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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 18 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Muslim Women’s Group Calls for Abolishing Oral Divorce, Polygamy

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 Jun 2014

Iranian fans cheer for their team before the start of the Group F football match between Iran and Nigeria during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 16, 2014. (AFP)


 Iranian Women at World Cup Spark Social Media Jibes

 20 Saudi Women Lawyers Get Green Light to Practice in Courts

 Benghazi Panel Turns Ugly after Muslim Woman Asks About Peaceful Muslims

 Punishment Rape in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood

 Africa: 'No Excuse' For Newborn Death Rate

 Sudan Death Row 'Apostate' Mother Unchained: Lawyer

 Robyn Yousef: Don't Judge All Muslims by Violent Fringe

 Why Should a Lady Wear Abaya

 100pc literacy still a distant dream in Pakistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Indian Muslim Women’s Group Calls for Abolishing Oral Divorce, Polygamy

Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai | June 18, 2014

In a move aimed at improving the conditions of Muslim women across the country, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has finalised a draft Muslim family law which does away with oral divorce, polygamy and also stipulates the Mehr amount paid to a woman at her wedding

The draft law called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act will be released on Wednesday.

For the past seven years, the BMMA has been working on the draft law in which for the first time Islamic laws pertaining to marriage, divorce and maintenance have been codified. The BMMA is hoping the government uses this draft law to improve the condition of Muslim women in the country.

The draft stipulates that the bride should at least be 18 years of age while the bridegroom should be at least 21 years of age and neither of the two should have a living spouse, thus ensuring that polygamy is stopped. The Islamic laws allow a Muslim man to have upto four wives.

The draft also states that the minimum amount of Mehr, which is the paid by the groom to the bride during the wedding, shall not be less than one full annual income of the groom. It further states that if the stipulated Mehr is not paid within six months of marriage, then the groom will have to pay double the amount. Presently some grooms give an amount as less as Rs 786 as Mehr.

The draft law virtually abolishes oral divorce and triple Talaq. It states that only the Talaq-e-Ahsan method should be followed.

In this method once the divorce is pronounced the couple waits for three months in what is seen as a period to sort out differences. This keeps the option of a reunion open and the husband can reverse the process of divorce if both parties agree.

The draft also imposes heavy penalty on offenders, including cancelling of a qazi’s licence for repeat offences in failing to ensure fulfilment of conditions during marriage. It also calls for action under the Criminal Procedure Code for all those who fail to pay maintenance.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1936. This law makes the Shariat applicable on Muslims. However this law is not codified and is open to interpretations by local clergy. Various women’s groups have been demanding that the Muslim Personal Law should be codified so that its provisions are clear to everyone.

However, conservative clergy has claimed the codification is tantamount to tampering with the Shariat and the Islamic way of life. The state is also not very keen on taking up the issue for fear of antagonizing the clergy.



Iranian Women At World Cup Spark Social Media Jibes

June 18, 2014

Photos of Iranian women cheering for their team at the World Cup in Brazil went viral on social media this week, and garnered a host of comments on social media about the way in which the women were dressed.

“Iran v Nigeria. female Iran fans wearing the opposite of the Hijab, Brazil style -- but furiously waving the flag of the Islamic Republic,” tweeted BBC’s Jeremy Bowen.

The football-loving Iranian women appeared well turned out at their national team’s match against Nigeria on Monday, despite warnings from hard-line parliamentarians that women should be dressed conservatively in public.

Some conservative Iranian officials warned fans travelling to Brazil to avoid actions deemed “not compatible” with the values of the Islamic republic.

Iranian media reports also said a parliament committee sent one of its members to Brazil to monitor the behaviour of Iranian fans.

However, pictures posted on social media suggest that diehard Iranian fans have kicked aside the warnings, vowing to enjoy the World Cup festivities.

The pictures sparked reactions on social media platforms.

“Weird watching #Iran's fans in their fancy western dress code and their Islamic republic flag. Another irony from my part of the world,” tweeted Egyptian writer Nervana Mahmoud.

There have been several restrictions imposed on Iranian football fans inside the Islamic Republic too.

Cafes and restaurants have been informed by Iranian police that screening World Cup games in public is no longer allowed, and they have reportedly been told to prevent men and women from mixing.

