you can. Treat me as somebody who is on your side, on your team.

Let my behaviour and conduct dictate how you treat me, not whether you can see my hair or feet. Surely, the measure of a Muslim woman cannot be reduced simply to her appearance.

So, I ask of these men: Let me dress the way I want and pray the way I want, and shake my hand when I extend it. And please keep your black, itchy cloaks for yourselves.


Mosques and burqas stir opposition in Europe

November 25, 2009

By Martin Barillas

In Switzerland, voters go to the polls to decide whether to allow minarets. In Spain, a go-slow policy appears to emerge.

While France and Italy appear poised to prohibit distinctive dress by Muslim women, the burkha or chador, which has been defined by French President Nicholas Sarkozy as a “symbol of the subjugation of women,” Swiss voters will go to the polls on Sunday November 29 to decide whether to ban minarets – the from which Muslim faithful are call to prayer at mosques.

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which enjoys a majority in the Swiss parliament, managed to get the measure on the ballot. It would not affect current mosques, but only those that would be built in the future. Switzerland now counts at least 310,000 Mohammadens, or some 4.6 percent of the total population, and approximately 200 mosques. The Swiss Federation of Islamic Organizations has noted that only four mosques in the country have minarets and none of them feature the call of the muezzin to prayer so as not to violate Switzerland’s strict noise-control laws.

The SVP has asserted that the minarets are not actually religious in nature but political and symbolize “domination,” linking them to Islamic law or sharia – “the enemy of liberty.” The SVP has noted a speech made by the current Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who said in 1997 “The mosques are our barracks, their domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, the faithful our soldiers.”

Switzerland’s national government, as well as other institutions such as the Roman Catholic hierarchy, has expressed opposition to a ban on minarets. The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Switzerland has issued a statement saying “Our rejection of the initiative is based on our Christian values and the democratic principles of our country.”

Nonetheless, Switzerland’s direct democracy allows that any national referendum can change even the country’s Constitution. The SVP won 29 percent of the vote in the most recent parliamentary elections with a campaign that some observers characterized as plainly xenophobic. It was then successful in garnering the 100 thousand signatures needed to put the referendum before the voting public. Opinion polls show that 53 percent of those polled do not favor the ban, while 34 percent are in favor and 13 percent undecided.

Islamic Reconquista of Spain

Switzerland is not the only country facing a debate over Muslim places of worship or related issues. Spain centuries ago was occupied by Muslims, and retains cultural elements left by Muslim peoples in his language, food, and architecture. In the last twenty years, Muslim immigration has increased and is now rubbing shoulders with the now largely secularist Iberians. Currently, Muslims number about 1 million or less than 1.9 percent of the population as a whole. However, Muslim political power is growing and there have been some moves towards forming Muslim political parties. In 2008, controversy was stirred when a Spanish convert and leader of Muslims demanded that the Catholic Cathedral in Cordoba, which was once a mosque, be opened to Muslims for public worship.

Spanish experts on Islam note that Spaniards fear the formation of Islamic ghettos in their midst should a number of mosques emerge to serve Muslim faithful. In Catalonia, local governments have provided parcels of land for building places of worship.

In Spain there are 700 registered Mohammaden communities. There are currently two major organizations representing Muslims in Spain, and the lack of a definite interlocutor for appealing to local authorities has hampered the advance of mosques. A lawyer for black African Muslims said that if Muslims do not coalesce around one representative organization, they will continue to coalesce in ghettos.

As a result, Muslim prayer centers can be found in out-of-the-way places under the direction of clerics, or ulemas, who do not preach a moderate version of Islam which respects the laws of Spain and Europe, and cultural conventions. Another issue has been the lack of “halal” butchers who can slaughter animals according to Islamic law. This has caused health problems in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and a magnet for Muslims.


Malaysian woman tries to reverse Muslim conversion


A Malaysian woman is fighting to be recognized as a Hindu after being converted to Islam when she was a child, in the latest interfaith dispute to hit Muslim-majority Malaysia, her lawyer said Wednesday.

The case threatens to further anger non-Muslims who have complained that their religious rights are being sidelined, and could further erode minority support for the government.

Lawyer Gooi Hsiao Leung said Banggarma Subramaniam, 27, and her three siblings were under the care of a government orphanage in northern Penang state when she was converted to Islam by welfare officials in 1989 when she was seven years old.

"The conversion itself from the start (was) illegal. She wants to restore her Hindu faith and practice her religion freely," he told the Associated Press.

She ran away when she was 16 and got married two years later in 2001 in a traditional Hindu ceremony. When she returned to the home to collect her identity card and other documents, she was given the Muslim conversion certificate which listed her name as Siti Hasnah Vanga-rama Abdullah, said Gooi.

