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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 26 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Half-Sister of Cherie Blair: ‘A Member of the Muslim Ummah, No Longer a Spectator’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Carol Schillios (left) and Kaaba Coulibaly (third from left) pose with Kaaba’s two daughters Hawa (between Carol and Kaaba) and Aicha (right).  

 

Kashmiri Fatwa Allows Remarriage of Women with Missing Husbands

Indian National Police Academy to Get Its First Woman Chief

Edmonds Woman Closing Fabric Shop, Continuing Poverty Fight in Africa

11-Year-Old Saudi Girl Launches YouTube English Language Series

Why Saudi Women Languish In Jail

Rights Group Petitions Lagos Speaker Over 2 Brutalised Women

Law and Order: LHC Seeks Report on Acid Throwing Lady Doctor

Obama Signs Defense Bill Cracking Down On Military Sexual Assault

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/half-sister-of-cherie-blair--‘a-member-of-the-muslim-ummah,-no-longer-a-spectator’/d/35030

 

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Half-Sister of Cherie Blair: ‘A Member of the Muslim Ummah, No Longer a Spectator’

December 27, 2013

More than 5,000 people in Britain convert to Islam on average each year, most of them women. Academic studies in the United Kingdom have shown that, contrary to popular belief, these conversions are not driven mostly by marriage; most converts are attracted by the values of Islam.

Two years ago, Lauren Booth announced her conversion to Islam. Lauren Booth is a British broadcaster, journalist, and human rights activist. She is the half-sister of Cherie Blair, wife of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. She is currently penning her eagerly awaited autobiography ‘Journey to Islam’.

In her writings, Lauren Booth tells how she embraced Islam and how one day she realized that she was a member of the Muslim Ummah, and no longer a spectator from the outside.

Back in 2005, she set off on her first trip to Palestine.

“So, as I flew towards the Middle East, my mind was full of the usual 10pm buzz­words: radical extremists, fanatics, forced marriages, suicide bombers and jihad. Not much of a travel brochure. My very first experience, though, could hardly have been more positive,” she wrote in her article ‘Why I Love Islam’ in the Daily Mail.

She relates that she will never forget the acts of generosity of the Palestinian women. The warmth of spirit, generosity, hospitality, and kindness she experienced there are never mentioned in what we read and see in the news.

Gradually, Booth’s pull towards Muslims and Islam became stronger. 

“Over the course of the next three years I made numerous journeys to the occupied lands which were once historic Palestine. At first I went on ­assignments; as time went by, I started travelling in solidarity with charities and pro-Palestinian groups,” wrote Booth. 

“Gradually I found expressions such as ‘Masha Allah!’ and ‘Al Hamd­ullilah!’ creeping into my everyday speech. Far from being nervous of Muslim groups, I started looking forward to meeting them. It was an opportunity to be with people of intelligence, wit and, above all else, kindness and generosity,” she stated.

In addition to her growing role as a humanitarian activist, something else was changing.

“The more time I spent in the Middle East, the more I asked to be taken into mosques. Just for touristy reasons, I told myself. In fact I found them fascinating. I knew then I was no longer a tourist in Islam but a traveler inside the Ummah, the community of Islam that links all believers.”

“At first I wanted the feeling to go and for several reasons. Was I ready to convert? What on earth would friends and family think? Was I ready to moderate my behavior in many ways?” were questions she asked herself. 

Growing up, having suffered from the detrimental effects and violence that alcohol addiction creates in households, Booth had no hesitation in giving up alcohol to become a Muslim. Due to the hurtful memories that her father’s alcoholism had left, she welcomed the elimination of alcohol from her life.

While visiting a mosque, she was overtaken by a powerful feeling, a firm conviction that she was Muslim. When she returned to London, Lauren Booth wholeheartedly pronounced the Shahadah.

In her later writings, Lauren Booth shares how that initial ecstatic feeling of joy slowly, over time wears, and a tiny pebble of disappointment begins to appear. She made it clear that it is not disappointment in Islam; the religion is perfect. Rather, it is a disappointment in the Muslims who do not understand their religion and do not practice it correctly.

Some of her Muslim friends had pre-warned her that she should remain steadfast in her newly-found faith even when disappointment begins to inch its way into her heart.

In her article ‘Down to Earth with a Bump’ in On Islam, an online magazine Booth mentioned how in Palestinian homes she learned about love, patience, generosity, how to host guests, how to bring up children, and how to be a good human being.

