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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Nov 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Girl Performs Azaan in Kerala Play, Sparks Stir

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Nov 2018

Members of the Afghan all-girls robotics team make adjustments to a team robot in the practice area on July 17, 2017. Afghan women are considered among the most resilient in the world since they work against multiple odds and challenges. (AFP/Getty Images/file)



 Boko Haram Raids Nigerien Villages, Abducts Dozen Girls

 Fast Learning Needed To Help Saudi Women Get Into Sports

 Syrian Women Seek Role in Drafting Constitution

 Kolkata: Health Conscious Muslim Women Embrace Yoga

 Women in Love Step Up To Become Militants

 Despite Challenges, Afghan Female Entrepreneurs Reach Global Markets

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Girl Performs Azaan In Kerala Play, Sparks Stir

Nov 25, 2018

KOZHIKODE: Muslim organisations in Kerala’s Kozhikode district have been holding protests after a school staged a play in which a girl performs azaan, the ritual call to prayer in Islam traditionally performed by a male mukri or muezzin. The protesters said the play, Kithab, “insults the Muslim way of life”.

Students of Memunda higher secondary school performed the play, based on a story by writer R Unni, at the district school arts festival at Vadakara on Wednesday. In the play, the daughter of a mukri says she wants to perform azaan like her father does. He disapproves and refuses at first, but later allows her to do the azaan.

Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) members took out a march to the festival venue.

“The play cannot be considered social criticism. It amounts to insulting the Muslim way of life. We have submitted a complaint to the deputy director of education,” said Salim P Azhiyur, a local SDPI leader.

“Memunda school is managed by CPM and the party’s agenda is clear in this play. It will send the wrong message about the Muslim community,” he said.

P K Sreedharan, a teacher at the school, said the play raised a number of valid questions about gender.

“We don’t understand why there are protests against our play. Theatre often raises sensitive religious issues,” he said.



Boko Haram raids Nigerien villages, abducts dozen girls

Nov 24, 2018

Suspected militants from the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group have abducted around a dozen girls in overnight raids on several border villages in southeastern Niger.

A local councilor and an NGO said on Saturday that the abductions were carried out in the villages located in the Diffa region, near the border with Nigeria.

“We still don't know the number but we can estimate a dozen girls have been abducted from different villages," the Diffa regional councilor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Meanwhile, Kaka Touda, a human rights activist with the Alternative Espace Citoyen NGO in Diffa, said the terrorists “abducted 16 young girls in two villages in Toumour commune.”

He said nine girls had been kidnapped in the village of Blaharde and seven others in Bague.

One local source said “more than 50" unidentified armed men seized the girls.

The latest abductions come two days after gunmen killed seven local employees of a French drilling firm and a government official in a late night attack on their compound in southeastern Niger.

The Takfiri terrorist group routinely carries out attacks across Nigerian borders into Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

Since 2009, Boko Haram militancy has left at least 20,000 dead and made over 2.6 million others homeless. The group pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh group in 2015.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden,” has used kidnapping as a weapon of war, seizing thousands of women and young girls as well as men and young boys.

According to NGOs, over the past four years, Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked Diffa, a region of some 600,000 inhabitants, displacing around half of the local population.

A total of 219 girls were kidnapped by Daesh-linked Boko Haram terrorists from the Government-run Girls Secondary School in the Nigerian remote town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014. 112 of them are still being held after four years. The rest have been found, escaped or released as part of a government deal with the terror group.



Fast Learning Needed To Help Saudi Women Get Into Sports


November 24, 2018

If you are a Saudi woman interested in a certain sport, how do you go about getting involved and playing out your dream? Many doubtless contact that sport’s federation via social networks or email. But with the explosion in the number of sports women can play in the Kingdom, now is the time for every sporting federation to work out how they can make it as simple as possible for females across the country to get active.

From having 30 federations, the General Sports Authority now has 64, increasing the number of options open to those looking to stay fit and healthy and represent the country.

So far, no problems — no one can have an argument over getting more people, and more women, involved in sport.