It was reported earlier that Iranian President Hassan Rowhani has ordered “an official investigation into whether women should be allowed to attend men’s football matches, a practice currently forbidden under the country’s Islamic laws,” the Telegraph said.



20 Saudi Women Lawyers Get Green Light to Practice in Courts

June 18, 2014

RIYADH — The Justice Ministry has granted licenses to 20 Saudi women lawyers to practice the profession and appear before courts to represent their clients, a local newspaper said.

“The lawyers have successfully met all the terms and conditions required for defending litigants before courts,” lawyer Majed Garoub, a member of the ministry’s department of lawyers, told Makkah daily.

He said the ministry has also granted 10 other women trainee lawyer licenses. “These trainees will be given final licenses to practice law once they have gained the required years of experience,” he added.

Garoub said the department does not differentiate between men and women when granting licenses to practice law. He said an increasing number of women lawyers are applying for licenses. He recalled the department had earlier granted licenses to four Saudi women lawyers and said they can take handle all sorts of cases before the judges.

Garoub welcomed the introduction of a fingerprinting system to verify lawyers’ identities.

The ministry, on the other hand, announced on its website that its department of lawyers will accept all applications for registration and recognition. “The applicants should fill in and sign a special form and an affidavit for lawyers at the department’s reception,” it said.

It said a special committee from the department would meet to consider the applications and make a decision to accept, refuse or postpone them.

“The accepted lawyers will be notified to come personally to the department to collect their licenses and their special IDs for lawyers,” the ministry said.

It said applicants whose applications are refused could appeal to the Board of Grievances within 60 days.

The ministry said lawyers whose applications are postponed would be contacted to complete their documents before they are submitted for a second time to the committee.



Benghazi Panel Turns Ugly After Muslim Woman Asks About Peaceful Muslims

June 18, 2014

The Heritage Foundation hosted a Benghazi panel on Monday that took a turn for the worse when a Muslim law student asked the panel a question about their portrayal of Islam as universally bad. Their answers, detailed in Dana Milbank's Washington Post column, quickly turned introduced a comparison to Nazi Germany.

As Milbank notes, the panelists' intense, angry response to a question from the "soft-spoken" student — along with the standing ovation it triggered from the crowd — was something of an "unexpected turn" to the panel. However, it is perhaps not so surprising when you know that two of the Foundation's panelists were Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America, and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. Gabriel is a prominent anti-Sharia activist who is a regular commentator on Fox News. Gaffney is one of the architects of a conservative approach to national security that advocates for the profiling and surveillance of Muslim Americans.

Here's a video of the relevant segment, lifted from Heritage's livestream of the panel (via Media Matters):

Gaffney himself often takes a soft tone when responding to accusations that his ideas are bigoted or dangerous. In the video, he speaks first after American University law student Saba Ahmed asks the panel to address "how can we fight an ideological war with weapons," and questioned the panel's portrayal of Islam as inherently bad. Gaffney, as he often does, makes a distinction between "moderate" and "bad" Muslims. However, his argument includes the implication that the "moderate" Muslims would become radicalized if they were simply more devout to their own religion. In other words, it's a complicated and subtle response, but it still does the thing that Ahmed's question criticizes: Gaffney's approach to combating terrorism involves the assumption that any follower of Islam is uniquely suspect. 

Then, it was Brigitte Gabriel's turn. She claimed that of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, 180-to-300 million are "dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization," even though "of course" most Muslims are not radical. But then she added that the "peaceful majority were irrelevant" because, for instance, 19 Muslims were responsible for September 11th. Gabriel went on to compare "peaceful" Muslims to Germans during the Nazi regime, saying that “most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died.” To suggest otherwise, she later added, was "political correctness" that should be "thrown in the garbage."

We'll let Milbank give his (somewhat dramatic) account of the exchange:

“Are you an American?” Gabriel demanded of Ahmed, after accusing her of taking “the limelight” and before informing her that her “political correctness” belongs “in the garbage.”

“Where are the others speaking out?” Ahmed was asked. This drew an extended standing ovation from the nearly 150 people in the room, complete with cheers.

The panel’s moderator, conservative radio host Chris Plante, grinned and joined in the assault. “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?” he demanded of Ahmed.

“Yeah,” audience members taunted, “yeah.”

Ahmed answered quietly, as before. “I guess it’s me right now,” she said.