She has been unable to register her marriage or name her husband as the father of their two children in their birth certificates as she is listed a Muslim. Banggarma's husband must convert to Islam to legally wed her as marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is not allowed in the country.

The welfare department claims Banggarma was converted in 1983 by her father and that she must go to the Shariah Court to verify her status.

Gooi, however, said the conversion certificate was dated 1989 and that under Penang Islamic laws, minors below 18 cannot be converted to Islam without the consent of their parents.

Malaysia has a dual court system with civil courts for non-Muslims and Shariah courts for Muslims. In interfaith disputes involving Islam, the Shariah courts typically get the last word, which has upset non-Muslims who fear they cannot get justice in such courts.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism reiterated calls for legislative reforms to "ensure that Islam, and Islamic law, is not forced upon people like Banggarma who do not profess themselves as Muslim."

Banggarma "should have complete freedom to choose her own religion without having to go through any procedure or counseling," it said in a statement.

If she renounces Islam, Banggarma risks being charged with apostasy, which in Malaysia - as in many Islamic nations - is regarded a crime punishable by fines and jail sentences. Offenders are often sent to prison-like rehabilitation centers.

Minorities are increasingly becoming worried that their rights have become subordinate to those of ethnic Malay Muslims, who form nearly 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people.

The unhappiness over racial discrimination erupted in an unprecedented street protest exactly two years ago Wednesday by tens of thousands of ethnic Indians. The demonstration emboldened the minorities into voting against the government, which returned to power with its worst performance ever in the March 2008 general elections.


Malaysian ‘Muslim’ woman battles to be declared Hindu

Wednesday, 25 Nov, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian woman who was converted to Islam as a child is battling to be recognised as a Hindu, in the latest conversion dispute to erupt in Malaysia.

S. Banggarma, 27, has said she was made to convert to Islam at the age of seven when she was placed at a children's home in Penang state.

She was given a Muslim name and her identity card — a critical document in Malaysia — declared her to be a Muslim. But as a teenager she rediscovered her identity and later married a Hindu man in a religious ceremony.

However, she cannot register the marriage due to their different religions — Malaysian Muslims are not permitted to marry someone of another faith, unless the spouse converts to Islam.

She is also unable to name her husband as the father of their two children, aged eight and two, on their birth certificates.

Banggarma is now seeking permission to change her name and religious status on her identity card but conversion out of Islam is extremely difficult in Malaysia.

‘I have always stuck to my Hindu roots and practised all the traditions,’ she told AFP.

‘I was born as a Hindu, I have lived as a Hindu and I will die as a Hindu.’

Conversion rows, including ‘body-snatching’ cases when Islamic authorities have battled with relatives over the remains of people whose religion is disputed, are common in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The tussles have raised allegations that the country is being ‘Islamised’ and that the rights of the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities are being eroded.

Welfare Department director-general Meme Zainal Rashid has refuted allegations that department officials forced Banggarma to convert to Islam, and said her father was responsible for the change of religion.

However, Banggarma dismissed the official version.

‘My father was a practising Hindu until he died and he never mentioned anything about converting anyone in the family to become a Muslim,’ she said.

Malaysia's inter-faith council has thrown its support behind Banggarma and rejected the government's stance that she must go to the religious Sharia courts for permission to revert to Hinduism.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with the civil courts and the sharia religious courts operating side by side. Non-Muslims say they do not get a fair hearing when conversion and family law cases end up in religious courts.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism said citizens deemed to be Muslims face imprisonment for attempting to leave the religion in some states.

‘We therefore reiterate our calls... for the authorities to put in place legislative reforms to ensure that Islam, and Islamic law, is not forced upon people like Banggarma who do not profess themselves as Muslim,’ it said.


French foreign minister praises courage of Sudan’s trouser journalist

Wednesday 25 November 2009

PARIS — France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, today commended the courage of Lubna Hussein a Sudanese journalist and women’s rights activist who was recently released from jail after charges of violating Sudan’s rigid dress code.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, left, gestures towards Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday Nov. 24, 2009.

Last September, the judge ordered the female journalist to pay a fine of 500 pounds ($200) or else be jailed for 30 days after being convicted of indecent dressing. Lubna refused to pay the fine but she was released well before her one month jail sentence expired.

"We are all concerned by this (situation) because the subject of the violation of human rights, particularly the rights of women, affects us all," said Kouchner in a joint press conference with the Sudanese journalist who is visiting the French capital this week.