The difficulty arises, however, when taking into account the fact that women’s sport in the Kingdom is in its infancy. There are very few experienced Saudi females in sports management positions and fewer still women coaches and referees.

How do you attract women to sport? How do you know how many women are interested in your sport? How do you how many professional athletes you can nurture and in which cities? Do you apply the same plan that was applied for men when the federation was first created? These are the key questions all the bodies need to work out the answers to if they are to grab this opportunity of increased participation and better playing standards.

The approaches the federations have taken so far have been varied and illuminating.

The swimming federation, for example, began by offering safety and rescue workshops to support women with a strong background based on international standards. The archery federation chose to train referees and athletes. The motorsports body, which already had a fair few athletes, increased its support for members to compete in more races. The fencing federation targeted children and introduced the sport in schools, and introduced more competitions.

As for the bowling federation we received many messages from women interested in the game after supervising a team in the Eastern Province last February. That became a model for how we are going to encourage more women to join. We found that creating a championship would allow us to see how many females would be attracted, and work out their level. It was a success. Many women have become interested and continued to train. The competitive aspect has been a galvanizing force — many women want to prove they are good enough to represent their city just like the women who played for the Eastern Province team. In October through running three championships for women we went from zero to almost 500 women bowlers.

These are just a few examples and federations need to reconsider other challenges along the way, such as outfits, facilities, and the expenses women need to pay to enrol. And if we consider that the private sector offers some of these sports on their premises, we can note that fitness clubs prices ranges from SR 1,500-5,000 per month which does not make them a viable alternative for many.

Despite all this, it is still too soon to say which approach is the best or which one will be most effective. We need to invest in academic research and compare over the long-term between the federations based on culture, approach, resources and many other factors. Only then we can decide and implement it across the board to ensure equal opportunities for all women in every sport.

Dr. Razan Baker is a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Bowling Federation, a specialist in corporate social responsibility in sports, and a sports columnist/journalist. Twitter: @RazanBaker



Syrian Women Seek Role in Drafting Constitution

November 24, 2018

As the United Nations is working with local and international stakeholders to draft a new Syrian constitution, Syrian women demand a seat at the table to ensure their concerns and insights are considered in a future Syrian state.

The demand for women's participation comes amid a renewed international push for intra-Syrian negotiation to end the country's seven-year-war.

Stakeholders are discussing formation of a committee that would oversee the drafting of a constitution.

"It is crucial for women to be part of the making of the constitution,” Rima Flihan, a Syrian writer and human rights activist based in Australia, told VOA. If they aren’t, “there will not be real guarantees for their rights in the legislative process in the future."

Flihan said the constitution would be the basis for all future legislation and a female presence is crucial in writing it to safeguard the rights of all Syrians, including women and minorities.

Some analysts said having women represented in politics will have long-term positive effects.

Rachel Dore-Weeks, acting deputy director and adviser on peace and security for Arab states for the U.N. Women organization, told VOA that female participation in the peace process has statistically been proven effective elsewhere and Syrian stakeholders should not ignore women in the country's politics, including in discussions about the constitution.

"We know statistically, through empirically sound data, that there is a direct, positive correlation between a more diverse and more represented peace process and the durability of the peace that is brokered," Dore-Weeks said. If women are engaged, she said, "they are more likely to get to the peace table and get people to talk to each other, and the peace agreement will more likely be brokered and more likely to last."

Some Syrian women, however, said the political discussions are not Syrian-led or Syrian-owned, as different actors, states and groups are leading them.


"At this point, women's participation in writing the constitution is meaningless. I don't agree with the way that the constitution is currently being written. The situation in Syria is unstable and will not permit for a fair and full participation of all Syrians, including women and minorities, in writing the constitution," Azza Al Bahra, a Sweden-based Syrian journalist, told VOA.

"Only when real regime change takes place, and refugees go back home, then we will have an effective political process," Al Bahra added.

Nisreen Trabulsi, a U.K-based Syrian analyst, echoed Al Bahra's concerns.

"In my opinion, Syria is under occupation from different parties, and the people are unable to voice their real aspirations," Trabulsi said. "The current process of writing the constitution is illegitimate."

Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, has recently stepped up his efforts to reignite the political process in Syria before the end of his tenure this year, and drafting a new constitution for the country is one of his goals.

De Mistura was supposed to leave his post this month, but he has extended his tenure at the request of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as part of efforts to keep the momentum going toward formation of a constitutional committee.

This month, de Mistrua met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the constitutional committee, and the U.S. reiterated its support for the U.N.-led efforts in Syria "under the auspices of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254," the State Department said.

The peace process in Syria is proceeding through parallel channels: the U.N.-led Geneva process that is supported by the United States and Europe, and the Astana process that is led by Russia.

The late Kofi Annan, when he was U.N. envoy to Syria, began the Geneva process in June 2012. He presented a six-point plan that called for an end to fighting and the initiation of an "inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people."

The Astana process began in 2017, with delegations from the Syrian government and opposition groups meeting to discuss peace. This track, spearheaded by Russia, with Turkey and Iran as parties to it, has led to creation of four de-escalation zones in Syria. The Syrian regime controls all zones except for Idlib.

The Astana agreement prevented a major military offensive on Idlib, which is one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria and home to several militant groups with tens of thousands of fighters.

The fragile deal has survived and prevented warring sides from waging full-scale war, but many analysts warn it will not withstand the pressure of competing interests and priorities of different local and international stakeholders.



Kolkata: Health Conscious Muslim Women Embrace Yoga

Nov 25, 2018

Arshad Ali

In what can be seen as a shift in the established practices of the society, health conscious Muslim women in south Kolkata have started coming out to do yoga in the open every morning. Burqa-clad women of different ages from nearby Muslim-majority areas gather at Park Circus Maidan off Dargha Road in south Kolkata.

"There were a few women who came every morning for a walk here. As the number grew, few organisations engaged some yoga instructors here. There are both male and female instructors. We have been greatly benefitted," said 30-year-old Noorie Samim.

The women abstain from 'Surya Namaskar'. Instructors had initially tried to make them understand the benefits of Surya Namaskar but later decided against it. "I tried to tell them that there was no harm in doing a Surya Namaskar but later realised that their religious sentiments might be hurt and that might lead to some women not coming at all. So I decided to let them go on without doing Surya Namaskar or chanting Om. The turnout has increased from the initial 10-12 to about 70 now. They have told me that it has benefitted them," said one of the instructors, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Every morning, the group of women divides into two. The younger lot is trained separately in the all-women group where the workout session is a little vigorous, including jumping and fast-paced spot-jogging. The other group of slightly elderly women join men at another side of the park, where they do milder exercises under instructor Md Rashid. "I have never seen so many women in burqa and sports shoes at the same time. It is a good sign that women are realising the importance of good health. Women of all faiths are welcome but it is seen here that mostly Muslim women come to work out. I mostly make them do stretches and breathing exercises," Rashid told DNA.

Participants, suffering from various ailments, admitted that they feel better thanks to the exercise. "I have diabetes and high cholesterol. My doctor said regular exercise is better than taking medicines. I decided to give it a try and within a month the effect is showing. My sugar level is under control now. We avoid doing the Surya Namaskar as it is forbidden in Islam but the rest looks fine," said 60-year-old Asiya Bibi, who lives nearby.

Another woman, Iffan Parveen, said that for people from the lower middle class, going to a gym is a luxury and that the free workout sessions have been tremendously helpful.

Ailments Dealt With

Participants, suffering from various ailments, admitted that they feel better thanks to the exercise. “I have diabetes and high cholesterol. My doctor said regular exercise is better than taking medicines. I decided to give it a try and within a month the effect is showing,” said Asiya Bibi, 60



Women in Love Step Up To Become Militants

25 Nov 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The war against terror is not without the faces of wives or young women intending to marry their beloved.

A 51-year-old woman was arrested for planning to attack a polling centre in Puchong, Selangor, on polling day in May.

It was reported that the woman had also wanted to crash her vehicle into non-Muslim places of worships.

Last year, a 26-year-old Malaysian medical laboratory student was arrested at the KL International Airport upon her arrival after being deported from Turkey.