The panel was part of a series of discussions on Benghazi, co-run by the Heritage Foundation and the Benghazi Accountability Coalition, run by Andrew McCarthy. McCarthy, who now writes for the National Review, has collaborated in the past with Gaffney on anti-Sharia policy documents.



Punishment rape in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood

June 18, 2014

Mslim Brotherhood sympathizers recently went on a sexual assault and rape spree in Egypt as a way of “getting even” with those women who dared to celebrate the presidential victory of Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi -- the former army chief who overthrew Muslim Brotherhood rule.

On June 8, when tens of thousands of Egyptians congregated in Tahrir Square to celebrate Sisi’s inauguration, dozens of women were sexually assaulted and many more harassed. According to a statement later released by the Ministry of Interior, seven men between the ages of 15 and 49 were arrested for sexually assaulting “a number of women.”

One 19-year-old female student was especially brutalized -- and videotaped as she was stripped naked and sexually assaulted by a throng of men. (I saw the graphic video on YouTube, though it has since been removed; a much less graphic clip of the initial assault appears here.)

A gun-waving police officer eventually managed to rescue the woman from her ordeal, though after sustaining injuries himself.

Sexually harassing or raping those supportive of Sisi by way of “retribution” is not uncommon in Egypt. Earlier, a six-year-old boy was raped by a Muslim Brotherhood member who was “angered” at the child for singing praises to Sisi. He lured the boy into a shed, locked the doors, and proceeded to rape him, while saying, “You’re always holding pictures of this Sisi and singing his praises. Come, I’ll humiliate and break you -- and your Sisi.”

Although Western media never specify who is behind these sexual assaults -- often citing “the mob” -- Hala Sarhan, a popular TV host in Egypt alluded to the ultimate source that legitimizes sexual harassment and rape in Egypt, namely, Islamist preachers and leaders:

What was said to these people [rapists] to brainwash them into thinking that such violations on the person and body of this young girl [the aforementioned rape victim] were permissible? …  I’ll tell you.  The one in parliament who said this, is the same as the man who did that…  And the one who told that girl that she is an infidel, is the same as the one in parliament who said that it’s permissible to marry a 9-year-old girl [based on the prophet of Islam’s example when he married the girl-child Aisha].

The ones who in the mosques told him that they [women] are in the pits of hell and the lures of Satan—adulteresses, that Satan lives in their bodies…  This is what they tell them in the mosques!  And they’re so upset now [Islamist preachers] because they can no longer continue to preach like this in the mosques! We thank you minister of religious endowments for stopping this mockery!  [The new Egyptian government has cracked down on radical preachers.] Before [under Morsi], every guy that yelled and stomped got himself a pulpit to preach such thoughts into the minds of the youth -- and then they went out thinking they are doing jihad.

You see, they have this thing in their mind that says “If we curse or attack an infidel, that is jihad”….  Concerning the previous cases of sexual harassment, they [Islamist authorities] told people, “Why did she [any violated woman] leave her house in the first place?  She deserves what she got!”  They told them, “Your sister needs to be circumcised”; told them, “In the house, beat her and discipline her, break her bones; and if she refuses to have sex with you, saying she’s tired or sick, curse her with the angels till the sun rises.” We allowed these people to fill their minds with such ideas!

Such honesty is reminiscent of an Egyptian op-ed that appeared after a young Coptic woman was murdered by a pro-Brotherhood mob because they identified her as a Christian:

Those who killed the young and vulnerable Mary Sameh George, for hanging a cross in her car, are not criminals, but rather wretches who follow those who legalized for them murder, lynching, dismemberment, and the stripping bare of young Christian girls -- without every saying “kill.”  [Islamic cleric] Yassir Burhami and his colleagues who announce their hate for Christians throughout satellite channels and in mosques -- claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for Allah -- they are the true killers who need to be tried and prosecuted.

At any rate, using sexual harassment and rape to force people to comply with Islamist agendas has a long history, especially in Egypt.  In 2011, during the “Arab Spring,” when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists were released from prison, legitimized and eventually rose to power, sexual harassment skyrocketed, as one graph showed.

Moreover, UN research done in 2013, when Morsi was president, suggested that 99.3% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment.