“I waited for the change (that all my born Muslim friends warned me) was certain to happen. One morning, in February this year I woke up to find that it had arrived. Suddenly, not everyone around me was shiny, amazing. Everywhere I looked Muslims were bragging, lying, gossiping, drinking alcohol, stealing, flirting and every other sin, major and minor,” wrote Booth.

The time that she first opened her eyes to the faults of the people around her closely coincided with the time when she started faltering in her acts of worship. She wrote:

“We, ourselves, start to fail more and more in our ‘Ibadah’ (worship), in our speech, in our deeds. From those glorious first days and months when we are immersed in learning Islam, where constant ‘Dhikr’ (Islamic Meditation) creates something like an invisible force-shield, around the believer who practices. It keeps us in check, protects us from harm.”

“Oh how we fill our waking hours with the Qur’an, reading books on Hadith and downloading inspirational lectures by people of knowledge, like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. A person who accepts Islam wholly and completely, cannot be late for prayer. It is unthinkable. Clutching a sheet of paper or a donated book, the newbies nervously, cautiously, hearts swelling with love, work the way through ‘Salat’ (prayer). They will painstakingly mouth each alien vowel, respecting every sacred syllable. How the grateful, saved heart cries towards Allah, The Merciful, who has cleared away all our previous sins.

Love is everywhere, peace is possible, faith is all.

As I say, then we begin to falter. You know how it goes. First you drag your feet a little to the prayer mat. A week later, barely noticed, all your prayers are last minute and rushed. Soon after that ‘Fajr’ (dawn prayer) is done ‘before going to work’ not pre dawn. And here we all are together at last in our weakened, stumbling, frail, version of faith.”

Running into Muslims who do not follow the teachings of Islam was a hefty blow to her, but regardless of the flaws of certain individuals, she still felt immensely blessed to be a part of the Muslim Ummah.

“Compared to the world outside the Ummah; great sections of our community are and always will be, inshaAllah, amazing. Whole villages are known in far flung places to be beacons of hope to the traveller and seeker of knowledge. Whilst in every city in every nation on every continent, humble servants of The One, quietly support friends, neighbours, and strangers as best they can, even if it means personal hardship.

{They (the true believers) give food, out of love for Allah, to the poor, the orphan and the slave, saying: We feed you only for Allah’s pleasure - we desire from you neither reward nor thanks.} (76:8-9)

Coming from the cold, hard, materialistic, half drunken, non Muslim world, I can tell you that thanks to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him) you are already a kinder person than you otherwise would be. How quickly sisters jump to one another’s aid where children are concerned for example. I never had the kind of support I now have, outside the Ummah. How quickly we rally together to help a family if a member falls ill and times are hard. Did I see this so routinely outside? Not at all.”

She concluded her article with a question that all Muslims should ask themselves:

“Have we already become one of ‘those’ Muslims - more likely to put others off this complete way of life, than be an example of its high principles?” she asked.

Does our code of conduct truly reflect and represent the teachings laid down for us in Islam?

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20131227190688

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Kashmiri fatwa allows remarriage of women with missing husbands

M Saleem Pandit,TNN | Dec 27, 2013

SRINAGAR: Various Kashmiri Muslim scholars on Thursday issued a fatwa permitting women whose husbands have been missing for the past four years to remarry.

The religious scholars were in Srinagar for a conference on the issue of the remarriage of Kashmiri women whose husbands have gone missing over the past two decades since the outbreak of militancy in the state.

Bashir Ahmad Dar, head of Ehsaas, the NGO that organized the conference, said the religious scholars unanimously concluded that the 'half-widows' whose husbands have disappeared in custody or otherwise over the past 20 years can remarry four years after the disappearance.

According to Dar, also a noted educationist, among the scholars who participated in the conference were Moulana Showkat Hussain Keng (patron, Anjuman-e-Himayatul Islam), Mufti Mohammad Yaqoob (Jamiat-e-Ahla Hadees), Mohammad Manzoor Raza (Karwan e Islami), Mujahid Shabir Ahmad Falahi (Jamat e Islami), Mohammad Saeed ur Rehman Shams (Anjuman-e Nusratul Islam), Moulana Hakim Sajjad Hussain (Ahle Bait Foundation) and Mufti Mohammad Ishaq Nazki (Darul Uloom Raheemiya, Bandipore).

