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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Aug 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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For Women, By Women: All-Female Madrasas Mixing Tradition with Science in Kerala

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Aug 2017

All-female madrasas are becoming more common in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. Source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional



 The Fashionable Woman in the Islamic Attire

 Moroccan Beauty Queen Becomes Latest Victim of Sexual Assault

 More Muslim Women Than Men File For Divorce in Bengaluru

 Four Pakistani Women, Two Hindu And Two Muslim, Get Indian Citizenship

 DAP To Field More Women Candidates in Sabah

 Swiss Indict Woman for Attempting To Join ISIS in Syria

 Majority Favour a Ban on Burqa in Public in Australia, New Poll Finds

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




For Women, By Women: All-Female Madrasas Mixing Tradition with Science in Kerala

August 25, 2017

A new type of women-only Islamic seminaries is on the rise in India. Bringing together a blend of traditional religious studies and modern secular education, these pioneering institutions are making the closed-off area of higher Islamic theology accessible to girls.

Earlier this month, graduating students of Al Ghaith Wafiyya College in the Indian state of Kerala experienced a one-of-its-kind convocation ceremony after successfully completing a five-year course in Islamic Studies coupled with a bachelor’s degree from a recognised secular university.

The thing that sets this convocation apart from any other is that it was exclusively for women, run by women, attended by women. From the valedictory speech right down to setting up the microphone, all tasks were completed by women.

As reported by, the groundbreaking ceremony saw 111 female graduates proudly receive their “sanad” – which formally endorses them as Islamic scholars, connecting them with what is believed to be the unbroken tradition of Islamic scholarship beginning with the Prophet Muhammad and entrusting them with its transmission to the next generation.

“Sanad” is traditionally conferred on male scholars on their completion of Islamic studies, formally authorising them to take up teaching and other scholarly responsibilities as well as to officiate at religious events and offer pastoral services.

By breaking with tradition, the women-only Islamic seminary is aiming to reclaim women’s place within the enterprise of Islamic scholarship.

Founded by scholar and education activist, Abdul Hakeem Faizy, the seminary hopes not only to make Islamic studies accessible to girls, but also to blend the traditions of Islamic teaching with modern secular education.

Crafting an integrated curriculum combining the two schools of thought, Abdul Hakeem has spread his concept across more than 60 seminaries run by traditional Muslims in the state of Kerala. Included in these are around 15 women-only colleges, known as “wafiyya”.

By incorporating contemporary science alongside classic Islamic education, Abdul Hakeem aims to produce religious scholars who are not only equipped with an in-depth knowledge in the various disciplines of Islam, but also with a sophisticated understanding of the scientific, cultural, political and intellectual currents that shape our modern world.

As the all-female graduating class of Al Ghaith Wafiyya College look to the future, they do so with both Islamic studies and a bachelor’s degree under their belt and an ability to understand and appreciate religious texts from a broader perspective thanks to the amalgamation of these two important disciplines.



The fashionable woman in the Islamic attire

By Robin Givhan

August 24, 2017

It may be that someone steeped in Islamic traditions would find Elizabeth Bucar’s exploration of style among Muslim women in Iran, Turkey and Indonesia simplistic. Indeed, the main message in her book, “Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress,” is quite basic: Fashion among Muslim women, whether they are fully cloaked in a chador or wearing an Alexander McQueen skull-print scarf as a head covering, along with skinny jeans and a fur vest, is varied, highly individual and nuanced. At times, their style is intentionally political and subversive. At others, it is aimed purely at modesty — as the faith dictates. And sometimes, it is all about fashion, beauty and personal delight.

But Bucar, an associate professor of philosophy and religion at Northeastern University, balances her academic inquiry with the wide-eyed surprise of an eager fashion student. She boils down generations of political change into a few easily digestible paragraphs. Historians might be horrified, but this isn’t a book about revolution in Iran or colonialism in Indonesia. It isn’t even about the traditions of batik fabric or styles of dress in the Ottoman Empire, although there is a bit of that here. “Pious Fashion” is a look at contemporary dress and how it can help us see the “Muslim community” as a vast array of individuals rather than an inscrutable monolith.