"It is a very great struggle," he further said adding "It is a very important struggle for Arab women and for African women." The minister also disclosed that Lubna would receive soon an award in Cairo from an Arab Women’s organization for her work.

Kouchner said Tuesday that 43,000 women were arrested in and around the Sudanese capital alone in such cases last year.

Last July Lubna had been arrested by Public Order Police along with a dozen other girls and charged with dressing inappropriately. She also resigned from her post at the UNMIS to waive her immunity bestowed upon employees of the world body.

The minister stressed that Lubna has not only fought against her arrest, "she had the courage to speak out against the article 152 of the Islamic law which is applied in Sudan since President Bashir is in power.”

Article 152 of the Sudanese Penal Code 1991 states, in summary, that: Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or wears an obscene outfit shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.

"This woman is a model for her great simplicity and her persistent courage," he added, noting that France considers itself "a comrade in her struggle."

The ex-employee at the United Nations Mission Sudan (UNMIS) has used her case to draw attention to a law that allows flogging as a punishment for any acts or wearing clothing that are viewed as offending morals.

The Sudanese journalist who is Paris to promote for a book she wrote about her case told reporters she had been unfairly banned from leaving her country but got out by hiding under a head-to-toe Islamic niqab.

Lubna left Khartoum for the Yemeni capital Sana’a and paid a visit to Cairo and Amman where she had been invited by women organizations before to arrive in Paris.

"I have not fled the Sudan. The Constitution gives me a number of rights including the right to travel. Those who prevented me from traveling previously violated the constitution," she said.

The former French President, Jacques Chirac also received today the Sudanese journalist to show his solidarity with her cause.


Muslim woman faces hate in US over Fort Hood shooting

WASHINGTON—An American woman has been charged with a hate crime after she verbally attacked and tugged at the hijab, or headscarf, of a Muslim woman following the Fort Hood murders, press reports said.

Two days after the Fort Hood shooting, Valerie Kenney approached U.S.-born Amal Abusumayah at a grocery store and shouted, "the guy that did the Texas shooting, he wasn't American, and he was from the Middle East," referring to Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, a U.S. citizen born in Virginia.

" Usually after incidents like Fort Hood, there tends to be a spike in hate crimes. Current events cause people to act out in bigotry "Christina Abraham, civil rights director said.

Although Abusumayah ignored her, Kenney, from Illinois, pulled her hijab, prompting Abusumayah to call the police, who arrested Kenney within minutes and charged her with a hate crime.

Kenney is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 3 and if convicted she faces three years in prison and a $25,000 fine for her rant.



Plea over Saudi 'witchcraft' case

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi Arabia to overturn a death sentence given to a man convicted of practising witchcraft.

The organisation said Ali Sibat appeared to have been condemned because of psychic predictions he had made on Lebanese TV from his home in Beirut.

He was arrested during his pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Medina last year.

There is no legal definition of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia - a deeply conservative Muslim nation.

The country's religious authorities condemn any practices deemed un-Islamic, including horoscopes and fortune telling.

But BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher says there is still a thirst for such services in a country where widespread superstition survives under the surface of religious orthodoxy.

Human Rights Watch accused Saudi courts of "sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police".

"The crime of 'witchcraft' is being used against all sorts of behaviour, with the cruel threat of state-sanctioned executions," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East director.

Human Rights Watch also said reports in Saudi media suggested that two other people had been arrested for witchcraft in the past month.

In addition, a Saudi woman remains on death row after being sentenced for the same crime last year.


Hindu woman fights claim that she converted to Islam

November 25th, 2009

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 25 (IANS) A Malaysian woman is fighting to establish that she is a Hindu, denying a claim by the government’s social welfare department that she converted to Islam in 1983.

Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah, who goes by her original name S. Banggarma, 27, was issued a conversion certificate when she was seven years old in 1989. Her lawyer Gooi Hsiao Leung said: “Clearly, you cannot convert twice.”

The certificate lists Banggarma and her younger sister as Muslim. Banggarma, however, says that her younger sister was not even born at that time.

The government, however, says the father converted to Islam along with the rest of the family and placed the daughters in a welfare home.

Banggarma’s case came to light last week when she appealed to Gooi for help to register her marriage to S. Sockalingam, 31, with the National Registration Depart­ment, The Star newspaper said Wednesday.

Despite going through a traditional Hindu marriage ceremony in 2001, Banggarma says she is unable to register her marriage or name her husband as the father of her two children in their birth certificates as she is listed as a Muslim.

Ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamil Hindus who settled here during the British era, form nearly eight percent of Malaysia’s multi-religious population that has a Muslim majority.