After the third round of consultation on the issue, the ulemas (scholars) representing various institutions and organizations issued a joint statement saying any half-widow who intend to remarry can do so after four years. They said the issue of property in respect of the half-widows should be resolved in the light of the teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith.

A detailed edict (fatwa) will be issued soon, the ulemas said.

Under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939, which is already in place in the country, a woman married under Muslim law is entitled to obtain a decree for the dissolution of marriage if the whereabouts of her husband have not been known for a period of four years.

Dar extended gratitude to the ulemas and stressed the need to reach out to those affected by conflict in the past 20 years.

"The story of half-widows is a story of honour, the story of resilience," said Paveena Ahanger, chairperson of Association of Disappeared Persons. "As per our estimates there are 1,500 such women in Jammu and Kashmir. Most of these women are suffering in a bad way, and there are few organizations that focus on supporting them."

Tahira Banu, one such half-widow, has been taking care of her three sons for the past 10 years. Her husband, a contractor, disappeared after he left home for work. "It's not easy to be a single parent," she said. "Two of my sons are in the orphanage, and the youngest lives with me. Earlier, people used to give me charity, but now I work in a beauty clinic."

Bahu said the hundreds of women like her wanted the government to help them locate their missing husbands.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Kashmiri-fatwa-allows-remarriage-of-women-with-missing-husbands/articleshow/27990134.cms

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Indian National Police Academy to Get Its First Woman Chief

Rakhi Chakrabarty,TNN | Dec 27, 2013

NEW DELHI: The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, where Indian Police Service (IPS) officers are trained, is set to get its first woman chief. The Academy, commonly known as NPA, has never had a woman at its helm though the number of women in the IPS has gone up over the years.

Aruna Bahuguna, a 1979-batch IPS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, is tipped to be posted as the director of the Academy, said a source. She is currently the special director-general of the CRPF, second only to the chief of the country's largest paramilitary force in hierarchy.

She is also the first woman to be posted as an SDG in the CRPF, which is the nodal agency for anti-Naxal operations.

A senior MHA official said order for Bahuguna's appointment is likely to be issued soon. The NPA director is an IPS officer of the rank of director-general. The director's post fell vacant last month after the incumbent; Subhas Goswami was posted as the ITBP chief.

Bahuguna's husband, S Jayaraman, is also an IPS officer who retired in September as special secretary (internal security) in the Union home ministry. The SS (IS) is lying vacant since then.

On Thursday, the Centre appointed Arvind Ranjan as chief for the Central Industrial Security Force. A 1977-batch IPS office of Kerala cadre, Ranjan was heading the National Security Guard (NSG) and holding additional charge of the CISF after its chief retired in October.

Assam Police chief Jayanto Narayan Choudhury will take over as chief of NSG, the premier counter-terrorism force. An IPS officer of 1978 batch, Choudhury had a long stint in the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Before taking over as Assam DGP, he was joint-director of IB in West Bengal at a time when the state saw a transition — from the 34-year Left Front rule to Trinamool Congress sweeping to power.

Both Ranjan and Choudhury retire in 2015.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/National-Police-Academy-to-get-its-first-woman-chief/articleshow/27991587.cms

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Edmonds Woman Closing Fabric Shop, Continuing Poverty Fight in Africa

 December 27, 2013

For five years, the Fabric of Life Boutique has helped save West African women from life on the streets. The volunteer-run shop has raised awareness of extreme poverty far from its Edmonds Main Street home. In a few days the shop will close, but its mission won't end.

"We're growing," said Carol Schillios, founder of the nonprofit Fabric of Life Foundation that supports anti-poverty efforts in Mali and other African countries.

Schillios, 61, was the woman on the roof. In 2009, she spent 113 days camped atop her boutique, which sells fair-trade products, including items made by women in Mali. Her rooftop trial -- in a tent in 90-degree heat and later in rain and wind -- raised $100,000 for the foundation.

That money helped support a training facility Schillios co-founded in Mali's capital, Bamako. The school teaches traditional arts and other skills, transforming poor women into self-sufficient artisans. Without that help, Schillios said the poorest women and girls are forced into begging or the sex trade.

The Fabric of Life Boutique will be open through Tuesday. In the new year, the foundation will make its own transition. Instead of spending money on overhead to run the store, the foundation will sell online, retail and wholesale, to other fair-trade businesses. And donors will find a new way to help by becoming sponsors of girls and women in the Mali training program.