Indeed, in February, 2013, hundreds of Egyptian women took to the streets of Tahrir Square to protest this nonstop harassment. They held slogans like “Silence is unacceptable, my anger will be heard,” and “A safe square for all; Down with sexual harassment.” “Marchers also shouted chants against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails,” wrote Al Ahram Online.

The response was more sexual harassment and rapes. One woman was gang-raped for approximately 20 minutes and nearly died.  And as Hala Sarhan pointed out, elements from the then Islamist-heavy government under Morsi blamed the women themselves, saying that:

women taking part in protests bear the responsibility of being sexually harassed, [and] describing what happens in some demonstrators’ tents as “prostitution.” Major General Adel Afify, member of the committee representing the Salafi Asala Party, criticized female protesters, saying that they “know they are among thugs. They should protect themselves before requesting that the Interior Ministry does so. By getting herself involved in such circumstances, the woman has 100 percent responsibility.”

Likewise, popular Salafi preacher Abu Islam  sarcastically blamed the victims:

“They tell you women are a red line. They tell you that naked women [i.e., not wearing veils or hijabs] -- who are going to Tahrir Square because they want to be raped -- are a red line! And they ask Morsi and the Brotherhood to leave power!” Abu Islam added that these women activists are going to Tahrir Square not to protest but to be sexually abused because they had wanted to be raped.

“They have no shame, no fear and not even feminism. Practice your feminism, sheikha! It is a legitimate right for you to be a woman,” he said. “And by the way, 90 percent of them are crusaders [i.e. Christian Copts] and the remaining 10 percent are widows who have no one to control them. You see women talking like monsters,” he added.

The only silver lining in this cloud of Islamist rape that hovers over Egypt is that the differences between Morsi and his Brotherhood government, and Sisi and the post-Brotherhood government, are already apparent. In response to the endemic sexual harassment in Egypt, the new government:

passed a law criminalizing all forms of sexual harassment...  A new article, which has been issued into power, adds a harsh punishment to those found guilty of unwanted sexual contact…. Other amended laws, under article 306, declare that those found guilty of verbal sexual harassment in a private or public place will be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison and fined no less than EGP 3,000 ($US 420).

When I recently asked some analyst colleagues in Egypt if Morsi ever took any such measures against sexual harassment, the quip I received most was along the lines of “Take measures? He was the one ordering sexual harassment against his female critics.”

Still, and in keeping with Western MSM (Mainstream Media) journalism, Sisi, who at least appears to be trying to take some measures against sexual harassment, is now being portrayed by the Guardian in a cynical light -- while Morsi who did nothing and whose Islamist allies were responsible for inciting violence against women got a free pass.

In the same way, the New York Times recently tried to blame Sisi for the plight of Egypt’s religious minorities, without mentioning that it was often Morsi and the Islamists who put them there in the first place.



Africa: 'No Excuse' for Newborn Death Rate

19 MAY 2014

Cape Town — A series of papers published on Tuesday is laying the ground for concerted international action to reduce deaths among newborn babies - which reach their highest levels in sub-Saharan African countries.

Nine of the 10 riskiest countries in the world for a baby to be born are in Africa , the authors note.

"There has been a fatalistic acceptance from both communities and governments", Professor Joy Lawn, a Ugandan-born pediatrician at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told AllAfrica in a telephone interview.

A lead author of the series, Lawn says it is not inevitable that an African baby has the worst chance of survival . "Some of the poorest African countries have made the most progress in reducing newborn deaths, by picking simple things to do and doing them well."

She says over 70 percent of newborn deaths are preventable with currently available techniques. And in addition to saving the lives of newborns, applying the proven strategies will save the lives of mothers and improve the prospects for babies that would have survived but will also benefit from the interventions.

In 2012, the world's worst death rate for newborns was in Sierra Leone, with 49.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births. In Somalia and Guinea-Bissau, it was 45.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and only marginally better in the other African countries in the group: Angola, 45.4; Lesotho, 45.3; the Democratic Republic of Congo, 43.5; Mali, 41.5; the Central African Republic, 40.9; and Cote d'Ivoire, 39.9. Pakistan was the only non-African country in the world's worst 10.

"If current trends continue," a press release accompanying the studies says, "it will be over a century before a baby born in Africa has the same chances of survival as a baby born in North America or Europe."