SAAYA holds program to create awareness among Muslim women about govt. welfare schemes

25 November 2009

Patna: With an aim to empower Muslim women and create awareness among them about the schemes launched by state as well as central government to improve socio-economic condition of Muslims particularly Muslim women, SAAYA Network organized a state level consultation meeting on November 21, 2009 in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.

This meeting was also intended to provide a platform for office bearers of District Muslim Women Aid Societies, formed by the state government (MWAS) and NGOs working among Muslim Community and to help them carry out collective action for actualizing the socio-economic development of Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular.

Facilitating the meeting, Mr. Syed Ahamed, Secretary, SAAYA Network said: “There is an urgent need to make use of the present enabling environment to address the concerns of the Muslim community, particularly its women. State level awareness campaign has to be initiated since it is a fact that because of lack of awareness about government schemes among Muslims, these schemes are hardly utilized to the full.”

“There should be a greater synergy between Muslim elites and the development sector for actualizing socio-economic development of Muslims. If these are not done; various schemes initiated for the development of Muslims would not be effective and no real benefit accumulate to the Muslim community” he added.

He further said that the responsibility of the welfare of the community was not an issue confined to the leadership of the community but the government has a major responsibility towards addressing the problems of Muslims.

Inaugurating the meeting, Justice Akbar Ali said that the greater the knowledge, the greater is the power. Knowledge is a tool of empowerment which has the potential to overcome most roadblocks on the road to development.

“A massive awareness campaign has to be organized and concerted efforts should be made to make use of the welfare schemes for the development of Muslim community particularly Muslim women” he added.

He also urged the Muslim community to give priority to education and to work together for the development of the community continually.

“It is not enough to have only one-day meetings or conferences but there should be continuous meetings and concerted efforts to take the Muslim community forward” he advised.

The meeting was attended by almost 50 office bearers from District Muslim Women Aid Societies and functionaries of several NGOs working among Muslims and Muslim Women and discussed the issues threadbare.

The meeting passed the following resolutions and demanded the government to take concrete steps for the advancement of Muslim community:

1. Meetings of the District Level Muslim Women Aid Societies (MWAS) have to be organized once in three months as stipulated in their bye-laws. The office bearers of the MWAS should comprise persons from NGOs working among Muslim community. Office space has to be provided to MWAS within the Collectorate campus to ensure easy access to the intended beneficiaries.

2. The conditions imposed by Tamil Nadu Minorities Economic Development Corporation Ltd. (TAMCO) to avail loan such as two persons who are in government service have to give surety for obtaining loans, have to be modified to ensure poor Muslims to avail the credit facilities being sanctioned by the Corporation. The loans have to be given through nationalized banks as in other cases.

3. Ensure that the poor Muslim families have been given BPL cards since many Muslim families who are living below poverty line were left out. The works implemented under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) must be culturally sensitive so that Muslim community could also be benefited.

4. Provide recognition and support to Muslim minority educational institutions which should ensure an equitable number of seats for girls. Provide adequate and timely scholarships for Muslim students in general and for girl students in particular. Locate more educational institutions in minority dominated and suggested priority for residential schools for girls. Induction of more female teachers, provision of hostels for girls. Open more technical institutes in Muslim concentrated areas and ensure equitable admission to Muslim girls who should not only be relegated to learning traditional skills like stitching, cooking etc., but also trained in modern technology.

5. Ensure adequate female staff including female doctors in health facilities located in Muslim concentrated areas.

6. Provide equitable bank loans to Muslims in priority sectors as well as commercial and business sectors and ensure that they get a fair share of these loans. Create easy credit facilities for Muslim Women, crafts women and women involved in petty trade and commerce. Open training centres at district level for skill upgradation in the unorganized sector for both traditional and other work in which Muslims are employed. Provide a marketing network to women employed in this sector.

7. Ensure better representation of Muslims in government jobs and public sector units. Ensure at least one Muslim representative on all recruitment boards.

8. Prepare a sub-plan for the socio-economic including educational, health and other development of the Muslim community. Set up a separate department at the state level exclusively to deal with Muslim affairs and allocate adequate budget for schemes aimed at advancing the Muslims. Set up a database and collect and compile data on the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims on a regular basis to monitor the progress of the community.


Philippine 'monsters' murdered pregnant women: relative


COTABATO, Nov 25 (AFP) - A politician whose family was targeted in a southern Philippine massacre that left 52 people dead described the attackers on Wednesday as monsters, saying his murdered sister and aunt were pregnant.

Esmael Mangudadatu also said his wife was sexually assaulted and mutilated before being killed in Monday's slaughter, which he and police alleged was organised by his political rival from another local Muslim clan.