Through 5:30 p.m. New Year's Eve, sponsors may sign up in the shop to support students. After that, sponsorship and other information will be available at www.fabricoflife.org.

Linda Denton, the foundation's associate director, said full-stipend sponsorships are $70 per month, and $35-per-month sponsorships are also offered. The training center outside Bamako runs two classes at a time, with about eight or nine girls in each, she said. "Several have stayed together in an artisan co-op," Denton said.

Schillios launched the school with Kaaba Coulibaly, her friend and the foundation's director in Mali. Its first students graduated in 2006.

"The nonprofit retail shop has served its purpose of funding our pilot program in Mali," Schillios said in announcing the shop's coming closure. "The whole point of development is to help people help themselves. Now that graduates have market-ready products, they are ready for wholesale."

The aim is to use money now spent on the shop for direct help to get more women off the streets.

"I wanted desperately to keep the shop open, but it didn't make financial sense," said Schillios, who spent her career working with credit unions. "One shop does not generate enough income for growth. And sponsorships allow new girls to get on board."

A year ago, Schillios' trip to Mali was complicated by strife in the former French colony. She left for Mali on Dec. 31, 2012, and returned home Jan. 14. At the time, the French were battling Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida in northern Mali, and the U.S. State Department was warning about potential dangers for westerners.

Even so, Schillios plans to return to Mali at the end of January to help prepare artisans for a larger wholesale business.

Cotton is grown in Mali, a country too poor to process it, she said. The fabric is produced in Europe. It is shipped back to Mali, where it is decorated with traditional wax stamping and sewn into products.

"Our goal is very business-oriented," she said. "Our goal is sustainability -- and then get out of the way."

Schillios appreciates the Edmonds community's support, and all the hours put in by about 30 volunteers who helped run the shop.

"I learned a ton every day. It's been a gift for me," she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Shop closing

The nonprofit Fabric of Life Boutique, a volunteer-run shop that supports anti-poverty efforts in Mali and other African countries, is closing Tuesday. The Fabric of Life Foundation is switching to a sponsorship program to support artisans in Africa, and to online wholesale to other fair-trade businesses. The shop is at 523 Main St., Edmonds. Sponsorship information available at the shop through Tuesday, or at www.fabricoflife.org

http://heraldnet.com/article/20131227/NEWS01/712279890/Edmonds-woman-closing-fabric-shop-continuing-povery-fight-in-Africa

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11-year-old Saudi girl launches YouTube English language series

 December 27, 2013

TAIF – In an unprecedented step, an 11-year-old Saudi girl launched a YouTube English language series, aside from lessons in Arabic language, self-development, mathematics and the art of drawing and photography. Majd Al-Asiri’s YouTube page, which was launched two weeks ago from Taif, has been watched by 14,000 people from 39 countries.

Okaz/Saudi Gazette visited Majd at her family home recently to learn about her future plans for her educational videos. Majd’s father, Muhammad Abdullah Asiri, said his daughter has converted their home to a workshop to give lessons.

“She provides her lessons free of charge. Men, women and children of different ages benefit from her lessons on Alpha 71 Academy.”

Majd said she strives to boost the culture of knowledge, work and cooperation in the family and with others. She selects useful information, develops and then presents it for people to benefit from.

Majd chose the number 71 because the number 7 indicates her seven sisters and the 1 is a symbol of her only brother, Abdullah, who is only 7.

Majd’s sisters have played a key role in the success of the YouTube page. She has assigned her eldest sister Reem, 26, who is doing her master’s in the US, to manage the page. Maha, 24, who is doing her master’s in computer science, has been assigned the task of technical management of the page while Shahd, 21, who is a student in pharmacology, gives drawing lessons.  Ahd, 20, is a self-development trainer. Raghad, 16, who specializes in graphic design, has been assigned the task of editing her videos.

She stressed that she has not forgotten Abdullah. She has assigned him the task of training his peers in speaking English from home and the basics of drawing and swimming.

Meanwhile, President of Taibah University Dr. Adnan Al-Mazrou’ said the initiative is courageous and creative in a family whose members have strong bonds.

“The family is carrying out a clear message, which is new to our society. The family has several objectives, most prominent of which is to disseminate the culture of working from home.”

