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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 4 Apr 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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In Egypt, Women Preachers Get Platform to Fight Extremism

New Age Islam News Bureau

4 Apr 2017

Image Credit: Muslim women and children attend a sermon delivered by a female cleric in Cairo.


 Women Free To Marry Of Their Will: Saudi Scholar

 Heartbreaking Letter ‘Left on London Bus by Muslim Schoolgirl

 Trudeau ‘Proud’ As Malala to Formally Receive Canadian Citizenship On 12th

 Tajikistan Steps Up Use of Traditional Over Islamic Clothing

 92 Pc Muslim Women in India Want To Get Rid Of Triple Talaq Like Their Counterparts In Other Countries

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




In Egypt, women preachers get platform to fight extremism

Apr 03, 2017

Cairo: Inside a mosque in south Cairo, a group of women wearing the headscarf listen attentively to a sermon. The topic is about morals in Islam. The speaker is Wafaa Abdul Salam, one of more than 140 Muslim female preachers recently licensed by the government to offer religious lessons to women in the mostly Muslim country.

The move is the latest step by state authorities to tighten their grip on mosques and deny the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and its loyalists a key platform to influence worshippers.

“Preaching was for years confined to men while women were forced to sit on the sidelines,” Abdul Salam says during a break in the lesson.

“This situation has been exploited by extremist groups to spread their ideas among simple people, including women,” she told Gulf News.

Abdul Salam regards appointing female preachers as a “dream come true”.

“This is a courageous decision inspired by the Holy Quran and the Sunna [traditions and sayings] of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), that enjoin everyone, not specifically men, to promote virtue and prevent vice,” she adds, citing Islam’s two main sources of jurisprudence.”

Abdul Salam also hosts religious programmes on local radio and television stations.

“Our role is to acquaint Muslim women with teachings of moderate Islam. Without properly grooming women, society will not move in the right direction.”

Before allowed to take the pulpit, Abdul Salam and her colleagues passed tests in Quran, the Sunna and Islamic jurisprudence to ensure they are qualified enough to answer their female audience’s questions.

“It is easy for the woman to ask questions to a female preacher without feeling embarrassed. This is not the case if the preacher is a man. Our main mission is to correct wrong concepts prevalent among women and answer their questions in a simple way.”

Abdul Salam is quick to point out that their duty is not to issue fatwas (binding religious edicts).

“Our role is just to teach women about matters of their religion at gatherings arranged in mosques and workplaces. If we get questions about fatwas on specific issues, we submit them to Dar Al Iftaa,” she says, referring to Egypt’s top Islamic body in charge of issuing fatwas.

Around 70 per cent of mosques in Egypt have separate prayer areas for women, according to official figures.

The country’s Ministry of Awqaf (religious affairs) has recently said it plans to licence more women preachers to reach more than 2,000 nationwide by the end of this year.

“Ignoring this issue in the past helped in the dissemination of radical ideas by women followers of the Brotherhood, who sought to spread its poison among women and children,” Jaber Taya, an official in the ministry, said.

In 2013, the army, then led by incumbent President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, removed the Brotherhood from power following massive protests against its one-year rule.

The Islamist group has since been the target of a draconian clampdown.

“We are determined to promote moderation among women in Egypt,” Taya added in press remarks.

“Therefore, we’ll depend more on female leaders in modernising religious discourse because they are more capable than men in addressing women. In this regard, we rely on female graduates of Al Azhar,” he added, referring to Egypt’s main seat of Islamic learning.

In recent months, Al Sissi has repeatedly called on Muslim scholars to reform religious teachings in order to fight violent militancy.

Some women have expressed happiness about communicating with female cleric at first-hand.

“I used to come to the mosque to listen to men preachers, but I was not able to direct questions to them on issues related to women because I felt embarrassed and also because there was a barrier between men and women,” said Hala Sultan, a Muslim housewife.

“The situation is different now. I can ask any question to the female preacher regarding my religion without feeling shy. She is a woman like me,” Hala told Gulf News.

“I have also encouraged my two daughters, who are being prepared to get married, to attend these lessons, which are beneficial to them.”

To Amna Nuseir, a professor of Islamic studies at Al Azhar University, recruiting female preachers is an “important move in empowering women” in Egypt.

“This field has for long been a monopoly of extremist groups that exploit religion for political gains,” Nuseir, who is a member of parliament, told Gulf News.

“The decision of the Ministry of Awqaf to appoint qualified female preachers has come to end this exploitation and boost confidence in the institutions responsible for dawa [Islamic preaching] in the country.”



Women Free To Marry Of Their Will: Saudi Scholar

April 04, 2017

A Saudi religious scholar has issued a fatwa that women were free to marry of their own free will.

According to Saudi newspapers, member of Council of Senior Scholars Sheikh Abdullah Al Menia has said in his fatwa that women above 25 years of age possess the right to marry of their own free will.