The studies also show that Nigeria is one of three countries in the world - with India and Pakistan - which, with the highest number of births, also have the highest overall numbers of newborn deaths, and which have made slowest progress in reducing the death rate. Newborn deaths in Nigeria total 267,000 a year; for India the figure is 779,000 and Pakistan 202,400. The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the top five countries for newborn deaths, with 118,000 babies dying a year.

The studies name Nigeria, the DR Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda as among the 10 countries with the highest potential for overall numbers of newborn lives to be saved.

Lawn points to Rwanda and Malawi as examples of what public health policies can achieve, even in the poorest countries, if governments have the political will. Rwanda over the past decade has reduced newborn deaths more than any low-income country in the world - not just in Africa.

Malawi, Lawn says, which is among the world's poorest countries, "has reduced newborn deaths about three times as fast as the average in Africa - partly by providing better care for women, including better antenatal (afterbirth) care, and also by targeting newborn babies." Among the strategies are such easy, affordable interventions as Kangaroo Care - placing pre-term newborns against the mother or other caregiver, skin-to-skin. It can be done anywhere, without medications or electricity or specialized skills.

There are also low-cost medical therapies that have been developed, such as a class of drugs known as antenatal corticosteroids that can be given to a mother before birth - for about 50 cents - to improve the maturity of babies lungs. "A single injection", Lawn says, "can halve the risk of a baby developing lung complications. It's very evidence based."

The studies have been published in papers in the British medical journal, The Lancet, as the annual World Health Assembly - the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO) - gets under way in Geneva. The assembly will be asked to endorse an "action plan to end preventable deaths" arising from the evidence in the papers.

The global coalition of organisations involved in the initiative - including WHO, the UN Childrens' Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Save the Children - say the series of papers "paint the clearest picture to date of a newborn's chance of survival and the steps that must be taken to end preventable infant deaths."

They add that nearly three million newly-born children die each year worldwide, and another 2.6 million babies are stillborn: "Nearly half of these deaths occur during labour and almost all go unrecorded."

Efforts to reduce deaths of children under five have been more successful than those to save the lives of newborns, the organisations say. As a result, "in most regions of the world, more than half of child deaths are among newborns."

In a commentary for The Lancet, Melinda Gates and Rwandan health minister Agnes Binagwaho cite an analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showing that "as many children die in the first week as during the period from one to four years."

A review led by Dr. Gary Darmstadt at the Gates Foundation says that despite "considerable advances" in healthcare for newborn babies, "further progress has been hindered by disappointing levels of investment, poor coordination globally and with countries, and inadequate translation of attention into effective national policies, health care programmes, and evaluation and monitoring of newborn health...

"Despite the evidence showing that there are feasible and affordable solutions to this problem - which include political prioritisation, increased investment, and concerted country action - poor global leadership, and inadequate coordination, evaluation, and accountability, are hindering progress."

The studies cite specific steps , in addition to kangaroo mother care and steriods, which can improve newborns' chances of survival, including breastfeeding, neonatal resuscitation, and the prevention and treatment of infections - and can be implemented U.S. $1.15 per person per year.

One of the problems the studies highlight is that in most countries, babies who are stillborn do not get birth and death certificates.

The result, says Lawn, is that "most of the world's newborn deaths and almost all stillbirths enter and leave the world without a piece of paper to record their existence. "This, she says, "signifies acceptance that these deaths are inevitable, and ultimately leads to inaction..."

What these studies show, Lawn says, "is that there is no excuse anymore for fatalism. Our fate is in our hands."



Sudan death row 'apostate' mother unchained: lawyer

June 18, 2014

Khartoum (AFP) - Sudanese jailers removed the chains from a Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy after she gave birth in prison last month, one of her lawyers said Tuesday.

The case of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag sparked an outcry from Western governments and rights groups after a judge sentenced her on May 15 to hang.

Born to a Muslim father, she was convicted under Islamic sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

Twelve days after the verdict, Ishag gave birth to a daughter at the women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.

"They removed the chains" after she delivered, one of her lawyers, Mohanad Mustafa, told AFP.

"This is on order by the doctor."

Sudanese law requires anyone sentenced to death to be shackled but Mustafa said "I think they will not put it again."

Following the delivery, Ishag was moved to the prison clinic from a cell which she shared with other women, the lawyer said.