It was said then that the woman had wanted to go to Syria earlier to marry a Malaysian IS militant based there.

Just last month, a 31-year-old Terengganu woman gave a press conference in which she spoke of how the slain militant leader Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi was the “inspiration” behind her late husband’s longing to join the IS terror group in Syria.

She claimed that her husband had constantly contacted Wanndy via Facebook prior to going to Syria in March 2016.

Wanndy apparently persuaded her husband to sell all his assets before going to Syria.

“My husband eventually sold his family’s land for RM50,000 as well as his car for our so-called vacation in Turkey,” she said.

Wanndy, 26, was a Malacca boy who left for Syria in 2015.

He was killed in Raqqa, Syria two years later.

He was said to be the man calling the shots in Malaysia from his base in Syria.

Wanndy was also said have directed the bombing of the Movida club in Puchong, Selangor in June 2016 – the first IS attack in Malaysia – which injured eight people.



Despite Challenges, Afghan Female Entrepreneurs Reach Global Markets

November 25, 2018

KABUL: Naziya Basharmal set up a small tailoring facility at her home in Kandahar province, one of the most conservative parts of Afghanistan, with less than $800 in assets almost two years ago.

Since then, she has made more than $12,000 in profit, equivalent to at least two decades’ worth of income for the average civil servant in Afghanistan.

Encouraged by the income, she expanded her business and now has an army of 50 female tailors.

She sends the fabrics to their homes since many women who can forge world-famous embroidery cannot run their own shops due to cultural restrictions.

“You have to be confident when you take on this type of work. It looks tough at the beginning, but you’ll soon yield results,” Basharmal, who is in her mid-30s, told Arab News at the first National Women Entrepreneurs’ Summit in Kabul.

The summit named 12 prominent businesswomen to watch in 2018, and gave these entrepreneurs a platform to share their experiences and the challenges they face, in addition to exploring ways to facilitate trade for women in a male-dominated society that has suffered decades of war.

Several hundred women entrepreneurs, some covered head to toe, took part in the two-day summit.

They came from different parts of Afghanistan. Some had traveled miles on long road trips, others by airplane. Some even came with their toddlers.

One prominent businesswoman at the summit was Mohsina Saqeb, a former award winner who runs Jama-e-Saqeb (Jama), a handicraft production company founded a year ago in Kabul.

Jama produces modern handmade embroidery infused with traditional design mostly for women’s clothing lines. The company also makes bags and purses.

Like others who attended the summit, several businesses are now after her designs, which have garnered appeal among different generations regionally and as far as the US, according to officials at the Afghan Commerce Ministry.

“My profits have jumped 50 percent since opening Jama and introducing this collection. Essentially, we’re empowering women to contribute to economic growth,” said Saqeb.

“Female entrepreneurship is a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. These new opportunities have instilled many with a renewed sense of hope. You just have to take the initiative.”

Her designs will be on display at Dubai’s Global Village, a first for a female Afghan entrepreneur.

Zahra Nazari, a young and budding businesswoman from the central Bamiyan province who has run her own firm for more than 10 years, regularly exports her products to India, Turkey and Pakistan.

“Women entrepreneurs have managed to break the gender barrier here, and many now export to various parts of the world,” said Nazari. “There’s a good market for our services.”

Numerous products made or handled by women, including saffron, packaged dried fruit, carpeting, marble, handicrafts and jewelry, have garnered global interest.

According to local ministry estimates, there are about 890 small and medium-sized, female-owned enterprises in different sectors across Afghanistan.

The firms have reportedly created employment opportunities for almost 48,000 entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, most of them women.

The growing number of women getting involved in business prompted the ministry to set up a separate chamber of commerce for women last year, said ministry spokesman Musafir Kokandi.

“We aim to enable them to go from growth to growth,” said Kamila Sediqi, deputy minister of commerce and industry, adding that Afghan women are among the most resilient in the world since they work against multiple odds and challenges.

Women at the summit, nevertheless, voiced concern over numerous challenges, including high taxes, a lack of security and state-level corruption.




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