Bucar argues that fashion is a form of communication and self-identity. Some readers will find that position alone provocative. Using pious fashion as a tool for exploring diversity among Muslim women will undoubtedly be seen as both subversive and political by many. But Bucar strives to be nonjudgmental and apolitical. As part of her research, she organized focus groups, visited college campuses, interrogated shopkeepers and loitered in bustling neighborhoods like an itinerant street-style photographer. It should not take all of that effort just to document what should be so obvious to non-Muslims. But this is where we are in 2017: overwhelmed by assumptions, prejudices, ignorance, miscommunication.

Bucar is an able and reassuring guide. She tells her readers up front that she is not a fashion expert. Her mission is not to opine on whether a woman’s coat is in vogue. She is not, as she says, Miranda Priestly of “The Devil Wears Prada,” casting judgment from on high. But Bucar has taken a lesson from Priestly’s famous monologue, in which the powerful fashion editor coolly traces the history and meaning of a frumpy “cerulean ” sweater worn by her dismissive and self-satisfied assistant, Andy.

“This monologue helps to show the value of the scholarly study of fashion. The bookish Andy thinks fashion is of interest only to silly, superficial people. She thus represents the long-standing scholarly tendency to devalue the significance of dress as a cultural and economic phenomenon,” Bucar writes. “Close reading of pious fashion allows us to understand the nuances of Muslim women’s dress. Just as a blue sweater is never just blue, pious fashion is never merely clothing.”

When readers meet Bucar, it’s 2004 and she’s flying to Tehran to study Persian. In advance of her trip, she’s been struggling with her attire, attempting to figure out how best to abide by local laws dictating that women wear proper hijab. This is more challenging than she expects because “hijab” is not a uniform or a specific dress code. It simply means modest dress, and that is open to interpretation depending on occasion, geography, social class and a host of other elements. It is not as simple as covering herself from head to toe in black wool because, under the wrong circumstances, that would be akin to a man showing up for a business meeting in Silicon Valley wearing a top hat and morning coat. It would be overly formal, terribly self-conscious and a bit ridiculous.

There are nuances of pious fashion that are rooted in history and politics. And those nuances change from country to country, as do the terms used to describe modest attire. Bucar focuses her attention mostly on 20-something women because they were most accessible to her and because, she believes, they are most attuned to and interested in fashion. She speaks to groups of them in Tehran, where hijab is dictated by law.

She visits Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where pious dress is a choice. There, it is generally seen as the culmination of a personal journey of self-awareness and self-improvement. It is a style of dress, but it is also a personal commitment.

In Istanbul, Bucar learns that women’s clothing styles are a reflection of the tensions within Turkey itself: its European-ness, its secularism, its Islamic character. Here, too, a head covering is a matter of choice.

For those women who decide to cover their heads, the choice of scarf is significant. Women experiment to find the most flattering color and the most attractive way of securing it around their heads. Perhaps they wear a little faux bun under the scarf to create the illusion of an abundance of (hidden) hair and to elongate their faces. They consider how the scarf will accent the rest of their attire. And in Istanbul they will often fold the scarf in such a way that the identifying brand tag hangs off the back for all to see.

In Iran, pious fashion means not showing the curves of the body. In Indonesia, it means covering the body, but an hourglass figure is celebrated. There’s no tension between being modest and being attractive. And in Turkey, dressing modestly carries a particular onus to be beautiful and stylish as well, lest a woman look old-fashioned and out of touch in a country that strives to look forward.

Pious fashion is not a defense against scrutiny and critique. Indeed, Hayrunnisa Gul, who was the first Turkish first lady to wear a headscarf, was brutally criticized by the Turkish elite for being provincial and by other Muslim women who thought she simply had bad taste.

While Tehran has its hijab enforcers, what’s appropriately pious is something that seems to be forever in flux. It’s not simply a question of whether a woman should or should not show her hair or her ankles, it is also a matter of how she chooses to cover herself. Is it too ostentatious? Too matronly? Too matchy-matchy? The answer is influenced by cultural norms that are, in part, dictated by other women, local fashion designers and ... fashion bloggers. Instagram, it seems, knows no boundaries.

