New Age Islam News Bureau
10 Nov 2015
Shefali Bewa, a practising Muslim, has been organising Kali Puja in Kendua village in Malda district. (HT Photo)
• Indian Muslim Woman Has Been Organising Kali Puja for Three Decades
• Women Suicide Bombers Kill 3 In Cameroon Mosque
• Afghanistan, US Condemn Beheadings of Women, Child in Khak-i-Afghan District
• NoAllMalePanels: American Muslim Women Want Change
• Three young men get jail, lashes for harassing women in Saudi Arabia
• The Seedy Underground of Child Sex Trafficking In Alexandra, Virginia
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
Indian Muslim Woman Has Been Organising Kali Puja for Three Decades
Nov 10, 2015
For the past three decades, a Muslim woman has been quietly doing her bit for communal amity by organising a Kali Puja every year at Kendua village of West Bengal.
Shefali Bewa, now in her early fifties, says it all began when goddess Kali came to her in a dream and asked her to organise a puja to cope with a nagging illness.
“About 30 years ago, I was suffering from an ailment. I visited several doctors and quacks but no one could cure me. One night, goddess Kali appeared in my dream and asked me to start her puja to get rid of all ailments,” Bewa told Hindustan Times.
Bewa initially faced a sceptical response when she told people in Kendua, a village in Malda district located 400km to the north of state capital Kolkata, about her dream.
“When I told the villagers about my dream, no one was ready to believe me. The artisan whom I approached refused to make an idol for a Muslim,” she said.
“However, after a few days, he turned up at my door and said the goddess had appeared to him in his sleep and told him that he had committed a sin by declining me. It was so many years ago that I have forgotten his name.”
Women Suicide Bombers Kill 3 in Cameroon Mosque
November 10, 2015
YAOUNDÉ - Three people died in a fresh attack on a mosque by two women suicide bombers Monday in northern Cameroon, a region repeatedly targeted by Boko Haram Islamists, residents and security sources said.
"A (woman) kamikaze blew herself up near a mosque in Fotokol. A second one was neutralised and killed. It was obvious the two suicide bombers were targeting the mosque," a local source told AFP.
"Three civilians also died," added a security source who asked not to be named.
The attack was similar to others in the remote region bordering Lake Chad claimed by Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, and occurred 24 hours after two suicide bombers left two dead and 14 injured across the border in Chadian town Ngouboua on Sunday.
Both Ngouboua and Fotokol have come under attack several times from Boko Haram fighters in the past.
Monday's suicide attack, the 16th in Cameroon's far north since July, highlights the persisting threat of Boko Haram attacks in the Lake Chad area straddling the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria.
The group, believed to be hiding out in Nigeria's nearby Sambisa forest and the lake's many islands, is held responsible for 17,000 deaths and for making 2.5 million people homeless in its six-year campaign of violence.
Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered his military commanders to end the unrest by the end of the year but around 1,300 people have been killed since he took office late May.
Afghanistan, US Condemn Beheadings of Women, Child in Khak-i-Afghan District
Nov 10, 2015
KANDAHAR: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Monday condemned the beheading of a group of Shiite Hazaras, including a child, in the southern province of Zabul, the scene of deadly clashes between rival Taliban groups.
Local officials in Zabul province said the headless bodies of four men, two women and one child, who were kidnapped by armed men in October from neighbouring Ghazni province, were found in Khak-i-Afghan district of troubled Zabul on Sunday.
The circumstances surrounding the beheadings are unclear. Some local officials pointed the finger at fighters from the Daesh in the province, but the government does not have control of the area and the claim could not be independently verified.
Groups associated with Daesh have made growing inroads in Afghanistan this year, attracting fighters and support away from disenchanted members of the Taliban.
“The heartless killing of innocent individuals, especially women and children, has no justification in any religion or creed,” Ghani said in a statement.
Ghani, who was “profoundly saddened” by the killing, said he would convene “an extraordinary security meeting to seek ways for tracking down and punishing the perpetrators of this atrocious crime” later on Monday.
The US also issued a statement condemning “yesterday’s beheading of seven civilians, including women and a child” through its embassy in Kabul.
Also on Monday Afghan officials said heavy fighting continued between militants from the two groups of Taliban in at least three districts of Zabul province.