He said that the main thing is to document the marriage contract and if the Justice Department permits then no obstacle remains in the case.

It is pertinent to mention here that Sheikh Abdul Minai also issued a fatwa in September last year according to which women are their own mentors and have the legal right to manage all her matters except those of marriage.



Heartbreaking Letter ‘Left On London Bus by Muslim Schoolgirl

April 2017

A POIGNANT letter has allegedly been left on a London bus by someone claiming to be a 14-year-old Muslim schoolgirl in the wake of the Westminster terror attack.

The letter sees the author describe how she feels “almost guilty” following the nightmare attack, which she says was discussed at her school the following day.

Writing in the heartbreaking letter – which has not yet been verified – the author claims to have been asked where they were in the aftermath of the terror attack on March 22.

The letter was reportedly found on a London bus almost two weeks after attacker Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians along Westminster Bridge, before attempting to enter the Houses of Parliament on a violent rampage, killing three innocents.

It reads: “Dear stranger, please read my letter. From – a Muslim.

“I am a Londoner aged 14 years old I also happen to be a black Muslim.”

The author adds: “The next day I woke up early and as I was watching the news it dawned on me that I would go into school and people would expect answers.

“I went into form and as we spoke about the current affairs I felt all eyes on me.

“I felt flushed and hot suddenly – almost guilty?

“What do I have to be guilty for?

“I couldn’t determine if I was being paranoid or eyes were darting to the corner of the room to where I was sitting.

“I walked into my first lesson and a girl had asked me where I was the night before, I laughed it off because I knew she was joking and that’s what humans do when they don’t know what to say.”

The author went on to say she has to “think twice” when walking through Westminster every Saturday – over fears she could be attacked because of her hijab.

It adds: “We may be Muslim but we don’t want to hurt you. We aren’t terrorists.

“Every Saturday I pass through Westminster and I had to think twice about it this time.

“I was scared that maybe I would be assaulted because of the many labels that come with wearing a hijab.”

Social media users have taken to Reddit to praise the author of the letter.

One said: “This is heartbreaking.

“I've been moved by this and I hope it'll have an effect on the public to stop treating Muslims (or anyone else regardless of race, religion, gender, etc) differently.

“There's no reason to blame somebody else, or even treat them differently, for an action that they don't have any control over, at all, regardless of circumstance.”

Another wrote: “Shame you have to learn to deal with it. Stay strong.”

One user who described herself as Muslim, weighed in: “Not surprised.

“Visibly Muslim young woman myself.

“It's been the same s*** since 2001 with September 11.

“I hope she just learns to deal with it like I have.”

Echoing the sentiment, another said: “Muslim here in the same situation.

“Unfortunately it just takes one or two idiots to really wake you up and see how evil the world can be.

“We must learn lessons from our religion and realise that by definition as Muslims we will always be struggling in this life one way or another.

“Be strong!”



Trudeau ‘proud’ as Malala to formally receive Canadian citizenship on 12th

April 04, 2017

On April 12, Malala Yousafzai will officially receive the honorary Canadian citizenship that was given to her in 2014. She will be addressing the Canadian Parliament as well, announced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canadian Government’s website has confirmed the announcement.

“I am pleased to announce Malala Yousafzai’s upcoming visit to Canada. Ms. Yousafzai’s courageous response to those who threatened her life, and her advocacy for girls’ education, has inspired many millions of people around the world. Her story is one of determination and dignity, and Canada is proud to call her an honorary citizen of this great country. I look forward to attending the upcoming ceremony and witnessing the historic moment when she becomes the youngest person to address the Parliament of Canada,” said PM Trudeau.

A meeting will be held between the two, to discuss girls’ empowerment through education and to contribute to the sustainable development of their communities and countries.

“The people of Canada are leading the world in their response to the refugee crisis. I am honoured by Parliament's invitation and look forward to visiting this great nation of heroes,” Malala said.

At 15 years old, Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban. Later she became an outspoken advocate for the right of girls to learn and to attend school. In recognition of this work, she was named a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.



Tajikistan steps up use of traditional over Islamic clothing

4 April 2017

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan : Clothing factories in Tajikistan are churning out brightly colored national dresses amid a surge in sales, and it’s not just because of the arrival of spring.

An increasing number of female officials, teachers and students have been wearing the Atlas and other traditional dresses following a recommendation by the Central Asian country’s government.

“The Atlas will never go out of fashion,” said Nasiba Anvarova, who owns a dress boutique in the capital Dushanbe, referring to a popular, dye-streaked style of dress.

“Any Tajik bride should have several of these dresses in her wardrobe,” Anvarova told AFP.

The campaign reached its peak last month during the spring Nowruz festival in Tursunzoda, a town west of Dushanbe, where the country celebrated its Persian heritage in a vibrant display of indigenous fashion.

State television showed President Emomali Rakhmon, a practicing Muslim, and other officials dancing at a concert along with thousands of women in traditional garb, bearing baskets of bread.