Bucar disabuses readers of any preconceived ideas that women who adhere to an aesthetic of modesty are unfashionable or frumpy. They are far from it. Indeed, a photograph of a woman in Turkey wearing an ankle-length leather dress — fitted through the bodice and with a flared skirt — paired with a lace scarf and a structured handbag exudes sophistication and elegance. What she wears and how she wears it are her choice. And she has chosen skillfully.

The source of some of Bucar’s most striking images of women in Tehran is a fashion blog called the Tehran Times, founded by an Iranian fashion designer named Araz Fazaeli. The blog includes photographs of art as well as pictures of women snapped on the street — women who are dressed in ways that would delight any social-media addict.

“The main issue in Iran is not the dress code,” Fazaeli says. “Fashion is creative enough to make its way through any restrictions.”

This is true. Fashion always finds a way.

But the question that keeps nagging is this: Why should there be any restrictions to begin with? Why should a government create laws that impinge on a woman’s right to choose her attire freely? Bucar notes that when a culture invests so much of its identity in the appearance, in the piousness of women, it also is investing women with a cultural and social power. Perhaps. It’s an interesting argument but not one that Bucar makes convincingly.

Still, she introduces her readers to the lively Muslim women in her focus groups. They are thoughtful and stylish, funny, opinionated, devout and delightfully bitchy when they are asked to assess the style chops of their peers and some of the local fashion editors.

In the conversations Bucar has with them, we learn that they, like women who call themselves Methodist, Catholic, Jewish or atheist, are simply trying to present their best selves to the public. And no matter who you are or where you live, that can be complicated.



Moroccan beauty queen becomes latest victim of sexual assault

24 August 2017

A Moroccan beauty queen has become that latest sexual harassment victim in the North African kingdom after she revealed that three men molested her in the coastal city of Tanja.

Miss Arab beauty 2014, Fathima al-Zahra al-Jamali, known as Fati Jamali said in a social media post on Snap Chat that she was harassed and molested during broad daylight near the beach in Tanja on Tuesday August 22.

In her post said that as she was walking away 50 meters from where she parked her car when she was approached by three men.

She said that the men started verbally abusing her and one man molested her before she was able to run away and return to her car.

In the post published Wednesday Jamali called upon the authorities in Morocco to deal with the increasing number of sexual harassment instances in Morocco and especially in public transport.

Public outrage against the issue has led to mass protests across Moroccan cities on Tuesday after video footage showing young men raping a woman on a bus caused widespread outrage on social media.

A number of activists and civil society groups have also called for more organized protests in several Moroccan cities such as Agadir, Casablanca and Rabat to denounce the growing phenomenon of rape in the country and demand solutions.



More Muslim women than men file for divorce in Bengaluru

Sunitha Rao R

Aug 25, 2017

BENGALURU: In what appears to be a radical change in Muslim society, the number of women filing cases of divorce - khula - is far higher than the number of men giving talaq, going by data from the Markazi Darul Qaza Imarat-e-Sharia (Justice of Islamic Sharia Court) in Bengaluru.

Of the 116 cases in 2016 before the Islamic Court, 81 were for khula, where women take the initiative to separate.

In 2017 (till August) the court dealt with 70 divorce cases, of which 53 are for khula. Quazi Moulana Mohammed Haroon Rashadi, who heads the court, says a majority of petitioners is women, most of them in the age group of 28 to 35 years. When women seek khula, there is no scope to appeal for alimony or mehr.

In most cases, the reasons for khula include abusiveirresponsible husband, adultery , family pressure, lack of understanding between the couple, the woman's financial independence and even her higher educational qualification."Though the number of cases filed by women is high, I feel that not all are genuine cases," said Quazi Mohammed.

"In many cases, women have asked for khula due to parental pressure. We counsel the women, the men and their families. Only in cases where neither agrees to compromise, or the woman has to be liberated from a bad marriage do we issue khula. With more and more women now educated and earning, financial independence is also a contributing factor to divorce," he said.