"We can't call him an animal because I have pets and they are tame. No, he is a monster. They are monsters," Mangudadatu told reporters.

He was referring to Andal Ampatuan Jnr, a member of President Gloria Arroyo's ruling coalition who police said Wednesday was the top suspect in the massacre.

The killings occurred after about 100 of Ampatuan's gunmen allegedly abducted a convoy of Mangudadatu's aides and relatives, plus a group of journalists.

The victims were abducted as they were travelling in a six-vehicle convoy to an election office where Mangudadatu's wife was to register her husband's candidacy for governor in next year's polls.

Ampatuan was planning to also run for governor and carried out the massacre so he would not be challenged for the post, according to Mangudadatu.

The victims were shot at close range a short time after being abducted, then dumped or buried in shallow graves on a remote farming road close to a town bearing the Ampatuan name, police said earlier.

Mangudadatu said Wednesday he had sent his wife, two sisters and aunt, along with other women, to register his nomination because he had been warned that it was too dangerous for him to do it himself.

"We sent women because in the Muslim culture you don't hurt women," he said.

"My youngest sister was five months' pregnant, while my aunt was into her sixth month of pregnancy."

All of his relatives in the convoy were killed, along with two female lawyers and at least 13 journalists, according to police.

Mangudadatu gave a sickening description of his wife's fate.

"My wife's private parts were slashed four times, after which they fired a bullet into it," he said.

"They speared both of her eyes, shot both her breasts, cut off her feet, fired into her mouth. I could not begin to describe the manner by which they treated her."

It was not immediately possible to verify Mangudadatu's claims about mutilation.

Chief Superintendent Josefino Cataluna, a regional police chief whose jurisdiction covers Maguindanao, the southern province where the killings took place, declined to comment when asked about Mangudadatu's statements.

However a mortician's aide at the scene of the mass graves told AFP there on Tuesday that one unidentified woman victim appeared to be pregnant.

Ampatuan has not commented publicly on the allegations.

His father, the governor of Maguindanao with his own private army who is also a member of the ruling coalition, has promised to cooperate with investigators, according to a presidential adviser.

However police have not reported making any move to arrest Ampatuan, saying they must first gather all the evidence.


Fair share of women at Afghan pavilion

Neha Pushkarna

25 November 2009

NEW DELHI: Call them Afghanistan’s superwomen. They rose from the rubbles of war to reach the pinnacle of success in a country where women had long been captivated at home or in hijab. But the businesswomen, who have set up stalls at the Afghan pavilion at the trade fair this year, represent emancipation in the strict sense of the term.

Out of 40 Afghan traders exhibiting at the trade fair this year, eight are women. Afghan officials say the number may not be too huge, but it’s better than ever before. The Afghan women at the fair have come with handicraft items, including embroidered clothes, bags, jewellery, which are made by more women aspiring for a better life back home.

Fifty-year-old Aziza Mohmmand, director of Muska Ball and Leather Making Company, said, ‘‘I set up my business of manufacturing leather bags and footballs in 2004. All my company’s products are made by widows and disadvantaged women in Kabul. They just collect raw material from us and make the products at home. It helps them gain economic independence.’’ Aziza added that though girls were not allowed to study and even female doctors and teachers had to stay indoors during the Taliban era, many women now go out to work, specially in cities like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

Afghan officials say government and NGOs are doing every bit to uplift the women and the effect is gradually showing. Said Fazel M Wasit, investment promotion director, Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), ‘‘Today almost 40% traders in Afghanistan are women. They have come up successfully across all sections — business, politics or teaching.’’ AISA is instrumental in giving an international platform like the Indian trade fair to the Afghan traders. Wasit added, ‘‘Though the number of women exhibiting their products at the fair is only eight, it is a fair number considering it was zero during the time of Taliban. Each of them here represents dozens of women in Afghanistan.’’

These traders say the women in Afghanistan prefer handicraft for work since they can do it from home. And more importantly, they are traditionally skilled in it. Nadia Yousofzai from Kabul, who owns a company called Sana Handicrafts and Knitting named after her daughter, said, ‘‘I have 20 women making handicraft items for my company. Whenever there is a big order, nearly 50 women take up the work. It’s great to be in India with all their work. There are good business opportunities here.’’

Ayesha Sadequi, who returned to Kabul from Iran soon after the Taliban crumbled in 2001, said, she participated in the trade fair and the Surajkund Mela every year. ‘‘I work with the handicrafts’ company founded by my mother and this is my fifth visit to India. By now, I am well aware what Delhiites like in handicraft and that’s what I bring with me every year,’’ Ayesha said.

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