But Rakhmon and the male officials wore Western-style suits, and the festivities belied the government’s growing fears of Islamist extremism.

The authorities have campaigned against Arab-style head and face coverings like the hijab as part of a crackdown that has also included forced beard shavings.

The government claims that over a thousand Tajiks have joined the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria, and points to “foreign” Islamic clothing as “being a sign of radicalization,” said Edward Lemon, a researcher at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in New York.

Rakhmon, a secular autocrat who took charge of the country in the early 1990s as it plunged into a bloody civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union, nonetheless makes public demonstrations of piety.

Last year he completed the latest of several pilgrimages to Makkah, where his wife and daughter were photographed wearing the hijabs that Tajik women are increasingly discouraged from wearing.

At home, however, the crackdown has gathered strength since 2015, when the government banned a moderate Islamic opposition party and handed heavy prison sentences to its leaders following a wave of political unrest.

Several incidents of forced beard shavings have been reported, and a hospital recently turned away a group of women wearing hijabs, Lemon said.

The trend could be explained by a Soviet-style “fear of religion as a competing system of morality and legitimacy to the state,” he said, which dates back to early communist times when the authorities actively promoted veil-burning.

But many critics see the dress recommendations as a sign of an accelerating slide toward authoritarianism under Rakhmon, who has never hid his preferences regarding women’s fashion.

Inculcating national style

The dress code recommendations for women and girls, issued by the education ministry ahead of the March holidays, were aimed at “inculcating national style and patriotism,” a ministry spokesman told AFP.

“No one has forced teachers, students or schoolchildren to wear the clothes,” he said.

But in 2015, ahead of Mother’s Day — which the country celebrates on March 8, when other countries mark International Women’s Day — Rakhmon complained that in the past, Tajik women had never worn black, “even at funerals.”

This year, ahead of the same holiday, an official from the country’s state committee on women and family affairs called on women to dress and behave like Rakhmon’s late mother.

Tajikistan is not alone in the region taking aim at Islamic dress.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambayev endorsed a series of controversial banners last year that depicted women in traditional Kyrgyz dress opposite women wearing dark niqab veils.

“Poor nation, where are we headed to?” the banners asked.

But critics note that the government-backed campaigns almost never impose dress codes on men.

The Tajik education ministry’s recommendation is a “typical phenomenon in which women’s bodies become the battlefield where political struggles take place,” said Mohira Suyarkulova of the Central Asian Studies Institute at the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan.

Suyarkulova also said that Tajikistan’s 2009 decision to change International Women’s Day to “Mother’s Day” suggested a “narrowing of the possible field for women’s participation in politics and society.”

Others have railed against the sheer impracticalities of wearing the dresses, made from thin silk cloth or cotton, on a daily basis while cool weather persists in the mountainous republic.

“Probably the authors of this crazy recommendation don’t have daughters!” one woman wrote on Facebook, expressing her “outrage” at seeing girls walk to school in the dresses.

“Then we get surprised when young girls fall ill with serious flu. What does the health ministry think about this? Or is this a means of lowering the birth rate in the country?“



92 pc Muslim women in India want to get rid of Triple Talaq like their counterparts in other countries

4 APRIL 2017

What happens when a woman is married off early? Early marriage means little or no education, thereby missing out on a chance to be empowered so that one gets to make informed decisions. In India, 13.5 percent of Muslim women are married before they turn 15, and close to 49 percent get married between 14 and 19 years of age, according to 2011 Census data.

If this is the case, women are not equipped or trained to take care of themselves financially, and 95 percent of these women do not get maintenance, according to a survey done by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).

Shagufta Shah, mother of two daughters from Lucknow, provides yet another instance of such a story. Last week, she wrote a letter to the PM, asking him to bring an end to triple talaq. Her husband gave her a verbal triple talaq and left her on the road as she refused to abort her child. In a country where even a single girl child is considered a burden, her husband was worried that if her their third child also turned out to be a girl, it would mean a further burden on the family. She told India Today,

Triple talaq is considered unconstitutional in a lot of countries, and in more than 20 countries, including Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, it is no longer practised. Another survey by BMMA also found that more than 90 percent of Muslim women in India want a ban on triple talaq. This comes as no surprise, as a lot of them have been divorced by their husbands just sending out letters or orally saying "talaq" three times.

As a lot of people have been rallying to make triple talaq illegal, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of five judges is all set to address the issues of triple talaq, halala, and polygamy during the summer vacation. The court will also examine the possibility of doing away with these practices and bringing in a Uniform Civil Code.

When talking about the Uniform Civil Code with First Post, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of Parlimentary Affairs, said,

"The need of the hour is to debate the issue of a UCC across all forums in order to create a consensus. Such a debate must take place at the grassroots level. We must understand all the divergent viewpoints before any draft can be prepared. No comprehensive debate has taken place on this subject in the last one year.”



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