There are rules and conditions to filing complaints in the Sharia court. If the husband or wife gives a police complaint or files for divorce in the family court, they cannot approach the Sharia court. This also applies if a case of domestic violence or dowry harassment is filed with the police. "We don't take up such cases as it becomes contempt of court, as these cases are already being handled by another court of law," says Quazi Mohammed, who has served in the court for 20 years. He adds that efforts are made to counsel the couple and save marriages in the best interest of families. Currently , one of the khula appeals the court is handling relates to a 30-year-old woman, a mother of two children who wants to leave her abusive husband. All appeals before the Sharia court have to be filed in Urdu, with the help of a translator, if the applicant does not know the language. There are no women counsellors or judges in the court, and one does not hire an advocate. It is also mandatory to attach the marriage certificate, authentication letter and verification letter from the area mosque of the defendanthusband with the petition.

The spread of the internet, smartphones and rise in the number of employed women in cities like Bengaluru, contribute to the lack of harmony in marriages, said Quazi i Mohammed. He recalls the case of a man who applied for talaq, showing 70 pages of his wife's chat history with another man. "There were records to prove that the woman was chatting with another man in the middle of the night, and the husband filed for talaq," he said, describing this as "a disturbing trend". He also condemns the recent Supreme Court ruling on triple talaq.



Four Pakistani women, two Hindu and two Muslim, get Indian citizenship

Aug 24, 2017

BAREILLY: Thirty-year-old Mahak Khan was on cloud nine after she received her long-awaited certificate of Indian citizenship here on Thursday. Mahak's mother Shabana, a Pakistani national, got married to a Bareilly resident Yusuf Ali in 1986. And the next year, she gave birth to Mahak in Karachi, where she was visiting her ailing father. Since then, they have been living in India on long-term visa (LTV).

The mother-daughter duo is among four Pakistani women whom the Government of India has granted citizenship. Additional district magistrate (city) O P Verma handed over the certificates to them here on Thursday.

"It's like a dream coming true," said Mahak, who was deported to Pakistan in 2002 when she was just 15, describing her happiness after receiving her citizenship certificate.

"In 2002, after the relations between the two neighbours got strained, the Government of India had, along with many other Pakistanis, deported me as well. Soon my LTV also got expired. I had to spend 13 months in exile at my maternal uncle's house, far away from my parents. And, it was only after the bilateral relations between the two nations improved in 2003, I could return to my parents in India. Since then I have been living in a dilemma whether I would ever get Indian citizenship or not. But, ultimately it got over, and now, I am a bona fide citizen of India," Mahak told TOI.

Narrating her struggle to acquire Indian citizenship for her daughter and herself, Shabana said, "I was pregnant when I had visited my ailing father in Karachi in 1987 and gave birth to my first child there. As soon as we returned to India, we applied for Indian citizenship. Since then we have been living on LTV as it took more than two decades to get Indian citizenship."

Another recipient of Indian citizenship Anita Belani (45) and Bhagvati Bai (56) from Sanghar district of Sindh province in Pakistan got married to Bareilly residents Dilip Belani and Prem Prakash, in 1990 and 1983, respectively. Both Belani and Prakash hail from Sindhi community and their forefathers had migrated to Bareilly after the partition.

Anita said, "My mother and eight siblings live in Sanghar in Pakistan. My father was a Zamindars, and after his demise, my four brothers are looking after his business. All my four sisters live in Pakistan and are happy with their lives there. Sometimes communal elements create panic among Hindu community, but normally we (Hindu) and Muslims live peacefully, like here in India, and celebrate both Diwali and Eid together."



DAP To Field More Women Candidates in Sabah

Zam Yusa

August 25, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah DAP will field more women candidates in the coming general election compared to the previous outing, said the party’s state women’s chief Jannie Lasimbang.

“We are not sure yet about the percentage of women in the overall candidacies, but the number will be more than in the last election,” Jannie, who was appointed to her post in February, told FMT today.