"After she gave birth the conditions got better," he said, but "a prison is a prison."

Last week, European Union leaders called for revocation of "this inhumane verdict," while US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Khartoum to repeal its laws banning Muslims from converting.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the way she has been treated "is barbaric and has no place in today's world."

Mustafa and four other human rights lawyers handling her case for free have appealed the verdict.

"We're still waiting," and there is no word on when the higher court's decision may come, Mustafa said.



Robyn Yousef: Don't judge all Muslims by violent fringe

June 18, 2014

Amid bad news from Iraq, we must remember most of Islam's faithful are ordinary people living ordinary lives.

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, begins at the end of June. It's a very special time for followers of Islam and it seems the right time to go in to bat for our Kiwi Muslims - more than 49,000 of them in New Zealand according to our last Census.

I'm speaking out on behalf of good-living and decent Muslims who have to be constantly on the defensive because of acts carried out worldwide in the name of their religion by a small minority of fanatical lunatics.

I'm a Mainlander by birth, and have been part of a large Arab Muslim family for the last 40 years. I have never converted, but I respect many aspects of the religion and have known wonderful kindness, hospitality and compassion from my Muslim family and friends.

Still, here in our multicultural society, I often feel a strong undercurrent of discrimination towards Muslim immigrants.

I was only 21 when I went to Cairo to marry the Egyptian student I'd met at a disco in London. I really thought that once I'd dragged him back here to his own quarter-acre and shagpile carpet and introduced him to Speight's, he'd forget all this religious stuff.

But I was wrong. His religion means more to him every year and he made his pilgrimage to Mecca more than a decade ago.

The news from overseas has been particularly hideous lately with the Boko Haram situation in Nigeria when 270 schoolgirls were taken and "liberated" by conversion to Islam.

In Iraq, the situation is diabolical with heinous acts carried out by this new Sunni group fighting against other Muslims of the Shiite sect.

Of course, we have our own soap opera at the Avondale Islamic Centre, with fighting factions in suburban Auckland.

Since September 11, 2001 it's been hard to be a Muslim in many situations. I know of many Mohameds, Ahmeds and Abdullahs living abroad who suddenly announce their change of name to something very Western and mainstream - like Mike, Phil or John.

Or there are the Arab Muslims who take on a new racial identity altogether and explain away their exotic accent and swarthy appearance as Greek or Italian.

And who can blame them? A recent AUT study, research for a book entitled Work and Worship by professor of diversity Edwina Pio, studied the impact of minority religions in the local workplace.

It demonstrated resistance among local employers to hiring Muslims. They viewed women in the hijab scarf and/or burqas with curiosity and avoidance, and had difficulty with men with Islamic beards.

The report showed that acceptance of Muslims and their way of living needs improvement among Kiwi employers. Many Muslim employees said they faced discrimination and negative stereotyping because of their faith.

I know many women who wear the hijab with style and pride as a badge of their identity. I know, too, my husband, his elderly father and four brothers are dedicated Muslims who love this country (particularly the All Blacks) and are very appreciative of our Kiwi lifestyle.

Every time we watch the news and see another deplorable act by jihadists we despair. What can the huge majority, the moderate Muslims, do in places like Iraq today?

If they go out and confront these insane zealots, they'll be labelled traitors and probably end up being killed in barbaric circumstances.

An imam at the Wellington Masjida in Kilbirnie recently told those gathered for Friday prayers the only way they could deflect all the negative connotations attached to the religion was to go forward proudly and be exemplary people - model Kiwi citizens.

Recently I was sitting in a business meeting with a group of men and just happened to mention I was married to a Muslim. The shutters came down almost immediately and I could feel I was being judged as one of those downtrodden females who have to walk five paces behind her spouse.

Most of the time I just can't be bothered defending the faith. It's not mine, but it certainly is unfairly maligned.

If I'm walking down the street and see a Muslim family, I usually give them a big grin or a salaam to make them feel they belong and are welcome here. I do get some questioning looks but will continue to do it.

Muslims are not our insidious enemy or the "scourge of the world" as I heard one local journalist describe them. The majority of the world's 2.08 billion Muslims are just like you and me, worrying about making ends meet and wanting the best for their children and their grandchildren.

Have a very happy and peaceful month of Ramadan.