The skirmishes, which first erupted on Saturday, involved fighters loyal to the widely-recognized Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and fighters led by Mansoor Dadullah.
Dadullah is a deputy in the splinter group announced last week by Mohamed Rasool, in the first formal split within the Taliban since the death of long-term leader Mullah Omar.
Islam Gul Seyal, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the fighting in Arghandab, Khak-Afghan and Daichopan districts continued Monday, and had left dozens of militants from both sides killed and injured. The extent of the fighting and more precise figures could not be verified.
NoAllMalePanels: American Muslim Women Want Change
By Nabila Pathan
10 November 2015
A group of Muslim women in the U.S. have instigated a Tweetstorm calling for greater representation of women on speaking panels at Muslim conferences, seminars and events.
The Twitter hashtag #noallmalepanels, which started earlier this month, has already inspired a week long vigorous debate online and has also led to a group of prominent Muslim Men in the American community signing a pledge to never participate in any future panels which are composed exclusively of men.
The grassroots initiative originally started as an event on Facebook, calling upon the community at large to participate in calling leaders to accountability by utilizing the hashtag #NoAllMalePanels on Twitter. The campaign has been coordinated by MuslimGirl.net, Altmuslimah, Muslimah Montage, Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, Mipsterz – Muslim Hipsters and Side Entrance.
The poor representation of women on panels discussing important social, policy, and theological questions at Muslim centered events has "dire consequences for our communities" explains Samar Kaukab, who's Executive Director at Arete, University of Chicago.
She goes on to add that the Muslim communities in the U.S. lose out because "our collective thinking, ideation, and even group decision making suffers when we don't have diverse voices at the table."
Having actively participated in the #noallmalepanels hashtag conversations, Samar explains the importance of the hashtag:
"This hashtag conversation was a strategic mechanism to bring this topic of visible female representation on our panels, our conferences, and gatherings forward. People noticed, they discussed the topic, and most importantly, they asked questions about what it would actually mean to to implement something like this."
"Essentially, by giving people an easy way to increase women's participation (i.e., have a woman on every panel), organizations and panel hosts have a metric they can easily achieve and measure their efforts towards this essential goal."
Some of the prominent #MuslimMaleAllies who have already signed the pledge include Suhaib Webb (@ImamSuhaibWebb), Faisal Kutty (@faisalkutty) and Aman Ali (@amanali).
Shahed Amanullah (@shahed), who is the CEO of LaunchPosse & cofounder of Affinis Labs, spoke to Al Arabiya News explaining his motivation behind signing up to the pledge.
"I believe one of the reasons for the stagnation in our conference conversations is because we haven't made room for 50% of our communities to be represented," Amanullah said.
"If we create room for talented women to lead our communities in our public conversations, I am confident that they will surprise and impress many men who otherwise wouldn't listen.
"If you look at the advancement of communities around the world, you'll see a direct correlation between progress and the inclusiveness of women in leadership roles," she added.
Earlier this year in February, a Tumblr blog was set up to shame all male panels named: "Congrats! You have an all male panel." Brainchild of a Finnish feminist researcher and artist Saar Sarma, the blog features photos submitted from all over the world to highlight all male panels and the unacceptability of the continuing trend.
The blog's creator has asked people from all over the world to send in photos of all-male panels at seminars and other events. The curator then stamps each image with a thumbs-up photo of actor David Hasselhoff.
As the hashtag #noallmalepanels follows in the footsteps of other online conversations that have demanded qualified women speakers from across all sectors, including the sciences, law, theology and policy work, the desire for a widespread shift in thinking remains the same. Samar hopes that this recent wave of online activity will spur on Muslim community organizations and institutions to see a pathway forward towards increasing the participation of women in public spaces:
"Through this, I hope our communities also learn about the wealth of resources we already have when it comes to female scholarship, leadership, and expertise. In addition, by allowing these women to have a more public presence, I also hope we see the need to support women's leadership and scholarship into the future."
The Seedy Underground of Child Sex Trafficking In Alexandra, Virginia
NOVEMBER 10, 2015
IN A seedy hotel room in Alexandra, Virginia, on October 6, a sordid meeting took place.