“DAP women will have to be more forthcoming so that they’ll be chosen as candidates.”

Jannie, who is a former Sabah Bersih chairperson and Suhakam commissioner as well as a staunch women’s rights activist, said indigenous women’s active participation in politics was still limited primarily due to family objections.

She said many women were discouraged by their family, particularly their husbands, from taking part in politics.

“This obstacle still exists, although more women are now carrying out a lot of party work, such as campaigning and charity work,” she said.

She urged people to change their perception that Sabah’s indigenous women were only good in a supporting role.

“A lot of indigenous women are taking part in politics for DAP in rural areas in Keningau, Pensiangan and more. I believe women are the key to change.

“People think women are great at carrying out political field work but they’re not as good in things like making speeches. This is not true.

“Women are improving in terms of confidence and knowledge. People need to change their perception of women in politics.”

On whether she would be given a seat to represent DAP, Jannie, who is from Penampang near the state capital, said: “Sure, I’m ready. It’s up to the party leadership to decide whether to field me and anywhere they deem fit.”

Sabah Pakatan Harapan, which consists of PKR, DAP and Amanah, announced recently that 95% of the seats had been distributed among them while the remainder would be discussed soon.



Swiss indict woman for attempting to join ISIS in Syria

24 August 2017

Swiss federal prosecutors have indicted a 30-year-old Swiss woman from the Zurich area suspected of trying to join up with extremist militants in Syria, they said on Thursday.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it had proof that the woman in December 2015 travelled illegally with her four-year-old child from Egypt to Greece, intending to go to Syria via Turkey to join the ISIS. Greek authorities prevented the woman from traveling onward, and she was arrested at Zurich airport in January 2016.

“The present indictment must be considered within the overall context of the OAG’s strict policy...of prosecuting all jihadi travellers,” the OAG said in a statement.



Majority Favour a Ban on Burqa in Public in Australia, New Poll Finds

August 25, 2017

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has said the Burqa “isolates” women from society and France banned the form of Islamic dress as it was a way of “controlling women”.

The comments come after a poll conducted a week after Pauline Hanson triggered a political storm by wearing the traditional Islamic dress in the Senate found a majority of Australians believe the Burqa should be banned in public.

Mr Pyne said the Burqa could be “dangerous” as it isolates women.

“The concern that I have about the Burqa is that it isolates women from society in general and I think that is a dangerous thing. It’s nothing to do with it being Muslim or any other kind of religion for that matter and that’s where I think the debate needs to be separated out,” he told Channel Nine.

“Pauline Hanson and the One Nation crowd wanted to make it about Muslim women I think it’s more an issue about isolating any kind of women from the rest of society and that’s why I guess the French government, they banned the Burqa because they said it was a way of controlling women.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the dress made him “uncomfortable”, but he did not believe it should be banned.

“There’s a big step to [then] banning things,” he said, which Mr Pyne agreed with.

“There’s a whole range of behaviour from people that have different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions that people might not be comfortable with. But that doesn’t mean you go about banning it,” Mr Albanese said.

The survey on Wednesday night found that 43.6 per cent of respondents “strongly” support a ban on the Burqa in public while another 12.7 per cent also support the idea, producing a majority of 56.3 per cent generally in favour.

The Sky News/ReachTel poll found 12.3 per cent were against a ban and 18.9 cent “strongly” opposed the idea. Another 12.5 per cent were undecided.

Senator Hanson drew scorn from her critics and a rebuke from Attorney-General George Brandis for wearing the Burqa in the Senate last week, when she used the move to call for a ban on the outfit in public.

Labour MP Anne Aly, an expert in counter-terrorism, dismissed Senator Hanson’s call, saying there was no evidence of a link between the wearing of the Burqa and increased terrorism.

The survey was based on phone calls to 2832 people across Australia on Wednesday night. The results are in line with a Roy Morgan survey in 2014 that found 55.5 per cent did not think women should wear the Burqa in public.

A YouGov poll in Britain last year found 57 per cent support for a public ban on the outfit.




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