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20131227190638

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Why Saudi women languish in jail

  December 27, 2013

DAMMAM – Having a guardian’s consent is a prerequisite for the release of female prisoners who have completed their jail terms. Current prison and detention regulations forbid keeping anyone in jail after they have served their sentences but nearly 35 percent of female prisoners remain incarcerated after finishing their jail terms because they are rejected by their families, Al-Sharq newspaper reported Friday.

Many families sever ties with their daughters because the crimes they committed had brought shame on them, especially in cases involving honor. Statistics indicate that 104 out of 196, or 53 percent, of inmates in women’s care institutions were involved in honor crimes while 10 percent involved in murder cases.

Calls for allocating homes for released female prisoners have lately become more and more vocal. These homes, which are to fall under state supervision, will offer both shelter and social protection to released prisoners. The calls were made because current regulations do not compel guardians to receive female relatives released from prison if the guardians renounce the relationship and sever all ties with them.

In other cases, female prisoners fear returning home and facing their families. They are afraid that they might fall victim to violence. In both cases, the female inmate is in a state of loss and prefers to remain away from society.

According to a recent statement made by the Directorate General of Prisons, prison administrations throughout the Kingdom try repeatedly to convince families to accept their relatives released from prison, so they can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society but in the absence of laws protecting the rights of inmates, these efforts are wasted.

The task of caring for female prisoners lies with the National Committee for the Care of Prisoners’ Families and Persons Released (Tarahum). There are institutions that provide care to female prisoners in Riyadh, Makkah, Al-Ahsa and Abha.

According to a report issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs for 2011-2012, the number of female beneficiaries in these four institutions stood at 1,521, an increase of 299 inmates compared to the previous year. Over 1,312 female inmates were admitted to these institutions in 2012-2013.

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20131227190640

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Rights group petitions Lagos speaker over 2 brutalised women

 December 27, 2013

The Women Arise for Change Initiative, a rights based in Nigeria’s city of Lagos, has petitioned the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, over the inhuman treatment meted out to two women in the Ejigbo area of the state.

A video of the women which surfaced on the internet early this month shows the women stripped on allegation of stealing by some men whose identities were not revealed.

The women were first made to kneel and, then, flogged severely while they rolled on the ground in an attempt by the men to forcefully make them confess to committing the crime. They also forcefully inserted various objects into the women’s private parts after bathing them with pepper.

A compact disc containing the video was attached to the petition by the group which is seeking the House to immediately investigate the inhuman act with a view to getting the culprits punished.

The petition titled: ‘Dehumanisation Of Two Women In Ejigbo, Lagos State’ and signed by the group’s President, Joe Okei-Odumakin, stated that the women were recently subjected to the most vicious forms of human rights abuses and ” unspeakable horrors of brutality by certain depraved and savage men.”

According to the group, the video of the cruelty against the women had, since it was posted online, drawn global outrage.

The petitioners said: “as Nigerians and fellow citizens of the world watched the horrific scenes, they wondered if these were shots taken in the dark ages of savagery and primitivism.

“Strangely enough, a statement this month by the Chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan, at the height of the furore, acknowledged that this unimaginable horror took place in his domain in February this year, and that the victims were a mother and step daughter accused of stealing pepper, and that the husband and father was a palm-wine tapper; but Bamigbetan’s statement sadly to say, failed to outline the measures his office had taken since then to assure justice for the victims and ensure that the perpetrators are punished.

“Ironically, it is the same Bamigbetan whose gruesome kidnap few months back elicited genuine emotions and public goodwill, and the Lagos state government and concerned Nigerians spared nothing to guarantee his release, and bring the kidnappers to book.

“Why did he appear to have turned a blind eye over the ordeal of the victims, and why is he just acknowledging to the public these atrocities after ten good months? Or is it that the victims’ lives are of no value to him because they are pepper sellers from the household of Mr. Palm-wine tapper?”

The petitioner said the group believes that everybody, including women, is created equal by the Almighty God, and should therefore be equal before the law.

The group said it wanted a panel of inquiry to be set up to dig into “this shameful incident and compel the Ejigbo LCDA Chairman, Kehinde Bamigbetan, to share his knowledge of the crime and what he has done in tracking down the purveyors of these bestialities so that they can be brought to justice; adequate provisions must also be made to rehabilitate the victims.

“We strongly believe that there is a redemptive value for Lagos state in fishing out these criminals for punishment so that the state is not seen as a haven for atrocious human rights abuses, where barbaric and savage acts are tolerated by government officials.