Robyn Yousef is an Auckland writer.

NZ Herald



Why should a lady wear abaya

June 18, 2014

Almighty Allah orders all believing Muslim women to cover up themselves in such a way that intimate parts of their body can cover. But unfortunately, our younger generation has forgotten this order. In fact, some are using this order in a wrong way or how they want to use or according to their convenience.

In today’s society, a few women are there who wear Abaya with the intention to follow the order of Almighty Allah or to cover themselves. Now women or girls wear Abaya for fashion, capture attention, save time and to cheat others.

In Pakistan, Abaya is worn by a girl, going out with her boyfriend not wanting to be recognised. A girl going out from her house wearing Abaya and when she reached at his college or university or wherever she wants to go she takes out her Abaya. What actually she is doing? She is cheating her parents. If you want to wear jeans with top or any other dressing then do it why are you using Abaya as a shield against your wrongful acts.

Some girls or women wear Abaya just to save their time or looking more attractive. A lady wearing trendy and fashionable Abaya must capture the attention of crowd or public.

Questions which arise here: Why Abaya is being used to cheat others? Why Abaya is being used to capture attention? Why it has lost the point for which it has been created?

Pakistan has no laws banning or enforcing Abaya or Hijab. So if you cannot justice with it then don’t wear it. I have seen Abaya wearing girls do the most hateful things and I have seen girls who wear jeans but are perfectly well behaved and cultural.

I just want to say that if you are wearing Abaya then do justice with it. If you cannot, just stop wearing it for cheating or capturing attention or for fashion because this act is spoiling the image of ladies who are actually wearing Abaya with the intention to follow the order of Almighty Allah or to cover themselves. Because there are many dresses in the market in which you can look trendy, fashionable and can easily capture attention so please forgive Abayas.



100pc literacy still a distant dream in Pakistan

June 18, 2014

TAXILA: The Punjab government launched an enrollment emergency campaign this year, which aims to enroll 3,998,000 out-of-school children between the ages of five and sixteen.

However, the situation on ground looks grim due to a severe shortage of teachers in various primary schools in Taxila tehsil.

A survey of primary schools in Taxila and the Wah Cantonment has found that there are 53 boys’ primary schools, most of which are located rural areas.

Within these 53 primary schools, there are a total of 235 sanctioned posts for primary school teachers, of which 204 are filled and 31 posts are still vacant.

In addition, in 35 schools – most of which are located in rural and remote areas – primary school students are absent.

The grim state of affairs at so many primary schools belies the government’s claims regarding the promotion of education and strengthening of the education sector. Only 15 out of the 53 schools in the area have teachers hired as per the criteria laid down by the government.

Shortage of teaching staff, basic facilities among major problems in education sector

Although there are 31 posts vacant in the schools, according to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and education standards set by the provincial government and the education department, there is a shortage of 53 teachers in the various schools.

Moreover, a lack of proper facilities including drinking water, electricity, boundary walls, seating arrangements and restrooms at many of the schools contradicts the government’s slogans of “Parha likha Punjab” and “Education for all”.

The reality instead points to a miserable state of affairs, as the situation remains largely unchanged.

“It is unfortunate for those living in the area that their representatives are not bothered about providing improved education facilities,” said Asim Mir, President of The Voice, a non-government organisation (NGO) working in the area.

He said that ‘class-based’ education system is a major obstacle in the development of the education sector, adding, “A low enrollment rate, a massive drop-out ratio, poor quality, a lack of accountability and a total absence of discourse are the key problems of the education sector in Pakistan.”

He added that corporal punishment is still in use, and is a major factor in children dropping out of schools.

“If the present government wants to strengthen education in the country at grass-roots level and promote literacy, the flaws in primary education must be dealt with, and so must the vacant teaching posts and the missing facilities. Students are attracted to schools with the best possible facilities,” Asif Mehmood Malik, an educationist and the president of the Education Foundation, said.

When contacted, Deputy District Officer (DDO) for Education Abdul Khaliq said that the district and provincial education authorities are aware of the shortage of teaching staff in the area.

He admitted that the department is facing a shortage in light of the vacant posts.

In response to a question, DDO Khaliq said the provision of missing facilities is a top priority for the department, and a report will be submitted to the education department, as well as the area’s elected representative, requesting funds from the MPA and MNA grants.