The meeting was part of an underground network where children — in this case as young as 12 — are forced to sell themselves for sex. Most likely, as Crystal Nosal, Senior Public Information Officer for the Alexandria Police Department explains, they’ve run away from an abusive home environment, and have been drawn into a situation that will spiral into a life of drugs and prostitution.
They probably met online first, a seemingly chance encounter for the victim, but a carefully staged trap for the perpetrator. He or she creates a supposedly loving and caring relationship with the victim in order to establish trust. It is this manipulative relationship that, if it works, could ensure the youth will remain loyal to the exploiter even in the face of severe victimisation.
“With the young girls, you promise them heaven, they’ll follow you to hell,” Harvey Washington, a pimp who served a four-year sentence in Arizona in 2005 for “pandering a 17-year-old and three adult prostitutes”, told the New York Times.
“It all depends on her being so love-drunk off of me that she will do anything for me.”
On this particular October day, a predator is awaiting his bait. He’s young, and dressed in head-to-toe black, complete with cap.
But what he doesn’t know is the FBI is waiting to strike.
Investigators had staged the undercover sting, one of many across, hotels, casinos, even truck stops, where pimps, prostitutes and their customers congregate.
For a year, they’ve been working on Operation Cross Country, a nationwide human trafficking operation that targets the criminal enterprises responsible for the commercial sex trafficking of children, as part of the Bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative.
Agencies across America, including the FBI, federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children partner together for this annual event, aimed at addressing the growing problem of domestic sex trafficking of children, dubbed “throwaway kids”, in the United States.
“This operation is just a glimpse, just a snapshot into what’s occurring every single day in this country,” Staca Shehan, Executive Director at National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said.
“We know these kids are being targeted, and we need to commit resources to locating, recovery and providing services long term.”
The figures are frightening: A University of Pennsylvania study estimated as many as 325,000 children in the US, Canada, and Mexico are at risk each year of becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
Most of the 1.6 million children who run away each year will return home within a week, but those who don’t — almost a third — face an uphill battle to survive and eventually engage in what’s called “survival sex”.
In fact, according to the National Network for Youth, 48 per cent of runaway and homeless youth who engaged in a commercial sex activity said they did it because they didn’t have a safe place to stay. A New York City provider of services to homeless youth found that approximately one in four had been a victim of sex trafficking or had engaged in survival sex.
“Child trafficking for the purposes of prostitution is organised criminal activity using kids as commodities for sale or trade,” said Ernie Allen, former President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Last months’ operation — the ninth and largest to date — saw the rescue of 149 sexually exploited children and the arrest of more than 150 pimps across 135 cities. Of the 149 victims recovered, three of those minors were transgender, and three were males.
“What we find, the average age that they’re preying on is like 12 to 16 years old. Although in our investigations we’ve found victims as young as nine years old,” said Thomas A. Nunemaker, former Chief of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Section.
“People ask us quite often, where does it [sex trafficking] occur? It occurs in the streets. It’s what we refer to as street tracks. It occurs at truck stops. It occurs at major events. It occurs at casinos, night clubs, vacation spots. But with the use of the internet, it can happen anywhere anytime.”
It marks the beginning of a difficult road to recovery for the young victims. They’re placed in shelters, and given essentials like food, clothing and medical attention. They’re provided on scene-services, including crisis intervention, but nothing wipes away the memories.
“From an investigative standpoint, Operation Cross Country targets the individuals and criminal enterprises responsible for the commercial sex trafficking of children,” said an anonymous FBI victim specialist.
“But our main goal is to provide support and services for these young victims — to help stabilise them and get them moving forward in a positive direction.”
An American Journal of Public Health study estimates 30 per cent of shelter youth and 70 per cent of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. They may yet again engage or be coerced into prostitution for survival sex to meet their daily needs.
Prosecutors have notched more than 2000 convictions and 15 life sentences of pimps since the operation begun in 2003, resulting in the rescue of approximately 4800 sexually exploited children. It’s a dangerous operation; child sex trafficking is big business, big money and high risk. But, as FBI director James Comey said, the rescue is the biggest operation of all.
“When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror,” Mr Comey said. “We simply must continue to work with our partners to end the scourge of sex trafficking in our country.”