“That is surely not a good face to present to potential investors and tourists to the commercial hub of the nation.

“This is certainly one issue that will not die until justice is done, and we trust that you will act quickly and ably, and use your good offices to ensure that justice is done, for justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

After deliberating on the petition, the House appointed a 5-man panel made of the House Leader, Ajibayo Adeyeye, Olumuyiwa Jimoh, Adefunmilayo Tejuoso, Omowunmi Olatunji-Edet and Wahab Alawiye-King to investigate the issue and report its finding to the House

http://pmnewsnigeria.com/2013/12/24/rights-group-petitions-lagos-speaker-over-2-brutalised-women/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PmNewsNigeriaFeed+(PM+News+Nigeria)

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Law and order: LHC seeks report on acid throwing lady doctor

 December 27, 2013

LAHORE: Lahore High Court on Thursday directed Multan district and sessions judge to submit a report, with his comments, on an acid attack.

The LHC passed the orders on a newspaper report that Muhammad Naveed Ahmed, 24, had been attacked by Dr Naheed Chaudhry, 28, who ran a private clinic in Chak 114/15-L.

The report stated that he first met her when he visited her clinic for treatment of skin allergy. The news item said Ahmed’s parents had arranged his marriage with his cousin.

One day she called Ahmed to her clinic. When he entered, she threw acid at his face. He managed to save his body, but his face was badly burnt.

The doctor fled from the scene. Ahmed was taken to a private clinic from where he was referred to the Mian Channu Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, where doctors treating he might lose vision in one eye.

A case has been registered against the doctor who was arrested a few hours later. Police said she had confessed to the crime.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/651084/law-and-order-lhc-seeks-report-on-acid-attack/

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Obama Signs Defense Bill Cracking Down On Military Sexual Assault

 December 27, 2013

HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed into law a comprehensive defense bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military.

The White House says Obama signed the bills Thursday while vacationing in Hawaii.

The bill provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget, plus $80.7 billion for the Afghanistan war and other overseas operations. It gives military personnel a 1 percent pay raise, but also reflects deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting there.

The bill signing caps a yearlong campaign led by the women of the Senate to address the scourge of rape and sexual assault in the military. Under the bill, military commanders no longer will be permitted to overturn jury convictions for sexual assault.

Below, Obama's statement on the National Defense Authorization Act:

Today I have signed into law H.R. 3304, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014." I have signed this annual defense authorization legislation because it will provide pay and bonuses for our service members, enhance counterterrorism initiatives abroad, build the security capacity of key partners, and expand efforts to prevent sexual assault and strengthen protections for victims.

Since taking office, I have repeatedly called upon the Congress to work with my Administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.

For the past several years, the Congress has enacted unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that have impeded my ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo. Earlier this year I again called upon the Congress to lift these restrictions and, in this bill, the Congress has taken a positive step in that direction. Section 1035 of this Act gives the Administration additional flexibility to transfer detainees abroad by easing rigid restrictions that have hindered negotiations with foreign countries and interfered with executive branch determinations about how and where to transfer detainees. Section 1035 does not, however, eliminate all of the unwarranted limitations on foreign transfers and, in certain circumstances, would violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers. Of course, even in the absence of any statutory restrictions, my Administration would transfer a detainee only if the threat the detainee may pose can be sufficiently mitigated and only when consistent with our humane treatment policy. Section 1035 nevertheless represents an improvement over current law and is a welcome step toward closing the facility.

In contrast, sections 1033 and 1034 continue unwise funding restrictions that curtail options available to the executive branch. Section 1033 renews the bar against using appropriated funds to construct or modify any facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any Guantanamo detainee in the custody or under the control of the Department of Defense unless authorized by the Congress. Section 1034 renews the bar against using appropriated funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States for any purpose. I oppose these provisions, as I have in years past, and will continue to work with the Congress to remove these restrictions. The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have

successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in Federal court. Those prosecutions are a legitimate, effective, and powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation. Removing that tool from the executive branch does not serve our national security interests. Moreover, section 1034 would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles.

The detention facility at Guantanamo continues to impose significant costs on the American people. I am encouraged that this Act provides the Executive greater flexibility to transfer Guantanamo detainees abroad, and look forward to working with the Congress to take the additional steps needed to close the facility. In the event that the restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees in sections 1034 and 1035 operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my Administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/26/obama-defense-bill_n_4505228.html

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